The 2016 JFilm Festival will present the Pittsburgh premieres of 21 films representing Jewish culture around the world. The festivities begin on April 7th with an opening night event dedicated to the documentary Norman Lear: Just Another Version Of You. The festival will close on April 17th with a screening of Natalie Portman‘s directorial debut A Tale of Love and Darkness. The festival will also include film-related talks, food presentations, and special guest appearances. See the JFilm schedule and details below:
Norman Lear: Just Another Version Of You
From Archie Bunker to George Jefferson, Norman Lear created television’s most iconic characters of the 1970s; yet none are more memorable than Lear himself. Now in his 90s, Lear candidly reflects on his life growing up as a poor Jewish kid, his career creating provocative sitcom hits, and his later years as an activist for social equality –using laughter every step of the way. Featuring interviews with George Clooney, Amy Poehler, Rob Reiner, and others, this film tells the entertaining, nostalgic, and insightful story of one of America’s most influential figures.
The latest film from director Atom Egoyan tells the story of Zev Guttman (Academy Award winner Christopher Plummer), a 90-year-old struggling with memory loss, who receives a mysterious package from his close friend Max (Academy Award winner Martin Landau), containing a stack of money and a letter detailing a shocking plan. Both Zev and Max were prisoners in Auschwitz, and the same sadistic guard was responsible for the death of both their families—a guard who, after the war, escaped Germany and has since been living in the U.S. under an assumed identity. Max is wheelchair-bound but in full command of his mental faculties; with his guidance, Zev will embark on a cross-continental road-trip to finally bring justice to the man who destroyed both their lives. Remember will screen at 5:30 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
Frank vs. God
God has been tough on David Frank (Henry Ian Cusick). Devastated by the recent loss of his wife and a tornado that ruins his house and takes his beloved dog, Frank is fed up with these “acts of God,” and—as any good lawyer would do—serves God his papers. This delightful film brings levity to the heaviest questions of faith and spirituality as Frank calls on representatives of the world’s religions to help defend God’s actions. Frank vs. God will screen at 4:45 p.m. at the Manor Theatre.
A down-on-his-luck detective reluctantly accepts a case that revolves around the mysterious murder of an 80-year-old man found with multiple stab wounds in a river. Moving between past and present, Fire Birds envelopes us in the man’s world of loneliness, desire and rejection. Starring the legendary Gila Almagor with a turn by Miriam Zohar as an aging cabaret singer who still has her pipes, Fire Birds mixes intrigue with humor, romance and melancholy. Fire Birds will screen at 7 p.m. at the Manor Theatre.
How did the Louvre survive the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II while the rest of Europe was destroyed? In this docudrama, famed Russian director and auteur Alexander Sokurov explores the noted museum’s precarious journey through that time by examining the relationship between the Louvre’s head, Jacques Jaujard, and German officer Count Franziskus Wolff Metternich, tasked with overseeing one of the world’s best-known collections of art treasures for the Nazi conquerors. Sokurov cuts between present and past in this “art” film, which is a love story to not only the Louvre itself, but to art and its impact on civilization. In French, German and Russian with subtitles. Francofonia will screen at 9:20 p.m. at the Manor Theatre.
The screening is supported in part by the Russian Film Symposium and The Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.
Peter the 3rd
Growing old is not easy, but when a group of lifelong friends meet each day in a coffee shop to solve the world’s problems and laugh at each other’s foibles, they find the support they need to get by. In pursuit of a better pension, one of the friends, Peter, decides to run for the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) with the help of the feisty—and much younger—waitress, Alona. Gathering signatures for his newly formed Widows and Widowers Party, Peter and Alona develop an unlikely friendship that reveals that loneliness and unrealized dreams can hinder us all—at any age. In Hebrew with subtitles. Peter the 3rd will screen at 2 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
The Three Hikers
An innocent hike through Northern Iraqi territory turns into a 2+ year international incident when three American civilians mistakenly cross into Iran. This documentary chronicles the fate of those three—Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer and Joshua Fattal, son of an Israeli citizen—as they are first captured and then imprisoned for what seems like an indeterminate amount of time. Falsely charged with spying, the three hikers endure inhumane conditions, trumped up charges and the American government’s apparent disinterest in their circumstances. Working almost exclusively from interviews with the three captives, director Natalie Avital tells the story of their imprisonment, the impact on their families back home and the ramifications of the Iranian action on American-Iranian relations. The Three Hikers will screen at 3:45 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
A conversation with hiker Joshua Fattal will follow. The film is shown in collaboration with the World Affairs Council.
