If you missed it tonight at the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival, then seek it out on DVD. This touching documentary tells the story of Lior Liebling, a boy on the verge of his Bar Mitzvah who also happens to have Down syndrome.
Lior prays with a fervor that his faith community admires and may even envy. His father worries that his much-anticipated Bar Mitzvah may be the most meaningful event to happen to him -- for years. No parent wants to think his beloved child might peak at 13.
You're likely to fall in love the entire Liebling family, although the clear star here is Lior. There's the compassionate older brother, Yoni, who takes loving care of Lior. There's the cute, but cranky, baby sister who complains that she should get the most attention, since she's the youngest. Lior's father is as strong, gentle and loving as any I've seen. His stepmother sweetly demands the best from him. She worries that he may rely too heavily on being the cute kid. As his Bar Mitzvah approaches, she longs for him to retain the cuteness as he grows into a man. And, there's a host of people in their faith community who cheer Lior on, spiritually and in every other way.
And, there is the memory of his mother, who died of cancer when Lior was six. As his Bar Mitzvah approaches, Lior confides in the filmmaker how profoundly sad he is that his mother won't be there on the most important day of his life.
Yoni says at one point that he isn't sure if there is a God, but if there is, Lior has a closer relationship with Him than anyone he knows. After seeing this movie, I think I agree. See it.
P.S. Props to my friend, Shaun, who endured my sobbing beside him tonight while pretending not to notice.