The First Fagin, a docudrama about the real-life inspiration for Charles Dickens' character in Oliver Twist. While the film is still hitting the festival circuit, it's been getting positive reviews from critics. Check out a few samples:
"The performances are all excellent, with Goddard likeable as the well meaning and loving husband. He distances himself from mere thieves - he had class and he played fair as a fence for stolen goods. Carrie McLean is also great as the rather stoic Anne, a wife who endures extraordinary heartbreak and hardship - mostly as revenge by the authorities on Ikey." - Andrew L. Urban of Urban Cinephile
While the performances come in for high praise, the work of the directors and their efforts to blend both re-enactments with other visual elements, is highlighted in a note from Don Groves of Australian outlet SBS:
Writers-directors Alan Rosenthal and Helen Gaynor skilfully use a blend of dramatic re-enactments, paintings, drawings and commentary from historians to tell the story of the colourful 19th character.
It’s clear the filmmakers believe Ikey got a bad rap from Dickens. Far from the character portrayed in the novel as a grotesque-looking miser who exploited children, Solomon is depicted as a hard-working, devoted husband and father. True, like Fagin, he made a lucrative living as a fence, a receiver of stolen goods, but millions of people in Victorian England were forced to steal to make ends meet.
Tim Martain of The Mercury also praises the balance of documentary and dramatic elements in the film:
The balance between documentary and drama is also a difficult one to get just right, but again The First Fagin gets it just right, maintaining a mostly dramatic format with sparing use of academic interviews.
The contributions of historians Alison Alexander, Trudy Cowley, Pete Hay and Janet McCalman are excellent - insightful, relevant, engaging - but are only used at vital junctures to clarify a theme or give background texture and information to part of the story, rather than being allowed to wash over the dramatic elements.
The First Fagin will screen twice at the 2013 AJFF, first on February 10 and again on February 18. Get your tickets now.