A Grain of Truth
Polish Academy Award-winning actor Robert Więckiewicz plays Teodor Szacki, a maverick prosecutor who digs deep into Poland’s anti-Semitic past in this stylish detective thriller. Set in southeast Poland, the newly arrived Szacki is met with suspicion by the close-knit community when he is enlisted to solve a string of murders gripping the small town. As the killer remains on the run, tempers flare and rumors run rampant among some of the locals who believe that these are ritual killings by Jews. In Polish with subtitles. A Grain of Truth will screen at 7 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
Guests are welcome to join Film Schmooze after the screening. The film is shown in collaboration with Three Rivers Film Festival.
Thrown together at Auschwitz, three friends reconnect 15 years after their release at a sunny resort in the north of France. Overcome with both good and bad memories, the women open up about their lives as their noble attempt at forging ahead ebbs and flows like the nearby seaside. Based on his own mother’s story, director Jean-Jacques Zilbermann lovingly portrays the women, as well as the men in their lives, as flawed but real people. In French with subtitles. To Life will screen at 5 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
Guests are welcome to join Film Schmooze after the screening.
Baba Joon is a story about fathers and sons set in a Persian-immigrant farming community in the Negev during the early 1980s. Yitzhak (Navid Negahban) runs the turkey farm that his father built after emigrating from Iran to Israel. Now it is time to teach his son, Moti, the family business, but the 13-year-old is not interested and would rather build and fix things. The struggle escalates when Yitzhak’s absent brother visits from America, giving Moti the courage to stand up for himself. In Farsi and Hebrew with subtitles. Baba Joon will screen at 7 p.m. in Carmike 10 – South Hills Village.
This screening is supported in part by the South Hills Community Engagement
Since the 1990s, the Israel Football League has been adding teams and players while battling more popular sports like soccer and basketball for attention. With a recent infusion of funds from the Kraft Family (owners of the New England Patriots), the League has grown steadily. Touchdown Israel appeals to everyone who loves Israel (if not football) and shows how the gridiron sport is bringing diverse communities together in the Holy Land. In English and Hebrew with subtitles. Touchdown Israel will screen at 7:15 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
A conversation with former Pittsburgh Steeler Chris Hoke.will follow. The screening is supported in part by the Zionist Organization of America-Pittsburgh District.
Raise the Roof
With only a few black and white photographs to guide them, an international team of artists embark on the ambitious endeavor to reconstruct one of the world’s greatest wooden synagogues, built in Gwozdziec, Poland during the 18th century. Its distinct architecture inspired over 200 synagogues that dotted the Polish countryside for more than two centuries, until Nazis burned them to the ground during World War II. Teaching artists Rick and Laura Brown discover the history of these architectural marvels and set out to rebuild the landmark Gwozdziec synagogue using only hand tools, artisanal techniques, and the skills and labor of over 300 volunteers. After ten years this improbable dream is realized, and Poland is once again home to this great synagogue of the past. In English and Polish with subtitles. Raise the Roof will screen at 5:30 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
Guests are welcome to join Film Schmooze after the screening. The screening is shown in In collaboration with the Polish Cultural Council of Pittsburgh.
