Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 22

Thread: San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 2013

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,315

    San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 2013



    The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. http://www.sfjff.org/

    This year for the first time thanks to screener access via Larsen Associates of San Francisco I will be reviewing or previewing films from this big Bay Area festival, with presentations spread over four venues and in its 33rd year. Below are titles I hope to cover. Some are short films.

    Link index of Filmleaf reviews of the 2013 SFJFF:

    After Tiller (Lana Wilson, Martha Shane) 2013
    Afternoon Delight (Jill Soloway 2013)
    Aliyah (Elie Wajeman)
    All In (Daniel Burman) 2012
    Americn Commune (Nadine Mundo, Rena Mundo Croshere 2012)
    Amy Winehouse: The Day She Came to Dingle (Maurice Linnane 2012)
    Art of Spiegelman (Clara Kuperberg, Joëlle Oosterlinck 2010)
    The Attack (Ziad Doueiri 2012)--SFJFF Centerpiece Film
    Before the Revolution (Dan Shadur 2013)
    Behind Me Olive Trees (Pascale Abou Jamra 2012)
    Dancing in Jaffa (Hilla Medalia 2013)
    Every Tuesday: A Portrait of The New Yorker cartoonists
    First Cousin Once Removed (Alan Berliner, NYFF 2012)
    Gideon’s Army (Dawn Porter 2013)
    In the Shadow (David Ondrícek 2012)
    Jerry and Me (Mehrnaz Saeedvafa 2012)
    Joe Papp in Five Acts (Karen Thorsen, Tracie Holder 2012)
    Kenny Hotz's Triumph of the Will (Kenny Hotz. Sebastian Cluer 2011)
    The Lab (Yotam Feldman 2013)
    The Last Sentence (Jan Troell 2012)
    My Father and the Man in Black (Jonathan Holiff 2013)
    Red Flag: Spotlight on Alex Karpovsky (Alex Karpovsky 2012)
    That Woman (Ed Dick 2012)
    Trials of Muhammad Ali (Bill Siegel 2013)


    (I had already previously reviewed Aliyah and First Cousin Once Removed in other contexts.)

    Alan Berliner will be given the Freedom of Expression Award at the fest.

    SFJFF 2013 General Forums thread.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 08:35 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,315

    Behind Me Olive Trees (Pascale Abou Jamra 2012)



    Behind Me Olive Trees (Pascale Abou Jamra 2012)

    We might not know that on the 25th of May 2000 when the Israeli army withdrew from South Lebanon, the South Lebanese Army, known as th "Lahd Army," which had cooperated with them, was forced to evacuate to Israel. Some fled the country. Others surrendered to the Lebanese government. The rest remain in Israel. This 20-minute film is about someone involved in these events as a child, 20-year-old Mariam (played by Lebanese writer-director Abou Jamra) who returns to her native south Lebanon (where the film was shot) and deals with a confused identity, having lived half her life in Israel, and difficult life, being rejected by the locals. Voiceover narration fills in the details, and the images are beautiful and authentic. Mariam's father had been a member of the Lahd Army. He ran away, and her mother died, after her brother, now ten, was born, so she lived on her own with her brother. Behind Me Olvie Trees (خلفي شجر الزيتون) was simply a masters degree graduation film in film studies at the Lebanese University of Fine-Arts (ALBA), Beirut, but it has perfect pitch -- it's simple, plangent, and heart-rending -- and has gotten Pascale Abou Jamra international recognition -- Cannes. The film is listed (as Derrière moi les oliviers) on Allociné, though details are missing.

    Length: 20 mins.


    PASCALE ABOU JAMRA (INTERVIEW, "MONTE CARLO DOUALIYA")
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 08:44 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,315

    Red Flag (Alex Karpovsky 2012)



    Red Flag (Alex Karpovsky 2012)

    The idea of going on a trip with someone who's far from being the first person invited reminds one of Michael Winterbottom's Steve Coogan vehicle The Trip, a really funny movie -- which this isn't. According to Steve Seitz in the New York Times when the two showed at Lincoln Center early this year, Red Flag, a low-keyed, depressed autobiographical film by and about the actor Alex Karpovsky, "may be baggy and solipsistic" but "goes down more easily" than Rubberneck, a more fictionalized effort that was paired with it at the Elinor Bunin Theater. Karpovsky would be nowhere, Seitz says, without Lena Durham, who cast him as the barman in her big hit HBO show "Girls." Here, he gets kicked out by his girlfriend and has to go alone on a film tour in the south for something about woodpeckers (an actual film of his) being saved from extinction. Red Flag may be an actual cri de coeur from Karpovsky, who's seen as mildly suicidal here, but it's hard to see any new age mumblecore Woody Allen in Red Flag as some suggest. This is miles and miles from Woody Allen, and not even good mumblecore. As Seitz wrote, Karpovsky needs to stick with Lena Durham and only she can really save him, for the moment, from extinction. But he was in Andrew Bujalski's Beeswax and Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture has a part in the Coen brother's new film, which did very well at Cannes, Inside Llewyn Davis. Maybe his "acclaimed" debut film, The Hole Story, maybe even Woodpecker, are really better than Red Flag,, even if Rubberneck isn't. Maybe if he's not Woody Allen, which he certainly isn't, he's a downbeat Jewish Steve Coogan (if there could be such a thing). Actually he's neither, but I am glad to be aware of him, just in case. Online critic Jordan Hoffman wrote a realistic rundown on this and two other Karpovsky short features. I suppose Hoffman is right in saying that Karpovsky's features feel like "glorified shorts." Hence it does fit with the SFJFF shorts.

    Length: 85 mins.

    SFJFF show times:

    July 27, 7:15, Castro Theatre, San Francisco
    August 11, 8:45, Grand Lake Theatre, Oakland
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 08:45 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,315

    That Woman (Ed Dick 2012)



    That Woman (Ed Dick 2012)

    This is an odd one, with an arresting beginning, and a neat, finely structured trajectory. Witty, English, set in Northwest London, Jewish. "When I lost my girlfriend, I sat shiva for a week. Not for her, you understand. Kate wasn't even Jewish, let alone dead. I sat shiva for our relationship. I wanted to give it a proper sendoff. . ." This is a droll beginning, and it's well presented. This begins with a frontal look at Danny's anguished face. The family humor Danny and sit with him. "If it'll help him get over it quicker, where's the harm?" The payoff, that to get the bereaved Danny out to playing the field again his mum sets him up in a blind date with Monica Lowinsky, that woman, may seem more than a bit too high concept. Then he runs into Kate again. He's not really in a dating mood these days, he says; he's not sure the time is quite right. Maybe it's not right for Monica either. Very well written (by Amy Rosnthal), acted (by the whole cast, especially Ben Caplan as Danny) and edited (by Justin Krish). But one is more impressed than moved.

