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SCHMELVIS: SEARCHING FOR THE KING'S JEWISH ROOTS

TITLE: SCHMELVIS: SEARCHING FOR THE KING'S JEWISH ROOTS
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Max Wallace
COUNTRY: CANADA
LANGUAGE: English
TIME: 76 minutes, video
SOURCE: contact Toronto Jewish Film Fest at tjff.com
TEXT: Premiered at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, April 2002. Was "The King" kosher? Investigating the claim that Elvis' great-great grandmother was Jewish leads a diverse group of Montrealers, including an ultra Orthodox Jewish Elvis impersonator, a Rabbi and the filmmakers, on a quest to Memphis to find out what Elvis' fans think of this revelation. (He did wear a Chai around his neck.) But the trip bogs down in squabbling, diminished expectations (the anti-Semitism they expect to find in the Deep South fails to materialize) and a sense that the movie they're making isn't going anywhere. By the time the group heads off to Israel to plant a tree for Elvis, it all comes to a head. Funny, suspenseful and wickedly witty, Schmelvis wrings a unique spin on celebrity, Judaism and religious perceptions. It's a hoot! Writer / director / producer Max Wallace, producer Evan M.Beloff and executive producer Ari A.Cohen will be in attendance. See also the book by Max Wallace and Jonathan Goldstein, Schmelvis: In Search of Elvis Presley's Jewish Roots, published by ECW PRESS.
Writing in The Forward BILL GLADSTONE writes: “Evan Beloff, co-producer of a new documentary that demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that American rock idol Elvis Presley was Jewish according to Halacha, or Jewish law, was only half-joking when he said that the film uses Elvis "as a metaphor for identity — I think it's a quest film about Jewish identity." …It is not clear whether Elvis, who died in 1977, ever really knew that his maternal great-great-grandmother, Nancy Burdine Tackett, was Jewish, or understood the Halachic principle of matrilineal descent through which he would have been identified as a Jew. But he was unquestionably aware of some sort of familial Jewish connection. Although he was a practicing Christian, he was philosemitic to the point of wearing a golden chai around his neck and a kitschy wristwatch that alternatingly flashed a Star of David and a Christian cross. As the film reveals, he even put a Star of David on his mother's tombstone; officials of his Graceland estate later removed it.
"Schmelvis" offers many such revelations, including the facts that Presley, as a teenager, had Orthodox Jewish neighbors for whom he acted as "Shabbes goy"; that he once made a $150,000 donation to a Memphis, Tenn., Jewish charity, and that he enjoyed warm relations with many Jews, including his tailor, Bernard Lansky. "I was clothier to the King," Lansky says. "I put his first suit and his last suit on. I made him sharp. I made him what he was."
Beloff said he got the idea for the film from a 1998 Wall Street Journal article about Presley's Jewish roots, and soon enlisted the aid of co-producer Ari Cohen and writer-director Max Wallace. "We took one of the biggest Christian pop icons in our culture, and we were able to show how Jewish culture informed his life," the 32-year-old Montreal filmmaker told the Forward.
"Schmelvis" is anything but a traditional documentary; indeed, it is more about the filmmakers than their chosen subject. As viewers will quickly discern, it's a film about the making of a film — and one that seems freighted with a rather ponderous thesis. Should we care if Elvis was Jewish? Is it significant? The filmmakers wrestle indeterminately with that central question.
"I knew I was in over my head — I needed some help," said Beloff, who provides the film's Chandleresque narration. Not the least problem is that there's not a single Elvis song on the soundtrack. "The licensing fees were absolutely astronomical — tens of thousands of dollars," Beloff said. "There's no way the Elvis estate would want to be associated with this film, not even in the title." Yet the film holds together well and entertains us even as it strays down its peculiar and comic cul-de-sac.
As it happens, the title derives from a Montreal-area ultra-Orthodox Jewish Elvis imitator, Dan Hartal, who calls himself Schmelvis and who performs at geriatric homes with born-again zeal; he says that if he ever met Elvis he'd like nothing better than "to put some tefillin on the guy." The producers invite Schmelvis to join them on a bizarre cinematic odyssey to the American South, where they hope to find evidence of Presley's Jewish roots and gauge the local reaction. Schmelvis, who claims a spiritual connection with Presley, quickly comes on board.
In a brilliant stroke, the producers invite Montreal's prominent Rabbi Reuben Poupko, who readily puts his Orthodox heksher on the decidedly unorthodox adventure, and adds a witty commentary to it even as he raises pointed questions. "Wouldn't the gentile people down South react as if we were kidnapping their boy?" he asks during a scene filmed in his office. "When I first heard about it," the rabbi told the Forward, "I thought it might be a serious catalyst for some people with common issues of loss, identity and assimilation. I thought people would see in Elvis's life and his lost identity much that has happened to American Jews. It's a paradigm for a large swath of American Jews that has lost touch with their roots."
Soon their Winnebago is rolling south to Elvis's birthplace of Tupelo, Miss., to the strains of a schmaltzy Borscht Belt song, "I've Got a Mammy But She Don't Come From Alabamy." The first stop is a local cemetery, where, after a daylong search, the producers fail to locate the tombstone of Elvis's supposedly Lithuanian-Jewish ancestor, who died circa 1917. Jewish genealogists will find the setting and mission familiar: For many of us, the cemetery is a compulsory part of the modern Jewish quest for identity.
The next stop is Memphis, where they interview some of the King's Jewish associates; this section helps flesh out the skeletal thesis and adds a reassuring "documentary" feel to the film. They also attend what they call Elvis's "23rd yahrzeit" outside the Graceland mansion, where they encounter scores of pilgrims, some of whom seem to welcome the news. Others only shrug when they hear about their idol being Jewish: They're used to hearing weird things about him. "I don't care if Elvis is black, Buddhist, Jewish or Muslim," says one woman. "Elvis is Elvis. Elvis is the King."
As the filmmakers soon realize, the gathering itself is the real religious story. It's clear that Elvis's posthumous charisma smacks of spiritual significance. "He's a modern hero," Poupko deadpans as he walks amid the crowd. "He comforts them when they're lonely. He's there with them. He lifts them up."
The next day the film crew says Kaddish over Elvis's grave; leaving the cemetery, the rabbi completes the Christian analogy. The first Christians "took a man and made him into a God," he observes. "Who'd they take? A good Jew. They did it again with Elvis. They took another child of our people and made a God out of him."
The producers suffer another setback when Schmelvis backs out of an appearance at a Memphis karaoke bar. Desperate for a scene that might "save the film," they attempt to provoke the locals by suggesting that Elvis should be exhumed and reburied Jewishly. No one takes them seriously. They sink further into a morass of doubt, despair and navel-gazing as they try to rescue their seemingly doomed project. Like true schlemiels, they make a comic virtue of being hard on their luck: That's all they have left until they discover that Memphis has a "wailing wall" that is a popular site for Elvis fans. A new direction: Israel. Saved!


