Watch the best of Hot Docs at home as a festival winner streams for free at the NFB. Perfecting the Art of Longing, which won the Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary at Hot Docs this year, was released today for streaming. The film directed by Kitra Cahana is a remarkable work with which to view the personal tolls of the COVID-19 pandemic–as well as solutions to find joy during a difficult time.
Perfecting the Art of Longing offers intimate glimpses into a Montreal long-term care home as Rabbi Ronnie Cahana is but one of many people forced into isolation as the early stages of lockdown kept loved ones apart. Rabbi Cahana’s daughter, Kitra, directs the film remotely and draws upon her father’s strength to offer words of guidance during difficult times.
The film illustrates how longing makes the heart grow stronger. Rabbi Cahana, now quadriplegic following a stroke and unable to communicate beyond blinking his eyes, conveys to his family from afar that the pain caused by their separation simply speaks to their souls being hard at work. Using steady observational footage of her father’s darkened and palpably lonely room, along with lively Zoom calls with the family and archival footage of from home movies, Cahana uses the craft of filmmaking to bring loved ones into her father’s presence even when they’re physically apart.
While watching COVID-19 stories can be mentally exhausting during the pandemic, Perfecting the Art of Longing is among the more effective portraits of this strange period. Without romanticizing the situation, nor wallowing in the heartache of lockdown years, Cahana’s film is painfully relatable for its intimate account of loneliness and the desire for connection. Her observation of her family’s ability to come together illustrates the simple acts that can prove therapeutic. A phone call, or a quick Zoom, can be balm for the soul.
Watch Perfecting the Art of Longing from the NFB:
Presented in partnership with the NFB.