    Well shot too though. The cinematographer, Sam Care, is a BFI "Brits to Watch" selection and has won awards. He has shot a great many shorts, and also some features. Sam Care's feature, In Our Name, directed by Brian Walsh, is critically acclaimed. You may watch some of his music videos here and watch the intro to That Woman here.

    Length: 13 mins.

    Reviewed as part of the 2013 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 08:47 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,315

    Two documentaries: Gideon's Army, The Trials of Muhammad Ali



    Gideon's Army (Dawn Porter 2012)


    BRANDY ALEXANDER ON THE JOB

    Soldiers for justice in the American South

    The Gideon in the title of this Sundance award winning documentary refers to a landmark US Supreme Court decision, defendant Clarence Earl Gideon, who was arrested in 1961 for stealing soda and a few dollars from a pool hall in Panama City, Fla. His case was appealed to the Supreme court, which led to guaranteeing all defendants in criminal trials legal counsel whether or not they can afford it. The "army" are the roughly 15,000 US public defenders who now handle most of the 12 million criminal cases a year.The film focuses on three pubic defenders in the American South, Travis Williams and Brandy Alexander in Georgia and June Hardwick in Mississippi, as they struggle with lack of adequate funds and exhausting work loads defending a hundred clients at a time. Many of those clients are improperly charged and are pressured to enter a plea due to a lack of funds in the public defender's office to carry out a full exculpatory investigation. The minimum sentence for armed robbery is ten years, with a possibility of life. Even a charge and imprisonment can ruin a life. In one case a woman who's a certified mechanic has her possessions stripped while she is held before trial. Alexander did gain release for her, but she could not return to work. These three dedicated young lawyers love their work, but they barely have enough to live on; are paying off big student loans; have little time for recreation or for dating or family life. The film shows that June Hardwick leaves strict public defender work to earn enough to support her young son. This film can be hard to watch when it comes to seeing the obstacles and the outcomes the defendants are looking at, which make Les Miserables look quite up to date, and digging into the oppression of race and class these individual cases reveal, but it also inspires with the idealism of its three public defender subjects. The scenes are intense, the dialogue is to the point, and a final trial sequence is exciting. The filmmaking is simple, direct, and no-nonsense, the message powerful. No voiceover narration and none needed.

    This debut by Dawn Porter us sure to be one of the most significant American documentaries of the year.

    Gideon's Army, 95 mins., debuted at Sundance Jan. 2013, also shown at Ashland, Montclair, Nantucket; was shown in the San Francisco International Film Festival in April and then again will be screened as part of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, where it will be be screened at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland Sat., Aug. 10, 2013 at 3:55 pm. It opened theatrically in NYC June 28, 2013 at Quad Cinema. It is rated a 95 on Metacritic on the basis of four reviews and it obviously impresses. HBO release July 1, 2013.

    The Trials of Muhammad Ali (Bill Siegel 2013)



    Muhammad Ali's moral commitments

    Another good and powerful documentary film. This one focused on the defining moment for Muhammad Ali when on June 20, 1967 he was convicted of evading the United States draft by refusing to take part in the Vietnam Conflict. 46 years later, the political and cultural impact of that landmark court case comes to life in Bill Siegel’s The Trials of Muhammad Ali. Dave Zirin, the politically aware sports editor of The Nation, has called this "the best Muhammad Ali doc I've ever seen." That may be an exaggeration; there are some good ones, and this is not the finest celebration of the spirit and personality of the man. But The Trials of Muhammad Ali is film that focuses effectively on Ali's career in terms of his religious and political development, which led to his act of moral independence in refusing to serve in the white man's war against people of color in Vietnam, and before that, the way his taking the name Muhammad Ali instead of Cassius Clay he became an international figure. William C. Rhoden recently wrote an article in the New York Times about this moment in Ali's life as "a reminder that courage, honor and integrity are timeless." There are many Muhammad Ali docs, but this is still one worth seeing, and then some. It goes into considerable detail about Ali's fight to develop political awareness and to assume his new name and to be respected; the various opposing forces in the Nation of Islam and Sixties Black radicalism he had to contend with; the legal battle up to the Supreme Court over his conscientious objector status: these are all aspects of the life Siegel explores in more detail as essential to the complexity and status of Ali. Interesting to see a number of interviews with people not so much heard from before, including a Nation of Islam recruiter in Florida where Ali was training; the Rev. Louis Farrakhan; and Ali's second wife Khalilah Comancho Ali, formerly known as Belinda Boyd. To hear Khalilah Ali tell it, she was a major early influence on Ali's taking firm stands as a Muslim, and stood by him during his most difficult time of rejection and financial loss after his draft refusal. Produced by Kartemquin Films, this debuted at Tribeca in April, later was at AFI and Seattle as well as the SFJFF. Cinetic Media is to be the distributor. Viewed in a rough cut.

    Length: 93 mins.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-06-2016 at 10:02 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,315

    Kenny Holtz: Kenny's Triumph of the Will: Children of Abraham (2011)



    Kenny Holtz: Kenny's Triumph of the Will: Children of Abraham (2011)

