From March 27th through April 6th, the JFilm Festival will present 17 films from eight countries, including Argentina, Belgium, France, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, and the US. The event will also feature a number of activities, such as a food tasting, a dance performance, and lectures. See a film schedule and details below:
A group of friends in a Tel Aviv suburb get together to watch Universong, a Eurovision-like television song contest. They’d all like to forget the stress of their daily lives. Yael is a former beauty queen who is unfulfilled by her job as a corporate lawyer; Dana is a stressed-out aide to a cabinet minister and timidly tries to please her traditional father; Anat , has a successful bakery but an unsuccessful marriage; Keren is a shy blogger; Efrat is a frustrated singer- songwriter whose career has stalled; and Ofer is a nursery-school teacher who is upset that his boyfriend, a spokes-model for his family’s famous brand of hummus, is still in the closet and won’t publicly acknowledge their romance. When the night of the Universong final rolls around, they gather to watch and are depressed by the lifelessness of the Israeli entry, a parody of many recent offerings, a flashy, grating song about “amour.” After they realize that Anat is distraught over the crisis in her marriage, they compose a song to cheer her up. As a lark, Ofer enters their cellphone video of it in next year’s contest, and it becomes Israel’s entry. In Hebrew with English subtitles. Cupcakes will screen at the Manor Theatre, with a reception at the Jewish Community Center‘s Katz Theater.
Bethlehem tells the story of the unlikely bond between Razi, an Israeli secret service officer, and his Palestinian informant Sanfur. Sanfur is the younger brother of a senior Palestinian militant. Razi recruited him when he was just 15, and developed a very close, almost fatherly relationship to him. Now 17, Sanfur tries to navigate between Razi’s demands and his loyalty to his brother, living a double life and lying to both. When the Israeli secret service discovers how deeply involved Sanfur is in his brother’s activities, Razi is faced with an impossible dilemma. Co-written by Yuval Adler, who also directed, and Ali Waked, an Arab journalist who spent years in the West Bank, and based on years of research, the film gives an unparalleled, authentic portrait of the complex reality behind the news. Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles. Bethlehem will screen at the Manor Theatre.
March 29th & April 1st
Hunting Elephants centers on a 12-year-old Israeli boy named Jonathan, who is dealt a cruel double-blow by fate. First his father is killed in a freak accident while working at the local bank. Then, not only does the bank deny fault, they also declare they’ll repossess the boy’s home. Pushed to the brink, the boy must find money fast, and so decides to rob the bank that’s offended him. But he needs a team. Unfortunately for Jonathan, the only crew he has access to is three senior citizens. Cast includes Patrick Stewart. Hebrew and English with subtitles. Hunting Elephants will screen at 7 p.m. on March 29th and at 4:45 p.m. on April 1st at the Manor Theatre.
March 29th & April 2nd
The German Doctor
Based on Lucía Puenzo’s fifth novel, the story follows Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death,” a German SS officer and a physician at the Auschwitz concentration camp, in the years he spent “hiding” in South America following his escape from Germany. Mengele was considered to be one of WWII’s most heinous Nazi war criminals. It is widely speculated that Mengele continued his human experimentation after he fled from Germany, including during his years in South America. Puenzo’s thriller follows an Argentinian family who befriend and entrust their young daughter to his care, not knowing that they are harboring one of the most dangerous criminals in the world. At the same time, Israeli agents are desperately looking to bring The German Doctor to justice. Spanish, German and Hebrew with subtitles. The German Doctor will screen at 9 p.m.on March 29th and at 5:15 p.m. on April 2nd at the Manor Theatre.
The Sturgeon Queens
100-year-old Hattie Russ Gold and her sister 92-year-old Anne Russ Federman have life stories that hit all the key notes of the Jewish immigrant experience: hard work, humor, romance, and a little tsuris. Hattie and Anne are the two surviving daughters from the famed lox and herring emporium Russ & Daughters on the Lower East Side. This documentary – timed to coincide with the store’s centennial in 2014 – traces four generations of Russ family history, from patriarch Joel Russ, who immigrated to the US from Austria-Hungary with little more than the shirt on his back, to Josh Russ Tupper and Niki Russ Federman, Joel’s great grandchildren, now in their 30s, who run the store today. Niki’s father Mark Russ Federman, who ran the store from the 1970s until 2008, adds insights from his years researching Russ family history. The Sturgeon Queens will screen at the Manor Theatre, followed by A Taste of Jewish Pittsburgh with food samples. Tickets are $20.
