April 20, 2017
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Jews Speak Out, Cinematically
by Tom Mayer
Logos from the Jewish Film Festivalk and its umbrella organization, the Jewish Film Institute. photo: courtesy SFJFF
JUST IN TIME FOR TISHA B'AV, THE
Jewish “holiday” marking the Roman’s destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (70 AD), comes San Francisco’s Jewish Film Festival.
Not just the oldest Jewish film festival in the world but among the best, in my opinion, it is now presented by the newly-formed Jewish Film Institute, under the direction of Lexi Leban and with programming helmed by Jay Rosenblatt.
The SFJFF will screen from July 23 to August 9 at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, the Landmark California Theater in Berkeley, the Lakeside Theater in Oakland (a newly available 375-seater at the Kaiser Center), the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, and the CineArts in Palo Alto.
Opening night, July 23 at the Castro, brings us "Dough", a promising, multicultural British comedy about an older Jewish baker (Jonathan Pryce) struggling to keep his business open until his young helper (Jerome Holder)—who happens to be Muslim—accidentally drops in the dough his bag of weed.
Pryce gives a widely-praised performance, which achieves that rare but often British specialty of dramedy, the delightful balance of drama and comedy. In attendance will be Director John Goldschmidt and actor Jerome Holder.
"Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict" is the long-awaited documentary from Lisa Immordino Vreeland, who also did "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel" about the influential Harpers Bazaar fashion editor who happened to be her mother.
Peggy Guggenheim more or less birthed Jackson Pollack as well as a lot more great US art. photo: courtesy P, Guggenheim
Offering an inside peak into the rarefied world of art collecting, the film blends the colorful, surreal and salacious into an excellent portrayal of a life as complex and unpredictable as the artwork and artists Guggenheim revered and promoted.
The film was several years in the making, in part due to Guggenheim’s complexity and tops Vreeland’s previous doc, according to early reviews—indeed, it world premiered in April at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. It will be introduced by SFMOMA curator Janet Bishop and, following its screening in Oakland, honored with a reception in the foyer of the new Lakeside Theater at the Kaiser Center.
Personally, I am looking forward to the new documentary by local filmmakers: "Plastic Man: The Artful Life of Jerry Ross Barrish”.
Directed by longtime SF independent filmmaker William Farley and produced by Janis Plotkin, the former director of the SFJFF, it covers the story of one of San Francisco’s most famous bail bondsman, from his early upbringing to his plunge into the legal system as well as the confusing and cutthroat world of art.
For three decades, Farley has been creating powerful and memorable films while Plotkin has been a tireless champion of independent film in the Bay Area, both as director of SFJFF and as a supporter and producer of other people’s films. Plotkin, Farley, and Barrish himself will be in attendance at the screening, after which there will be a reception on the Castro Theater’s mezzanine.
In cooperation with the British Film Institute, the festival presents the West Coast premiere of the documentary "German Concentration Camps Factual Survey", produced by Sidney Bernstein (later founder of Granada TV in the UK). Alfred Hitchcock was the "treatment advisor", giving advice on how to assemble the footage, including the dictum not to cut shots too short so that context is provided and claims of falsification avoided.
Alfred Hitchcock on set around the time of the filming 'German Concentration Camps Factual Survey'. photo: courtesy A. Singer
Although shot at the end of the war but only completed last year, it includes footage from the UK, US, French and USSR occupying forces documenting the liberation of the camps.
Hitchcock rarely spoke about his involvement, although he mentions it in passing in his book-length interview with Francois Truffaut from the 1960s. Almost all early reviewers note that this is one of the most difficult and powerful film on the camps they have ever seen.
"German Concentration Camps Factual Survey" film will only show once, at noon on Sunday, July 26 at the Castro. Per orders from the BFI, no one under 18 will be admitted.
It’s a must see but for all the other fantastic films at the festival, go to
Tom Mayer is a film fanatic, festival maven and writer, as well as co-founder of the Roxie Theater, who can be reached
Posted on Jul 21, 2015 - 04:59 PM