Intimate Stranger

Alan Berliner’s highly original and mysterious hour-long documentary about his maternal grandfather Joseph Cassuto, a Palestinian Jew who worked for the Japanese Cotton Trading Company in Alexandria, Egypt, moved his family to Brooklyn in 1941, and then spent most of the next 15 years in Japan. Drawing together an enormous amount of personal archival material (letters, photographs, home movies, documents) and the contrasting off-screen voices of family members (mainly disgruntled) and Japanese friends (uniformly grateful) to compose this multifaceted portrait, Berliner derives much of his cutting rhythm from the sound of a typewriter. The result is a fascinating, moving, and highly evocative work. (JR)

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