The JFilm Festival returns to bring 11 days of international Jewish-themed films, guest speakers, and more to various venues throughout the region. This year’s lineup features the Pittsburgh premieres of 20 narrative and documentary films from 12 countries.
The event opens on April 26 with Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel, a documentary about childhood friends from summer camp who visit Israel to make a movie about Jewish baseball players, never dreaming it would turn into a run for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The screening includes a Q&A with Pittsburgh native and MLB.com reporter Jonathan Mayo, who appears in the film, and a pop-up after-party.
Other documentaries in the line-up include Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me and Monsieur Mayonnaise. Helmed by award-winning filmmaker Sam Pollard, Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me explores the achievements and tensions that surrounded the career of entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., including his conversion to Judaism and his tumultuous relationship with Black America.
Sponsored by the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, Monsieur Mayonnaise follows French-born Australian artist and cult filmmaker Philippe Mora as he uncovers his father’s remarkable exploits in the French Resistance and his mother’s miraculous escape from a prison camp. The story is told through a montage of found footage and Mora’s own artistic renditions.
Among the narrative films showcased is the comedy Humor Me. Faced with a midlife crisis, Nate (Jemaine Clement), a struggling playwright, moves into a New Jersey retirement community with his father (Elliott Gould). Filmmaker Sam Hoffman’s directorial debut also stars Annie Potts, Bebe Neuwirth, and Erich Bergen, who will appear at the festival.
Representing Pittsburgh is local filmmaker David Bernabo, who will premiere his work In a Dark Wood. The documentary charts the path of composer and University of Pittsburgh music composition professor Mathew Rosenblum’s “Lament/Witches’ Sabbath,” a highly personal concerto written for world-famous clarinetist/composer David Krakauer.
Other films include the Dutch historical drama An Act of Defiance, the Israeli/German drama The Cakemaker, and Itzhak, Alison Chernick‘s documentary about legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman. The festival will also present a number of Q&As with various directors and actors and three sessions of Film Schmooze, a casual post-film discussion led by local scholars and sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh’s Jewish Studies Program.
See the JFilm website for showtimes and ticket prices. Screenings will take place at SouthSide Works Cinema and other select locations, including AMC Mount Lebanon 6, the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, and Seton Hill University in Greensburg.
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.
For 20 years, the JFilm Festival has celebrated Jewish culture by bringing a number of movies and guest artists to Pittsburgh. This year, from April 11th to April 21st, the event celebrates film and music with a selection of works screened at various venues throughout the city.
April 11th – Paris-Manhattan
The debut feature from writer/director Sophie Lellouche follows an idealistic pharmacist named Alice (Alice Taglioni), who is totally obsessed with the movies of Woody Allen. She continually quotes lines from his films, engages in imaginary conversations, and even prescribes her customers his classic works to help alleviate their ailments; it’s little wonder she’s still single in her thirties! Alice’s increasingly concerned Jewish parents hope to cure her fixation by setting her up with a handsome French gentleman (Patrick Bruel), but even he quickly realizes that he’s no match for the man of her dreams. In French with English subtitles. In addition to opening night, there will be a repeat showing at 5:45 p.m. on April 18th at the Manor Theatre.
This documentary tells the remarkable story of a 1731 Stradivarius violin once owned by Israeli Philharmonic founder Bronislaw Huberman. Stolen in 1936 while Huberman played Carnegie Hall, it remained lost for nearly 50 years but was rediscovered in 1985 covered with shoe polish. The instrument was purchased by American virtuoso Joshua Bell, who will appear at a Q&A moderated by Sally Kalson, JFilm chair and Post-Gazette columnist. Movie screens in English, Polish, Hebrew with English subtitles. Showtime is 11 a.m. at the Rodef Shalom Congregation.
April 13th – A.K.A. Doc Pomus
Paralyzed with polio as a child, Brooklyn-born Jerome Felder reinvented himself first as a blues singer, renaming himself Doc Pomus, then emerged as a one of the most brilliant songwriters of the early rock and roll era, writing “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “This Magic Moment,” “A Teenager in Love,” “Viva Las Vegas,” and dozens of other hits. Packed with incomparable music and rare archival imagery, this documentary features interviews with Doc’s collaborators and friends, including Dr. John, Ben E. King, Joan Osborne, Shawn Colvin, Dion, and B.B. King. Showtime is 7 p.m. at the Manor.
