Film Festivals Fill Oy-Bay Area
Posted by challahbackgirl on October 6, 2007
Calling all movie goers ‘round the Oy-Bay Area. In its 30th year the Mill Valley Film Festival features four films co-sponsored the San Francisco Israel Center. The 16th annual San Jose Jewish Film Festival kicks off on October 14. And the Sonoma JCC is kicking off it’s Film Series this month too. So it’s time to go to the movies. Join me and CBDYAG as we see Aviva My Love at the SJJFF on October 21, limited tickets, RSVP soon.
The Mill Valley Film Festival includes two Israeli films before their theatrical release, be among the first to see “Jellyfish” (October 6 & 13) and “Beaufort” (October 7 & 9). You can also see “Little Heroes” (October 6 & 14) and “The Secrets” (October 11 & 13). Get the scoop on these from our friends at the J. See end of post for synopsis of all films mentioned in this post.
The San Jose Jewish Film Festival is opening on Oct. 14 by showing “Brother’s Shadow” starring Judd Hirsh (Numb3rs), who will meet guests at a gala champagne reception at San Jose’s Fairmont Hotel. KRON and KCBS movie critic Jan Wahl will interview Judd Hirsch at the reception in a short program called “A Conversation with Judd Hirsch.” And that’s just opening day, they have 5 weeks packed with 21 films. “Three Mothers” which played as part of the San Francisco Festival and Oyster enjoyed. Sweet Mud that Oy-Bay also reviewed at the SF Film Festival “Aviva My Love” that as mentioned CBD Young Adult Group will be viewing. Other films (listed below) cover everything from marriage to the 6 Day war, question what it is to be a Jew, examine life in Israel, and aspects of the Shoah (Holocaust) and so much more. Many of the films in the lineup have won awards from worldwide festivals, and organizations (One even won a Golden Calf).
The 2007 JCC Sonoma County Jewish Film Series is in it’s “12th Superb Season of films” playing all 6 films at 2 theaters. “Three Mothers,” and “A Love to Hide,” are also in their lineup. But it kicks off with “Live and Become” a story of an Ethiopian boy’s journey and struggle going from Ethiopia, to Israel and visiting Ethiopia again. I saw it a year or so ago and give it two thumbs up. It’s a great look into assimilation issues and so much more. I also saw clips of West Bank Story, a play on West Side Story, and Oscar winner. It is being shown with showing with From Shtetl to Swing. Only Human and Rape of Europa finish out the series in December.
See the trailer for Six Days, and all movie synopsis’ after the jump.
The Mill Valley Film Festival
Jellyfish (October 6 & 13 – www.mvff.com)
This highly cinematic seriocomic ensemble piece is a wistful, wonderfully wise rumination on hope and happenstance, which, like its titular creature, appears delicate and amorphous, yet stings when you least expect it. Winner of this year’s Camera d Or, Best First Feature, Cannes Film Festival.
Little Heroes (October 6 & 14 – www.mvff.com)
Life is hard when you’re a misfit, but it’s even harder for a kid who feels like he’s facing life alone. In Little Heroes, four square pegs embark on a dangerous quest, and their naive courage affects everyone in their lives. Ages 8+
Beaufort (October 7 & 9 – www.mvff.com)
With recent Israeli-Lebanese history clearly in mind, director Joseph Cedar has employed an effectively minimalist style in this riveting look at the futility and frustrations of armed conflict. Winner of the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival.
The Secrets (October 11 & 13 – www.mvff.com)
Set in Safed in Northern Israel where the mystical texts of the Kaballah were first interpreted and studied, three women meet on the road to redemption. Naomi knows her sacred texts better than her own heart. Michelle’s passion needs purpose. Ailing Anouk brings them together. Each seeks reconciliation with G-d and her own female essence.
San Jose Jewish Film Festival
Jake Groden, a master furniture craftsman who has long been estranged from his working-class family, returns to Brooklyn, bringing with him an alcohol addiction and a quick temper, to serve the remainder of his parole. What he finds is a father, played by Judd Hirsch, who treats him with disdain, a nephew who never knew he existed, and the grieving widow of his recently deceased twin brother. This tightly directed sleeper film masterfully explores the tribulations of the redemptive process.
