Some Jewish Films and Videos

The Prince of Egypt

TITLE: The Prince of Egypt
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Steven Spielberg / Dreamworks SKG Animation
TIME: unknown minutes
SOURCE: in theaters in 1998
TEXT: This is a $50 million animation project from Steven Spielberg about the life of the biblical character of Moses from his birth to the splitting of The Reed Sea. Voice-stars include Ralph Fiennes (Pharoah), Michelle Pfeiffer (Tzipporah), Helen Mirren (Pharoah's sister who raises Moses), Sandra Bullock (Miriam), and Val Kilmer (Moses)

A Price Above Rubies

TITLE: A Price Above Rubies
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Boaz Yakin / Lawrence Bender
TIME: 117 minutes
SOURCE: Sundance, 98. Miramax, New York, NY
TEXT: Boaz Yakin, who wrote The Rookie and Fresh, delivers this story of a tragic chracter who may or may not endure social norms. Leading lady Renee Zellweger (Jerry McGuire) plays Sonia, a married woman who does not wish to conform to the restrictive Orthodox Jewish lifestyle expected of her. This magical-realism film opens with Sonia and her brother Yossi as children. They discuss the finer points of sibling love and love for god, and then Yossi walks into a lake to drown himself. Skipping years ahead, we find a married Sonia in a frustrating marriage to a rosh yehshiva. She gives birth to her first child, a male child. She wants to name the child Yossi, after her departed brother, while Mendel, her scholarly husband, does not. Director and writer Boaz Yakin portrays Mendel as a loyal husband, but one who leaves Sonia sexually frustrated. Mendel's brother's family sends Sonia to the rabbi for counseling when Sonia, in her frustration, initiates an intimate relationship with her sister-in-law, Rachel (Julianna Margulies). Sonia ends up being "seduced" and having an affair with her brother-in-law, Sender. Sender, sets Sonia up in his jewelry business, where she befriends a sensitive Hispanic artist named Ramon. Blah blah blah, then she is forbidden to see Ramon, she eats some pork in chinatown, she becomes an outcast (Remember the film "Witness"), and her life tumbles out of control. Note to file: In the words of the Kotzker rebbe, "The script could have been better, and the characterizations could have been deeper. I have never been a fan a magical realism" Yakin wishes to portray a person and how they exist under restrictive cultural norms. To do this he has created the character of a woman living in an Orthodox milieu. P.S. - Dr. Ruth Westheimer once taught me that the "Woman of Valor" poem that is read by men to their wives on Shabbat eve was a love poem, and so I guess it is.


YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Darren Aronofsky / Eric Watson
TIME: 85 minutes
SOURCE: Sundance98. Live / Artisan Entertainment. See www.pithemovie.com
TEXT: Stars Sean Gullette and Mark Margolis. A film by Darren Aronofsky, the Harvard and AFI grad, son of a Yeshiva of Flatbush (Brooklyn) science teacher. Story is as follows: A troubled, paranoid, lonely, self-absorbed, and obsessive mathematician, Maximillian Cohen, uses a computer to decode (numerology) the key to order in the universe. Alone in his darkened, multi-locked, Chinatown apartment (a holy of holies?), Cohen flips between bouts of migraine headaches and computing. (Are the headaches similar to the problems encountered by Aaron's sons?) Max finds himself highly sought after and valued by both a greedy Wall Street firm and a sect of ambitious Hasidim who seek to jump-start a Messianic era. Filmed in black and white shot reversal filmstock (cheaper than color, and less gray than regular b/w) with a pulsing electronic score. Sundance 98 Award for Dramatic Directing. Highly recommended for anyone interested in computing, science fiction (Philip K. Dick inner exploration type), Wall Street, the game "GO", or math. Mark Margolis in the role of Sol was perfect casting. Note to file: Aronofsky got "into" numerology very, very briefly when, at age 18, he volunteered on a kibbutz only to be placed into their plastics factory (not the orchards). After two days, he high-tailed it to Jerusalem, and at the Wall, backpack in hand, he was snatched up for a few days by Aish ha Torah in Jerusalem. Also note that the number of pills Cohen consumes is in a Fibonacci sequence of 1,1,2,3,5,8. How many films do you of that have an "ant wrangler."

Three Stories

TITLE: Three Stories
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Pavel Vogler / vogler, rob durbin, rick fingerhut
TIME: 23 minutes
SOURCE: Pavo@globalpac.com
TEXT: Three lives are waved together in this film about 85 year old Henryk Vogler, a writer and Holocaust survivor living in Krakow, his son Pavel, an artist and the filmmaker, and 11 year old Sara Vogler, now growing up in the US. Pain is transformed into works of art by Henryk. Pavel tries to use art to connect to his father's writings, and Sara is in her own creative journey. See www.esqWire.com/henryk.htm

Moment of Impact

TITLE: Moment of Impact
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Julia Loktev / Melanie Judd
TIME: 117 minutes in b/w
SOURCE: Screened at Sundance 98
TEXT: Documentary. Sundance 98 Award for Documentary Directing. Julia Loktev chronicles the changes that occurred in her family after her father became brain damaged in an car accident. Julia is a 28 year old, Russian-born filmmaker (NYU film program). In 1979, her family emigrated from the Soviet Union to a suburban town in Colorado. In 1989, her father, Leonid Loktev, was struck by a car while crossing a street. After spending weeks in a coma, he regained consciousness, but lives in a neurological limbo, in which he needs assistance to perform all parts of the daily rituals of life. His vacant stares and mumblings are occasionally interrupted by sparks of normalcy. Ms. Loktev themes are how do you miss a person who is there but not really there, someone who is stuck somewhere between life and death. Also the accident only thickened the walls of my family's isolation, a family already isolated by their immigrant status, their status as Jews, and their status as brunettes in a town of blondes. "Love is shown not just by hugs. Love is shown by action." Note to file: While this is a film I found interesting, Janet Maslin, in a review for The NYT wrote, ..it is outrageously exploitative... [Loktev] capitalizes on audience emotions of pity... devoid of insight... intrusive...selfish and invasive"