Out in the Dark
Nimer, a Palestinian student and dedicated son, dreams of studying abroad and of a better life. One fateful night he meets Roy, an Israeli lawyer, and the two fall in love. As their relationship deepens, Nimer is confronted with the harsh realities of a Palestinian society that refuses to accept him for his sexual identity, and an Israeli society that rejects him for his Palestinian nationality. When his close friend is caught hiding illegally in Tel Aviv and sent back to the West Bank to be brutally murdered, Nimer is sent hurling down a path of personal sacrifice and mortal danger. Now he must choose between the life he thought he wanted and his love for Roy. In Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles. Showtime is 9 p.m. on April 13th at the Manor, with a repeat at 7:30 p.m. on April 18th, when director Michael Mayer will talk.
April 14th – My Australia
This tender and humorous drama is based on filmmaker Ami Drozd‘s own experiences. In a poor neighborhood in 1960s Poland, 10-year-old Tadek and his brother are in a gang with a strong anti-Semitic bent. When they are arrested, their mother, a Holocaust survivor, has no choice but to reveal that though raised as Catholics, they are in fact Jews. Telling the younger boy they are going to Australia, the land of his fantasies, the family boards a ship to Israel. In Polish and Hebrew with subtitles. Showtime is 1 p.m. at the Manor.
Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir
Andrew Braunsberg, a producer and close friend of the Oscar-winning filmmaker since 1964, leads him through an extended conversation about his harrowing childhood, the murder of his pregnant wife, statutory rape conviction and exile, and house arrest in Switzerland. Showtime is 3:15 p.m. at the Manor.
Ameer Got His Gun
Documentary about an 18-year-old who wants to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by volunteering in the Israeli military, even though he is a Muslim Arab. Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles. Showtime is 6 p.m. at the Manor. Followed by free light dinner at theater and Yom Hazikaron service at the JCC.
April 15th – Wunderkinder
Director Marcus O. Rosenmüller‘s film tells a tale of three exceptionally musically talented children, who develop a deep and genuine friendship, extending beyond their different religions and nationalities. The two Jewish children Larissa and Abrascha are both virtuosos – one on the piano and the other on the violin. Hanna, a young German girl, is also extremely gifted. Living in Poltava/Ukraine in 1941, they all share one great love: music. But when the Nazis invade the Soviet Union, they and their families face mortal peril. Due to the insanity of grown-ups at home and abroad, their world is turned upside down, and they are suddenly no longer allowed to be friends. In German with subtitles. Recommended for ages 13 and older. Showtime is 7 p.m. at the Hollywood Theater, with a discussion to follow.
Fill the Void
Filmmaker Rama Burstein tells the story of an Orthodox Hassidic family from Tel Aviv. Eighteen-year-old Shira, the youngest daughter of the family, is about to be married off to a promising young man of the same age and background. But her wedding is postponed when her older sister, Esther, dies during childbirth. When Shira’s mother finds out that Yochay-Esther’s late husband- may remarry and move to Belgium with her only grandchild, she proposes a match between Shira and the widower. Shira will have to choose between her heart’s wish and her family duty. In Hebrew with subtitles. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. at the Manor.
April 16th – Sonny Boy
Love story, based on true events, between a Dutch divorced mother of four and a much younger Afro-Caribbean student who encounter prejudice, opposition and the devastation of World War II. In Dutch with subtitles. Showtime is 7 p.m. at Seton Hill‘s Reeves Auditorium.
Ballad of the Weeping Spring
Torn apart by tragedy, a legendary band reunites to play an emotional final concert in this stylized homage to Spaghetti Westerns and samurai epic shot entirely in Israel. In Hebrew with subtitles. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. at the Manor.
April 17th – Defiant Requiem
Actress Bebe Neuwirth narrates this documentary about the little-known story of the Nazi concentration camp, Terezin. Led by imprisoned conductor Rafael Schächter, the inmates of Terezin fought back with art and music. Through hunger, disease and slave labor, the Jewish inmates of Terezin hold onto their humanity by staging plays, composing opera and using paper and ink to record the horrors around them.This creative rebellion reaches its peak when Schächter teaches a choir of 150 inmates one of the world’s most difficult and powerful choral works, Verdi’s Requiem, re-imagined as a condemnation of the Nazis. The choir would ultimately confront the Nazis face to face… and sing to them what they dare not say. Showtime is 7 p.m. at the Manor.