The Kind Words
In the wake of their mother’s death, three Israeli siblings have reason to doubt the identity of their father, leading them to embark on a journey in search of a mysterious Muslim man from their mother’s past. The discovery of their mother’s deep secrets affects each one in different ways, but it is the sister, Donora, who seems to bear the most pain as she yearns to be a mother herself with husband Ricky (played by Tsahi Halevi of the 2015 film Bethlehem). The latest box-office hit from Israeli writer director Shemi Zarhin uses wry humor and relatable characters to reflect on parenthood, love and identity in our modern world. In French and Hebrew with subtitles. The Kind Words will screen at 7:30 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
The Midnight Orchestra
Like many Jews who fled Morocco during the rising racial tension spurred by the Yom Kippur War, Michael Abitbol left Casablanca as a child and never looked back. Estranged from his father, a once famous Jewish musician, Michael reluctantly returns to his boyhood home years later. With the help of a comical Muslim cab driver and the eccentric members of his father’s former orchestra, the legacy of his father is revealed to him along with a story of his past that was long ago buried. In Arabic, English & French with subtitles. The Midnight Orchestra will screen at 5 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
Frank vs God will screen at 7 p.m. in Carmike 10 – South Hills Village. The screening is supported in part by the South Hills Community Engagement Initiative.
In Search of Israeli Cuisine
Join the Israeli-born, Pittsburgh-raised chef Michael Solomonov as he travels throughout Israel feeding his curiosity and appetite for the diverse foods of his native country. Solomonov’s journey reaffirms that Israeli cuisine is a beautiful and delicious reflection of the country’s unique diversity. Exhilarated by the eclectic melding of traditions and tastes, he’s sure to return to his trendy Philadelphia restaurant Zahav inspired by what he’s learned. In Search of Israeli Cuisine will screen at 7:30 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
A conversation with Chef Michael Solomonov will follow.
Fire Birds will screen at 4:30 p.m. at the Manor Theatre.
Legendary Sephardic composer and musician Flory Jagoda delights contemporary audiences with ancestral songs and lyrics that stretch back centuries. Born in Sarajevo to a musical family, Flory became the family’s only Holocaust survivor. She now shares with the world the songs that were lovingly passed on to her before World War II,bringing to life a part of Sephardic Jewish culture that is seldom still heard. This film weaves Flory’s compelling personal story, warmly told by Flory and her family, with selections from her highly acclaimed concert at the Library of Congress in 2014. In Croatian, English and Ladino with subtitles. Flory’s Flame will screen at 7 p.m. in the Rodef Shalom Congregation.
A post-screening performance by Jagoda and her band will follow. Special ticket prices apply.
Frank vs. God will screen at 7 p.m. in the Seton Hill University Performing Arts Center. The screening is supported in part by Seton Hill University’s National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education.
The Israel/Iran nuclear conflict takes center stage in this hilarious farce by the director of Israel’s cult hit, Operation Grandma. On a small army base in the Israeli desert, two teens accidentally come across secret codes that could blow up the world, specifically Iran, where their Facebook friend lives. The film boasts a wild cast of characters including an eye-patched commander, a widowed activist who sells falafel from a food truck and an allergic German nuclear inspector (Alexander Fehling) who breaks out in hives around enriched uranium, as well as a catchy soundtrack including indie rock, Iranian rap and folk tunes. With verbal and visual humor that holds nothing sacred, be prepared to hold your belly. In English, Farsi and Hebrew with subtitles. Atomic Falafel will screen at 7:30 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
The screening is supported in part by the Film Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh.
Frank vs. God will screen at 5:30 p.m. at the Manor Theatre.
Peter the 3rd will screen at 5 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
Baba Joon will screen at 7 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
Presenting Princess Shaw
An internet sensation who goes by the name Kutiman is an experimental composer living in Israel who creates video mash ups from clips he finds on YouTube. He discovers Samantha Montgomery, a soulful singer in New Orleans, who cares for the elderly by day and becomes her alter ego—Princess Shaw—by night, performing at open mics and uploading her songs to the internet in hopes of being discovered. A star is born in this crowd-pleasing documentary, which also examines loneliness, anonymity and connectivity in the Internet age, where showbiz dreams remain but a mouse-click away for the lucky and talented few. In English and Hebrew with subtitles. Presenting Princess Shaw will screen at 9 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
The screening is presented in collaboration with Repair the World and the Young Adult Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
Plastic Man: The Artful Life of Jerry Ross Barrish
Years before DIY and working with recyclables became the rage, Jerry Barrish started collecting discarded plastic and repurposing it into sculptures. Now retired from 50+ years as a bail bondsman, the gruff sculptor focuses entirely on his whimsical, evocative art. Plastic Man: The Artful Life of Jerry Ross Barrish will screen at 12:30 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
Barrish and producer Janis Plotkin will join local artists Clayton Merrell and Carin Mincemoyer for a conversation after the screening. In addition, artists from I Made It! Market will sell goods made with reused and recycled materials in the lobby.