THE ACCUSED

TITLE: THE ACCUSED
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Aidan Laverty
COUNTRY: United Kingdom UK
LANGUAGE: English, Arabic with English subtitles
TIME: video, 46 min
SOURCE: Fest programmer can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: In September 1982, Christian Lebanese Phalangists massacred more than 800 Palestinians, including women and children, living in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps, as revenge for killings committed against them. The Phalangists did so, right under the noses of the Israeli Defense forces, which had invaded Lebanon and controlled West Beirut where the murders took place. Ariel Sharon, the current Prime Minister of Israel, was the man in charge of the military, who allowed the Phalangists to enter the refugee camps unimpeded and said he didn't know what they had planned. What exactly did he know and how responsible was he for the resulting bloodbath? (An Israeli commission of inquiry found him "indirectly responsible" for the massacre.) Reported by Fergal Keane from the prestigious British news magazine Panorama, this hard-hitting point of view documentary revisits the scene of the crime to investigate Sharon and his role in the affair. Among those interviewed in The Accused are Palestinian survivors of the killings, Israeli soldiers who warned their superiors that something might happen, and foreign witnesses and diplomats. There's also a startling interview with Phalangist leader Elie Hobeika, who was recently assassinated in Lebanon, after hinting he might testify against Sharon in the attempt in Belgium to charge him with war crimes. An important film about a blood-soaked crime that haunts us still. Screened at TJFF.com

BOMB IN THE BASEMENT: ISRAEL'S NUCLEAR OPTION

TITLE: BOMB IN THE BASEMENT: ISRAEL'S NUCLEAR OPTION
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Michael Karpin
COUNTRY: Israel
LANGUAGE: English, Hebrew, French with English subtitles
TIME: video, 79 min
SOURCE: Fest programmer can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: The genesis of the Middle East's worst kept secret, Israel's nuclear capability, is revealed in this new, controversial and riveting documentary from Israel's distinguished Michael Karpin (The Road to Rabin Square, TJFF 1998). A Bomb in the Basement is a story of secret contacts, skullduggery and personal infighting. It dispels the myth of Israeli nuclear confidence even as it lays out the urgency Israeli leaders felt about getting nuclear weaponry to stave off its hostile Arab neighbours. For the first time, Shimon Peres, appointed by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to liaise with the people who were instrumental in helping Israel get the Bomb, goes on record about his role in the affair. The legendary Mossad chief Isser Harel, who remembers things differently, challenges his recollections. With seminal archival footage and penetrating voice-over narration, A Bomb in the Basement brings history to startling new life. Screened at TJFF.com

