To paint a portrait of European Jewry between the world wars, novice filmmaker Isaac Hertz mined the childhood memories of two dozen interview subjects and matched their recollections to well-chosen (and unidentified) archival footage. His documentary "Life Is Strange" is unfocused yet intermittently effective as an illustrated oral history.
An American who professes an affinity to his grandparents' generation, the director spoke with a seemingly random assortment of people who survived or escaped the Holocaust. Interviewees include Israeli president Shimon Peres, "Island on Bird Street" author Uri Orlev, academics, Nobel laureates and friends of the filmmaker.
Their reminiscences of family cohesiveness in difficult times, and of Sabbath and holiday rituals, have a familiar echo. The film skims past a potentially rich vein exploring the cultural divide between ultra-Orthodox and other Jews.
Perhaps in reference to the four questions of the Passover Seder, Hertz uses the disingenuous narrative device of a child's voiceover queries. As an attempt to structure his material, it's an amateurish miscalculation. With its vague organizing principle, the film fails to achieve an impact greater than the sum of its parts.