    This self-narrated "documentary," is Episode 3 - Children of Abraham" from the eponymous 2011 Canadian TV series, is like the films of Mads Brügger (of Red Chapel and The Ambassador), but more jokey and less risky, but still remarkable if it's true. The filmmaker, Kenny Hotz, sets himself a task which requires assuming an identity, or here, simply a stance, and convincing a bunch of people of something that might get him into trouble. He tells people he is sick of Jews and Muslims being hostile to each other, and he wants to be the first Jew to provide Muslims with a mosque. In the course of time covered in the film, he does that. But as with Mads Brügger only more so, the question arises: is this real? Hotz finds a property in Chinatown, actually a former Chinese funeral parlor (the city is not identified, but the film is Canadian, and it's probably Toronto) that has a nice layout for a mosque. He finds an imam, he raises funds from Jewish sources, or tries to (he is often turned down), he approaches some Muslim sources, like the Afghan consul, and he goes ahead and turns the space into a mosque. It all seems pretty iffy, but at least he has an artist friend do a really nice sign for the front and calls it "Peace Mosque." Then Muslim worshipers are found, and with Kenny initially on hand, a prayer service and sermon are conducted. But are these real worshipers? Who knows. Some of the humor, as when Kenny talks about not having space for the usual shawarma stands in the mosque, is in dubious taste. More than that, it risks offending muslims. Maybe if Kenny succeeds, he offends everybody. This seems a dubious venture. But the mosque looks convincing. I guess it really happened, and the question is, what happens to the mosque now? Kenny doesn't want it. And when you think about it, this was a very bold and ambitious project that challenged conventional social and cultural assumptions a lot. Like most comics, Kenny Holtz seems a bit crazy and only a slightly crazy person could do a thing like this. In an interview for the online publication Vice, Kenny says (his math a bit off: it's more like 69 years ago): "Would anyone really consider it? I paint a place, hang a sign, and people come to pray in it. Everyone else keeps killing each other. Fifty years ago if you told some Jew in Auschwitz, "Hey, 50 years from now you're going to be in Israel and your number one trading partners are going to be the Germans," the guy would shit himself. Anything can happen, anything can change."

    Length: 22 mins.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 08:55 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,315

    Ziyad Doueri: THE ATTACK (2012)-Centerpiece Film

    Ziyad Douari: THE ATTACK (2012)


    ALI SULIMAN IN THE ATTACK

    Irreconcilable differences

    Ziyad Doueri's The Attack provides an obvious setup. When Amin Jaafari, a distinguished Palestinian surgeon in Tel Aviv, gets a major Israeli award, there is a terrorist bombing and his wife, killed in the incident, becomes the prime suspect. This is a complete shock to him.

    We get the point: even a thoroughly assimilated Palestinian awarded a national honor by Israeli society still finds his security and sense of belonging hang by a thread. The doctor, after treating the injured, is himself a suspect and is held for brutal interrogation but later found innocent and released. His colleagues at the hospital nonetheless pass around a petition to strip him of his Israeli citizenship. But a few Israeli colleagues remain utterly loyal. Incredulous and now angry at his wife whom he seems no longer to know or understand, Dr. Jaafari goes to Nablus to investigate, at considerable personal risk, the sources of the bombing, starting with his own and his wife's family.

    This is a setup to show Palestinian rage and the impossibility of a Palestinian's assimilating into Israeli society. But it's not a very obvious setup, after all, because this can't be a very typical case. Surely Palestinians who've won distinction in Tel Aviv don't turn out to have wives who are suicide bombers -- or do they? The point, anyhow, seems indisputable: that no amount of success in Israel can shield a Palestinian from the suffering and anger of his people or their violent manifestations. And if Doueri stretches his plotline to make this point, maybe he is entitled to do so -- at least given the fact that the atmosphere and language feel authentic, particularly during the scenes set in Palestinian towns. The film is adapted from a novel by Yasmina Khadra. In his review of the film Peter Debruge of Variety says it "strips the source of nearly all its profundity."

    The film turns into a kind of police procedural, but one where the investigator is not a cop but a collateral victim. There are no big revelations. In fact The Attack presents a situation more than it tells a story. This is both its weakness and its strength. Like Antonioni's L'Avventura, about a disappeared person who is hunted for in vain, leading to a puzzlement so rich it was deemed "a new cinematic language," The Attack mostly just points to dead ends. But the desired effect is to leave the audience in a state of profound discomfort. Insofar as it achieves this The Attack is a success.

    Ali Suliman, who plays the lead role of Doctor Jaafari, is qualified by his background, an actor of Palestinian origin bilingual in Hebrew and Arabic and educated in Tel Aviv, and he gives a committed performance. His previous credits include Paradise Now, The Kingdom and Lemon Tree. And he's busy: he has had seven credits since The Attack. Doueri is a Lebanese who has worked more than once as a cameraman for Quentin Tarantino. His directorial debut was with the (1998) Beirut West, a lively, vernacular account of growing up during the Lebanese civil war of 1975. His second feature was less successful, an adaptation of Lila Says, a sexy French novel set in Marseilles. The Attack works well enough in bringing out the basics of its difficult subject matter, but Doueri's transition to seriousness and political relevance isn't totally successful. Though this effort is relevant and well-intentioned, without the director's previous humor and sexiness, without much individual style, his filmmaking becomes a little bit stiff and generic, and Debruge thinks the filmt feels "overlong and undernourished." But Manohla Dargis of the NY Times has the opposite view, seeing this film as superior to its source book: "In contrast to the novel, which habitually slips into polemicism and is bookended by a shock that dilutes its punch, Mr. Doueiri creates characters, emotional colors and political contradictions that have the agonized sting and breathe of life." In any case, the film has the solid polemical value, for some a provocation, of taking a neutral stance neither pro nor con Israel, yet acknowledging the inevitability of Palestinian rage.

    If viewers don't get the message that that rage is just around the corner even in a high ranking Palestinian surgeon's house, that's part of an ongoing problem. But it is certainly a serious misinterpretation to say as one reviewer, Mike D'Angelo of AV Club, does, that this film "skirts perilously close to being an apologia for suicide bombing," though his being able to say this may be a sign of how the film has lost its source novel's complexity. Anyhow, the film's value is precisely that it is not an apologia for anything. The film works insofar as it unfolds from the developing point of view of Dr. Jaafari -- his understanding changing as he reviews memories we see as flashbacks. He never really understands or sympathizes with suicide bombings. To learn that it's not so hard for a Palestinian to become a suicide bomber is not the same as advocating one's doing so. Dr. Jaafari realies he's powerless when he finds pictures of his wife, whose action he despises, spread all over the Palestinian territories celebrating her as a patriotic heroine and martyr. He tears these posters down, but his effort is useless; they're everywhere.