BROTHER DANIEL - THE LAST JEW

TITLE: BROTHER DANIEL - THE LAST JEW
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Amir Gera
COUNTRY: Israel
LANGUAGE: English, Hebrew, German with English subtitles
TIME: video, 57 min
SOURCE: Fest programmers can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: Brother Daniel is Oswald Rufeisen, who converted to Christianity during the war but still maintained that he was born and would die a Jew. Terming himself a Catholic Jew and determined to be identified as Jewish, he took his case to Israel's Supreme Court in order to get the proper designation on his identity card. It was a case that rocked the nation and brought forth, once again, the vexing question of what is a Jew? Brother Daniel - The Last Jew, however, goes beyond Oswald's legal challenge. It also delves into his heroism, when he helped rescue Jews from the Nazis, and his guilt, about denying his Judaism in order to survive the Holocaust. Can one cast stones at such a man? A provocative documentary that, like The Secret, removes the obvious barriers between Jew and gentile in order to reach their common humanity. Honorable Mention, Haifa International Film Festival, 2001 Screened at TJFF.com

The Secret

TITLE: The Secret
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Ronit Krown Kerstner
COUNTRY: Israel
LANGUAGE: English, Polish with English subtitles
TIME: video, 47 min.
SOURCE: Fest programmers can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: Thousands of Poles have a secret. They have found out in adulthood that they're really Jewish, given by their parents, when they were babies, to Christians for safekeeping during the Holocaust. Now that they know the truth, they have to decide what this means for them, as Poles and as Jews. In this remarkable film, Ronit Krown Kerstner profiles some of them, including determined young men and women who have formed an organization to learn about Judaism. Most shockingly, she also interviews a middle-aged priest, who found out he was a Jew at age 35, twelve years after he had entered the priesthood. Many of these new found-Jews have also become estranged from their disapproving families after making the decision to practice Jewish customs and rituals. That's not easy to do in a country with few Jews and strong vestiges of anti-Semitism. A sad story of troubled souls who only now are beginning to find themselves and their place in the world. Screened at TJFF.com

CLEAN SWEEP (MARS TURKY)

TITLE: CLEAN SWEEP (MARS TURKY)
YEAR: 2000
DIR/PROD: Oded Davidoff
COUNTRY: Israel
LANGUAGE: Hebrew with English ST
TIME: 94 min in 35mm
SOURCE: Eitan Evans -Evanstone Films Ltd. production. Fest programmer can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: Writers: Limor Nachmias, Gal Zaid. Cast: Yael Hader, Alon Aboutboul, Gal Zaid, Dalit Kahan. A salacious,offbeat and very twisted cop drama. Clean Sweep opens with two vicious -and very unique -murders and then segues into an unpredictable thriller with the cops guarding one Shimon Peres (no,not that Shimon Peres!) from the crime lord who wants to prevent his damaging testimony at an upcoming trial. Mix some frank dialogue with explicit violence and a fractured story and you only begin to describe this very original movie, which even offers scenes of the action as viewed through the eyes of a cat. From the new generation of Israeli filmmakers, a glimpse of the future of Israeli cinema. Don't miss it. An Warning: This film contains scenes of explicit dialogue and brutal violence. Best Supporting Actress (Dalit Kahan), Israeli Academy Awards,2000. Screened at TJFF.com

FORGING IDENTITY: HISTORY UNDER COVER

TITLE: FORGING IDENTITY: HISTORY UNDER COVER
YEAR: 1999
DIR/PROD: Jacques Falck
COUNTRY: France
LANGUAGE: French with English ST
TIME: 52 min video
SOURCE: Fest programmer can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: The true story of Adolfo (Joseph) Kaminsky, a master forger who survived the Holocaust and saved thousands of Jews by making forged documents for them. After the war, he helped more Jews escape to Palestine, aided the fight to liberate Algeria and then worked with anti-imperialist groups in Latin America. Now in his mid-seventies, after a solitary existence, he tries to re-connect with his old war-time colleagues to make some sense of his lonely life. An evocative, atmospheric documentary about an odd man, Forging Identity raises as many questions as it answers. Did Adolfo live on the wrong side of the law during much of his life? Why won't certain of his wartime pals meet with him? What exactly does Adolfo want to accomplish with his last ditch effort to make a human connection? Forging Identity unearths a small, hidden corner of the past only to find new mysteries within. It's a conundrum within a conundrum and utterly compelling. Screened at TJFF.com

