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Thread: San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 2015--Forum thread

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    San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 2015--Forum thread



    San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 35 --- 23 July-9 August 2015

    Filmleaf SFJFF 2015 Festival Coverage thread

    "But if Jews invented Hollywood (and yes, we did)," says a web page "Best Jewish Film Festivals," "then why do we need Jewish film festivals at all, let alone 80 of them, scattered across the 50 states like so many kosher delis?" They answer, because Hollywood is about being white and Christian, and never really properly represents Jews and Jewishness, which of course is true.

    San Francesco's is said to be the "world's first and largest Jewish film festival" and is organized by the Jewish Film Institute. The Best Jewish Film Festivals page calls the SFJFF "the first and foremost," though it calls the New York fest "the classiest." "You can’t get classier than Lincoln Center, and you can’t get a richer variety of educated fans than those among its regular audiences." I might add that this Walter Reade Theater audience is getting pretty old, a problem Lincoln Center faces. The "Best" page calls and the Miami one the "best winter escape." You might consider San Francisco's the "best summer escape," since it might allow you to be cool in July and early August when Miami and New York are becoming steamy.

    I will be covering a few more of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival films this year than last and plan on reviewing at the titles listed below. The offerings as usual are impressive. See the SFJFF website here.

    ​As I Am: The Life and Times of DJ AM (Kevin Kerslake). A pop music, media, and addiction documentary of the short life of DJ Adam Goldstein, who became famous and influential and died young of drugs.

    Dealing With the Devil (Stéphane Bentura). An investigation of Hildebrand Gurlitt, the Jewish Dresden art dealer commissioned by Joseph Goebbels to sell off "degenerate art" prized out of the hands of Jewish collectors.

    Finsterworld (Frauke Finsterwalder 2013) A dark satire and anthology film of interconnected people in different places, commenting on the present state of Germany; first feature by a documentary filmmaker.

    The Law (Christian Faure). This French film has Emmanuelle Devos playing Simone Veil, the French health minister in the mid-Seventies largely responsible for the legalization of abortion in France in 1975. This narrative feature seeks to give legal and political maneuvering the edge of a film noir.

    Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw (Rick Goldsmith) A documentary about the black female NBA star who developed mental problems and later became an advocate for more understanding and acceptance of such issues. Narrated by Glenn Close.

    ​​Mr. Kaplan (Álvaro Brechner). Genial aging drama and buddy picture of 76-year-old Polish refugee in Uruguay who launches a Quixotic scheme to capture an imagined local Nazi and turn him over to Israel for trial like Eichmann.

    ​​​​The Muses of Isaac Bashevis Singer (Shaul Betser, Asaf Galay). Maybe "mistresses" is more like it. This documentary talks about this storyteller who became a famous "American" author writing in Yiddish. A ladies man, he tended to carry his relations with his numerous female translators beyond the linguistic.

    ​​​My Shortest Love Affair (Karin Abou) Centerpiece film, a narrative feature about nine months in the lives of two French forty-somethings who are a couple reuniting after twenty years apart and try to make it work this time.

    ​​Projections of America (Peter Miller) A short documentary about a series of short films to promote America abroad made as part of the war effort by Robert Riskin and reflecting a Jewish leftish outlook. Riskin is chiefly known for his 1937 Best Screenplay Oscar for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Narrated by John Lithgow.

    Villa Touma (Suha Arraf) This Palestine-based drama depicts three unmarried Christian Arab sisters living in a West Bank estate and clinging to past glory. Their fantasy is interrupted by the arrival of an orphaned niece, Badia, whom they take in. Badia disrupts things when she falls in love with a good looking Muslim singer.

    Women in Sink (Iris Zaki) The filmmaker, an Israeli woman, takes a job as a "shampoo girl" in the Christian Arab section of Haifa, Nadi Nisnas, her position gaining her access to many customers' stories of personal experiences.

    Also, already reviewed as part of the SFIFF 2015: Very Semi-Serious (Leah Wolchok), doc about the New Yorker magazine cartoonists and their current editor, Bob Mankoff.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-16-2015 at 08:22 PM.

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    ÁLVARO BRECHNER: MR. KAPLAN (2014)

    Jacobo, who fled from Poland to Uruguay as a child during the war and has led a successful life, now, at 76, feels unfulfilled. Being assigned a fat ex-cop as a driver by his son, he joins with him in a harebrained scheme to capture an ex-Nazi to be tried in Isreal, like Eichmann. Or is it harebrained, after all? A Quixotic buddy comedy that's charming -- but a little unfulfilled itself.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-10-2015 at 06:17 PM.

