Festival continues with exciting, romantic, and challenging films, interviews and Q&As
By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka
The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival resumes Saturday morning at 11:45. This weekend’s schedule includes the work of Israeli filmmaker David Ofek, Oscar-winning animator Adam Elliot, a taboo romance, Gay love in the military, and stunning performances by such stellar talents as Rose Byrne, Hugh Dancy, Amy Irving, Peter Gallagher, Lauren Bacall, Ben Gazzara, Gérard Depardieu, and Derek Jacobi. On Sunday morning, four amazing short films from the Ma’aleh School of Television, Film and the Arts will be presented with school’s director, Neta Ariel, in attendance. Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ) and SFJFF are proud to present a day of interactive programs on the subject of social justice. Featured activities include a panel with filmmakers and activists to discuss social justice as a Jewish value, taking place at the Castro Theatre immediately following the 2pm screening of William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe and preceding The Yes Men Fix the World. Admission is free with ticket to either the 2:00 or 5:05 screening.
SATURDAY, July 25th – 11:45 AM
Home – In this extraordinary, quirky short film, television images of bombed-out Baghdad evoke potent memories for an Iraqi-Israeli family, gathered together during the Gulf War to wait out Saddam Hussein’s missile attacks.
The Tale of Nicolai & the Law of Return – Israeli filmmaker David Ofek uses the actual persons involved to tell the story of a Romanian immigrant’s transition in status from exploited guest worker to full citizenship for him and his Christian family after he rediscovers his Jewish roots. The documentary cheekily underscores its unsettling contradictions by unfolding like a traditional Jewish fable, while broaching serious questions about the nature of Israel as a Jewish state and a democracy.
The TALE OF NICOLAI & THE LAW OF RETURN
1:30 PM – RACHEL and PRRRIDE
RACHEL – In 2003, in a controversial incident, 22-year-old American peace activist Rachel Corrie was killed while attempting to stop an Israeli military bulldozer from demolishing homes in Gaza. Rachel is a dispassionate but devastating essay investigating the circumstances of her death—including astounding eyewitness testimony from activists, soldiers, army spokespersons and physicians, as well as insights from Corrie’s parents, mentors and diaries. It quietly raises troubling questions while painting a complex portrait of a committed activist.
PRRRIDE – A young man sits in a narrow hallway playing a march on a snare drum. His voiceover illuminates his relationship with his mother and describes the convoluted effects that compulsory military service in Israel has had on both of them.
4:20 PM – ZRUBAVEL
Gite Zrubavel, a dignified man employed as a street sweeper in his Ethiopian immigrant enclave in Israel, works to see his children succeed beyond him. But son Gili’s flirtation with crime and daughter Almaz’s taboo romance threaten to undermine his efforts. Even grandson Yitzhak defies expectations, styling himself the Spike Lee of his neighborhood. This spirited debut casts an authentically fresh angle on the divide between tradition-minded fathers and their rapidly assimilating children.
6:45 PM – ADAM [preceded by EVE]
When nice Jewish girl Beth (Rose Byrne) moves into a new apartment, the refreshingly literal, brainy guy next door, Adam (Hugh Dancy), is probably not what her upper-middle-class Jewish mom (Amy Irving) and dad (Peter Gallagher) had in mind for her. But cupid’s arrow strikes these two different denizens of Gotham hard; they have major chemistry and within minutes we find ourselves rooting for them to overcome differences in culture and communication styles.
EVE – Olivia Thirlby
EVE – Natalie Portman’s directorial debut is a charming, nuanced portrayal of age and beauty starring legendary performers Lauren Bacall and Ben Gazzara. A young woman (Olivia Thirlby) finds herself chaperoning her grandmother’s date night.
9:45 PM – Mary and Max
MARY AND MAX
Oscar-winning animator Adam Elliot’s bittersweet comic fable of an unlikely yet extraordinary friendship between a middle-aged, obese New York Jew with Asperger’s syndrome and his eight-year-old pen pal from Australia. Brought to life by the bravura voice work of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Collette, Mary and Max is a poignant tale of a friendship between oddballs at their wits’ end with the world, but at peace with each other.