Three Mothers (October 14)
This emotionally charged film is a stunningly beautiful, evocative tale of family relationships at their best and worst. The movie follows the lives and secrets of triplets Rose, Flora and Yasmin.
Winner, Special Prize Award, 2006 Jerusalem International Film Festival.
Blues by the Beach (October 21, Trailer)
Mike’s Place is a Tel Aviv blues bar, patronized by a hip, secular crowd. In 2003, an American filmmaker used this bar as an example of how Israelis continue their enjoyment of daily life despite the threat of terrorism. During that project, a suicide murderer bombed the bar, killing three and wounding many others. This film records not only the attack itself but also the aftermath and painful process of recovery. The Israeli spirit is never defeated.
Aviva My Love (October 21 & 24)
Written and directed by Shemi Zarhin (Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi), Aviva My Love is richly shot, with glimpses into the title character’s inner fantasy life, telling the story of a woman attempting to make her unique voice heard while over and over it is muffled by the needs and desires of those around her. Winner of six Awards from the Israeli Film Academy, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Director.
Olga (October 21, Trailer)
A magnificent presentation of love and intolerance, “Olga” is the real story of a unique German Jewish woman, born in 1908, who became a dedicated Communist. As the Nazis were coming to power, Olga flees to Moscow where she undergoes Red Army military training and she is assigned to escort and guarantee the safe return of the Communist leader, Captain Luís Carlos Prestes to Brazil, where he will spearhead Latin America’s first Communist revolution. Olga became his lover and when the Communist revolution failed, she was deported to Nazi Germany by the Brazilian government. After bearing a child, she was sent to a concentration camp. Film includes some difficult concentration camp scenes.
Be Fruitful and Multiply (October 28, with Shabbos Mother)
This powerful documentary explores the choices that ultra-orthodox women have to make amid traditional expectations of motherhood. On the one side, we see women who spend most of their lives either pregnant or nursing, focusing on two women who revel in their role as head of their large families. On the other side, we meet two ultra-orthodox women who decided to limit their family size. Yentl, who appears in the film without her husband’s knowledge, voices concern that the pressure to produce large families causes many of these perpetually-pregnant women to a secret life of unhappiness.
Shabbos Mother (October 28, with Be Fruitful and Multiply, Trailer)
Three sisters from a religious family-an unmarried career minded sister who has abandoned her traditional roots, a religious middle-class woman in her ninth month of pregnancy, fearful of giving birth and the film’s heroine, who is struggling to conceive a child-gather at their widowed mother’s house for the Jewish Sabbath. Their intense Sabbath together opens old wounds and forces each of the women to confront issues of womanhood and motherhood.
A Love to Hide (October 28 & 31, Trailer)
During the Nazi occupation of Paris, a Jewish woman on the run is sheltered by a Gentile man who happens to have been the object of her teenage affection. Soon she enters a web of complications as her protector outs his own homosexuality while his brother, a career criminal, becomes infatuated with her. This film provides a unique perspective by projecting universal struggles like belonging, betrayal, and unrequited love against the backdrop of the Holocaust.
Souvenirs (October 28 with Minus Plus, Trailer, A Special Discussion with the Writer/Director of “Souvenirs” and “Minus Plus” following the screening)
An elderly, Iraqi-born veteran of the British Army’s Jewish Brigade, which was formed in Mandatory Palestine toward the end of the Second World War, accompanies his son, an Israeli filmmaker, to retrace the Brigade’s steps, through combat in northern Italy to occupation duties in The Netherlands. The son, however, has an ulterior motive, and that is to track down the Dutch woman who he believes was his father’s girlfriend during the war.
Minus Plus (October 28 with Souvenirs, Trailer, A Special Discussion with the Writer/Director of “Souvenirs” and “Minus Plus” following the screening)
A short comedy with a surprise ending about a young couple in love living hand to mouth in Jerusalem . Shaul is an ex-guitarist and a serial inventor with no other means of income, Yael is the sole bread winner. He declares a war on the Electric Company, when they disconnect their power supply for lack of payment
Cardboard Squares (November 4, with Dark Night)
This film explores in depth the pain and sorrow of the women of one Israeli family that has lost three men, a father and one of his sons in war and another son in an accident. Only through an eventual sharing and release of their feelings do these women find the closure they need in order to continue with their lives in a productive and meaningful manner.