Flory’s Flame will screen at 3 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
Cartoonists: Foot Soldiers of Democracy
Last year’s attack on cartoonists at France’s satirical journal, Charlie Hebdo, proved that cartoons can provoke powerful responses. Featuring 12 talented cartoonists from the far reaches of the globe, including a Belgian-Israeli cartoonist and one from Palestine, this compelling documentary draws on the power of political cartooning—and the unusual artists who inhabit this world. The film includes footage from cartoonists who practice under extreme censorship, risking their lives to defend democracy and practice their craft, and proving that cartooning is a resilient and universally provocative form of art. In Arabic, Danish, English and French with subtitles. Cartoonists: Foot Soldiers of Democracy will screen at 4:30 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
A conversation with Rob Rogers, editorial cartoonist at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, will follow. The screening is presented in collaboration with the ToonSeum.
A Tale of Love and Darkness
Academy Award-winning actor Natalie Portman makes her writing and directing debut in this stunning adaptation of the highly acclaimed memoir by Israeli author Amos Oz. Told through the eyes of the young Amos, the story revolves around his troubled yet adoring mother who was raised in privilege in her native Poland, but struggles to adjust to her life as a poor newcomer in the fledgling nation of Israel. In Hebrew with subtitles. A Tale of Love and Darkness will screen at 7:15 p.m. in the Manor Theatre.
Tickets are available for purchase at the JFilm Festival website. Advance tickets for the opening night film and reception cost $65, $18 for full-time students (26 and under) if purchased by or before 12 p.m. on April 1st. Regular tickets cost $80 online or at the door.
Tickets for all other screenings cost $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Youth (18 and under) tickets cost $5 in advance, $6 at the door. Advance tickets for groups of 12 or more cost $8 each. $15 limited reserved seats are also available for purchase. Late seating may be reserved for those observing Shabbat by calling (412) 992-5203.
Tickets for the Flory’s Flame concert event cost $15 in advance, $17 at the door.
The JFilm Festival returns with 28 screenings of 20 films from eight different countries, each one enjoying its Pittsburgh premiere. The line-up includes eye-opening dramas, documentaries, comedies, and other works that speak to the Jewish experience all over the world. See below for schedule and details:
The Last Mentsch
Marcus Schwartz (Mario Adorf) is an old man who has lived with a cautiously buried secret for most of his life – for Marcus Schwartz was born as Menah’hem Teitelbaum and has concealed his Jewish heritage ever since he survived the horrors of Auschwitz. Now, as he has decided that he wants to be buried on a Jewish cemetery, he has to verify what he has carefully hidden for most of his life and that proves to be quite a difficult task. On the journey to his roots in Satu Mare, a little village on the Hungarian-Romanian border, he is accompanied by Gül (Katharina Derr), a young German Girl of Turkish heritage, who, just like Marcus, tries to come to terms with her past.
Once in a Lifetime
At the Lycée Léon Blum in Créteil, on the outskirts of Paris, a teacher decides to make her weakest 10th grade class take a national history exam. The experience transforms the students. Based on a true story. Once in a Lifetime will screen at the Manor Theatre.
The Art Dealer
The new drama from renowned French director François Margolin (The Flight of the Red Balloon) follows a Jewish woman (Anna Sigalevitch) who embarks on a journey to recover family paintings that were stolen by Nazis. During her investigation, she discovers some family secrets are best kept hidden. The Art Dealer will screen at the Manor Theatre.
10% My Child
Seven-year-old Franny adjusts to life with her mother’s new boyfriend, Nico, a 26-year-old aspiring filmmaker unable to finish his graduation project. 10% My Child will screen at the Manor Theatre.