    The Attack/ الصدمة debuted at Telluride, then Toronto in Sept. 2012, with limited US theatrical release 21 June 2013. Screened for this review at Angelika Film Center, NYC. Scheduled as the Centerpiece Film of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, July 30 (Castro Theater, San Francisco) and Aug. 4 (California Theater, Berkeley).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 09:07 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,315

    Jill Soloway: AFTERNOON DELIGHT


    JUNO TEMPLE AND KATHRYN HAHN IN AFTERNOON DELIGHT

    Jill Soloway: Afternoon Delight (2012)

    Not-quite-dolce far niente

    "How dare any of us? Rachel, do I need to remind you how much time you spend giving back?" queries Rachel's complacent, stylishly bespectacled lady shrink Lenore (Jane Lynch, droll), after the too-idle Rahcel's dissed her own complaining given the woes of the women of Darfur. It's a signal moment in this somewhat lazy and self-indulgent study of a well-off suburban LA matron who hasn't enough to do, besides preschool auctions, lackluster sex, and a kaput career, and fills the void by the very unwise choice of trying to save a stripper. Soloway, who has worked much in TV, writes specific, sometimes funny dialogue (for the women in the film anyway), but has an uncertain sense of tone here, wavering from the naturalistic to the comical to, at the last minute, some serious drama. Mostly this is a sit-com with touches of vérité; it promises something more, but due both to undue absorption in its clued-in social delineations and lack of a strong plotline, it never delivers. Soloway's observant specificity ultimately comes across as chattering trivia. Come to think of it, that describes a lot of American TV. But not all TV, anyway, since in this case Soloway has managed to make a film full of contemporary mom talk whose explicit sex would be uncomfortable or distasteful for most moms.

    The chatty, people-pleasing, annoyingly motor-mouthed Rachel is played by Kathryn Hahn (of Parks and Recreation, Crossing Jordan). Her husband Jeff (Josh Radnor, fine) is apps-rich; they have a small boy, Mason (Noah Kaye Bentley). Rachel is active aat the Jewish Community Center -- perhaps she's a repressed or hideously deformed version of an old-fashioned Jewish mother -- till all this happens: to liven up their sex life, or just out of desperate boredom on Rachel's part, Rachel and Jeff and another couple go to a strip club, where Rachel gets a private session from confident little blonde "sex worker" (as she later styles herself) 19-year-old (she says) McKenna (Juno Temple, convincing). After this even the still desperately bored Rachel starts stalking McKenna across from the strip club, meets up and chats with her a couple of times -- and when she finds her deprived of her car and a place to live, takes her home, later even takes her in as a nanny for her kid. Jeff disapproves, but perhaps likes having McKenna to ogle. Rachel decides to "save" McKenna (get this) by providing her with a blog, to "tell her story." All this, lo and behold, does revive Jeff and Rachel's sex life. But then sex invades their and Rachel's girlfriends' and fellow moms' lives via McKenna more than they'd planned for. Yet eventually Soloway settles for the unlikely fantasy that seriously messing up can renew a marriage and even a life.

    This is the kind of little movie that may have enough to make it distinctive but not quite enough to make it memorable. It isn't a surprise that the secondary female characters are drawn more distinctly than the male ones. But this remains a women's picture that women won't much want to watch; Hahn is surprisingly annoying for a protagonist, by the way. Audience-focus problems.

    Afternoon Delight, 99 mins., debuted at Sundance 2013, was also shown at the SFIFF. Reviewed as part of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Limited US theatrical release 27 August 2013.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 09:09 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,315

    Hilla Medalia: DANCING IN JAFFA (2013)


    LOIS AND ALAA

    Hilla Medalia: Dancing in Jaffa (2013)

    Bringing together "enemies" in dance

    Hilla Medalia is an award-winning 36-year-old Israeli documentary filmmaker whose 2007 To Die in Jerusalem brought together in dialogue (by satellite) the mothers of two teenage girls paired on a Newsweek cover, a Palestinian suicide bomber and an Israeli girl killed by her bomb. Her new film is about a less grim effort by famous ballroom teacher Pierre Dulaine to bring Jewish and Palestinian kids together on the dance floor, and we see some little friendships and personalities bloom in his modest "peace process."

    Jaffa, once a Palestinian town, is now a poor, mixed suburb of Tel Aviv. The intense 2009 joint Israeli- Arab feature film Ajami focused on a rough part of Jaffa. In Dancing in Jaffa, Hilla Medalia follows Pierre Dulaine as he goes back to Jaffa, where he was born in 1944, son of an Irish father and Palestinian mother. (In the film he never mentions that his mother was also half French, which explains "Pierre.") He has not been back since his family was driven out when he was a child. He comes to introduce to Palestinian-Israeli, Jewish-Israeli, and mixed schools in Jaffa his Dancing Classrooms, a social development program for fifth-graders that uses ballroom dancing "as a vehicle to change the lives of the children and their families" (Wikipedia). This time the primary "change" is the somewhat radical one of pairing Jewish and Arab girls and boys as dance partners.

    In teaching gawky eleven-year-olds to dance, the pixieish Dulaine emphasizes etiquette, dignity, and respect from the get-go. He has to give up on one school because they boys won't dance. The more extreme muslim males won't touch girls, or at first refuse. Things don't go that well at first, and for a while Pierre brings over from the States his (dancing, not life) partner of 35 years, Yvonne Marceau. Their dancing together for the kids inspires them: you can see the boys' eyes light up; they are charmed.

    Medalia follows several of the kids more closely, notably Noor, a plump, dark Palestinian girl whose grief over the death of her father makes her sullen, depressed, and sometimes violent. Alaa is a small boy who lives in a shack with his poor fisherman father. Alaa, dark and all smiles, and Lois, a curly-haired Jewish girl fathered out of a sperm bank, become partners for the upcoming dance contest, and their jaunt on Alaa's father's little rowboat heralds a budding friendship. But the real miracle is Noor, who shows rhythm and grace from the start, and whose selection for the competition is part of a reawakening and new happiness that you can't help being a little amazed by. Ah, fifth graders: this is the age when kids are most open and malleable.

    The film shows other things, like Dulaine approaching his family's original residence and beating a hasty retreat when the current occupants are not just unfriendly but apparently downright hostile. Dulaine mostly speaks English, but he also speaks Arabic to the kids who understand Arabic. For Hebrew, he has an interpreter or the teachers translate for him. The schools he visits are Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Jewish, and mixed Palestinian-Jewish. There are seven different dances in the lessons and final contest, though merengue and rumba seem to predominate. At the final contest, all the parents are as excited as you'd expect. Each dance couple pairs a Palestinian and a Jew. And nobody seems to mind. At least for the moment, Dulaine has achieved reconciliation and crossed barriers that earlier seemed uncrossable.

