In the Oscars of my mind there exists a category for Cutest Performance, and Lior Liebling just took home the golden statuette. Born with Down syndrome to rabbi parents, Lior took to davening—traditional Jewish prayer accompanied by a swaying motion—at a young age, a practice that soon became the predominant trait of his character. Praying With Lior begins with the recent planning of his long-anticipated bar mitzvah, a day on which he has been doting for years, expecting nothing less than the presence of the messiah and the spiritual return of his now-deceased mother. Subject matter notwithstanding, the film stands as essentially the most finely made home video ever released into theaters, and though budgetary limitations were likely the cause for the film’s low-rent aesthetic, its nature is one perfectly complementary to the material. Though excellently shot and framed, it maintains a feeling of casual familiarity, bringing us closer to the subjects when other, more polished documentaries would be erecting an invisible wall between the two. Lior himself is as much cause for celebration: truly, as his older brother describes, the cutest thing you ever did see, a child of endless affection completely dedicated to a higher cause (knowledge of fundamentalist behavioral patterns might be cause for alarm for some of us, but one senses that if the world were run by people entirely of Lior’s attitude and mindset, we’d all be living in some kind of utopian paradise). “We need your presence in this world,” says Lior’s stepmother after a dinner prayer, and it’s a fact truly felt in the film’s effortless showcasing of his formulating personality and profound interactions with others. One can only hope that his is a persona that will return to the camera in time so to provide us with an update on how things are going. Michael Apted, meet Lior.
- First Run Features
- 87 min
- Ilana Trachtman
- Lior Liebling, Mordechai Liebling, Lynne Iser, Yoni Liebling, Reena Liebling, Devorah Bartnoff Liebling
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: