I generally have a problem with documentarians who assume too much from their audience before their movie even begins. The purpose of most documentaries is to pitch ideas to viewers and then supply supported arguments – gradually warming over movie goers. A documentary like this one, Restoring Tomorrow, immediately expects viewers to be just as – if not more – attached to the subject manner than the doc’s own filmmaker, Aaron Wolf.
Wolf’s passion concerning the lack of attention to Judaism and the fading institutions that practice is admirable, and he communicates this affection in an affable fashion that doesn’t suffocate movie goers; unlike Christian cinema’s Kirk Cameron who doesn’t so much tell stories as he does announce them through a megaphone. Wolf does, however, turn the camera on himself as often as Cameron does; a bad habit suggesting that the filmmaker believes his own presence is driving the standalone content.
For general movie goers, it’s frequently difficult to keep up with Wolf’s energy. We agree that the cultural irrelevance he’s acknowledging is important to reverse, but he doesn’t allow his audience to naturally flesh out this realization. This is partially due to the film’s style, which often talks at the audience instead of to them.
Regarding his overall filmmaking, Wolf follows the basic guidelines to making a documentary, which includes lots of interesting historic artifacts but also plenty of revolving talking heads. Had he perhaps traded some of his handheld vlogging for more interactive levels to address his religious concern (some reenactments or animations, for instance), the film would’ve lifted itself above its own mediocrity.
Alas, Restoring Tomorrow is a simple film made with a lot of love and, honestly, that’s really hard to get cross over.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie