Dim the lights
This is a year of transition and celebration for the 2013 JFilm Festival.
Transition, in that the festival is moving from its old venue at SouthSide Works Cinema to the Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill.
Celebration, in that the film festival is marking its 20thanniversary.
“I think JFilm has grown significantly, adding programs throughout the year,” said JFilm Director Kathryn Spitz Cohan, who has run the festival for the past 12 years. “The film festival itself is looked upon nationally as one of the oldest most established festivals, and I like to think our festival committee has refined its taste in film. Overall, it’s become a well-oiled machine.”
“It’s a milestone year,” JFilm Committee Chair Sally Kalson said. “I don’t think anybody really believed when the festival started 20 years ago it would still be around and flourishing as an all-year organization.”
Now, JFilm is looking to the future.
This year, the JFilm Festival will present 18 movies and documentaries from the United States, Israel, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, the Palestinian territories and the Czech Republic. This year’s film line — with descriptions, times, dates and venues — is posted below.
“It’s a great lineup,” Spitz Cohan said. “I think a lot of films have a lot of music this year. Not that we ever start out to have a theme. We set out to show the best high quality films, but it just happens that music plays a part in many of them.”
Kalson particularly likes this year’s documentaries. “We have a lot of really interesting documentaries, the kind that make you watch and say, ‘oh my gosh, who knew?’ ”
Unlike in past years, the opening night film, “Paris-Manhattan” — a comedy about a French pharmacist obsessed with Woody Allen — will have two screenings: Thursday, April 11, 7 p.m., and Thursday, April 18, 5:45 p.m., both at the Manor.
That’s because JFilm has 100 fewer seats this year than at SouthSide Works — even utilizing two cinemas at the Manor. So the opening night film will be screened twice to meet demand.
Changes in movie production prompted JFilm to move from SouthSide Works to the Manor, Spitz Cohan said
“It all had to do with the conversion from 35mm projection to digital projection.
“The SouthSide Works Cinema did not know when they would be converting and could not negotiate a contract with us. The Manor was excited about hosting us.”
Other screenings are slated for Carnegie Mellon University (McConomy Auditorium), Rodef Shalom Congregation and Seton Hill University (Reeves Auditorium) in Greensburg and, for the first time, the Hollywood Theater in Dormont.
Not afraid to take chances in its film selection, JFilm is screening “Out in the Dark.” Produced partly in the Palestinian territories it is a love story about two gay men, one Israeli, one Palestinian.
“I remember reading the description and it didn’t stand out to me,” Spitz Cohan said, “but it’s just an amazing film, and the committee agreed.”
Another feature film this year is “The Return of the Violin,” the story of the remarkable journey of a 1713 Stradivarius from Bronislaw Huberman, who later founded the Israeli Philharmonic, to Joshua Bell, one of the world’s leading violinists and a “rock star” among classical music fans. Bell will be on hand following the screening at Rodef Shalom for a Q&A session.
Kalson noted the documentary “AKA Doc Thomas,” a named adopted by a Jewish kid from Brooklyn (Jerome Felder), who despite being stricken with polio became an R&B performer and songwriter.
“We know his songs, but we don’t him,” Kalson said, “and it turns out he had an amazing life despite his polio.”
One high-profile change in this year’s festival is the poster campaign that is promoting it.
“Our design firm, Wall to Wall Studios, came up with the concept to honor JFilm’s 20th festival by using real 20-year-olds from the community,” Spitz Cohan said. “We went to the Hillel JUC; they were crucial in getting us the 20-year-olds.”
Will the campaign increase ticket sales?
“At least these 20-year-olds will tell their friends and family. Maybe there will be more exposure among that age group, but we just loved the concept.”
For tickets, visit JFilmPgh.orgor call 412-992-5203 (Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Seating is limited. Tickets still available on the day of screening will go on sale at the venue 30 minutes before show time on a cash only basis. Moviegoers are urged to be in their seats 10 minutes before show time or their seats could be given to others on the waiting list.
Here are is the 2013 JFilm Festival lineup:
Director: Sophie Lellouche
2012, France, 78 minutes
French with subtitles
A beautiful young woman turns to Woody Allen for life lessons in this charming French comedy. Alice (the adorable Alice Taglioni) is a thirty-something pharmacist under pressure from her increasingly concerned but loving Jewish parents to find a husband. She seeks solace in an obsession with Woody Allen as she goes through date after date without finding Mr. Right. When she meets Victor (French star Patrick Bruel) will she go BANANAS or is it more like LOVE AND DEATH? A romantic romp through the city of lights with luxurious cinematography and a jazz-infused score.