Life Is Beautiful

TITLE: Life is Beautiful / La Vita E Bella
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Roberta Benigni / Mario Cotone, Elda Ferri and Gianleigi Braschi
LANGUAGE: Italian w/ English subtitles
TIME: 122 minutes
SOURCE: Cecchi Gori Group, Rome Italy. Or Miramax, New York City
TEXT: Winner of the Cannes 1998 Grand Jury Prize. Variety says this $6.5 million dark comedy was sluggish and uneven, even though Benigni is a skilled actor. By Fall 1998, it had grossed $45 million. Guido falls in love with Dora. While this romance evolves, the storms of fascism and anti-Semitism grow. Forty five minutes into the film, it is five years later, it is wartime, and Guido and Dora are married and have a 5 year old son, Giosue (Joshua). Giosue's questions about anti-Semitism are made light of ("Why are dogs and Jews not allowed into the bakery?), until father and son are hauled off to a concentration camp (Dora, who is not Jewish, accompanies them). Guido shields Giosue from the horrors of the death camp by pretending that all their travails are a big game, in which they and the fellow prisoners are competing to win an armored tank. As more of their fellow inmates (contestants) are killed, Guido must change the rules of the "game." About 8,000 Italian Jews were deported and died during World War II. While making a comedy about the Holocaust, Begnini asked Italian Jewish groups to advise him. The film has been well received among Italian Jews. "It's not Schindler's List and doesn't pretend to be," said Franco Pavoncello, Commissioner for Culture for the Jewish community in Rome. "It's a fable about human values, and how a concentration camp can destroy those values." The film may be full of laughs, but it makes no attempt to hide the horrors of the Holocaust. One should expect much debate in the US on the film. Abe Foxman, where are you?

92 Minutes for Mister Baum

TITLE: Mr. Baum
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Yossi Dayan / Yoran Kislev and Haim Mecklberg
COUNTRY: Israel / France
LANGUAGE: Hebrew with English ST
TIME: 80 minutes
SOURCE: Christa Saredi, Staffelstrasse 8, CH-8045 Zurich Switzerland. HLS Film 3 Harel Street Ramata Hachayal, Tel Aviv Israel 00276. Tel: 3-648-11 95
TEXT: This is the third film in the trilogy of 52-year old Assi Dayan's investigation into the imponderability of life. The first was Life According to Agfa, and the second was Electric Blanket. Mister Baum goes to the doctor and discovers that he only has 92 minutes left to live. He calmly intends to live them to their fullest, and sets off on a short, funny journey to settle his affairs, and he imagines how his loved ones will react to news of his death and his funeral. Screened at The Berlin Intnl Film Festival and won Best Film at Haifa Film Fest. (Es wird ihm gelingen, den Tod im Wettlauf mit der Zeir um 2 miuten zu schlagen.)

A Crysanthemum Bursts in Cincoesquinas

TITLE: A Crysanthemum Bursts in Cincoesquinas
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Daniel Burman / Diego Dubcovsky and Ruben Korenfeld
COUNTRY: Argentina/France
LANGUAGE: Spanish w/ English ST
TIME: minutes
SOURCE: from Burman Dubcovsky Cine SH, Riobamba 781, 2A, RA-1025, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Tel Argentina 1-405-78 47 Fax: 1-811-32-47
TEXT: This is 24 year old Daniel Burman's first feature film. The story takes place in South America at the turn of the 20th Century. As a child, Erasmo (Jose Luis Alfonso), now a grown man, was left with a wet-nurse by his parents, who had to escape a waging civil war. He has lost his parents, and now his foster mother is brutally murdered. He seeks to avenge her death, and the culprit is the landowner and head of state, El Zancudo. Thus the adventure begins. Erasmo befriends a poor Jew named Saul (Martin Kalwill), who is prepared to help him in his undertaking. Along the way, Erasmo finds allies, adversaries, love, and then Magdalena.......

Left Luggage

TITLE: Left Luggage
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Jeroen Krabbe / Craig Haffner and Brad Wilson
COUNTRY: Belgium
TIME: 100 minutes
SOURCE: unknown. Contact Left Luggage BV, Prinsengracht 546, NL-1017 KK Amsterdam, Netherlands, or Greystone Films in Los Angeles
TEXT: Based on the Carl Friedman's novel, "The Shovel and The Loom." You probably know the actor Jeroen Krabbe from his acting role in Crossing Delancey (the other love interest). This is his directorial debut. The film stars him, Maximilian Schell, and Isabella Rossellini. The film takes place in Antwerp in the early 1970's. Chaya Kalman (Laura Fraser) is a young Jewish woman, unenthusiastically studying Philosophy. She is the daughter of death camp survivors. Her mother (Sagebrecht) has forgotten her past and is in deep denial (The Loom), but her father (Schell), who buried his past in 2 suitcases, now wishes to retrieve his youth, or at least the suitcases (The Shovel). Chaya falls in love with a classmate and moves out of her parents' flat. With the help of old Mister Apfelschnitt (Chaim Topol), Chaya takes a job as an au pair with the Chassidic-Orthodox Kalman family (Rossellini and Krabbe and their 5 kids). While she holds this family in contempt, she slowly encounters a new way of life, previously unknown to her. She is drawn to their oddball five year old son, Simcha Kalman, who has a pants wetting problem and who everyone thinks is mute. Actually, Simcha can speak, but he chooses to remain silent. As her influence on Simcha grows, Mr. Kalman becomes concerned and argues often with Chaya. Chaya learns to respect the convictions that lie behind the Kalman's lifestyle, and learns to better understand her father's quest for his hidden suitcases.

A Letter Without Words

TITLE: A Letter Without Words
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Lisa Lewenz / David Liu
TIME: 62 minutes
SOURCE: Sundance 98, Berlin 98 and HRW 98. Contact Ms. Lisa Lewenz, NoNet Productions, P.O. Box 133, Madison Square Station, New York, N.Y. 10010, Ph / Fax: 212 447 7752 Email: 100430.350@compuserve.com
TEXT: A documentary. Lisa Lewenz grew up Episcopalian and sang in the church choir. At age 13, she learns that her family has a secret. Her German-Jewish-born father became a Christian in America so that he could spare his children the anti-Semitism he experienced as a child in Germany. Lisa Lewenz spent the next 16 years trying to extensively piece together her family history. She discovers her grandmother Ella's old family films, as well as her diary, and an audiotape from her father on why he converted. Through Ella's home-movie films, much of it in early color, (Ella was born in 1883, and filmed on 8mm between 1914 and 1938), Lisa is able to reconstruct her pre-War family's life. Lisa returns to Germany to film the locations as they appear 50 years later. This is a fascinating story of self discovery. Note to file: Ella's films include a 1929 snippet of a gathering of eminent German Jews, including Albert Einstein (who helped a Lewenz girl with her math homework), Rabbi Leo Baeck, Brigette Helm, and Walter Gropius. Nazi Minister Joseph Goebbels was the next door neighbor to the Lewenz family. Includes what may be the earliest color shots of Palestine. The Lewenz's were members of the Lewenz and Arnhold (Dresdner Bank) families. To be broadcast on PBS in 1999.