    All this will be vaguely familiar, because you've probably seen a couple of other movies Pierre Dulaine inspired, the 2006 musical drama Take the Lead, starring Antonio Banderas as Dulaine, and Mad Hot Ballroom, a heartwarming and popular 2005 documentary about New York fifth graders who learn dance and take part in a dance contest. However, Dancing in Jaffa prefers not to mention these, and alludes only vaguely to Pierre Dulaine's fame as a ballroom dancer when he partnered with Yvonne Marceau at Jacob's Pillow, on Broadway, and in London, or his having been on the faculties of the School of American Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and the Juilliard School. This movie isn't about that. It's about little Jewish and Palestinian Israeli kids being polite and friendly and wiggling their hips gracefully together. Dancing in Jaffa, a fairly simple and minimal film, isn't as priceless and cute or as proficiently made as Mad Hot Ballroom. But the gaps it bridges are, of course, more significant.

    Dancing in Jaffa, 84 mins., in Arabic, English, and Hebrew with English subtitles debuted in NYC in January 2013, and was included in the Tribeca and Sydney festivals. It has been picked up by Sundance Selects. Screened for this review as part of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (July 26-Aug. 10, 2013). The film is set for limited US release April 11, 2014.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 09:11 PM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,315

    Yotam Feldman: THE LAB (2012)


    THE LAB SHOWS WEAPON THAT SHOOTS AROUND CORNERS

    Yotam Feldman: The Lab

    Gaza and the West Bank are used as testing grounds for new weaponry by arms manufacturers, dealers, and exporters, and if you don't believe that, you need to watch this documentary. This is one of those films where people proudly talk about activities they may be unaware the viewers will find horrific and disgusting. Like the makers of recent films about Israeli judges ( Ra'anan Alexandrowicz,'s The Law in These Parts, SFIFF 2012) and Israeli security/intelligence (Dror Moreh's The Gatekeepers, NYFF 2012), Yotam Feldman provides an exposé of truths about Israel in which, beginning as an investigative reporter, he has gained unusual access to the powerful people he studies, and with detachment and sometimes humor or irony presents a deeply revealing picture.

    By the way, Israel is the fourth largest weapons manufacturer and exporter in the world, so that makes this a doubly important study. Feldman's message is that the Israeli economy (public and private) has become highly dependent on the country's massive and flourishing "security" market. Reps of other governments are hypocritical, some Israeli spokesmen point out, when they knowingly purchase Israeli arms tested out in use against Palestinians, and yet go on to criticize Israeli violence.

    One thing that is especially chilling is that foreign visiting potential purchasers are most interested in the testing of the Israeli weapons, including new ones like a gun that shoots around corners, which are used, often, on Palestinians, or on their land; above all, for urban warfare. And the industry directly feeds off the Israeli military. Retired officers become arms dealers; the minister of defense becomes the minister of industry. Feldman says everyone remarks on the Israeli economic miracle, "growth and prosperity despite military confrontations. But maybe it's not despite them, it's because of them." Israeli arms dealers, military men, and "defense consultants" point out the hypocrisy of people in other countries who criticize the Israelis for their brutality in assaults like Operation Cast Lead, the battering of Gaza in which 11 Israelis died and 1,200 Palestinians -- a lab for Israeli weaponry -- but then come to Israel to profit from the experience and the "testing."

    Since the world's military get orientation and arms arms from Israel, Israeli influence will lead and is leading to reproducing similar Palestines in many other countries, Feldman suggests. He accompanies the big, jovial, magnanimous and grandfatherly (and military man) Leo Gleser on a business trip to Brazil, one of the Israel defense industry's biggest clients, and finds that the inhabitants of the drug-dealer-dominated Rio favelas are indeed the Brazilians' Palestinians. In recent years the Brazilian police took over the Rio slums, using Israeli-style military methods and Israeli weapons. They even nicknamed one Rio slum district they took over from the drug dealers "the Gaza strip."

    Like The Law in These Parts and The Gatekeepers, The Lab also is essential viewing for the information it provides about Israel.

    Length: 57 mins. Original title: Hamaabada . Israel/Franch/Belgium production, in Hebrew. Debuted 24 April 2013 at the Visions du Réel Film Festival. Released in Israel, reportedly destined for release in other countries. Screened for this review as part of the 2013 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 09:13 PM.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,315

    Clara Kuperberg, Joelle Oosterlinck : THE ART OF SPIEGELMAN (2010)


    ART SPIEGELMAN

    Clara Kuperberg, Joelle Oosterlinck : The Art of Spiegelman (2010)

    This short biopic is the self-narrated story in brief of the renowned American "underground comix" cartoonist best known for his graphic novel Maus (1986, 1991). To insiders or counterculture hipsters his work as co-editor on the comics magazines Arcade and Raw is important. Besides that he spent a decade as contributing artist for The New Yorker starting in 1992, where he made several high-profile and sometimes controversial covers. He is married to the French-born artist, designer and editor and longtime collaborator Françoise Mouly, who has also incidentally been the art director of The New Yorker since 1993. Spiegelman talks to the camera. His wife talks to the camera too, more briefly, speaking in French though when she says an English word or name her accent is perfect.


    CONTROVERSIAL
    1993 NYER COVER


    Spiegelman's Maus, which took 13 years to complete, is a graphic novel based on conversations with his father, a Polish Holocaust survivor. Art was born in Sweden, and then they came to the US. Maus depicts the Holocaust experience metaphorically, through animals. The Jews are mice. The ethnic Poles are pigs. The Nazis are cats. This got Spiegelman a Pulitzer. But it seems to have been a hard act for him to follow; he had a dry period after its success, suffered even from that success. September 11, which the Spiegemans experienced directly (one of their children was at a school nearby) fed him creatively: he says that trauma inspires him. Spiegelman is a quick intellect who knows his own mind and speaks articulately, exuding intelligence and joie de vivre. This film is a pleasure to watch. They live somewhere in Soho in NYC, and the views of the old urban landscape are beautiful. Gives a feeling of what fun it would have been to live in lower Manhattan in the good old days and do well enough to survive there comfortably even today (if you can find a grocery store among the Prada and Ralph Lauren stores). This is by the prolific French team of short documentary filmmakers of Clara Kuperberg and Joelle Oosterlinck, which explains Françoise Mouly's addressing the camera in French. The many shots of Spiegelman and his family in and around their SoHo digs in Lower Manhattan bespeak a convivial, arguably enviable, life at the center of East Coast literary-artistic culture, and however much Art may need suffering and trauma as his inspirations, his narration and demeanor suggest a happy and articulate man.