A reception will follow the film on Opening Night at the Jewish Community Center with live music featuring Douglas Levine (piano) and John Marcinizyn (guitar). Signature cocktails and catering by Tallulah’s. Dietary laws observed. Dress is snazzy!
Thursday, April 11, 7 p.m.
Thursday, April 18, 5:45 p.m.
The Return of the Violin
Director: Haim Hecht
2012, Israel, 65 minutes, English, Polish and Hebrew with subtitles
This is quite a story about survival, not only of people but of a remarkable violin. The 1713 Stradivarius was given to a young Polish Jewish prodigy, Bronislaw Huberman, who later became the founder of what is now the Israeli Philharmonic. It was stolen twice during Huberman’s ownership and later put up for sale as a museum piece before being purchased by one of the world’s most celebrated violinists, Joshua Bell.
Followed by a Q&A with Joshua Bell moderated by Sally Kalson, JFilm Chair.
In collaboration with Rodef Shalom Congregation and WQED-FM.
Friday, April 12, 11 a.m.
Rodef Shalom Congregation
A.K.A. Doc Pomus
Directors: Peter Miller and Will Hechter
2012, Canada/USA, 99 minutes
Brooklyn-born Jerome Felder always wanted to be a blues singer. After he was stricken with polio as a child, this seemed an unlikely path. Renaming himself Doc Pomus, he forged a life in music that included a brilliant songwriting career. Many of his songs became standards of the early rock and roll era, including “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “This Magic Moment” which are featured in the film along with interviews with collaborators and friends including Dr. John, Ben E. King, B.B. King and Lou Reed. Doc Pomus wrote his songs from his heart, as you’ll learn in this rockin’ documentary that reveals one of music’s great untold stories.
Winner – Grand Prize – Stony Brook Film Festival
Film Schmooze with Deane Root.
Saturday, April 13, 7 p.m.
Out in the Dark
Director: Michael Mayer
2012, Israel/Palestinian Territories/USA, 96 minutes
Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles
It’s hard enough when a Palestinian and an Israeli fall in love. But it’s even more difficult when both are gay men. Nimr, an aspiring Palestinian psychologist, and Roy, an Israeli lawyer, meet in a Tel Aviv nightclub. Nimr faces ostracism in his culture for his sexual orientation and alienation in Israel for his nationality; the fact that his brother is a terrorist only adds to his problems. What starts out as a tender and sensual border-crossing romance becomes a suspenseful thriller with a gritty visual palette that heightens the sense of urgency.
Winner – Best Narrative – 2012 Haifa International Film Festival
Director Michael Mayer will speak following the April 18 screening.
In collaboration with Reel Q: Pittsburgh’s LGBT Film Festival.
Saturday, April 13, 9 p.m.
Thursday, April 18, 7:30 p.m.
Director: Ami Drozd
2011, Israel/Poland, 100 minutes
Polish and Hebrew with subtitles
Ten-year old Tadek fantasizes about Australia from his poor neighborhood in 1960s Poland. His older brother involves him in an anti-Semitic gang. When they are arrested, their mother reveals that though raised as Catholics, they are in fact Jews. Telling the younger boy they are going to Australia, the family boards a ship to Israel where they must adjust to a new home, a new religion and, ultimately, a new identity. With his cherubic face, Jakub Wróblewski turns in a star performance as the young anti-hero.
Winner – Audience Award – 2011 Jerusalem Film Festival
Film Schmooze with Alex Orbach.
In collaboration with the Polish Cultural Council.
Sunday, April 14, 1 p.m.
Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir
Director: Laurent Bouzereau
2011, United Kingdom, 90 minutes
Actor, director, Krakow Ghetto survivor, American fugitive — filmmaker Roman Polanski addresses every aspect of his celebrated, tragic and scandalous life in this intimate documentary. Interviewed by a long-time friend, Polanski sets the record straight on the 1968 murder of his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, by the Manson cult, and his 1977 sexual encounter with a 13-year-old girl that led to his exile and, 30 years later, arrest in Switzerland. Clips from such Polanski classics as ROSEMARY’S BABY, CHINATOWN and THE PIANIST connect the Oscar-winner’s anguished past with his artistic achievements, making for the definitive picture of this complex artist.
In collaboration with Pittsburgh Filmmakers.