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    STÉPHANE BENTURA: DEALING WITH THE DEVIL/LES MARCHANDS D'HITLER (2015)

    French TV5Monde documentary traces art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, who had a Jewish grandmother but was central to the Nazi's stealing from Jewish collectons and buying and selling and caching of both "degenerate" (i.e. modern) art and treasures of the past -- in both Germany and France. His son came to public attention two years ago when he was found living in a Munich flat with a cache of 1,400 stolen art treasures.



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    KEVIN KERSLAKE: AS I AM: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DJ AM (2015)

    Adam Michael Goldstein, known as DJ AM, who died of a drug overdose in 2009 at the age of thirty-six, was a massively accomplished and important practitioner of the turntable and remix art who took it to a new level of respect, fame, and financial reward. After over a decade of clean and sober life and being an example to other addicts, a plane crash led him to relapse. This hyper kinetic film, whose machine gun editing seems to fit the DJ life at first, eventually becomes monotonous. The film doesn't go as deeply into either Goldstein's personal or his professional life as his complex story deserves. Kerslake has an extensive background in music videos and advertising and public affairs films.


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    CHRISTIAN FAURE: THE LAW/LA LOI: LE COMBAT D'UNE FEMME POUR TOUTES LES FEMMES (2014)

    This TV movie stars the excellent Emmanuelle Devos in a different role as political heroine Simone Veil, Auschwitz survivor who became French Minister of Health and in 1974 was instrumental in passing the law that made abortion legal in the country. The film depicts her cool, determined battle against tough opposition from male and conservative forces. Director Christian Faure makes a detailed historical story with profound human importance personal and involving as he also did with his very different 2000 TV gay coming out film, Just a Question of Love. The French subtitle means "One Woman's Fight for All Women."



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    RICH GOLDSMITH: MIND/GAME: THE UNQUIET JOURNEY OF CHAMIQUE HOLDSCLAW (2015)

    This short doc recounts the spectacular basketball career of black female superstar Chamique Holdsclaw and shows how it was disrupted by mental problems. She subsequently became active in fighting the stigma of mental illness, particularly in the perfection-obsessed, macho world of American professional athletics. Narrated by Glenn Close, also an advocate in this field, this is a fairly standard-issue documentary though about a good cause.


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    FRAUKE FINSTERWALDER: FINSTERWORLD (2013)

    A dark interconnected set of tales meant more as allegory, fairy tale, and commentary on the present state of Germany and Germans by a young former documentary filmmaker with a class visit to a Nazi concentration camp as a central element. It's fun to follow the far-fetched interconnecting of the story lines, but the dark, deliberately shocking incidents that pepper the narrative may seem a little heavy handed. The coolness of the post-Nineties New German Cinema is not to be found here. I was intrigued, but ultimately a bit disappointed.


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    SHUL BETSER, ASAF GALAY: THE MUSES OF ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER (2014)

    The life, loves, and literary career of Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, who would not have won the 1978 Nobel Prize in literature had he not had all his stories translated into English. This we learn was a collaborative effort, and Singer preferred for his translators, who rarely even knew Yiddish (they just polished his English), to be women, because he was a ladies' man.


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    KARIN ALBOU: MY SHORTEST LOVE AFFAIR/MA PLUS COURTE HISTOIRE D'AMOUR (2014)

    First lovers of 18 or 20 meet again in Paris 20 years later and he gets her pregnant, comes to live with her from his writing-teaching job in NYC, and it's a disaster. Writer-director Karin Albou, who is Jewish, plays herself, and was very pregnant, and often nude, in this woman's point-of-view study of male-female disagreements about couples living and sex. Patrick Mamoun is equally brave in the unflattering role of the male who wants to talk dirty and keep the light on.


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    PETER MILLER: PROJECTIONS OF AMERICA (2015)

    The "Projections of America" was a set of propaganda shorts supervised by Frank Capra screenwriter Robert Riskin, a left-leaning Jew, for the Office of War Information in Europe to promote Americans and the "American way of life" to survivors of the War. The great irony is that most of the men who worked on these idealistic films depicting their dream of a better America wound up being interrogated before the House Un-American Activities Committee -- and blacklisted in Hollywood. Alas, this doc doesn't go deep, and reads as propaganda for propaganda to me.


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