Dancing in Jaffa
Renowned ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine takes his belief that dance can overcome political and cultural differences and applies it to 11-year-old Jewish and Palestinian Israelis. What occurs is magical and transformative. Dancing in Jaffa will screen at the Manor Theatre. Includes a performance by the students of Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh.
March 31st and April 6th
The Zigzag Kid
Nono longs to be a good detective like his father, a famous police inspector, but his wild nature constantly gets him into trouble. Gaby, his father’s secretary, cherishes Nono and recognizes his anguish, which comes from his lack of knowledge about his mother, who died when he was very little. Two days before his bar mitzvah, he is sent off to his uncle’s to be disciplined yet again. Once on the train, the over-imaginative boy discovers one last chance to prove himself. Together with charming international thief Felix Glick, an old acquaintance of his father’s, he travels to the French Rivera and enters a world of disguises and crazy pursuits, crossing paths with the famous singer Lola Ciperola (played by Isabella Rossellini) and Zohara, a mysterious woman whose secrets will forever change Nono’s life. Dutch, French and English with subtitles. The Zigzag Kid will screen at 7 p.m. on March 31st at Carmike 10 and at 3:30 p.m. on April 6th at the Manor Theatre.
Kidon begins in the morning of the 18th of February 2010 in Tel-Aviv when the whole world wakes up discovering, on the front page of all the newspapers, pictures of the Mossad agents caught while killing Mahmoud al Mabhouh in Dubai a month earlier. It was the first time that simple security cameras of a hotel caught secret agents red-handed, what’s more Israeli agents. But without doubt, the most surprised of all were the Mossad leaders who were the only ones to know for sure that the three men and the woman, whose faces were in all the newsrooms of the world, had nothing to do with them. From then on, a race against time is undertaken hoping to understand why everything is aiming at them. Hebrew and French with subtitles. Kidon will screen at the Manor Theatre.
April 1st & April 4th
Franek and Jozek Kalina, sons of a poor farmer, are brothers from a small village in central Poland. Franek immigrated to the United States in the 80’s, and cut all ties with his family. Only when Jozek’s wife arrives in the US, without explanation, does Franek finally return to his homeland. Franek discovers that Jozek has been ostracized from the community, and constantly receives various threats. As Franek and Jozek struggle to rebuild their relationship, they are drawn into a gothic tale of intrigue. The two brothers eventually uncover a dark secret that forces them to confront the history of their family and their hometown. Polish with subtitles. Aftermath will screen at 7 p.m. on April 1st and at 5 p.m. on April 4th at the Manor Theatre. Film Schmooze with noted historian Gregor Thum will follow the April 4th screening.
April 1st & April 5th
The Jewish Cardinal
The Jewish Cardinal tells the amazing true story of Jean-Marie Lustiger, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, who maintained his cultural identity as a Jew even after converting to Catholicism at a young age, and later joining the priesthood. Quickly rising within the ranks of the Church, Lustiger was appointed Archbishop of Paris by Pope Jean Paul II – and found a new platform to celebrate his dual identity as a Catholic Jew, earning him both friends and enemies from either group. When Carmelite nuns settle down to build a convent within the cursed walls of Auschwitz, Lustiger finds himself a mediator between the two communities – and may be forced at last to choose his side. French with subtitles. The Jewish Cardinal will screen at 7 p.m. on April 1st at Seton Hill‘s Cecilian Hall and at 7 p.m. on April 5th at the Manor Theatre. Film Schmooze with religion expert Paula Kane will follow the April 5th screening.