20 Dates

TITLE: 20 Dates
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Myles Berkowitz
TIME: minutes
SOURCE: Slamdance 98
TEXT: A comedy about the social and professional failures of 20-something Myles Berkowitz. He decides to make a film about the 20 dates he plans to go on (hey, Alaskan Jay Ramras, listen up). He consults a matchmaker, he visits a rabbi, he crashes a Jewish wedding to try to meet women. He films his 20 dates (some with Jewish women) with a hidden camera, and we get to see the painful rejections.

Wild Man Blues

TITLE: Wild Man Blues
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Barbara Kopple / Jean Doumanian (who did you expect?)
TIME: 104 minutes
SOURCE: Sundance 98. Also in theaters, Spring 1998
TEXT: Winner of the Sundance 98 Documentary Cinematography Award. A documentary following Woody Allen on the 18 cities in 23 days European tour of his New Orleans style jazz band. The pre-marriage relationship between Woody and Soon-Yi is seen. The funniest moments are Mr. Allen's insistence upon a bathroom separate from Soon-Yi's; his queasy gondola ride; when Soon-Yi says that her favorite movie is Woody's Manhattan (in which Allen dates a high school student); and Allen's confrontation with his parents, in which his mother says that he would have been better of being a pharmacist. Woody calls Hebrew School junk, and his mother says (in front of Soon-Yi) that she hoped that her son would have ended up with a nice Jewish girl, and that one day Jews will be extinct due to intermarriage. Note: With his sister and best friend as producers, don't expect any revelations that were not cleared by Allen.

Two Weddings

TITLE: Two Weddings
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Harvey Wang and Edward Rosenstein
SOURCE: www.laiff.com
TEXT: A documentary about an elderly Jewish couple that survived the death camps, as they celebrate their lasting love and the marriage of their grandson.

Anna and Ariel

TITLE: Anna and Ariel
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Naomi Boxer / Naomi Boxer
TIME: 12 minutes
SOURCE: email to Nboxer@chem.utoronto.ca or from cfmdc@interlog.com
TEXT: A short drama showing a pivotal day in the life of a friendship between Anna, an elderly Jewish immigrant to Canada, and Ariel, her young Canadian-born neighbor. Ariel comes across a hidden item from Anna's past as they prepare to go to a party, which prompts Anna to reveal a tragic moment from her childhood.

Full Cycle

TITLE: Full Cycle
YEAR: 1994
DIR/PROD: Shira Lee Shalit
TIME: 12 minutes
SOURCE: Sing To Me Productions. checking with www.shortcuts.org
TEXT: Sofie is a young artist who, with her husband Jack, is agonizing over whether it is time to plan a family. Just as Picasso had his 'blue period', Sofie is having her 'Ovum period.' The Granny arrives for a visit. Granny is played by the late Rita Kram (this was her last film, she passed away 5 weeks after the wrap party) While Sofie seeks to paint a masterpiece, Bubbie knows that the greatest masterpiece would be a child. Grandma prays, and when prayers don't work she considers sabotaging the condoms. But as they say in Yiddish "With a guilt conscience, who could sleep." Will Granny and Sofie resolve their issues? Note to File: "She named the child 'China"? After what? A favorite wedding gift?

Les Miserables

TITLE: Les Miserables
YEAR: 1995
DIR/PROD: Claude Lelouche / Tania Zazulinsky and Claude Lelough
LANGUAGE: French w/ English subtitles
TIME: 174 minutes
SOURCE: Warner Brothers
TEXT: Les Miserables is loosely based on Victor Hugo's novel. It is updated by Claude Lelouche and set in the 20th Century. Stars Jean-Paul Belmondo as Henri Fortin, the film's illiterate hero, who asks people to read to him from the Victor Hugo book about Jean Valjean. The story open with the fatherless Henri being raised by his poor, heroine-mother, after her husband dies after being unjustly accused of murder. It is now WWII, and Henri, a former boxer, works as a middle-aged moving truck driver. He meets the Ziman family, three Jews who are seeking to escape Paris and France. The Ziman's give Henri their 6 year old girl, whom he places in a convent. The film then tracks the lives of these four people. Also stars Annie Girardot, Alessandra Martines, Michel Boujenah, Jean Marais, and Micheline Presle. Music by Michel Legrand

The Color of Water

TITLE: The Color of Water
YEAR: 1999
TIME: 105 minutes
SOURCE: TNT Original Movies
TEXT: Based on the best-selling autobiography of James McBride. A portrait and exploration of a black man's white, Jewish mother's buried past (Ruth McBride Jordan, nee Ruchel Dwajra Zylska) and her 12 children.

Art of Remembrance: Simon Wiesenthal

TITLE: Art of Remembrance: Simon Wiesenthal
YEAR: 1995
DIR/PROD: Johanna Heer and Werner Schmeidel
LANGUAGE: Several languages with English subtitles
TIME: 99 minutes
SOURCE: PBS Video or River Lights Pictures, Inc at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/ homepages/ RLP/ onthefil.htm
TEXT: A profile of the 89 year old Simon Wiesenthal, Holocaust survivor and Nazi-hunter. Music by John Zorn. Among his catches was Adolf Eichman. The idea for rhe film began in 1985, after the Bitburg and Waldheim Affairs. Working around Wiesenthal's busy schedule over several years, the New York based producer-directors Johanna Heer and Werner Schmiedel filmed his activities in Germany, France, Holland, Sweden, Israel, Vienna, New York, and Los Angeles. They also return to his brithplace in Galicia (now Ukraine). Interesting note in the film is that Karl Silberbauer, the SS-Man who arrested Anne Frank in Holland in 1944, served as a policeman in Vienna until 1963.

The Jew in the Lotus

TITLE: The Jew in the Lotus
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Laurel Chiten
TIME: 60 minutes in 60mm
SOURCE: Laurel Chiten, 185 Morrison Ave Apt 304, West Somerville, MA 02144-2329 or from Blind Dog Films, POB 238, Waban MA 02168. Tel: 617-965-0712 Email: zauf@aol.com
TEXT: Laurel Chiten (Twitch and Shout) directs this documentary. In 1990, eight Jewish scholars traveled to Dharamsala, India to meet with the Dalai Lama, the leader of Tibetan Buddhism. They had been invited to share "the secret of spiritual survival in exile" with the Tibetans in exile. Film explores the events as well as the success of Rodger Kamenetz's book of the same name, The Jew in The Lotus. Film includes interviews with participants, including Blu Greenberg, Reb Zalman Shachter-Shlomi, Rabbi Yitz Greenberg and Rabbi Jonathan Omer Man, and the Dalai Lama.


YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Alisa Lebow and Cynthia Madansky
TIME: 54 minutes in 16mm
SOURCE: Contact filmmakers in New York City at 212-673-6791
TEXT: Several years ago, Alisa Lebow (OUTLAW '94) and Cynthia Madansky (INTERNAL COMBUSTION '95) met at a Passover Seder in Brooklyn. The two women, who are lesbians, came from families that sent all their kids to Hebrew school and ensured they knew the prayers. As they grew older, both struggled with ways of bridging their Jewish backgrounds with their identities and lifestyles as lesbians and women. Their answer, in part, was the creation of Treyf, a SEMI-autobiographical experimental documentary about the nature of Jewish identity in contemporary America. The exploration of a Jewish dyke partnership opens with a supermarket conveyor belt, saturated with the cultural delights of Passover. Treyf traces the themes of Passover: freedom, oppression, tolerance, understanding, bitter, sweet, and the dream that peace and justice will prevail. The filmmakers wrote, "These themes speak not only to our Jewish experience, but to our lesbian experience." A central subtext is the struggle to create identity in a post-modern world. They continued, "Treyf brings into relief the issues that arise when two dynamic cultural identities intersect. It challenges the American Jewish community to embrace its lesbian daughters, and [challenges] Jewish lesbians to more deeply consider the richness of their own complex identities." Near the film's end two women prepare to host a party for 100 other Jewish lesbians, and in so doing interview several woman about their experiences and attitudes toward Judaism and their sexuality. Note to file: Personally, I felt that the film started out great, with an exploration of what is "Treyf" at the supermarket, at Katz's deli, and in the Jewish community; but the middle part on West Bank settlers ruined the film for me. I do not think the film challenges the viewer to explore their identity, nor does it talk as much as I had hoped about the lesbian Jewish experience.

The Commandment Keepers

TITLE: The Commandment Keepers
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Marlaine Glicksman
TIME: minutes
TEXT: What does it mean to be Jewish in America? This simple question could be a subtitle for Marlaine Glicksman's film The Commandment Keepers about the Commandment Keepers Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Harlem, New York. Why? Because this group of rigorously observant Jews, known to few outside their small community in Northern Manhattan, does not fit neatly within the categories of the "black" or "Jewish" communities in America, and forces us to ask how much of Judaism is theological and how much is social or cultural. "The film challenges stereotypes and the mythic notion of monolithic race and culture," said Glicksman, who received unprecedented access to the homes and sanctuaries - literally and figuratively - of this community. The Commandment Keepers follows numerous members of the 75-year-old congregation as they go about their Jewish lives in an overwhelmingly black and Christian community. We meet Brother Gibson, 75, as he searches a Harlem market for gefilte fish; Sister Shoshana, 57, as she makes matzo-ball soup before rushing out to the kosher butcher; and Sister Carla, 55, a Harvard graduate student who is the daughter of a black rabbi. These Jews feel the pain of both the black and Jewish communities.

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg

TITLE: The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Aviva Kempner
TIME: 90 minutes in 16mm
SOURCE: Ciesla Foundation, 3721 Jennifer Street NW, Washington DC 20015. Tel: 202.244.1347 or distributed by COWBOY BOOKING. Or www.hankgreenbergfilm.org
TEXT: Kempner, the filmmaker who made Partisans of Vilna, gives us another film that breaks the stereotypes of Jews as weak. It would not be too much to say that for many Jews who grew up in the 1930s and 1940s, Hank Greenberg was America. A power hitter for the Detroit Tigers, whose record compared favorably with that of Babe Ruth, Greenberg represented the dignity, strength and perseverance of the Jewish people during a difficult period. He was a messiah to some, a Moses-like savoir known as "Hankus Pankus." At a time when anti-Semitism was still a factor in professional sports, as well as on the streets (some baseball fans would curse at Greenberg, and Rev Coughlin, one of America's most famous Jew haters resided in Detroit), Greenberg - a six foot four inch superstar in America's national pastime - reminded Jews of what America had begun to offer them. The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, Aviva Kempner's decade-long labor of love, is the first film to look at this American Jewish hero, and how the sports records he broke on the field helped pave the way to breaking social barriers in the stands. The film is also an attempt to correct what Kempner believes is a stereotypical view of Jews - often held by Jews themselves - as being unathletic, weak or passive. Includes archival footage, and interviews with players, sports writers and scholars. Note to file: On Yom Kippur 1934, Hank Greenberg chose not to play in a crucial Tigers game against the Yankees. Instead who showed up at Detroit's Shaarey Zedek synagoguue, where the congregation broke into applause. This story became such a part of Kempner's family stories, that she thought that the Greenberg story was part of the Kol Nidre liturgy. Audience Awards at the 1998 Hamptons International Film Festival, the 1999 Washington Jewish festival, and screening at South by Southwest, DoubleTake, the USA Film Festival, and many Jewish festivals.

Notes to file, from an interview with IndieWire.com: It took Kempner 13 years to make the film. The rough cut was done 2 years ago, but there was no money to pay an editor. It cost about $1 million. The first time around, the majority of the funding was the National Endowment of the Humanities. The second time around it was regional humanities, from 6 states, but not the national. The money was already given on a baseball topic. Just to get the rights to certain clips would be $250,000. Kempner said, "I love that "The Blair Witch Project" cost $30,000. But I don't think people realize that documentary films cost a lot more money. You can't ask archival houses to defer payment; they just won't do it. It was the same with the choice of music. I'm doing a 30's, 40's film, so of course, you're going to go for Benny Goodman, and Cole Porter, and the Andrews Sisters. And people warned me it's going to be really expensive. But I wanted those sounds. I wanted the drums of Benny Goodman. Well, you know what I got stuck with: tens of thousands of dollars of music rights that I'm still paying for. But I never, never regretted any of my directorial decisions. Because I think I directed the best film I could. Now I have to pay for it as a producer. And who am I going to yell at?" When you don't use a narrator, the editing takes an extra year, because you really need to build visually and choose people saying things that are going to work. She spent an extra year raising money for the 35 mm because she really wanted that format. Kempner said, "I could have made more films in these 13 years, instead, I fell back on writing about films and lecturing about film, and started a Jewish film festival in Washington Ð is that if it had come out a year ago, I would have loved to have tried to influence the vote in terms of Hank being on the All American Century team; that's my biggest regret."