SUNDAY, July 26th
11:30 AM – Ma’aleh Film School 20th Anniversary
The Ma’aleh School of Television, Film and the Arts is the only film school of its kind in the world. SFJFF celebrates 20 years of the Jerusalem-based academy, which trains filmmakers to produce work inspired by their Jewish heritage, fostering a unique connection between the world of media and Jewish culture. Four top-notch short films will be presented. The school’s director, Neta Ariel, will be at the Castro screening.
AND THOU SHALT LOVE – 2008 | Israel, USA | color | 28 min
Chaim Elbaum’s Jerusalem Film Festival prize–winning film centers on the inner turmoil faced by a closeted Orthodox Israeli soldier who falls in love with his study partner. Timely and profound, this deeply moving film raises difficult questions about the extent to which religion has a role in one’s life.
AND THOU SHALT LOVE
ROSENZWEIG – Born to Dance – 2008 | Israel, USA | color | 17 min
Dancing saved Avigdor’s life during the Holocaust, and at 88 years of age, he hasn’t stopped dancing yet. Even behind a cumbersome walker and in the sterile halls of the nursing home he resides in, Avigdor can still be seen doing a soft-shoe routine with a smile on his face.
SEPARATION – 2007 | Israel | 17 min | Language: Hebrew
Twelve-year-old Noa’s family is unraveling. Her parents barely speak to each other, and her asthmatic younger brother looks to Noa for answers. After overhearing her mother and father’s plans to divorce, she devises a desperate and dangerous plan that, while intended to bring her family closer together, may in fact destroy it.
A SHABBOS MOTHER – 2005 | Israel, USA | color | 27 min
In this Bergman-like family drama involving death, religion, birth and infertility, three very different sisters gather at their mother’s house for the Sabbath. Over the course of Shabbat, family dynamics are tested, relationships threatened and old wounds reopened.
2:00 PM – William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe – The 1960s’ and ’70s’ most famous, rabble-rousing and radical defense attorney is put on the witness stand and cross-examined by two of his daughters in this riveting and complex portrait.
For Sarah and Emily Kunstler, making this film is not an exercise in hagiography. It’s an effort to understand and find reconciliation with a man who defended not only civil rights activists, the Chicago 7 and the Catonsville Nine Catholic antiwar campaigners, but also accused rapists, cop killers, terrorists and assassins. “Justice, Justice shalt thou pursue,” says the Torah, but Kunstler’s daughters ask, “At a certain point, was he standing for anything worth fighting for?”
5:05 PM – The Yes Men Fix the World – Exposing corporate greed and environmental degradation is serious business—but that doesn’t mean you can’t be hilarious going about it. Meet the Yes Men—eco-pranksters Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno—who pose as mild-mannered corporate executives, then brazenly infiltrate major media outlets and shareholder meetings, skewering their targets with spectacularly satirical stunts.
THE YES MEN FIX THE WORLD
Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ) and SFJFF are proud to present a day of interactive programs on the subject of social justice. Featured activities include a panel with filmmakers and activists to discuss social justice as a Jewish value, taking place at the Castro Theatre immediately following the 2:00 screening of William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe and preceding The Yes Men Fix the World. Admission is free with ticket to either the 2:00 or 5:05 screening.
7:30 PM – Defamation
Director Yoav Shamir was called an anti-Semite by an American Jewish reviewer of his film Checkpoint (SFJFF 2004), who deemed Shamir too critical of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. “Until then,” says Shamir, “I had never considered the central role that anti-Semitism plays in our lives. As a young Israeli, having never experienced anti-Semitism myself, I decided to learn something about the subject.” The bracing result is Shamir’s most personal and perhaps most daring film, in which he explores the ways contemporary Jews in Israel, Europe and America learn and think about anti-Semitism, both real and perceived.
10:00 PM – Hello Goodbye with Sidney Turtlebaum
Alain (Gérard Depardieu) and Gisele (Fanny Ardant) are a comfortable, middle-aged Jewish French couple whose marriage needs a spark. Their son’s decision to marry a non-Jewish girl—in a church, no less—inspires them to do what other couples may only have thought about: pack up and move to the Land of Milk and Honey.
Sidney Turtlebaum – 2008 | England, USA, United Kingdom | color | 18 min
In this delightfully dark comedy of manners, Derek Jacobi stars as Sidney, a smooth-talking elderly gay man in the twilight of his life who ekes out a living as a pickpocket, robbing grieving strangers at shivas where he pawns himself off as a loving and genteel distant relative.
Learn more about the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.
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Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: email@example.com.