Sunday, April 14, 3:15 p.m.
Ameer Got His Gun
Director: Naomi Levari
2011, Israel, 58 minutes
Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles
Eighteen-year-old Ameer wishes to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by volunteering in the Israeli military — even though he is a Muslim Arab. The film tells the moving story of a young man who wants to serve his country but is accepted neither by his Arab brothers in Sakhnin, or the Israeli Jews beside whom he serves. Ameer, however, is amazing: smart, outgoing and always the optimist, despite the response he gets from others.
Winner – Grand Prize – FIPA 2012
Followed by a light dinner (at the theater) and the Jewish Federation’s Yom Hazikaron service (at the JCC). There is no additional charge for the dinner or the service.
Sunday, April 14, 6 p.m.
Director: Marcus O. Rosenmüller
2011, Germany, 96 minutes
German with subtitles
From the producers of EUROPA EUROPA comes the powerful story of three children united by their passion for music. Living in the small Ukrainian town of Poltava in 1941, the young musical prodigies – two Jewish, one German – have their friendship tested when the Nazis invade. A moving tale that speaks to the power of art in the face of tragedy, WUNDERKINDER features impressive performances by real-life musicians Elin Kolev and Mathilda Adamik. Recommended for ages 13+.
Winner – 2011 Yad Vashem Chairman’s Award
Winner – Numerous Audience Awards 2011 and 2012
JFilm’s Teen Screen educators will lead a discussion following the film.
Monday, April 15, 7 p.m.
Hollywood Theater – Dormont
Fill the Void
Director: Rama Burshtein
2012, Israel, 90 minutes
Hebrew with subtitles
In this story about an Orthodox Hassidic family from Tel Aviv, a young woman must make a decision that will affect her life and that of her family forever. Although there are prayers, traditional music, and religious ceremonies, in the end this is a universal story of a man and a woman looking for happiness. A confident debut from director Burshstein (a haredi woman herself), FILL THE VOID offers a rare glimpse into a unique and complex world.
Winner – Best Narrative Film and Best Director – 2012 Israeli Academy Awards
Winner – Best actress – Venice International Film Festival
Film Schmooze with Rachel Kranson.
Monday, April 15, 7:30 p.m.
Director: Maria Peter
2011, Netherlands, 130 minutes
Dutch with subtitles
An epic film spanning the late 1920s through the end of WWII, Sonny Boy, tells the tale of a black immigrant from Surinam, his love affair with an older Dutch woman, and their clandestine assistance to Jews as the Nazis close in. In addition to lush cinematography and first-rate acting, all the big themes are present including racism, love, fidelity, revenge and betrayal in this moving story based on a Dutch best-seller by Annejet van der Zijl.
Netherlands submission to the Academy Awards for 2012 Best Foreign Language Film.
Supported in part by the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education at Seton Hill University.
Tuesday, April 16, 7 p.m.
Seton Hill University – Reeves Auditorium
Ballad of the Weeping Spring
Director: Beni Torati
2012, Israel, 105 minutes
Hebrew with subtitles
Twenty years after disappearing, a legendary lute player is coaxed out of self-imposed exile for a deathbed concert for a former band-mate. He sets off on an epic quest to recruit the best musicians in the land, leading a growing posse through smoky bars and gambling dens, where exotic North African/Middle Eastern music pervades the air and campfires light the night. This stylized, moody and surprising journey is part spaghetti western, part SEVEN SAMURAI, with musical instruments instead of weapons.
Winner – Best Original Music and Best Costume Design – Israeli Academy Awards
Tuesday, April 16, 7:30 p.m.
(Immediately following the Jewish Federation’s Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration at the JCC)
Director: Doug Shultz
2012, USA/Czech Republic, 85 minutes
An astonishing look back at the story of young Czech conductor Rafael Schächter who, while imprisoned in Terezin, led a makeshift choir of 150 fellow inmates in performing Verdi’s Requiem. A celebration of perseverance and the power of art and dignity in the face of inhumanity, the film also tells the story of distinguished music conductor Murry Sidlin’s memorial concert held at Terezin in 2010. Narrated by Bebe Neuwirth.
Winner – Best Documentary – Big Apple Film Festival
After the film, Paul Guggenheimer (Essential Pittsburgh) will interview survivor Magda Herzberger, followed by a dessert reception.
Sponsored by the Holocaust Center of Greater Pittsburgh.
Wednesday, April 17, 7 p.m.