From Swastika to Jim Crow

TITLE: From Swastika to Jim Crow
YEAR: 1999
DIR/PROD: Lori Cheatle and Martin D. Toub / Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher
TIME: minutes
SOURCE: www.pacificstreetfilms.com
TEXT: "From Swastika to Jim Crow" is the little-known story of exiled European Jewish scholars during World War II who came to the United States seeking jobs and were only able to find teaching opportunities at the black colleges in the South. The film chronicles the stories of the exiled scholars and the common bond of oppression they shared with their students who lived under Jim Crow rules.


TITLE: Unzipped
YEAR: 1995
DIR/PROD: Douglas Keeve / Hachette Fillpacchi Productions
TIME: 73 minutes
SOURCE: MiriMax Video
TEXT: As top-rate fashion designer and Golden Thimble recipient Isaac Mizrahi prepares for his Fall 1994 collection, fillmaker (and former beau) Douglas Keeve convinces Isaac to let him shoot a "behind the seams" documentary about the creation of the collection. Mizrahi is seen getting his inspiration from television and films (Call of the Wild, Nanook of the North), ranting, cajoling, and creating ("all I want to do is fur pants"). Scenes include discussions with his mother and his nascent interest in fashion. A very humorous and insightful documentary.


TITLE: Crows
YEAR: 1987
DIR/PROD: Ayelet Menahami
LANGUAGE: Hebrew w/ English subs
TIME: 45 minutes
SOURCE: 25 Ormy Street, Tel Aviv Israel 69016
TEXT: Maggie, a 17 year old, is ignored by her family and runs away to Tel Aviv where she lives as a homeless youngster. She is taken in by a group of homosexuals, and we view their lives together on the streets of T.A.

It's A Mitzvah

TITLE: It's A Mitzvah
YEAR: 1994
DIR/PROD: Fran Jacobson
TIME: 5 minutes in color 16mm
SOURCE: London Filmmakers Co-op, 42 Gloucester Avenue, London NW1, UK Phone 44-171-586-4806
TEXT: Two women think about commitment

Oy Gay

YEAR: 1992
DIR/PROD: Rosalind Haber
TIME: 29 minutes - video
SOURCE: Maya Vision 43 New Oxford Street, London Wc1A 1bh, England UK. Phone: 44 171 836 1113
TEXT: Interviews with gay Jews in the United Kingdom

Reno Finds Her Mom

TITLE: Reno Finds Her Mom
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Lydia Dean Pitcher / Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner
TIME: 89 minutes
SOURCE: The Reno Company. 212 966 8436. Or HBO Video.
TEXT: Karen Reno, a 40 year old performance artist and lesbian comic, stars in this docudrama and autobiography, in which she searches for her true birth mother and identity, and discovers her true ethnic heritage (Hispanic and Republican). Guest appearances by Lily Tomlin and Mary Tyler Moore in fantasy segments. Note that this film uses the "f-word" about 22 times. Reno's biological mother was unwilling to have the climactic reunion filmed for television. The Renos (the couple who adopted three-month-old Reno when they were of grandparents' age) are supportive of Reno's search. But winding through the film is the fact that Reno never felt at home with this Long Island family: what the hell is she doing in the suburban Reno family picture? Her misfit identity is clear.


TITLE: Swoon
YEAR: 1991
DIR/PROD: Tom Kalin / Christine Vachon
TIME: 92 minutes in b/w 30 mm
SOURCE: Film Inc, Chicago IL
TEXT: Inspired by the Leopold and Loeb murder trail of 1942 in which Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two Jewish law students, kidnapped and murdered a young boy.


TITLE: Denial
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Adam Rifkin / Peter Abrams, Robert Levy, et.al.
TIME: 100 minutes
SOURCE: Kushner-Locke. Phone 310.481.2101
TEXT: A contemporary sex comedy set in Los Angeles. Are humans monogamous? This is the question posited at a dinner party by Art, an author. While all three couples at the party - Isaac and Claudia, Sophie and Joel, and soon to be wed Sammie and Sam - swear undying loyalty to their partners, the truth may be a different matter.

Six Ways to Sunday

TITLE: Six Ways To Sunday
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Adam Bernstein / Bernstein, David Collins, and Michael Naughton
TIME: 97 minutes
SOURCE: Stratosphere Entertainment, New York City. Or Highland Crest Pictures
TEXT: Set in Youngstown Ohio. This is a coming of age story about Harold, a mother-smothered (Debbie Harry as mommy) youngster who becomes a major player in the local Jewish Mafia. His new career as a hit man seems perfect for the sexually confused, rage-prone boy. But then he falls for the one-legged maid of his boss, and we're not sure if his mother or his mob boss is going to dislike this event worse..

The Governess

TITLE: The Governess
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Sandra Goldbacher / Sarah Curtis
TIME: 114 minutes
SOURCE: Sony Pictures Classics, New York City 212.833.8833
TEXT: Set in 1840, England, between the times of King George and Queen Victoria, this is the story of a Jewish woman, Rosina Da Silva (Minnie Driver), who after the death of her beloved father, is asked to marry quickly and well so that the debt-ridden family can maintain its standards of living. She is headstrong, and rejects a marriage proposal from an older, boring man. She would rather be an actress. She takes a job as a nanny for the Cavendish family on the uninviting, Isle of Skye. She changes her name to Mary Blackchurch to mask her Jewish identity, and is accepted as one of the family. Like Queen Esther, she masks her identity and takes up residence in a palace-like household. And then Mr. Cavendish (Tom Wilkinson), an inventor who is focusing his scientific work on photography, takes an interest in Mary/Rosina, as does the Cavendish's teenage son, Henry (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Beautifully shot, like the photos Cavendish is trying to stabilize. A tad cliché with the romantic lines. Contains nudity. First 10 minutes contain shots of "recreated" London (or Venice) synagogue and "Sephardic" Jewish life. Note to file: Writer director Goldbach is the progeny of an Italian-Jewish father and Scottish mother. What does she have against Cream of Semolina? Hmmm a Freudian could have a field day with this. Contains music by Ofra Haza and Edward Shearmur.

Visas and Virtues

TITLE: Visas and Virtues
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Chris Tashima
TIME: 26 minutes in 35mm
SOURCE: Mr. Chris Tashima, Cedar Grove Productions, POB 29772, Los Angeles, CA 90029-0772, Ph/fax: 213 668 1018
TEXT: Recipient of the 1997 US Academy Award for Best Short Film, this is a documentary about Japanese Consul General to Lithuania, Chiune "Sempo" Sugihara, who in 1940, against his Foreign Minstry's orders, wrote 2,000 visas to help Jews to escape the Nazis. He was then transferred from his post in disgrace.

