Bruce Von Stiers
There is a man who is in desperate need of money. Local jobs aren't readily available. But when he discovers a way to make money, it goes against his morals and faith beliefs.
That seems like it might be the beginning of a crime drama. But it isn't. That premise is the foundation for a great comedy film titled Tango Shalom.
Moshe Yehuda teaches religious studies to a group of young boys. He relies on donations to pay for his wages and the rent on his classroom. The donations have dwindled and the rent is due.
One of the main problems for Moshe is that he is a devout Hasidic Jew and that limits the type of work and hours that he is available for a job. Plus he wants to be able to stay in his neighborhood of Crown Heights in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Roughly twenty-five percent of the population of Crown Heights are Hasidic Jews. But that doesn't seem to help Moshe find a job.
Happening across a dance studio, Moshe is offered the opportunity to become a dance partner in a competition. This is the money making opportunity that I mentioned earlier. And also the moral and faith dilemma as well.
Jos Laniado plays Moshe. His credits include Blue Bloods, Pan Am and As The World Turns as well as several film roles. Jos was also a producer for this film and shared screenwriting credits.
Moshe's potential dance partner is the dance studio's owner, Viviana Nieves. She is wonderfully played by dancer / actor Karina Smirnoff. I remember being enthralled by Karina's dance moves during the early seasons of Dancing With The Stars.
To say that the production of the film was a family affair might be a bit of an understatement. The late Joseph Bologna co-wrote the screenplay. He was also one of the film's producers. And he played a small, yet significant role in the film. Renee Taylor, who is Joseph Bologna's wife, played Deborah Yashuda, Moshe's mother. And to make this more of a family affair, Joseph and Renee's son, Gabriel Bologna, directed the film.
Adding to the mix was Lainie Kazan. She has worked with both Joseph and Renee over the course of several decades. Laine has a role in the film as Leah Zlotkin, the mother of the woman that Moshe's brother is going to marry. And to top things off, one of the film's producers was Joel Zwick, who directed Lainie in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Tango Shalom was filmed over the course of a few years. Although most of it was primarily filmed in New York, some of the scenes were shot in Los Angeles. Those scenes were done to accommodate Joseph Bologna's health concerns. Unfortunately, he died in 2017, never being able to see Tango Shalom make it to the big screen.
The faith and moral dilemma that Moshe faces is that a Jewish man cannot touch a woman other than his wife. So how in the world is he going to keep his faith and morals intact while dancing the Argentine Tango with Viviana? That is the driving force that is the foundation of the film. How can someone do something that completely goes against their faith beliefs and still retain those beliefs?
The film has a very interesting and varied cast. Judi Beecher played Moshe's wife Raquel. She's been in films such as Taken 3 and Larchmont. Known for playing a rabbi or two, Bern Cohen plays Moshe's rabbi in this film. Claudio Laniado plays Moshe's brother Rahamim. Claudio also shared screenwriter and producer credit for the film. And, in keeping with the family theme, Claudio and Jos are real life brothers. Marci Fine plays Marina Zlotkin, the woman that Rahamim is about to marry.
Other notable actors in the film include Joanne Baron, Noam Ash, Jordi Caballero, Frances Lozada, and Despina Mirou.
There was a whole bunch of people who helped out with the film, either in front or in back of the camera. Some of these people included Jill Gray Savarese and Nathaniel Hamlin as associate producers, music by Zizi Bologna and Zoe Tiganouria and cinematography by Massimo Zeri.
As Moshe tries to reconcile the dancing with his beliefs, he consults with leaders of other faiths. Those faiths include Hinduism, Islam and the Catholic Church. The role that Joseph Bologna had in the film was of the Catholic priest, Father Anthony. As Lainie Kazan suggested in a recent interview, it may have been the first time that so many different religions were brought together for a faith issue in a film.
I thought that Tango Shalom was a great film. It took a man deeply rooted in his faith and pitted him against a formidable Jewish law in order to provide for his family and students. Although the film primarily a comedy, it treated Moshe's dilemma with the proper amount of seriousness and drama that you could imagine someone going through.
Tango Shalom has won awards at various film festivals. Recently it won Best Story at the Long Island International Film Expo.
Tango Shalom is being shown in selected theaters in the U.S. and Canada. It will be available on DVD and VOD on October 29th .
To see a trailer for the film, and additional information about it, visit https://www.tangoshalommovie.com/
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© 2021 Bruce E Von Stiers