Celebrated playwright, Harold Blumenthal, has passed away after succumbing to cardiac arrest while laughing at his own joke. Now, Harold’s estranged and jealous brother, Saul, must confront his personal hang-ups to deliver himself from an epic bout of constipation. Meanwhile, Saul’s wife Cheryl and son Ethan must grapple with their own personal obstacles through a set of circumstances so improbably ironic they might as well have been lifted from one of Harold’s plays. Blumenthal will screen at the Manor Theatre.
When Comedy Went to School
Why are there so many Jewish comedians? When Comedy Went to School answers this question with an entertaining portrait of this country’s greatest generation of comics – the generation that includes the likes of Jerry Lewis, Sid Caesar, Jackie Mason, Mort Sahl, and Jerry Stiller, all of whom make appearances in the film, telling jokes and telling their stories. The answer is also found in upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains, aka the Borscht Belt, where Jewish immigrants transformed lush farmland into the 20th century’s largest resort complex. Those Catskill hotels and bungalow colonies provided the setting for a remarkable group of young Jewish-American comedians to hone their craft and become worldwide legends. When Comedy Went to School will screen at the Manor Theatre. Film Schmooze with film expert Lucy Fischer will follow the screening.
Brave Miss World
Miss Israel Linor Abargil was abducted, stabbed, and raped in Milan, Italy, at age 18. She had to represent her country in the Miss World competition only six weeks later. When to her shock she was crowned the winner, she vowed to do something about rape. The film follows her from the rape, to her crowning and through her crusade to fight for justice and break the silence. During her travels to speak out and meet with other rape victims, her own trauma begins to resurface. Her serial rapist becomes eligible for parole, and she has to hunt down his previous victims in order to help keep him behind bars. The film explores the trauma of sexual assault through one young woman’s journey from teenage rape victim to Miss World to empowered lawyer and activist. Brave Miss World will screen at Rodef Shalom with a VIP reception at 5:30 p.m. The evening includes a separate showing of the movie presented as part of a Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh‘s Women’s Philanthropy. Tickets are $50 for the VIP reception or $10 for the film only. Abargil will speak after the screening.
Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is a quick-witted and lovable, yet tightly coiled, thirty-something steeped in the creative class of Los Angeles’s bohemian, affluent Silver Lake neighborhood. Everything looks just right – chic modernist home, successful husband, adorable child, and a hipster wardrobe. So why is she going out of her gourd with ennui? Deadened by the stultifying realities of preschool auctions, a lackluster sex life, and career that’s gone kaput, Rachel visits a strip club to spice up her marriage and meets McKenna (Juno Temple), a stripper whom she becomes obsessed with saving. She decides to adopt McKenna as her live-in nanny, and this bold move unleashes unimagined and colorful waves of change into her life and community. Afternoon Delight will screen at the Manor Theatre.
Next Year Jerusalem
Choosing life in life’s final chapter is the poignant subtext of the new independent documentary Next Year Jerusalem, a lyrical portrait of eight nursing home residents who travel to Israel on a tour. Earnest and nuanced, the film is a poetic exploration of living and dying, hope and fear, travel and memory. It is a celebration of human experience and a reverent tribute to life’s eldest travelers. Next Year Jerusalem will screen at the Manor Theatre. Ellen Ashkins, Director of Resident Life at Jewish Senior Services, will speak after the screening.
It Happened in St. Tropez
The funeral of Zef’s wife right when Roni’s daughter is getting married. That unexpected event only makes the existing conflicts between the two brothers worse. Their professions, their life choices and even their wives couldn’t be more different. Religious austerity on one side, intense enjoyment of life’s pleasures on the other. They have nothing in common but their aging father who’s losing his grip and their respective daughters who adore one another. From London to Paris, New York to Saint Tropez, showdowns, misunderstandings and betrayals all serve to blow up the family landscape. But out of the rubble of those arguments and haphazard reconciliations will blossom a beautiful love story – or two! In French with subtitles. It Happened in St. Tropez will screen at the Manor Theatre.
Tickets for the opening reception at $65 , $18 for full-time students (26 and under) or $80 (tickets must be purchased by 12 p.m. on March 21st). Individual screenings are $10 general admission, $8 for groups of 12 or more (group tickets must be purchased in advance), $5 youths (18 and under). Tickets are available for purchase at the JFilm website.