The Children of Chabannes

TITLE: The Children of Chabannes
YEAR: 1999
DIR/PROD: Lisa Gossels and Dean Wetherell
SOURCE: Lisa Gossels, One Irving Place, New York, NY 10003-9700
TEXT: Not yet completed. Documentary on the 400 Jewish refugee children taken in by the kind residents of Chabannes, France, during the Second World War.

A Fish in the Bathtub

TITLE: A Fish in the Bathtub
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Joan Micklin Silver / Raphael Silver
TIME: 96 minutes
SOURCE: seen at Cleveland Film Fest. Silverfilm. 510 Park Avenue, NY, NY 10022 tel: (212)355-0282 / fax: (212)421-8254
TEXT: From the director of Crossing Delancey and Hester Street, another gem, this time about the Kaplan family. At a weekly poker game with friends, Sam and Molly Kaplan's (Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara )forty year marriage breaks up over air freshener, cigars, and a lifetime of small frustrations. The boredom of retirement has turned Sam into an irascible grouch. For Molly Kaplan the last straw (one of them, anyway) comes when Sam buys a large, live fish from the market and lets it have the bathroom. Molly moves in with her son, Joel, and daughter-in-law (who's marriage is also rocky), Sam consoles himself with his poker playing pals, and a once tight-knit family begins to fall apart. Through it all swirls an assortment of well-meaning friends who do their best, and worst, to bring the warring couple back together, including a widow who goes after Sam, and Molly who goes after someone she meets in driver's ed.

Rhapsody in Bloom

TITLE: Rhapsody in Bloom
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Craig Saavedra / Richard Becker - Becker Entertainment
TIME: 93 minutes
SOURCE: Cannes98. Contact Image Organization, Los Angeles CA.
TEXT: Stars Penelope Ann Miller and Ron Silver in vintage LA locations. Lilah Bloom has put aside her own emotional life and ambitions to care for the family of her brother Mitch Bloom, after the death of her brother's wife. But then Mitch brings home his girlfreidn Debra to meet Lilah and the 3 children. Lilah is being nudged out of the picture (and for her own good since it is time that she become independent and not use her martyrdom as an excuse). But when Mitch and Debra break up, and Mitch expects life Lilah to just assume her old role - well, you'll have to see for yourself.

Slums of Beverly Hills

TITLE: Slums of Beverly Hills
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Tamara Jenkins / Robert Redford
TIME: 91 minutes
SOURCE: Fox Searchlight
TEXT: In the words of Murray Abramowitz, "Furniture is temporary, education is forever." A comedy starring Alan Arkin, Carl Reiner, Natasha Lyonne, David Krumholtz, and Marisa Tomei, made for $5 million in 34 days by NYU film grad, Jenkins. Set in 1976, a time of bell bottoms, gold-brown shag carpeting, and lots of hair. Vivian Abramowitz discovers that she is blossoming sexually (C-Cup) and is "desired" by the guys at school and a horny neighbor who is obsessed with Manson. Just as her breasts, a symbol of womanhood, are thrust upon her, seemingly overnight, adult responsibility is also being thrust upon her. Her father, Murray, moves Vivian and her brothers, Ben and Rickey, to a cramped one bedroom in Beverly Hills so that the kids can attend schools in the prestigious Beverly Hills school district. All hell breaks loose, until cousin Rita, newly "graduated" (or escaped) from drug rehab, moves in to become a much needed mother figure to the newly buxom Vivian. Reiner brilliantly plays Murray's despicable brother. Contains sexual themes. Note to file: Originally an American Playhouse production. The film is semi-autobiographical. Jenkins "briefly" was a Jewish Joad, a divorced family that fled to the hope of California, growing up poor on the outskirts of Bev Hills at one point in her life. Natasha Lyon was raised in Israel and the U.S. and is now a student at NYU. You may remember her from PeeWee's Playhouse as Opel


TITLE: Taxman
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Avi Nesher / Pascal Borno
TIME: 116 minutes
SOURCE: Cannes98. Available from Kushner Locke International
TEXT: A dramatic noir thriller about Al Benjamin, a neurotically aggressive Jewish tax investigator, who teams up with Joseph Romero, a sycophantic Puerto Rican NYC rookie cop, to solve a case involving Brooklyn's ruthless Russian Jewish Mafia. They are an inept, but well meaning pair who are constantly bickering. The question is, will Nadia, the lovely daughter of the head mobster, sleep with Al to save her father?

17 Rue Saint Fiacre

TITLE: 17 Rue Saint Fiacre
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Daniel Meyers
LANGUAGE: French with English subtitles
TIME: 24 minutes video
SOURCE: Daniel Meyers, 1211 Derby Street, Berkeley CA 94702. (510) 548-8683
TEXT: Daniel Meyers tells a very personal, very true story of a 'conspiracy of goodness' by working class French Catholics who sheltered and loved 2 children of a Jewish family. Rachel and Leon Melmed were the only Jews from their town who remained alive after 1942. The story revolves around Leon and Rachel's visit to Compiegne from the USA to attend the 90th birthday party of their "adopted" mother. There are interviews with all of the principle people who are still alive, and scenes with Rachel and Leon visiting, for the first time, the old apartment from which their parents were deported. Throughout, the story is framed in its historical context by limited narration, with archival photographs and home footage. This is a very personal story for filmmaker Daniel Meyers. Meyers own mother, Odette, was a hidden child during the War.

Gotta Have Heart

TITLE: Gotta Have Heart
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Eytan Fox
LANGUAGE: Hebrew w/ English ST
TIME: 35 minutes, video
SOURCE: Al Ahara Productions, Israel 972-3- 560-4504
TEXT: This Israeli gay fantasy film takes place in a small town where the primary form of entertainment is Israeli folk dancing. The dance club is the place where the town's youth meet. Among the youth are Gur and Mitzi. Gur is on his way to study architecture in Tel Aviv, while Mitzi is unsure of her career goals. Both Gur and Mitzi are attracted to Merito, a wickedly handsome, Don Juan, who goes through women faster than anything. Then there is Nohav, who is obseesed with the EuroVision contest (filmed prior to Dana International's win). Nohav is madly in love with Gur. She dreams of being noticed and loved by him. Will those dreams ever come true?


TITLE: 1919
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Noam Gonick
LANGUAGE: Yiddish accented English w/ Intertitles
TIME: 8 minutes on color 35mm
SOURCE: Noam Gonick, 30433 Kennedy Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada r3c 1s5 (204) 947-5647
TEXT: A look at the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 from the Point of View of a gay Chinese bathhouse, which acted as headquarters for the Strike. The fictional men who frequent Wong's Steam Bath and Barbershop become the focal point of the riots and the end of the strike.