French director Alexandre Arcady’s cinematic adaptation of the real-life kidnapping of Ilan Halimi offers a searing insight into his vicious ordeal. For 24 days, the police, insistent upon handling the case as a normal for-ransom kidnapping, fail to recognize the anti-Semitic hatred of his abductors. Many opportunities to save Ilan are missed or squandered as his family receive nearly 700 phone calls, insults, threats, photographs and sound recordings of their tortured son. 24 Days will screen at the Manor Theatre.
The Muses of Bashevis Singer
The famous Yiddish writer and Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote with a ‘harem’ of dozens of translators behind him. Beyond simple translation, these women were a vital source of his creativity. The inspiration he drew from them came in many forms, often mixing romance with professional aspirations. Today nine remain to tell his story. Intimate, poignant interviews and exclusive archival footage combine to portray the unknown story of an author who charmed and enchanted his audiences, just like he charmed and enchanted his translators. The Muses of Bashevis Singer will screen at the Manor Theatre.
Yehezkel, a 75-year-old Jerusalem retirement home resident, decides to fulfill his terminally ill best friend Max’s wish to die in peace. Despite the objections of his wife Levana, Yehezkel and Max’s wife Yana enlist the help of a veterinarian and retired police officer to help them with their mission. When the group realizes that none of them is willing to commit the deed, Yehezkel builds a machine for self- euthanasia. But after Max is gone, rumors about the machine begin to spread, and the group receives more pleas for help. Meanwhile, Yehezkel refuses to face the reality of his wife’s deteriorating dementia. As Yehezkel navigates between new requests for the machine, and Levana’s growing dependency, boundaries begin to blur, and the moral dilemmas the group face become impossible to bear. Farewell Party will screen at the Manor Theatre.
Above and Beyond
In 1948, just three years after the liberation of Nazi death camps, a group of Jewish American pilots answered a call for help. In secret and at great personal risk, they smuggled planes out of the U.S., trained behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia and flew for Israel in its War of Independence. This ragtag band of brothers not only turned the tide of the war; they also embarked on personal journeys of discovery and renewed Jewish pride. The first feature-length documentary about the foreign airmen brings together new interviews as well as stunning aerial footage to present a fascinating, little-known tale filled with heart, heroism and high-flying chutzpah. Above and Beyond will screen at Rodef Shalom.
An old Jewish baker’s failing business gets an unexpected boost when his young Muslim apprentice, also a part-time cannabis dealer, accidentally drops a load of dope in the dough, and the customers suddenly can’t get enough of his bread. Stars Jonathan Pryce, Ian Hart, Jerome Holder, and Pauline Collins. Dough will screen at the Manor Theatre.
The Best of Men
Based on a true story, The Best of Men tells Dr. Ludwig Guttmann, a Jewish refugee whose pioneering work with paralyzed soldiers led to the birth of the Paralympic Games. Stars Eddie Marsan and Rob Brydon. The Best of Men will screen at Rodef Shalom.
Once in a Lifetime
Once in a Lifetime will screen at Carmike 10 – South Hills Village.
Above and Beyond
Above and Beyond will screen at the Manor Theatre.
Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem
Theodore Bikel, a prolific performer whose career spans more than 150 screen roles (including an Oscar-nominated turn in The Defiant Ones) and countless stage and musical productions, is also the foremost interpreter of Jewish literary figure Sholom Aleichem‘s work. Aleichem’s Tevye the Milkman, Motl the Cantor’s Son, and Menachem Mendl–“shtetl Jews” for whom humor and pathos were two sides of the same Yiddish coin–remain invaluable windows into pre-war Eastern European Jewish life, real and imagined. Now 90, Bikel has played Tevye the Milkman on stage more than 2,000 times, and he has animated Aleichem’s work through his creation of two celebrated musical plays about the great Russian author. The feature documentary combines Bikel’s charismatic storytelling and masterful performances with a broader exploration of Aleichem’s remarkable life and work. Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem will screen at the Manor Theatre.
The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films
A documentary film about of two Israeli-born cousins, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who in pursuit of the American Dream turned the Hollywood power structure upside down, producing over 300 films and becoming the most powerful independent film company in the world. Up close and personal, the film examines the complex relationship between two contradictory personalities whose combined force fueled their successes and eventual split. The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films will screen at Waterworks Cinemas.