KIVNIK

TITLE: KIVNIK
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Joseph Kramer
COUNTRY: USA
LANGUAGE: English
TIME: 23 min, video
SOURCE: Fest programmer can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: The little told story of the rags-to-riches saga of movie mogul, business magnate and philanthropist Del Kivnik, born Mordechai Mendel Kivnik in the Russian town of Krudz. Descended from an eccentric family of would -be inventors and scholars, Del Kivnik struggled against seemingly impossible odds to make it all the way to America, where his name became synonymous with numerous inventions and causes. A comic tale, Kivnik reminds us that truth is really stranger than fiction. Or is it the reverse? Screened at TJFF.com

IT KINDA SCARES ME (TOMER VE -HASRUTIM)

TITLE: IT KINDA SCARES ME (TOMER VE -HASRUTIM)
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Tomer Heymann / hegai Levy and Tomer Heymann
COUNTRY: Israel
LANGUAGE: Hebrew with English subtitles
TIME: 58 min. video BETA documentary
SOURCE: Ruth Diskin Films Ltd. , 8 Tverya Street, Jeruslaem 94543. tel 972 2 6222 086 Fax 972 2 625 6047 RuthDis@netvision.net.IL
TEXT: Documentary. Tough but troubled street kids from the projects in Azur, in South Tel Aviv, are brought together to prepare a play based on their personal experiences. Tomer Heymann is their group leader, guiding the production. The boys quickly bond with him, but when he comes out to them as gay, they 're forced to deal with their prejudices and how they feel about the man they revere as a role model. Their reactions, and the play itself, will surprise you. A probing look at an unacknowledged aspect of Israeli society. Best Documentary, Israeli Academy Awards, 2001 Best Documentary Award, Haifa International Film Festival, 2001. Screened at TJFF.com, Melbourne. Best doc at Israfest. Special Prize in Milan Gay Fest

A JEWISH WEDDING

TITLE: A JEWISH WEDDING
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Stephen Walker
COUNTRY: United Kingdom UK
LANGUAGE: English
TIME: 50 min video
SOURCE: Fest programmer can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: She's Jewish, he's not. Their impending nuptials provide a quirky window on one couple's inter-marriage experiences. Steve's conversion to Judaism, complete with circumcision and ritual bath, his parents' puzzlement and Michaela's own family's concerns, add up to a delightful, off-beat and touching comedy, laced with the unique eccentricity and charm that only the British seem able to pull off with aplomb. Part of the BBC's Modern Times series, A Jewish Wedding is the most fun you'll ever have under a wedding canopy. Screened at TJFF.com

JE ME SOUVIENS (I REMEMBER)

TITLE: JE ME SOUVIENS (I REMEMBER)
YEAR: 2002
DIR/PROD: Eric R Scott
COUNTRY: Canada
LANGUAGE: French with English ST
TIME: 45 min video
SOURCE: Fest programmer can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: The dirty and still controversial reality of Quebec anti-Semitism, then and now, is examined in Eric R. Scott's galvanizing documentary. The hateful language of Quebec nationalist icon Lionel Groulx and scholar Esther Délisle's exposé of the man's racism, are among the touchstones of this probing film, which begins in the '30s and moves to the present. French Canada may not be worse than English Canada in its shameful treatment of and attitudes towards the Jews, but as Je Me Souviens makes abundantly clear, the admission of anti-Semitism in La Belle Province has been slower in coming. A timely and important reminder of Canadian history that many would still like to see buried. Screened at TJFF.com

The Street

TITLE: The Street
YEAR: 1976
DIR/PROD: Carolyn Leaf
COUNTRY: Canada
LANGUAGE: English
TIME: 10 min in 35 mm
SOURCE: Fest programmers can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: A young boy, growing up in Montreal,is forced to confront mortality when faced with the illness of his beloved grandmother. Carolyn Leaf lovingly adapts Mordecai Richler's (1931 - 2001) poignant short story in this classic animated National Film Board production. Screened at TJFF.com