Al-Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe 1948

TITLE: Al-Nakba: The Palestinian Catastrophe 1948
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Benny Brunner & Alexandra Jansse
COUNTRY: Israel/Netherlands
LANGUAGE: English, Hebrew & Arabic w/English voice-over.
TIME: 60 minutes, video
SOURCE: Landmark Media 3450 Slade Run Drive, Falls Church VA 22042 800-342-4336 Email: landmrkmed@aol.com
TEXT: One of the first documentaries to examine the displacement of Palestinians in 1948. Based on the book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem by Benny Morris. A combinations of eyewitness testimonies by Israelis and Palestinians, poetry, and on-location shooting in Haifa, Jaffa, and several villages around Jerusalem.

The South: Alice Never Lived Here

TITLE: The South: Alice Never Lived Here
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Senyora (Sini) Bar-David / S. Bar-David and her husband, David Benchetrit
LANGUAGE: Hebrew, Ladino and Bulgarian w/English subtitles
TIME: 82 minutes, video
SOURCE: Akeida Productions, 7 Bezalel Street, Tel Aviv, Israel 64683 Tel: 972-3-524-8663
TEXT: Filmmaker Sini Bar David, 35, returns home to her childhood neighborhood of the fortress-like Tel Kabir housing projects in Jaffa to tell the story of three generations of strong Sephardic women. It has been 20 years since she graduated from an "integration" program at an affluent high school. Jaffa was a world Sini did everything in her power to escape. She begins her journey by visiting her 89-year-old grandmother Ida, whose adventurous life took her from a Ladino-speaking Greek community to Bulgaria, where she escaped the Nazis. With an Iraqi-born, Kurdish-Jewish PM candidate and a Kurdish-born Chief of Staff, can we say that discrimination is over? Sini Bar-David then meets Elinor Nagar, a smart and ambitious fifteen year old girl who gets bused to school in a middle-income Ashkenazi neighborhood, where Sephardic students face constant discrimination and taunts from teachers, as well as students. (With the cameras rolling in home room class, we hear her teacher blame Sephardim for their own problems). Elinor is the daughter of Yameni and Egyptian born Israelis. Elinor, like Sini before her, wants nothing better than to break the boundaries of her class, but feels conflicted about leaving a loving and protected environment. Will she seek social mobility? At what cost? What do we make of it when her father tells her, "No matter where you go, you will always be black." Does he speak from experience? Will Elinor's classmate reveal that her mother is the cleaning women for his family? The divide between North and South Tel Aviv is both geographic and cultural. The integration bussing program is 25 years old. Note to file: The film was screened at Elinor's high school, and it has eased many of the surface problems.

Divine Food

TITLE: Divine Food
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Bill Chayes / John Harris and The Judah Magnes Museum
TIME: 40 minutes, video
SOURCE: Judah Magnes Museum 2911 Russell Street Berkely, CA 90213 (510) 549-6950
TEXT: Bill Chayes is the past organizer of the Jewish Video Festivals at the Judah Magnes Museum in San Francisco. This video is a documentary about the four generations of the Oscherwitz family who have provided Kosher deli food (corned beef, pastrami, salami, etc) since the 1880's. Through interviews with family members, archival photos and home movies, the story is told, along with a step by step examination of the Kosher manufacturing process.

Mah-Jongg: The Tiles that Bind

TITLE: Mah-Jongg: The Tiles that Bind
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Bari Pearlman and Phyllis Heller
TIME: 27 minutes, video
SOURCE: BTG Productions, 26 Grove Street #2e, New York, NY 10014 Tel: 212 989 8978 or www.btgproductions.com or from Amazon.com
[mahjong] TEXT: In the 1930's, Jewish women in immigrant neighborhoods adopted the Chinese game of Mah-jongg as their form of recreation of kibbitzing. This documentary explains the rules of the game and its history, but then explores the lives of its players and their families. The Jewish and Asian women interviewed at play tell us about their lives and their goals: health, family, and the desire for their children's happiness. Their stories offer insight into what being Jewish or Asian in America meant in the past and means in the present.


TITLE: Farewell
YEAR: 1994
DIR/PROD: Arkhady Yakhnis
LANGUAGE: Russian w/ English subtitles
TIME: 27 minutes in 35mm b/w
SOURCE: The National Center for Jewish Film Email: ncjf@logos.cc.brandeis.edu
TEXT: Yankel is 90 years old. He wonders whether or not to leave his small Bessarabian shtetl and follow in the footsteps of all of his surviving friends and relatives who have emigrated to Israel. His son is leaving for Israel and wants to take his father with him. The poignancy of the immigrant experience is highlighted as the old man weighs the pros and cons of leaving the town he has lived in all his life for a new place that he both longs for and fears.


TITLE: Florentene
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Eytan Fox / Udi Zamberg and Michael Tapuach
LANGUAGE: Hebrew w/ English subtitles
TIME: 120 minutes
SOURCE: Ms. Edna Harel, 435 Golden Oak Drive, Portola Valley, CA 94028 email address is haimharl@ix.net.com
TEXT: A made for television serial production, this is Melrose Place meets South Tel Aviv. The main characters in this sexy show include a Russian immigrant, a former kibbutznik, 2 professional women, a formerly Orthodox Jewish guy, and two openly gay men. Florentene Hebrew website is found at www.netking.com/florentene/

Free Fall

TITLE: Free Fall
YEAR: 1996
DIR/PROD: Peter Forgacs
COUNTRY: Hungary
LANGUAGE: Hungarian w/ English subtitles
TIME: 75 minutes, video
SOURCE: Magyar Films, Varosligeti fasor #38, 1069 BudaPest, Hungary. Website is www.mma.hu/filmunio.html
TEXT: Hungarian filmmaker Peter Forgacs takes found footage, journals and archives from ordinary Hungarians and turns their lives into mesmerizing narratives. In this film, Forgacs takes footage shot by Gyorgy Peto, who died more than 50 years ago. Mr. Peto was a successful businessman and talented amateur photographer from Szeged. Mr. Peto left dozens of rolls of uncut film of outings, family gatherings, parties, and romantic moments which Forgacs used to build into an intimate testimonial. The haunting score which hints at the future destruction of the Hungarian Jewish community is by Tibor Szemzo. Winner of the 1998 Hungarian Film Critics Prize and the 1997 Prix Europa.