    Length: 40 mins. Original title: Art Spiegelman, Traits de mémoire, shown on French TV 2012; debut in the New York Jewish Film Festival in January 2013.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 09:17 PM.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,315

    Rachel Loube: EVERY TUESDAY, A PORTRAIT OF THE NEW YORKER CARTOONISTS (2011)


    Longtime New Yorker cartoonist Sidney Harris, whose cartoons, drawn with classic
    pen and ink, usually refer to science or math


    Rachel Loube: Every Tuesday: A Portrait of the New Yorker Cartoonists (2011)

    This shorter film from the School of Visual Arts in New York provides a kind of companion piece to The Art of Spiegelman. The link is The New Yorker magazine, on which Spiegelman's wife is Art Director, for which he did many covers over several decades. Here, we glimpse a whole group of people who draw the magazine's famous cartoons. Every Tuesday the next week's cartoons are chosen, and the main cartoonists, who vie with each other for the few spaces in each issue, get together at a restaurant for lunch. If what New Yorker cartoons are like (now anyway) and how they are chosen, you might also like to watch another short film of similar length, not in the Jewish Film Festival but available as a YouTube video, Bob Mankoff: Anatomy of a New Yorker Cartoon. Mankoff is the cartoon editor, also one of the magazine's more successful cartoonist of recent years. There is nothing in either of these 20-minute films about the great New Yorker cartoonists of the past (whose cartoons I grew up with), the most famous being Charles Addams, Peter Arno, Charles Barsotti, George Booth, Roz Chast, Tom Cheney, Sam Cobean, Leo Cullum, Richard Decker, Helen E. Hokinson, Ed Koren, Mary Petty, George Price, Charles Saxon, David Snell, Otto Soglow, Saul Steinberg, William Steig, Richard Taylor, James Thurber, Pete Holmes, Barney Tobey and Gahan Wilson. Addams, Arno, Steinberg, and Thurber were household words in ways no ones since have been.


    Steinberg's famous cover showing nothing between the
    Hudson River and the Pacific


    It feels to a lot of lifetime New Yorker readers who go back a while (and my mother read it when it began, and I read it as a child of the Forties and Fifties) that the editorial reign of the buzz-hungry English shock-journalist Tina Brown that began in 1992 is one from which the magazine will never recover; that David Remnick is a continuation of Tina Brown, and things went downhill after Harold Ross (1925-52) , William Shawn (1952-87) and the brief editorship of Robert Gottleib (1987-92), more known as a book editor at Knopf (he discovered and edited Catch-22) If you peruse the New Yorker's own "Timeline," you can follow the comings and goings of some of the great writers and artists associated with this American cultural monument. It's arguable that the promotional events, cruises, and special issues begun by Tina Brown to advertise and grandize the magazine have diluted its original independent flavor. However, a New Yorker cartoon is still something special even with Charles Addams, Peter Arno, and James Thurber long gone.



    Every Tuesday shows ten cartoonists lunching together but interviews four, Sidney Harris, Emily Flake, Drew Dernavich, and Zach Kanin – they provide a sketchy but quite varied picture of the range of personalities and styles making the magazine's cartoons. Mankoff's talk will give you more of a sense of the selection process.

    Leah Wolchok and Davina Pardo are raising funds to complete a historical documentary about New Yorker cartoonists. The subject so far has only been touched on, though the peripherally related Art of Spiegelman short doc is highly recommended as an introduction to his life and work.

    Every Tuesday: A Portrait of the New Yorker Cartoonists, 22 mins., was screened for this review as part of the 2013 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-06-2015 at 08:23 PM.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,315

    Martha Shane, Lana Wilson: AFTER TILLER (2013)

    Martha Shane and Lana Wilson: AFTER TILLER (2013)


    ROBINSON AND SELLA, ABOVE; HERN AND CARHART, BELOW

    Late term abortion: a world of impossible choices

    Abortion is controversial; late term abortion, because the fetus is more developed and may be viable, is more so. This is a documentary about the four constantly tormented physicians in the US who continue to perform late-term third trimester abortions (after the twentieth week of pregnancy), in the wake of the 2009 assassination in Wichita, Kansas of Dr. George Tiller. They are Dr. Susan Robinson and Dr. Shelley Sella, who perform abortions at a clinic in Albuquerque, New Mexica; Dr. Warren Hern, the Director of the Boulder Abortion Clinic in Boulder, Colorado; and Dr. LeRoy Carhart, with an abortion clinic in Bellevue, Nebraska, who has begun running a clinic in Maryland since a law in Nebraska has prevented late term abortions there. All of these doctors worked with, and are inspired by, Dr. Tiller.

    This film is good at showing the four doctors' lives, outlooks, and their and their counselors' conferences with patients and considering of their decisions. It considers some pro-life arguments, such as that fetuses feel pain (the Obstetrics and gynaecology community says no), but it does not go into the abortion procedures in detail, nor into the differences in state laws, or the situation of abortion in the rest of the globe. These omissions are understandable, because the procedures are painful to consider and variations in laws in the US and worldwide are tangled and confusing. From the bioethics viewpoint, this film nonetheless provides some good material, except that it does not consider the anti-abortion position in any detail, except insofar as in each case considered the doctors and the patients would rather not have an abortion if it did not seem imperative. Note that: late-term abortions account for only 1% of abortions performed; most of them are to terminate planned pregnancies when the mothers have discovered their baby is seriously malformed or ill and will live only a short life of pain, if delivered.