KINKY FRIEDMAN: PROUD TO BE AN ASSHOLE FROM EL PASO

TITLE: KINKY FRIEDMAN: PROUD TO BE AN ASSHOLE FROM EL PASO
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Simone de Vries
COUNTRY: Netherlands
LANGUAGE: English
TIME: 54 min video
SOURCE: Jacques Spaans Lagestee Films St. Olofssteeg 8-a 1012 AK Amsterdam The Netherlands Phone: 31-20-6273374 Fax: 31-20-6261049 info@lagesteefilm.nl http://www.lagesteefilm.nl/
TEXT: Kinky Friedman: Proud to be an Asshole from El Paso is as irreverent and outrageous as its title. The inimitable Richard "Kinky" Friedman first appeared in the 1970's with a distinctive repertoire of country-rock tunes that blended the salacious satire of Frank Zappa with the social consciousness of Bob Dylan to create a heady brew that provoked as much as it entertained. Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys were truly one of a kind and their songs, including such trenchant ditties as 'They Don't Make Jews like Jesus Anymore' and 'Ride Em, Jewboy', which dealt with the Holocaust, were to put it mildly, the stuff that engendered protests. With his career flagging in the 80's, Kinky remade himself into a mystery writer. His fifteen (to date) acclaimed novels feature a Manhattan gumshoe named, you guessed it, Kinky Friedman, who investigates murders and other assorted crimes, filtered through a Southern-Jewish prism that lets him stand out from the pack. With testimonies from fellow musicians, Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett, as well as gushing praise from rabid fan Bill Clinton and comments from Kinky's supportive father, the film paints a rich portrait of a reclusive, (slightly sad) but forthright individual. It's proof positive that Friedman deserves more than the cult status he's been saddled with over the years. It's a real treat. Screened at TJFF.com BJff.org and at South By SouthWest 2002

KEEP ON WALKING

TITLE: KEEP ON WALKING
YEAR: 2000
DIR/PROD: Tana Ross, Jesper Sorensen, Freke Vuijst, Vibeke Winding
COUNTRY: USA
LANGUAGE: English
TIME: video 52 min
SOURCE: Fest programmers can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: Meet Joshua Nelson, gospel singer, preacher and African-American Jew. Raised by his Jewish mother, he's managed to integrate his religion and profession as he flies from his home base in Newark, New Jersey to spread his word to other points in the U.S. and beyond. It's a fascinating musical journey, narrated by an equally fascinating man who has to bridge the spiritual gulf between two very diverse American communities. And you haven't lived until you've heard a joyous gospel choir sing Adon Olam. Screened at TJFF.com

MORTIMER GRIFFIN AND SHALINSKY

TITLE: MORTIMER GRIFFIN AND SHALINSKY
YEAR: 1985
DIR/PROD: Mort Ransen
COUNTRY: Canada
LANGUAGE: English
TIME: 24 min in 16mm
SOURCE: Fest programmers can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: Writers: Mort Ransen, Gerald Wexler. Shalinsky (Paul Soles) is utterly convinced that his non-Jewish English professor, Mortimer Griffin (Ron Lea) is really a Jew. Griffin denies it, but Shalinsky won't take no for an answer. A wickedly funny adaptation of a Mordecai Richler short story. An Atlantis /National Film Board of Canada co-production. Screened at TJFF.com

THE NOSE JOB JEW

TITLE: THE NOSE JOB JEW
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Micah Smith
COUNTRY: USA
LANGUAGE: English
TIME: 5 minute on 16 mm
SOURCE: Vag Films which can be reached at buzaked@aol.com
TEXT: Writers: Micah Smith, Tim Novikoff. Tim (Tim Novikoff) doesn't look Jewish and is always mistaken for a non-Jewish person. That was a problem for him when he was a kid but it doesn't matter now that he's dating a Jewish woman who prefers to go out with non-Jews. Then he's is invited to her house for dinner. A cutting comedy about reality and perception. Screened at TJFF.com and other festivals.

L'CHAYIM, COMRADE STALIN!

TITLE: L'CHAYIM, COMRADE STALIN!
YEAR: 2002
DIR/PROD: Yale Strom
COUNTRY: USA
LANGUAGE: English, Russian, Yiddish with English subtitles
TIME: 94 minutes in 35mm
SOURCE: Fest programmers can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: Twenty years before the birth of the modern state of Israel, Stalin decided to establish the Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidzhan in the Soviet Union's Far East, closer to Korea than to Moscow. His motives for doing so were not laudatory - he wanted to control the country's Jews and diminish what he felt was their malignant influence - but, nonetheless, Jews from all over, including Argentina, the U.S. and England, flocked to this promised socialist "utopia". Stalin eventually launched purges against the Jewish intelligentsia and, in particular, the J.A.R 's foreign-born Jews, whom he branded 'capitalist spies', but the Jewish Autonomous Region survives to this day. Accompanied by an affable but obliviously anti-Semitic guide, Director Yale Strom (Carpati, The Last Klezmer, Hot Pstromi) set out to find out if it is still a Jewish state and what happened to the Jews who remained there. His search yielded fascinating results in this strange twist on the theme of 'Jews from Distant Lands'. Narrated by Ron Perlman (Beauty and the Beast, and the Mexican horror film). Screened at TJFF.com

