Review by Dan Skip Allen
New York is full of people from different walks of life and religious backgrounds. One group in particular that makes up a big portion of the population in New York is the Jewish community. They have a lot of businesses and synagogues to worship in and are a tight-knit group. There aren't a lot of movies that focus on these people or their community the way that Tango Shalom does. It's a breath of fresh air to see a film about something different and focus on similar topics we've seen before from a different point of view.
Tango Shalom is about a traditional Jewish family in New York. Hardships come from all corners to cause pain and strife for this family. Moshe Yehuda (Jos Laniado) is a Hasidic Jew and the father of this big Jewish family. He tries to do anything to help his struggling family, but things just aren't working out for him. Problems keep coming from every corner of his life and family until he finds some solace in dance. Specifically, tango dance and its teacher Viviana Nieves (Karina Smirnoff, Shall We Dance). When she suggests they enter into a dance competition together, this throws his life and beliefs into turmoil but the financial reward can help him and his family out.
Every step that this duo dances can throw their lives and religious beliefs of generations aside. This is not good from the perspectives of his wife or his rabbi. He knows it'll help his cause as far as his financial difficulties but it could put a rift between him and his family. This kind of dance is strictly forbidden by his people because of the nature of the dance. It's a sensual kind of dance. The tango is very hot and heavy. The partners have to touch and have a kind of energy together on the dance floor. This is a difficult choice for this man.
Gabriel Bologna made this film a family affair with his father, Joseph Bologna (Father Anthony), and a second set of brothers Claudio Laniado and Jos Laniado as the story and screenplay writers. It's a story that encompasses a lot of spiritual iconography and ideas. As mentioned before, New York is a melting pot of all kinds of people and religions and the lead character travels the city to get advice about his dilemma from as many people as he can, from Muslims, Hindus and Catholics. This idea of not being able to touch a woman is quite traumatic for him.
This film has some great work from the craft departments. The hair and makeup and costumes departments are on point in this film. As well as the music composer, Zizi Bologna, and others. The music is like a character all its own in the film. The cinematography by Massimo Zeri is very vivid and bright and colorful. This film is very vibrant from the very beginning to the end. The editing by Robert Meyer Burnett is first-rate. He has to do a lot of quick cuts to all the dance scenes and traveling from place to place by the lead actor in the film. The editing is a huge key to how the film flows.
In a way, Tango Shalom is a film about how different people can step out of their comfort zones and do something different that benefits them and their families. It's a dilemma a lot of people face in the world. In this day and age, we as a country have to embrace diversity and all its different permutations. Each different group needs to see that being able to relate to different people from different walks of life and religions can help make things better overall for the world. New York is a perfect setting for this film.
Tango Shalom is an eye-opening look at a man who's going through an existential crisis: are his religious beliefs and family dynamic more important than his financial freedom of winning this dance competition? The filmmakers get to the bottom of this dilemma very effectively. The writing, cinematography, music, editing, and crafts departments are all top-notch for this little independent film. I didn't know what I was getting into with this film, but it was terrific. It just says you should take a chance on something different, it may pay off in the end.
Tango Shalom is now in theaters.