Serial (Bad) Weddings
Claude and Marie Verneuil, from the provincial, Catholic upper middle class, are rather conservative parents. But they’ve always forced themselves to be open-minded. However, their tolerance has been sorely tested when their first daughter married a Muslim, the second a Jew, and the third a Chinese man. Their hopes to at last see one of their daughters married in church hence focus on their youngest, who has, halleluiah, just met a good Catholic. Serial (Bad) Weddings will screen at the Manor Theatre.
The Art Dealer
The Art Dealer will screen in the Reeves Auditorium at Seton Hill University.
One week after the 1967 Six-Day War, a group of young kibbutzinks, led by renowned author Amos Oz and Editor Avraham Shapira, recorded intimate conversations with soldiers returning from the battlefield. The Israeli army censored the recordings, allowing only a fragment of the conversations to be published. Censored Voices reveals these original recordings for the first time. Censored Voices will screen at the Manor Theatre.
Felix and Meira
Each lost in their everyday lives, Meira (Hadas Yaron), a Hasidic Jewish wife and mother and Félix (Martin Dubreuil), a Secular loner mourning the recent death of his estranged father, unexpectedly meet in a local bakery in Montreal’s Mile End district. What starts as an innocent friendship becomes more serious as the two wayward strangers find comfort in one another. As Félix opens Meira’s eyes to the world outside of her tight-knit Orthodox community, her desire for change becomes harder for her to ignore, ultimately forcing her to choose: remain in the life that she knows or give it all up to be with Félix. Felix and Meira will screen at the Manor Theatre.
Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front
Director Wayne Kopping‘s coming-of-age story which follows the journey of five Israeli high school graduates who are drafted into the army to defend their country. At the age of 18, away from their homes, families and friends, these young individuals undergo a demanding, inspiring journey, revealing the core of who they are and who they want to be. Beneath the Helmet: From High School to the Home Front will screen at the Manor Theatre and the JCC Katz Theatre.
After living in Berlin for eight years, university student Noa returns to her native Israel for a short holiday. When her grandmother suddenly takes ill, Noa decides to stay with her family and search for her place in life, which becomes more complicated when her German boyfriend Jörg shows up. Anywhere Else will screen at the Manor Theatre.
24 Days will screen at the Manor Theatre.
Dough will screen at the Manor Theatre.
Serial (Bad) Weddings
Serial (Bad) Weddings will screen at the Manor Theatre.
A Borrowed Identity
Eyad, who grew up in an Arab town in Israel, is given the chance to go to a prestigious Jewish boarding school in Jerusalem. The first and only Arab to be accepted there, he desperately tries to fit in with his Jewish schoolmates and Israeli society. Soon, Eyad develops a friendship with Jonathan, a boy suffering from muscular dystrophy, and gradually becomes part of his family. Being an outsider, Eyad wants to belong, even if he doesn’t exactly know to whom or to what. After falling in love with Naomi, a Jewish girl, he has to leave school when their relationship is uncovered and he discovers that he will have to sacrifice his identity in order to be accepted. Faced with a choice, Eyad will have to make a decision that will change his life forever. A Borrowed Identity will screen at the Manor Theatre.
Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem
Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem will screen at the Manor Theatre.
During the summer of 1943, the Jews of Greater Bulgaria must adhere to the laws of Germany. Moni, a Jewish youngster from Sofia and Giogio the son of the commissar for Jewish affairs’ driver, meet Shelly, a Jewish girl from Kavala. The two face the values and limits of friendship, as they both fall in love with her, while outside rages their conflicted world. Bulgarian Rhapsody will screen at the Manor Theatre.
Is That You?
After being fired from his job, Ronnie, a 60-year-old Israeli film projectionist, travels to the U.S. in search of Rachel, the love of his youth. Helping Ronnie in his search are his brother and Myla, a documentary film student making a movie about regrets.
Tickets for The Last Mentsch opening reception are $80. Individual screenings are $10 general admission, $5 for students 18 and under with valid ID. Tickets are available for purchase at the JFilm website.
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.