Dark Night (November 4, with Cardboard Squares)
Two survivors of an ambushed Israeli patrol, one of whom is badly wounded, take refuge in a house near Nablus. In the house, the Israeli soldiers find an Arab man and his wife. Both the wounded Israeli and the Arab woman desperately need medical assistance, but to summon it would reveal the soldiers’ presence and hence imperil the lives of both Israelis. Suspense mounts in this tautly directed film noir.
Some One to Run With (November 4 & 7, Trailer)
A teen-aged girl suddenly disappears, becomes one of Jerusalem’s “throw away” children, and falls into the clutches of a Fagin-like character. Concurrently, a teen-aged boy is assigned to track her down to serve a dog license citation. As the boy realizes that she is in danger, it becomes his mission to rescue her. Based on the novel by famed Israeli writer David Grossman, the young characters mature quickly and at the same time overcome fear.
The Discovery of Heaven (November 4, Clip 1, Clip 2)
Based on Harry Mulisch’s epic, philosophical novel, Jeroen Krabbe’s latest film tackles the theme of man’s free will versus celestial interference. G-d is disappointed with the human race and wants his stone tablets back. An angel is given the assignment and tries to manipulate several humans on earth to get the job done. But humans have a will of their own. This imaginative and cautionary fable stars Stephen Fry.
Six Days (November 4, Trailer)
Directed by Israeli expatriate Ilan Ziv, this documentary explores riveting stories of the Six Day War of June 1967. Using archival footage, interviews with surviving politicians and military leaders, and narrative commentary, this film shines light on a war that forever transformed Middle Eastern history and allowed the reunification of Jerusalem for the first time since the formation of the State of Israel. Ziv’s even-handed approach is as gripping as it is informative.
Sentenced to Marriage (November 11, After the movie, plan to stay for an interesting discussion about Divorce in Israel, led by Nitzhia Shaked, Trailer)
For Jewish women in Israel, the right to divorce is determined by Jewish religious law. Under that law, a woman can receive a divorce only if her husband consents, and no husband can be compelled to grant a divorce. This situation has left many Jewish women in Israel unable to obtain a divorce and start a new life. This brave film examines three especially shocking examples of why some form of change is necessary.
Just An Ordinary Jew (November 11, Trailer)
Asked to speak at a local school about his life as a Jew in modern Germany, a Jewish journalist begins to dictate what he intends to be a polite responsive letter. This searing, intense film, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (“Downfall”) and starring Ben Becker (“Gloomy Sunday”), is a virtuoso monologue that explores deeply almost every conceivable aspect of what it means to be a Jew in a contemporary Gentile world and particularly in Germany.
Modigliani (November 11)
Arriving like a comet, he danced on tables, drunk with passion for life and his ending was the tragedy of true genius like Van Gogh and Mozart.
It is 1919. The Great War is over and Paris nightlife is filled with dark passion and uncontrollable obsessions. In the café Rotonde, the refuge of the artistic elite, we find a table, unlike any other in history: Picasso, Riverra, Stein, Cocteau, Soutine, Utrillo and Modigliani. This is the untold story of the bitter rivalry between Modigliani and Picasso. Two men whose envy of each other is fuelled by their brilliance, their arrogance, their passions. It is also the story of the greatest love tragedy in art history. Jeanne Hebuterne was a beautiful young Catholic girl whose only fault, in her father’s eyes was to fall in love with Modigliani, a Jew. Driven by his religious bigotry, Jeanne’s father secretly sends their baby away to a convent in some faraway place.
At the same time, Paris is preparing for an annual art competition. The prize is money and guaranteed career. But until this moment Picasso has never entered because he is Picasso. And Modigliani has never entered because he is Modigliani. But now Modigliani is cornered. He and Jeanne need to save their child. Drunk with anger, soaked by rain, he bursts into the Rotonde, and watched by Picasso and all others, he puts his name in the competition. Picasso then enters and follows suite. Paris becomes frenzied with excitement. Destiny will watch over this great night and the next day she will deal a hand that shaped all their lives for the rest of time.