A Bottle in the Gaza Sea
Director: Thierry Binisti
2011, France/Israel, 99 minutes
French, Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles
Can a message in a bottle help promote peace between two peoples? That’s the premise of this engrossing and hopeful film. Tal, a 17-year-old French teenager who has moved to Israel with her family, writes a letter expressing her hopes for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Her brother throws the bottle into the sea near Gaza, where it is found by “Gazaman,” the young Palestinian, Naim. The two begin a relationship that might be only a few miles apart, but represents a great chasm.
Winner – Best Narrative Feature
Audience Choice Award – Heartland Film Festival
Film Schmooze with Laurie Zittrain Eisenberg.
In collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University’s Israel on Campus.
Supported in part by Shalom Pittsburgh and the Young Adult Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
Wednesday, April 17, 8 p.m.
CMU – McConomy Auditorium
Jerusalem on a Plate
Director: James Nutt
2012, United Kingdom, 60 minutes
Follow internationally known chef Yotam Ottolenghi on a culinary journey through his native Jerusalem. From casual street food to trendy restaurants to both Arab and Jewish homes, Ottolenghi gives us a sneak peek at the diverse and mouthwatering Middle Eastern food scene. Warning: This film will awaken your taste buds. You may have to restrain yourself from attempting to eat the food off the screen.
Join us following the film for a “Taste of Jewish Pittsburgh” featuring delicious samples from local caterers.
Special Pricing: All tickets $20
Thursday, April 18, 11 a.m.
The Day I Saw Your Heart
Director: Jennifer Devolére
2011, France, 98 minutes
French with subtitles
An assured debut from writer/director Jennifer Devoldere, this film offers an honest, light-hearted take on a dysfunctional Jewish family in Paris. Eli, on the verge of 60, is about to have a baby with his second wife but has only a distant relationship with his grown daughter. He tries to reconcile with the aloof Justine (the marvelous Melanie Laurent of THE ROUND UP and INGLORIOUS BASTERDS), but finds it easier to befriend her exes — without telling her. When Justine falls in love again and her father is about to ruin everything, they find a way to understanding through her unusual art project.
Winner – Best Director and Best Actress – Newport Beach Film Festival
Saturday, April 20, 7 p.m.
Sunday, April 21, 4 p.m.
Bert Stern: The Original Mad Man
Director: Shannah Laumeister
2012, USA, 89 minutes
You may not know the name Bert Stern, but you certainly have seen his photographs. From shooting the world’s most beautiful women – Marilyn, Liz and Audrey, to name a few – to putting Smirnoff on the map with his unique and beautiful ad campaigns, Stern became a celebrity in his own right. This intimate documentary delves deeply into the man while treating us with mesmerizing images from his body of work. Adult content.
Saturday, April 20, 9 p.m.
Hava Nagila (The Movie)
Director: Roberta Grossman
2012, USA, 75 minutes
You know it, you sing it, you can’t wed without it. It’s Hava Nagila, one of the most infectious celebration songs ever written in any language. But do you know where it came from and how it evolved from a Jewish staple to a world-wide phenomenon covered by everybody from Harry Belafonte and Connie Francis to Bob Dylan and Elvis? Find out in this entertaining, illuminating tale that follows the song from the shtetls of Ukraine to Israel, the Catskills, Greenwich Village, Hollywood and beyond. Studded with celebrity interviews and funny vignettes, the film explores Jewish roots, identity and cross-cultural connection that only music can achieve.
Supported in part by the Zionist Organization of America – Pittsburgh District.
Sunday, April 21, 1 p.m.
Directors: Uriel Sinai and Dana Doron
2012, Israel, 55 minutes
Hebrew and English with subtitles
What’s in a number? More than you can imagine if it was tattooed on your arm in a concentration camp. Some 400,000 prisoners got them in Auschwitz, but only a few thousand are still alive. This powerful documentary gives voice to some of the survivors, who give riveting Holocaust testimony and discuss the meaning their numbers took on after the war and beyond with surprising humor and wit. Gita Kalderon (76914) is the optimist, Joka Levi (A11998) is the realist, and Dani Hanoch (B2823) is the adventurer; all have a lot to say about how their numbers have shaped them.
Winner – Best Debut Film Award – 2012 Israeli Documentary Forum Awards
Winner – Silver Hugo Award – 2012 Chicago International Film Festival
Followed by a panel discussion and a dessert reception.
Sponsored by Classrooms Without Borders.
Sunday, April 21, 7 p.m.