    This film shows that "pro-life," anti-abortion activists are always picketing the clinics where the doctors practice. In particular it shows how they sought to prevent Dr. Carhart from coming to Maryland. And though the laws in Maryland were most beneficial to Carhart, it was difficult for him to find anyone who would rent to him. Todd Stave, the owner who rented to him, actually became more resolved to do so after anti-abortionists resorted to picketing the school his son attended. Satve's father performed abortions and was victimized by opponents. These doctors are all fighting back against the anti-abortion camp, refusing to be intimidated, knowing that they may meet Dr. Tiller's fate, but preferring to do what they think right rather than back down. They are getting older --- in fact Dr. Tiller was sixty-seven, but, though Dr. Hern takes more time off to spend with his sedond wife and her son (he has married recently), they can't retire, because there is no one to replace them. This is controversial work. It's war. Tiller was shot as he attended church. The pro-life camp doesn't play fair. Killing people or humiliating the child of a man who rents to an abortion doctor is abhorrent.

    Shane and Wilson deftly provide just enough details about the lives and personalities of the doctors to make them three-dimensional. Dr. Carhart's wife, with whom he says he's been together since they were twelve, manages the clinic. They also raise and board horses. When back in the eighties a fire killed a lot of their horses and anti-abortionists said it was justified punishment for killing babies, that strengthened his wife's determination to be involved in the work. There is less about Dr. Susan Robinson, but there is more footage of her in her clinic with patients and her counselors considering individual cases. She says that the only reason she can say no ultimately is that the procedure would not be safe for the patient. These four doctors are all unusually tough and compassionate.

    This film doesn't clarify for me what stand to take about abortion in general, or all the arguments pro or con. There aren't any easy choices here. This is one of the knottiest issues, and late-term abortion is the toughest kind of abortion to consider. A look at these doctors was worthwhile. Alissa Simon of Variety concludes this debuting documentary pair "manage a rare feat in After Tiller, making a calm, humanist docu about a hot-button topic." This is indeed tough material dealt with calmly and quietly.

    After Tiller, 88 mins., debuted at Sundance January 2013. It is being released by the young maverick distributor Oscilloscope. The US theatrical release will begin in NYC Sept. 20, 2013 (Film Forum and the Film Society of Lincoln center Elinor Bunin Theater). Screened for this review as part of the SFIFF.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 09:27 PM.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,315

    Daniel Burman: ALL IN (2012)


    VALERIA BERTUCELLI AND JORGE DREXLER IN ALL IN

    Daniel Burman: All In (2012)

    Rom-com, Jewish, in Buenos Aires

    Argentinian Daniel Burman's All In (Spanish title La suerte en tus manos), almost chokes on cuteness -- a pity because his movies are intelligent and have a light touch. This new one, whose protagonist, typically for this director, is a Jewish man, Uriel Cohen (singer Jorge Drexler) with a thoroughly un-Woody-Allen-ish Mediterranean suavity and charm, concerns a poker-playing financial whiz (Uriel) who reunites with an old girlfriend, Gloria (Valeria Bertuccelli), and takes her to a romantic hotel suite on the day when he has just gotten a vasectomy, and must abstain from sex. He has periodic sessions with his (Jewish) doctor Weiss (Luis Brandoni) who dispenses worldly wisdom to him; that not being enough he gets advice from his plump best pal at work Germán (Gabriel Schultz). His girlfriend reunites with her mother, a grande dame with a chatty intellectual talk show -- the latter played by real-life Argentinian diva Norma Aleandro. In a grand finale, everyone gathers for the reunion concert of a famous singing group whose opening act is an Orthodox Jewish rock band called The Rabbi-ing Stones, who include Uriel's little boy as a guest rock guitarist. All this far-fetched, wacky cuteness, and more, including poker games at a casino, only to produce a Hollywood-style rom-com, complete with dating montages of Uriel and Gloria cavorting romantically and rolling around on little bubble balloons. Burman forgets to include sex. Is that because of Uriel's two little kids, or his vasectomy?

    Burman and his regular writing collaborator Sergio Dubcovsky have stuffed more ingenious stuff into their screenplay. The doctor has a surprise appearance (spoiler alert) at the casino. There is also the conceit of the twin keys Gloria and Susan (her grand madre) have to their father/ex-husband's flat, planned to "reunite" him (in absentia) with him. And there is the very elaborate, not to say tiresome, business about Uriel and Gloria's effort to make this second time around more like "dating" and therefore romantic and long-term (their first affair was pure sex), while Uriel's tendency to lie all the time -- he pretends to be an entertainment promoter instead of having a financial business -- ties him in knots. As busy as this movie is, Burman and Co. do keep it light, but it still feels fearsomely overstuffed. As Uriel and Gloria, Drexler and Bertucelli do have some chemistry, but Burman lets the stylized "com" push out the "rom."

    Oh yes, and there is the further elaborate conceit of the doctor's advising Uriel to use a network of rabbis to get to the singing group, whose reunion Uriel has pretended to Goria to be engineering; and the free-thinking rabbi Uriel encounters at the casino, who says the Talmud doesn't prohibit gambling, as long as you acknowledge that "the luck is in your hands" (the film's Spanish title).

    It still boils down to a few soulful moments between Uriel and Gloria: Bertucelli's intense face has a humanity in it Drexler's casual blandless lacks; the brief, glittering, metallic turns the seventy-something Norma Aleandro delivers; warm expressions on the face of Dr. Weiss; and the beautific smile of Lucciano Pizzicchini, as Uriel's ten-year-old son Otto, as he delivers fab electric guitar rifs (a la School of Rock) in Hassidic regalia on the stage in the finale. Nothing else has the slighest emotional resonance. And this is a shame, because as I saw in the one other Daniel Burman film I've watched, the 2006 Family Law, released in New York, he and Sergio Dubcovsky are capable of a subtle, light touch that's quite original, thought-provoking, and touching when they aren't trying to mimic Hollywood with a Jewish, Argentinian overlay. According to Variety's Ronnie Sheib, who knows Burman's whole oeuvre, his films have taken a darker turn recently and this is a return to the lightness audiences, especially Jewish ones, liked in him. But Sheib thinks, and I'd agree, that though the director pushes hard to make all the unrelated themes fit, he "relies excessively here on glitz and schmaltz," losing the originality of feeling and ambiance I observed in Family Law. Let's hope he gets back to that next time.