Steel Toes (November 11)
A liberal Jewish lawyer in Canada (David Strathairn) is appointed to defend a hate-filled, swastika-tattooed skinhead who stomped to death a Pakistani immigrant. Expectedly, both client and lawyer view one another initially with revulsion and contempt. Unless he makes a persuasive demonstration of contrition, however, the client has little hope. The gripping and powerful plot focuses on the lawyer’s efforts to force his client to reclaim whatever residual goodness might lie deep within his character.
Sweet Mud (November 11, Trailer English, Trailer Hebrew)
Sweet Mud is a complex and multi-layered coming-of-age tale that’s sweet and charming in all the right places. On the surface, it’s a simple story of a son’s relationship with his fragile and mentally unstable mother. But with its many subtle complexity, we see a richly woven tapestry of culture, idealism, love, and freedom. Deeply moving performances are given by Ronet Yudkevitz, who portrays the mother as both a tragic and dignified woman, and Tomer Steinof, playing the son in a truly impressive debut performance.
Black Book (November 14)
It is 1944, and much of The Netherlands remains under the heavy heel of German occupation. A beautiful, Dutch Jewish cabaret singer joins the Resistance and infiltrates Nazi security headquarters in a major Dutch city. Director Paul Verhoeven (“Basic Instinct,” “Total Recall”) depicts a war-ravaged world where, for greed, some Resistance fighters shamelessly betray their comrades and some Nazis, acting out of character, risk their lives to save Dutch patriots. This suspenseful and action-packed Verhoeven work, which will keep you on the edge of your seat until its finale, was the most commercially successful film in the long history of Dutch cinema
JCC Sonoma County Jewish Film Series
Live and Become (October 9 & 11, Trailer)
In 1985 at the height of “Operation Moses,” during the massive airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, a Jewish boy slated for emigration dies. A nine-year old Christian boy is secretly put in his place by a mother desperate for her son to escape Ethiopia’s violence and poverty. Her parting words to him are: “Go, live, and become.” And so begin the incredible adventures of Schlomo, the name given to him, as he grows from childhood to adulthood in his strange adopted land. Suffused with warmth and humor, Live and Become is an unforgettable story of survival and love. 143 minutes, Hebrew and French with English subtitles.
West Bank Story (October 23 & 25, with From Shtetl to Swing, Trailer)
West Bank Story is a hilarious musical comedy spoof of West Side Story, set in the frenetic world of two arch-rival falafel stands in the West Bank, Humus Hut and Kosher King. The film loses no opportunity to parody both the classic movie and Arab-Israeli relations. Winner of the 2007 Oscar, Best Live Action Short Film. 21 minutes, in English.
From Shtetl to Swing (October 23 & 25, with West Bank Story)
Using black-and-white clips from the 20’s and 30’s, From Shtetl to Swing examines the Jewish influence on American popular music, including ragtime, early jazz, swing, Tin Pan Alley standards, Broadway show tunes and Hollywood film scores. Archival footage highlights such luminaries as Al Jolson, Fanny Brice, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Molly Picon, the Marx Brothers, and a host of others. 52 minutes, in English.
A Love to Hide (October 30 & November 1)
Three Mothers (November 7 & 8)
Only Human (December 5 & 6)
An outrageously funny, fast-paced Spanish screwball comedy, Only Human reworks the classic theme of “meeting the parents” with hysterical results. Leni, a television reporter, comes home to introduce her fiancee Rafi, a college professor, to her eccentric Jewish family. Everything goes smoothly until the lovers reveal that Rafi happens to be Palestinian. During the ensuing uproar Rafi escapes to the kitchen, ostensibly to help prepare dinner. He accidentally drops a block of frozen soup out the window, hitting a pedestrian below who just may be Leni’s father, further complicating matters. 89 minutes. Spanish with English subtitles.
Rape of Europa (December 11 & 13, Guest speakers Jon and Julie Simkovitz, Trailer)
For twelve years the Nazis looted and destroyed the art treasures of Europe on an unprecedented scale. Narrated by Joan Allen, The Rape of Europa begins with artist Gustav Klimt’s famed Gold Portrait, stolen from Viennese Jews in 1938 and now the most expensive painting ever sold. In a journey through seven countries, this powerful documentary tells the epic story of the systematic theft, attempted destruction, and miraculous survival of Europe’s great art during the Third Reich and World War II, as well as the heroic effort of art historians and curators from America and Europe who fought to rescue and return these stolen treasures. 117 minutes. In English.