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 Len Bourret reviews The Colours Of My Father




The Colours of My Father reaches the highest pinnacle of excellence, and is the most outstanding Captioned Media Program ( video I have viewed and evaluated, to date. This video, which won an Academy Award nomination in 1992, is more than a portrait of Sam Borenstein. It also is his loving daughter's tribute to a gifted artist who, in turn, pays a tribute to living a high-quality life.

Sam Borenstein's heart was as generous and warm, as the bold and bright colors he used to paint his glowingly vivid images, thick layers of colors applied to a canvas with a trowel (which may, in itself, be a tribute to the fields of flowers he so ardently loved). Fortunately for those of who truly appreciate his great gifts, Sam Borenstein's legacy is his many works of art which still bud and blossom, titillating and awakening the senses, and getting us to be aroused by the precious gift of life.

If obstacles get in our way, he encourages and empowers us to use the artistic and creative to not only reach for, but to actually realize our many dreams.

Borenstein's expression of art, and his own individual style which some critics deemed 'uncontrollable', serve as a way to effectively communicate with others. Although an artist must be disciplined, his timely works prove that there is a distinct difference between 'discipline' (practice provides a mastery of one's work) and 'control' (there is an insecurity involved in trying to manipulate everyone and everything). If a door of opportunity appears to be closed, Borenstein shows us that alternative measures may help us gain our rite of passage, rather than futilely attempting to be one against the universe (an impossible and overwhelming experience that only leads to anger, anxiety, depression, frustration, helplessness, and hopelessness). No-one is an island. Although there is a sense of accomplishment in completing some tasks on our own, we require the people and things around us (such as the beauty of nature) to do, or help us to complete, other tasks. As human beings, we cannot happily live life alone and, in appreciating the people and things around us, we learn to live our lives to the fullest and richest, rather than merely existing. And, in this way, we become more than survivors.

In the video, black-and-white and color stills, combined with live action, become a viable vehicle to capture time lapse changes (such as darkness, light, movement, and shadows) and to create very artistic and creative forms of animation (such as a violin creating waves of emotion). Here, Joyce Borenstein (like her father) is more than aptly able to share artistic gifts with us. The video is also rich in Jewish culture, as well in its inclusion of some significant demographical and historical events. There are some graphic depictions of the harsh life that Jewish people have traditionally experienced with gentiles, particularly noting events just prior to the atrocities of the Nazi war camps. Jewish people have a longstanding reputation for being hard workers. Characteristically, Borenstein worked 10 to 12 hours a day (in and out of a factory), he was poor (he once slept in a cemetery), and ate in a soup kitchen (where he established some lifelong relationships). Being in some bleak and formidable surroundings, Borenstein always managed to make the very best, out of the worst, of his situations and surroundings.

Sam Borenstein brilliantly integrated various art forms (such as reading about his subjects, using bold colors, and incorporating contextual music), specific to the particular settings in which he painted his vivid images and magical effects. There is positive energy, infused by spontaneity, honesty, truth, and integrity in all of his works. Particularly astounding was Borenstein's innate ability to create 'something' out of 'nothing', and turn the beauty he saw into classical art. He not only developed his own individual style, but was familiar with the eclectic styles of other painters (including Bercovich, Heimlich, Utrillo, and Van Gogh).

Borenstein was also gifted as a very delightful storyteller, and he created fascinating storylines to go along with the beauty, magic and music of his magnificent paintings. Art to Borenstein was, indeed, a magnificent obsession. His works display great enthusiasm and various moods, through composition and form, to brilliantly convey feelings ablaze in color. Borenstein used experience, and nature, as his guide. When painting a particular scene, it would evoke emotions in him and, sometimes, he would repetitively paint the same scene, over and over, as an effective way of conveying changes (such as changes of mood, the seasons, and the time of day). Along with his vivid images, he used very descriptive words in his storylines (such as breathing in the delicious smell of food, the city smelled of death, crossing fields filled with the scent of lilacs, and walking the streets in gray weather filled with a feeling of loneliness).

I particularly responded to Borenstein's astute comment that "too much sunlight washes out the color."  Too much of any one thing is not desirable.

Last but certainly not least, Borenstein who did not have a formal education, makes a positive role model in empowerment and self-determination. By reading books, for example, he learned the English language--and how to make his way, as well as how to make a living, in Canada. Most importantly, Borenstein teaches us how to maintain a high quality of life, and being more than sole survivors. We are not alone. The beauty of nature is all around us, just for the asking and supporting us. We just have to reach out for it and touch it, just as nature--and people like Sam Borenstein--touches us.


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