    All In/La suerte en tus manos, 110 mins., opened in Argentina in March 2012. It was shown at Tribeca in April and has been back for festivals, including the New York Jewish Film Festival in January 2013 and the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, as part of which it was screened for this review, in early August 2013. No doubt about it, however tongue-in-cheek the Jewish themes, they are very much there.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 09:32 PM.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    13,315

    Rena Mundo Croshere, Nadine Mundo: AMERICAN COMMUNE (2013)


    STEPHEN GASKIN ADDRESSING FOLLOWERS

    Rena Mundo Croshere, Nadine Mundo: American Commune (2013)

    Emotional return to a lost past: "The rise and fall of America’s largest socialist utopian experiment"

    In American Commune, sisters Rena Mundo Croshere and Nadine Mundo, now TV producers in Los Angeles, return for a reunion of The Farm, the commune in rural Tennessee founded by Stephen Gaskin in 1970, of which they were a part as children. This is their first time back to this, the country's largest Utopian experiment, since 1985. The Mundos are seen in the country with their father, brother, and mother. Th latter was raised in an orthodox Jewish family in Beverly Hills and their Puerto Rican-born father was from the Bronx. This is definitely an ambivalent and emotionally complex experience for the two filmmakers, who long avoided confronting their past. It's a surprising story of which most of us know very little -- though The Farm was national news several times.

    As Rena Mundo Croshere explains in a separate article, when the commune disintegrated and there was a mass exodus in 1983-85 brought about by poverty and FBI investigations, their parents' union had dissolved too. Her mother consequently took Rena and Nadine to California, and their father, Jose, took his new wife and their younger brother Miguel and went in the opposite direction. The girls were taken to stay with their grandfather, a successful surgeon, in Pacific Palisades, where their neighbors were Eddie Albert and Goldie Hawn, on the way to living in a dilapidated apartment in Santa Monica. At twelve, trying to be "normal" in the Reagan era while coming from a childhood her contemporaries would not understand, Rena had a crushing sense of "otherness" in her new middle school and tried desperately to fit in with makeup, Madonna-style jewelry, and straightened and bleached hair. Both sisters report embracing pop culture, makeup, and jewelry in an effort to adapt to what for them was like a foreign country. It took Rena till some time at UC Berkeley to forget about being in a dysfunctional sorority and be a bit more proud of who she was. But the formative years in the commune remained somewhat a lost memory.

    The documentary, supplied with plenty of footage and tapes -- even Walter Cronkite reported on this -- recounts how 300 hippies assembled by guru Gaskin -- whom we see speaking to his followers in San Francisco -- went in a caravan of buses and cars from San Francisco and found and bought 75 acres near Summertown, Tennessee, very near where the Ku Klux Klan was founded. The girls' two parents had met in San Francisco and went with the first wave of seekers who founded the commune. These young hippies pooled inheritances and cash on hand and set out -- "completely green," with no knowledge -- to be farmers, living independently and simply as alcohol-free vegans in a Christian community, taking a vow of poverty, living communally without money. The locals were fearful of them at first, but eventually taught them farming and logging.

    This is powerful stuff, because The Farm was taking society apart and putting it back together again. No wonder the FBI was infiltrating them and reporting on them: this was radical. Besides, mainstream America by this juncture, 1970, had long had a deep fear of socialism, seen as the enemy of capitalism. Using a wealth of archival footage plus new interviews from the reunion with Farm leaders, lawyers, accountant, and their own contemporaries, Rena and Nadine present a history of the commune and a reexamination of it from the prospective of today.

    By the late Seventies, the sisters' account goes, The Farm had grown from 300 to 1,500 members and become viable, pioneering the use of solar power, with jobs, a school, a laundromat; producing and selling soy milk. Gaskin's wife, Ina May, was head of midwifery: contraception was discouraged and there were lots of kids born. Ina May herself had a hand in about 2,300 births, she recounts. She became a world-renowned midwife, authoring a well-known book, Spiritual Midwifery.) Multiple families lived crowded together in poor shacks; kids roamed around in large groups. Most were happy. However, they felt the pressure to be happy, not to show anger, to subsume their individuality in the group. Even having her birthday celebrated felt uncomfortable to one of the girls, because it singled her out. Their parents were not happy together, but it was hard to split.

    The Farm had a successful relief program around the world -- Africa, Latin America, Washington, DC, the South Bronx -- called Plenty (still active). This, among other things, made the FBI suspicious. The FBI infiltrated, investigated, and raided The Farm suspecting it to be guilty of marijuana growing, though their invasion uncovered only a field of ragweed and melons. (The commune members did do psychedelics: Rena and Nadine's parents got married on magic mushrooms.) After this bad publicity, the Farms' loans began being tightened and eventually cut off altogether. By 1983 money became a huge problem, which their leader, devoted to spiritual and Utopian ideals, steadfastly refused to acknowledge. Poverty reigned, but Gaskin opposed the necessary measure of letting commune members get outside jobs and pay dues and would not stop permitting new, generally penniless, people to come in, and he was replaced by a board. Gaskin, still living on the commune, now a much smaller "intentional community," calls this change of leadership a "coup"; it occurred when he was away on a Plenty mission. But he feels happy with his accomplishments, the last of which, he thinks, was managing to remain there. The sisters feel intimidated by Gaskin even today, but interview him, still living in his original commune home.

    The experience of the reunion in Tennessee is cathartic for the sisters and others. Nadine explains to the camera how going through the woods to school at The Farm was like an "adventure." Speaking emotionally to a circle of her generation at the reunion, she admits that she has always felt like a nomad. "And how you are home," others chime in. In a coda, Nadine finds during a serious bout with colon cancer in NYC shortly after the reunion that scores of her Farm "family" remember her now. They send her get well cards and $10,000 to help with medical fees. She finds seeing her divorced, long-estranged parents standing together at the hospital "a moment of grace."

    American Commune skillfully interweaves its present-day account of the reunion with family snapshots and videos, vintage films of the commune in early days and a brief narrative of its history. Archival material includes not only the reports of Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather but a clip of Gaskin and his wife in a contentious appearance on the Phil Donahue show. We also glimpse many public gatherings of the original commune meeting -- dancing in a field, concertizing, meeting in church, and hoards of small (and later teenage) kids together. All this painstakingly accumulated and seamlessly interwoven material along with intense current interviews, provides an vivid, emotional, thought-provoking journey. It's another useful chapter in the history of the American counterculture of the Sixties and Seventies.

    American Commune, 90 mins., debuted at the Canadian Hot Docs Festival 29 April 2013 (interview); it also was included in the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, as part of which it was screened for this review. It shows in the SFJFF Aug. 10 and 11.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 09:36 PM.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •