A documentary by Thomas Burstyn. Rating unavailable.
Ghosts haunt the canopy of any family tree, and here they are so vivid, everyone can still see them. In Some Kind of Love, you can feel Thomas Burstyn’s need to capture them before they’re gone for good.
With producing and writing help from his wife, Barbara Sumner-Burstyn, the busy cinematographer here goes on his most personal screen journey. Ostensibly, the 82-minute tale is about his aunt and uncle, related to him by marriage, not blood. But Burstyn is driven as much by memories of his late parents, who barely escaped the Holocaust, landing in Canada before he was born.
The Sonnabend wing of the family also went further afield, to South Africa and what was then called Rhodesia. And the resulting siblings would fascinate even if they had no connection to the filmmaker. Yolanda Sonnabend, now 80, is an accomplished painter and sculptor, with works on display in major museums. After moving to England in the mid 1950s, she spent three decades doing prizewinning costume and production design for the Royal Opera House and other prestigious outfits.
These accomplishments do little to impress brother Joseph, two years older and recently returned to London to look after his sister, who is mouldering away in an overpacked house in an upscale part of the city. This lifelong research scientist seems less flamboyant, but he was a key, if ultimately controversial, link in the fight against AIDS. Burstyn’s fitful attempt to get the siblings to illuminate themselves and their accumulated animus is supplemented by the somewhat too peripheral comments of others, and the interviews were often recorded with challenging audio. (There’s some effective music from Vancouver’s John Korsrud.)
As intriguing as the material is, the director’s desire to intertwine the tale with his own family history feels forced. The narration strives hard for poetry, but often settles for the obvious. Still, Tom Burstyn’s ghosts demand attention.