Thought-provoking films fill up Seattle Jewish Film Festival

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, April 3, 2008 5:47pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

It’s the 13th edition of the Seattle Jewish Film Festival, so naturally enough the fest’s organizers have deemed this the bar mitzvah year. That’s amusing, although this film festival came of age years ago.

It has long been a well-organized and thought-provoking event, and this year’s installment looks much the same. Occupying the Cinerama theater and the Museum of History and Industry auditorium, the SJFF continues through the April 13, with Friday nights and Saturday days off for religious observance.

Among the most eagerly awaited titles is “Beaufort,” one of this year’s Oscar nominees in the best foreign-language film category. It’s a study of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, a complicated subject for Israelis.

A British film about a bar mitzvah that happens to fall during the season of World Cup soccer, “Sixty Six” has a leading role for Helena Bonham Carter.

Other high-profile films include “Jellyfish,” an Israeli film that weaves together the stories of three women in current Tel Aviv (it won the prize for best debut feature at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007), and “Aviva, My Love,” a movie that dominated the Israeli Academy Awards, winning six nods including best picture.

I had a chance to preview some of this year’s documentaries, always a busy part of the fest. One unexpectedly entertaining doc is “Orthodox Stance,” a profile of a young boxer, Dmitriy Salita, who sticks to his Orthodox Jewish rules without compromise. Salita is an engaging young fellow, the son of Ukrainian immigrants, and his rise through the ranks is fun to watch.

“Making Trouble” is appreciation of Jewish women in comedy. Great archival stuff about the famed entertainers Fanny Brice and Molly Picon is included, plus the inimitably booming style of Sophie Tucker. Modern figures Joan Rivers, Gilda Radner and Wendy Wasserstein are also profiled. Current stand-up comic Judy Gold, who appears in the film, will be on hand to deliver jokes and speak on a panel.

“A Slim Peace” is an hourlong documentary about a weight-loss class in Jerusalem shared by a deliberately diverse collection of women: secular Israelis, Jews, Palestinians, Bedouins and whoever else the filmmakers brought into it. Interesting idea, dominated by a couple of the strongest personalities in the class, although the movie doesn’t fulfill the promise of its provocative set-up.

And “Children of the Sun” is an impressionistic look back (even before Israel was a state) at the days of the communal settlements, or kibbutzim. The children born into this world were raised by the group, and as we watch the extensive home movies of the time, we hear the voices of the now-elderly participants recalling the experiment.

Along with movie screenings, the SJFF has lots of visiting filmmakers, a Sunday brunch, live music and other activities. See the Web site for more details. And mazel tov.

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