Expecting

TITLE: Expecting
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Sigalit Liphshitz
COUNTRY: ISRAEL
LANGUAGE: Hebrew with English ST
TIME: 25 min in 16mm
SOURCE: Fest programmers can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: Cast: Dana Ivgi, Ilanit Dada-Landvi. Carefree Sofia, who is single, fears she is pregnant. Her judgmental, religious sister Gila, who is married, has been trying to have a child for 6 1/2 years. When their pregnancy tests get mixed up, matters come to a head. Another gem from The Sam Spiegel Film & Television School, Jerusalem and director Sigalit Liphshitz (Cockfight). Special Mention, Jerusalem International Film Festival, 2001. Second Prize, Mexico International Festival of Film Schools, 2001. Screened at TJFF.com

LEO UND CLAIRE (LEO AND CLAIRE)

TITLE: LEO UND CLAIRE (LEO AND CLAIRE)
YEAR: 2000
DIR/PROD: Joseph Vilsmaier
COUNTRY: GERMANY DEUTSCHLAND
LANGUAGE: German with English subtitles
TIME: 105 min in 35mm
SOURCE: Fest programmers can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: Writers: Reinhard Klooss, Joseph Vilsmaier. Cast: Michael Degen, Franziska Petri, Suzanne von Borsody. The true story of Leo Katzenberger, a prosperous German Jew condemned to death by guillotine in 1934, for his supposed affair with Irene, a Christian woman. Despite being born in Germany and long considered a pillar of the community, Leo, who is happily married to Claire, is immediately suspect when the flirtatious Irene rents an apartment from him and begins a close friendship with the older man, a friendship that may be something more than innocent. The Nazis eventually bring Leo to trial, under the recently enacted Nuremberg Laws, which forbid sexual relations between Jews and gentiles. His case becomes a cause célèbre. Director Joseph Vilsmaier, whose earlier film The Harmonists was also a tale of Jews suddenly stripped of their rights in fascist Germany, delivers another fine drama which compellingly explores the line between love and friendship in a hate-filled time. Screened at TJFF.com

SILENT SONG

TITLE: SILENT SONG
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Elida Schogt
COUNTRY: CANADA
LANGUAGE: SILENT
TIME: 6 minutes in 16mm
SOURCE: Fest programmers can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: An archival photograph of a young boy playing an accordion in a concentration camp,just liberated by the Allies, prompts a graceful meditation on memory, survival and hope. Another haunting gem from Torontonian Elida Schogt (Zyklon Portrait,The Walnut Tree). Screened at TJFF.com

MAMADRAMA:THE JEWISH MOTHER IN CINEMA

TITLE: MAMADRAMA:THE JEWISH MOTHER IN CINEMA
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Monique Schwarz
COUNTRY: USA / AUSTRALIA
LANGUAGE: English, Yiddish, Hebrew with English subtitles
TIME: 73 min in 16mm
SOURCE: www.Jewishfilm.ORG NCJF@Brandeis.EDU
TEXT: From the strong matriarch in such classic Yiddish films as A Brivele Der Mamen to the shrewish, overbearing mother in Where's Poppa?, the Jewish mother has undergone various cinematic incarnations throughout the years. Juxtaposing footage and remembrances of her own European-born mother with that of the mothers in classic Hollywood movies, Australian filmmaker Monique Schwarz examines the perplexing phenomenon of the Jewish mother and why she's been portrayed the way she has in the Yiddish cinema of Eastern Europe, in America and in Israel. The answers will surprise you. Among the interviewed experts in this thought provoking, insightful and entertaining documentary are film critics Michael Medved and J. Hoberman, directors Paul Mazursky (Next Stop,Greenwich Village) and Larry Peerce (Heartland) and film scholars Sharon Rivo and Amy Kronish. A movie that will provoke discussion. Screened at TJFF.com and SFJFF.ORG

Unheard Voices

TITLE: Unheard Voices
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Beth Toni Kruvant
COUNTRY: USA
LANGUAGE: English, Spanish with English subtitles
TIME: video 11 minutes
SOURCE: Fest programmer can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: The unsolved bombings in the early 1990's of the Israeli Embassy and Jewish Community Centre in Buenos Aires left Argentina's Jews fearful and unnerved. Argentina's recent economic problems have driven many of the Jewish middle-class into poverty. Will the country's Jews survive as a viable community? Screened at TJFF.com