A Bottle in the Gaza Sea
A plea for peace, written by a French teen in Jerusalem, is slipped into a bottle and tossed into the sea. She gets an email response from a young Palestinian in an adaptation of Valerie Zenatti‘s novel. In French, Hebrew and Arabic, with subtitles. Showtime is 8 p.m. in CMU‘s McConomy Auditorium.
April 18th – Jerusalem on a Plate
Internationally-renowned chef Yotam Ottolenghi returns to his home town of Jerusalem to discover the hidden treasures of its extraordinarily rich and diverse food culture. Screening followed by a Taste of Jewish Pittsburgh with samples from local caterers. Showtime is 11 a.m. at the Manor.
April 20th – Bert Stern: The Original Mad Man
The untold and intimate life story of bad boy photographer and cultural icon Bert Stern. After working alongside Stanley Kubrick at Look Magazine, Stern became an original Madison Avenue “mad man,” his images helping to create modern advertising. Groundbreaking photos of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy and the infamous Lolita image from Kubrick’s film, coupled with his astonishing success in advertising, minted Stern – along with Irving Penn and Richard Avedon – as a celebrity in his own right; indeed, Stern’s photographs of Monroe in her last sitting are considered to be the ultimate images of the 20th century icon. After marrying the stunning ballet dancer Allegra Kent, the kid from Brooklyn was sitting on top of the world…until a dramatic fall from grace. Filmmaker Shannah Laumeister uncovers Stern – from his bad boy antics (including a liaison with Monroe) to his iconic photography. Showtime is 9 p.m. at the Manor.
The Day I Saw Your Heart
Actress Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) stars as a twenty-something struggling with commitment issues in this French comedy-melodrama. After a trail of boyfriends, Justine thinks she has found her soul mate in hunky shoe salesman (Guillaume Gouix). But her temporary happiness is thrown when her neurotic 60-year-old Jewish father (Michel Blanc) suffers a delayed midlife crisis and announces that his young second wife is expecting a baby. The film follows Justine as she attempts to deal with the looming pregnancy and the torturous route to reconciliation. In French with English subtitles. Showtime are 7 p.m. on April 20th and 4 p.m. on April 21st at the Manor.
April 21st – Hava Nagila (The Movie)
It’s to music what the bagel is to food – a Jewish staple that has transcended its origins and become a worldwide hit. Bob Dylan sang it. Elvis, too. And that’s only the beginning when it comes to Hava Nagila. Follow the infectious party song on its fascinating journey from the shtetls of Eastern Europe to the cul-de‐sacs of America in this hilarious and surprisingly deep film. Featuring interviews with Harry Belafonte, Connie Francis, Glen Campbell, Leonard Nimoy, Regina Spektor and more, the documentary takes viewers from Ukraine and Israel to the Catskills, Greenwich Village, Hollywood – and even Bollywood – using the song as a springboard to explore Jewish history and identity and to spotlight the cross-cultural connections that can only be achieved through music. Showtime is 1 p.m. at the Manor.
Auschwitz prisoners, both Jewish or non-Jewish, were tattooed with serial numbers, first on their chests and then their left arms. An estimated 400,000 numbers were tattooed in Auschwitz and its sub-camps; only some several thousand survivors are still alive today. Numbered is an explosive, highly visual, and emotionally cinematic journey, guided by testimonies and portraits of these survivors. The film documents the dark time and setting during which these tattoos were assigned as well as the meaning they took on in the years following the war. In fact, the film’s protagonist is the number itself, as it evolves and becomes both a personal and collective symbol from 1940 to today. These scars, paradoxically unanimous and anonymous, reveal themselves to be diverse, enlightening, and full of life. In Hebrew and English with subtitles. Panel discussion and dessert reception to follow. Showtime is 7 p.m. at the Manor.
Tickets for the opening day screening of Paris-Manhattan are $75. All tickets for Jerusalem on a Plate are $20. All other films are $10 general admission, $8 for groups of 12 and above (group tickets must be purchased in advance), and $5 for youths 18 and under. Tickets are available for purchase at the JFilm Festival website.