My Father My Lord is a short film, barely 70 minutes and every minute shines with a radiance and grave grace that, in a perfect, movie-loving world, ought to extend the reach of David Volach's shimmering feature debut far beyond the confines of a special-interest audience. The profoundly challenging biblical story of Abraham and Isaac and the sacrifices a father stands ready to make in the name of faith frames Volach's unobtrusively powerful story of a rabbi (acclaimed Assi Dayan, who played the shrink in the original Israeli version of In Treatment) and his young son (beatific newcomer Ilan Griff). The boy loves his studious father, his intuitive mother (Sharon Hacohen Bar), and the intricacies of ritual and Torah, but he also loves birds, dogs, new things, and a wider, more elemental world than what his father's fervent religion can embrace. To describe more would be a sin.
Volach has a protective but unsentimental understanding of how the universe looks to a kid; he also conveys the tensions between religious obedience and freedom of will in a way that's universally understandable. And he does so with the authority of a religious insider and the visual vocabulary of an independent artist both of which he is: Born in Israel in 1970 and raised in an ultra-Orthodox family, he's now a secular filmmaker, living in Tel Aviv with, I hope, many more stories to tell. A