MOTL DER OPERATOR (MOTL THE OPERATOR)

TITLE: MOTL DER OPERATOR (MOTL THE OPERATOR)
YEAR: 1939
DIR/PROD: Joseph Seiden
COUNTRY: USA
LANGUAGE: Yiddish with English ST
TIME: 88 min in 35mm
SOURCE: Fest programmer can www.Brandeis.EDU/Jewishfilm
TEXT: Writer: Chaim Tauber, based on his play. Cast: Chaim Tauber, Malvina Rappel, Yetta Zwerling, Jacob Zanger The National Center for Jewish Film is proud to present this newly restored version of a seminal Yiddish classic, with music by acclaimed composer Sholem Secunda and an appearance by famed cantor Laibele Waldman. Focusing on a labour dispute in the garment district of New York City, the film survives as an important historical document highlighting the hardships of the Jewish immigrant experience in America. Motl, a poor labourer, loving husband and new father, leads cloakmakers in a strike for better working conditions. When he is severely injured by strikebreakers, his wife, Esther, and infant son are left destitute, with tragic consequences for all. "A sorrowful and tragic melodrama in the best Yiddish tradition..." The Film Daily. Screened at TJFF.com

My Dear Clara

TITLE: My Dear Clara
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Garry Beitel
COUNTRY: CANADA
LANGUAGE: English
TIME: 48 min video
SOURCE: Fest programmer can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: When Montrealer Clara Greenspan, director Garry Beitel's aunt, died recently, he discovered a cache of letters written to her husband Chaim Blum, whom she had married in Berlin. The letters revealed that there was much more to Clara than he had thought. Hers was a classic love story, about a couple who could not be united because Canada's stringent, sexist and anti-Semitic immigration laws did not allow a woman to sponsor a husband (though the reverse could happen). The authorities also did not want Jewish refugees to come to Canada. The stubborn Clara, however, persisted in her efforts to save her husband even as she worked for the Communist party of Canada and tried to get on with her life. Utilising terrific archival footage and the descriptive letters of Chaim and Clara, read by actors, Garry Beitel (Bonjour Shalom) paints an indelible portrait of a determined woman, a turbulent time and a whole generation of young Jewish activists. Rarely has history been so immediate and gripping. Screened at TJFF.com

AVENUE AMY -THE SISTER EFFECT

TITLE: AVENUE AMY -THE SISTER EFFECT
YEAR: 2000
DIR/PROD: JOAN RASPO
COUNTRY: USA
LANGUAGE: English
TIME: 12 minute video
SOURCE: Fest programmer can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: From the animated Avenue Amy series, with sexologist / columnist Amy Sohn, the amusing story of what happens when Amy meets a MOT (member of the tribe) only to find out he has very specific hang-ups about Jewish girls. Screened at TJFF.com

A RIGHTEOUS MAN: NELSON MANDELA AND THE JEWS OF SOUTH AFRICA

TITLE: A RIGHTEOUS MAN: NELSON MANDELA AND THE JEWS OF SOUTH AFRICA
YEAR: 2000
DIR/PROD: Ingrid Gavshon
COUNTRY: SOUTH AFRICA
LANGUAGE: English
TIME: video 24 minutes
SOURCE: Fest programmer can Contact Toronto Jewish Film Festival, tjff.com
TEXT: From his beginnings as a lawyer and activist through to the present day, Nelson Mandela has always had a warm relationship with the South African Jewish community. He was taken on by a Jewish law firm, at a time when no other whites had the courage to employ blacks in professional positions. His leading political supporter, Helen Suzman, was Jewish, as were many of his compatriots in the African National Congress, the organization that led the fight against apartheid. Upon his release from prison, after 27 years, Mandela retained his ties with Suzman and his other Jewish friends. In 2000, he was invited to preside over the opening of the Jewish museum in Johannesburg. A touching tribute to a hero from a community that has always respected him. Screened at TJFF.com

Taqasim

TITLE: Taqasim
YEAR: 2000
DIR/PROD: Duki Dror
COUNTRY: Israel
LANGUAGE: Hebrew, Arabic with English subtitles
TIME: 43 min video
SOURCE: Duki Dror Zygote Films 4 Hitiltan Street, pob 333 Binyamina, 30500 Israel Tel/ 972 4 6288986 Fax/ 972 4 6388833 office@zygotefilms.com zygotefilm.com
TEXT: Even after 47 years in Israel, violinist Felix Mizrahi retains a strong attachment to his roots in Egypt. He 's also haunted by the memory of his older brother, Farag Ibrahim Mizrahi, who played with some of Egypt's greatest talents but died tragically at age 25. When Felix decides to return to Cairo to search for lost recordings of his brother's work, he also revisits the sites of his childhood memories and of Egypt's once thriving and vibrant Jewish community. Interacting with the Egyptians he meets, who harbour him no ill will, makes for fascinating cinema verité and demonstrates that political differences aside, music has no borders. Screened at TJFF.com