Apt Pupil

TITLE: Apt Pupil
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Bryan Singer
TIME: minutes
SOURCE: Phoenix Films. To be released in US Oct 28, 1998
TEXT: Based on a 1982 Stephen King novella (Different Seasons) about Nazi obsession, this film is about a 14 year old boy (played by Brad Renfro), who becomes obsessed with the idea of a former Nazi (played living Sir Ian McKellen) living in town. Basically an intense movie about a kid who plays with a monster, and may get eaten by the monster. Actor David Schwimmer plays the school guidance counselor. Bryan Singer (USC critical studies grad), acclaimed for his film, The Usual Suspects, convinced TriStar to produce the film. Singer was raised in a Jewish family near Princeton NJ, and like the film's main character, had a Holocaust obsession.

The Fruit of Splendor

TITLE: The Fruit of Splendor
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Izza Genini
COUNTRY: France/Morocco
LANGUAGE: French, Berber, and Hebrew w/ English subtitles
TIME: 30 minutes, video
SOURCE: Izza.genini@hol.fr or OHRA, 16 bis rue Lauriston, Paris 75116 France.
TEXT: Moroccan-French director, Izza Genini, takes the viewer on a sensuous trip in search of the splendid fruit, the Ethrog, which is used by Jews during the holiday of Sukkot. The Etrog was held in high esteem by the Greeks, Buddhists, and Hebrews, who considered it to be the Fruit of Splendor or the beautiful fruit from the beautiful tree (Leviticus 13,40). The film journeys to the Moroccan Anti-Atlas valley, where it has been cultivated for two thousand years by the Berbers of the Souss region according to requirements of perfection ordered by Jewish law, and to where each fall, rabbis make a pilgrimage in search of the perfect Ethrog.

My Country Left Me

TITLE: My Country Left Me
YEAR: 1995
DIR/PROD: Karin Albou / Emil Weiss
LANGUAGE: French and Arabic w/ English subtitles
TIME: 50 minutes, video
SOURCE: Michkan World Productions, 25 rue Saint Sebastien, Paris 75011 France, Tel: 33 1 48 059380; Fax: 33 1 48 050663
TEXT: A story of exile and assimilation, but in the context of Mizrahi Jews. Tunisian-French director Karin Albou explores the culture shock experienced by the Tunisian Jews who emigrated to France due to the repercussions of the Israeli-Arab conflict. While the elders remember Tunisia with fondness, members of the new generation, that has been raised in France, discuss the emergence of their own identity and the transformation of Judeo-Arabic culture. Includes a trip back to Tunisia by three generations of Jews.

The Lost Tribe

TITLE: The Lost Tribe
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Belay Workneh
TIME: 13 minutes, video
SOURCE: Belay Workneh, 5471 Vicente Way, #2, Oakland, CA 94609.
TEXT: Using archival footage and dramatic re-creation of the rescue of Ethiopian Jews, Ethiopian filmmaker Belay Workneh tells how he survived persecution, attacks, the Civil War, and hunger in Ethiopia. In one re-created scene, Belay's uncle had to pay fifteen dollars for each of the bullets that killed his son; without such payment there would be no hope of claiming his body. There are also scenes of more joyous communal gatherings.

Mahmoud Darwich: The Land as Language

TITLE: Mahmoud Darwich: The Land as Language
YEAR: 1998
DIR/PROD: Simone Bitton and Elias Sanbar
COUNTRY: France/Israel
LANGUAGE: Arabic & French with English subtitles
TIME: 60 minutes, video
SOURCE: Pointe du Jour, 33 rue des Petits Champs, Paris 75001 France, Tel: 33 1 47 034000
TEXT: Though he has remained an Israeli citizen, the great Arab poet Mahmoud Darwich feels more at home abroad than in Israel, where Palestinian life is impeded by interdictions and roadblocks that are spiritual, as well as physical. Filmmakers Simone Bitton, an Israeli Jew, and Elias Sanbar, an Israeli Palestinian, follow Darwich from the Cisjordanian desert to Paris, through Cairo and Beirut, along the route of his exile. They also take us back to the site of his village, which was razed by Israeli soldiers in 1948. The name of the village, erased from the map, is reborn in Darwich's verse. His moving voice punctuates eloquent images that speak of the poet's separation from his homeland. This stirring portrait of the artist plays on the word "Bayt" which means both house and verse in Arabic.

Jaime Gerson

TITLE: Jaime Gerson
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Carlos de Martini
LANGUAGE: Spanish with English subtitles
TIME: 5 minutes, video
SOURCE: La Plaza series, c/o WGBH TV, 125 Western Avenue, Allston, MA 02134. Tel: 617-492-2777.
TEXT: Mexican-Jewish painter Jaime Gerson talks about his family's experience of immigration. He speaks of the strength he draws from the duality of Mexican-Jewish culture.

Tiny Bubbles

TITLE: Tiny Bubbles
YEAR: 1997
DIR/PROD: Bo Myers
TIME: 5 minutes, 16mm
SOURCE: Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Center, 37 Hanna Avenue, Suite 220, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M6k 1w8 Tel: 416-588-0725
TEXT: Winner of the Judah Magnes competition in 1996. In the words of the sfjff, "A personal/experimental reflection on mother, lover, sister and friend. Soft spoken, with deep resonance about the significance of the other. The film is a fun visit with grandma and pensive reflection on family, culture and identity. It is a testimony to the possibility of bridging generational and cultural divides, and the divides within ourselves which inhibit our self-expression and love."

Unstrung Heroes

TITLE: Unstrung Heroes
YEAR: 1995
DIR/PROD: Diane Keaton / Susan Arnold and Donna Roth
TIME: 93 minutes
SOURCE: Buena Vista Home Video $18
TEXT: Based on the semi-autobiography by Franz Lidz. Steven is the one to watch. Steven Lidz (played by Nathan Watt) is 12 years old and his world is fracturing. Steven is overwhelmed by his life with an ailing mother, Selma (Andie MacDowell), and an emotionally distant, genius father, Nick (John Turturro). Confused by his father's despair and his mother's calmness, Steven runs off to live with his two wildly eccentric uncles, Danny (Michael Richards) and Arthur (Maury Chaykin), who change Steven's name to Franz. Steven finds solace in the idiosyncrasies of his uncles' strange and wonderful world. Uncle Danny believes the world is conspiring against him and the Jews, while Uncle Arthur is a meek Jewish giant, who collects garbage and lost balls, and pulls life's detritus from his pockets, offering wads of wastepaper as gifts. Includes a bar mitzvah scene, prayers before meals, and some unforgettable Jewish characters. Truly a beautiful story, but beware, this is a tear jerker. Academy Award Nomination for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score.

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