DUST

TITLE: DUST
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Michale Boganim
COUNTRY: UKRAINE
LANGUAGE: Russian with English ST
TIME: 35mm 29 minutes
SOURCE: check with tjff.org
TEXT: An impressionistic account of present day Jewish life in Odessa, formerly part of the Soviet Union and now part of Ukraine, voiced by a few of the surviving members of the port city's Jewish community. The spotlight shines on a trio of women who wouldn't be out of place in a Tennessee Williams production. Their observations and reminiscences, play out against the backdrop of deserted, barren streets, which are evidence of the decline and near disappearance of a once vibrant community. From the National Film & Television School, London.

TED ALLAN: MINSTREL BOY OF THE 20th CENTURY

TITLE: TED ALLAN: MINSTREL BOY OF THE 20th CENTURY
YEAR: 2002
DIR/PROD: Merrily Weisbord, Tanya Ballantyne Tree
COUNTRY: Canada
LANGUAGE: English
TIME: 57 min video
SOURCE:
TEXT: One of Canada's most distinctive talents, the late Ted Allan was a renowned playwright (The Secret of the World), screenwriter (Lies My Father Told Me; Bethune:The Making of a Hero) and author (Don't You Know Anybody Else?) He was also a real character. Raised like Mordecai Richler, in Montreal's scrappy St.Urbain Street neighbourhood, the idealistic Allan went, as a young man, to Spain to fight the fascists, and later to England where he was one of the pioneering writers of the early days of British television. Back in Canada, his career was adversely affected by the Communist blacklist. In his later years, he achieved success at home and in the U.S. Footage of Allan's staged readings, his comments on his lengthy career and life, and interviews with friends and family, including his adoring children, actress Gena Rowlands (Love Streams) and director Ted Kotcheff (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz) add up to a unique portrait of a unique individual, whose like we shall not see again. This is the longer Director's cut of the film.

TILL DEATH DO US PART

TITLE: TILL DEATH DO US PART
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Nili Tal
COUNTRY: Israel
LANGUAGE: English, Hebrew with English subtitles
TIME: video, 59 min.
SOURCE:
TEXT: In 1991, a 19-year-old Kibbutznik, Einav Rogel, was brutally murdered by her possessive,jealous boyfriend, Gilad Sheman. He was sentenced to life imprisonment but a new Israeli law, which mandated that sentences be reduced if the accused was found not to be of sound mind at the time of the crime, meant that Gilad had a chance to eventually go free. Veteran director Nili Tal follows the two families, bound together by the horrendous crime, as they sit in court, listen to the lawyers' and psychologists' endless arguments about the case, and try to make sense of how everything went wrong. Not so much a case of a miscarriage of justice, Till Death Do Us Part, instead, unearths the hidden reality of domestic violence and powerfully asks how and why Einav was allowed to die.

A Wedding in Ramallah

TITLE: A Wedding in Ramallah
YEAR: 2002
DIR/PROD: Sherine Salama
COUNTRY: AUSTRALIA
LANGUAGE: In Arabic with English subtitles
TIME: 90 Minutes
SOURCE: habibi Films 4/4 Manion Avenue Rose Bay Sydney 2029 NSW Austrlia salaMasherine@hotmail.com T:Australia 612-9371-1992
TEXT: Even in the midst of intense political conflicts people try to get on with their lives. So it is with Mariam and Bassam, a Palestinian couple who met during the comparatively peaceful summer of 2000. This wonderfully observant film follows their relationship from courtship, to marriage and beyond. Bassam, a telephone repairman in Cleveland, returns to Palestine to find a "home-made bride." He quickly meets and marries the younger Mariam but leaves her in Palestine with his family. Soon afterwards, a new intifada takes place and violence erupts throughout Palestine. Life in wartime is brilliantly evoked: people talk on cell phones, quarrel and cook dinner while tanks are shelling buildings a few blocks away from Bassam's family home. After many months, Bassam and another married Palestinian living in America return to see their wives. Eventually, Bassam is able to procure a visa for Mariam, but she soon discovers that life in exile isn't a panacea either. This charming film says much about love, courtship and the roles of women and men in Palestinian society, while touching on the problems the Palestinians have with the Other: the Jews that control their lives.

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