In the current conservative climate of longing for the worst of the past, there has been a marked increase in anti-Semitism from both manifest And dog whistling variety. Not that such sentiments ever completely died out in some quarters, of course. Nevertheless, the revival of the old paranoia of the “global Jewish controlling cabal” is striking, if not altogether surprising, as it fits with (and provides a historical model for) the far-right current that is digging various holes of conspiratorial rabbits regarding: Qanon, Pizzagate, et al.
Sigh. Just like with the recently packaged Frameline, there never seems to be a time when the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival East not takes place in the midst of a shitload of general socio-political conflict, to which it provides a small measure of corrective common sense. This year’s event, the 43rd, will take place at SF’s Castro and Vogue Theaters July 20-30, then move to Oakland’s Piedmont Theater August 1-6.
There’s plenty of tough-minded content on the schedule this year, but also quite a bit of chicken soup for the soul, starting with this Thursday’s Castro opening night selection from Remembering Gene Wilder. Ron Frank’s documentary is a pleasantly hagiographic homage to the beloved late actor and sometimes writer-director whose character was a unique combination of dithering sweetness and comedic rages. It mostly touches on the highlights of his career, including his creative collaborations with Mel Brooks (on The Producers, Blazing Saddles And Young Frankenstein). Richard Pryor and his first wife Gilda Radner. Surviving wife Karen Wilder and filmmakers are expected.
Another colorful and explosive personality wraps up the festival on San Francisco’s closing party at the Castro, Sun/30. by Jeff L. Lieberman Beautiful! draws on the memories of Barbra Streisand, Hillary Clinton, Shirley MacLaine, Gloria Steinem, Lily Tomlin, Nancy Pelosi, Marlo Thomas, Maxine Waters and many others to recall the eventful political involvement of the late Bella Abzug. The attention garnered by her signature hats and cheeky, often combative ways (haters called her “Bella-Cose”) still tends to overshadow the remarkable strides she’s made in Congress and elsewhere as a proponent of the equal rights for women, homosexuals and minorities. . Not to mention ending the Vietnam War, advocating “choice” and child care, etc. Although it zigzags chronologically a little more than necessary, it is a catchy profile of a woman who was always one step ahead of her time.
Such “insistent” movers and shakers abound in JFF, which also has room for documentaries about literary lioness Erica Jong (break the wall) and anti-taboo American Yiddish writer Celia Dropkin (burn the page). There are two more about legendary photographers, 1341 Love and War Frames (Israeli war photojournalist Micha Bar-Am) and Eastern European columnist shtetls Roman Vishniac.
Particularly compelling non-fiction portrayals are those of concentration camp survivor turned American stage and screen maverick Jack Garfein (The wild) And devil queenwhose “force of nature” Chelly Wilson, a wartime Greek Jewish refugee, became the owner of most of New York’s 42nd Street porn emporiums in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Holocaust also looms over several narrative feature films like the American period drama june zeroFrench The story of Annette Zelmanand soon available white bird with Lady Helen Mirren. He is at the heart of documentaries Nelly and Nadine (which we covered previously here) And Nathanismthe latter about a newly enlisted army soldier who, at age 18, was tasked with guarding German war criminals in Nuremberg.
Programs dealing with various aspects of Israeli-Palestinian relations are also not lacking. There are teen dramas, each focusing on one side of this equation (alam, Delegation), episodes of the comedy television series mardrasaand documentary H2: The Occupation Laboratory, regarding the only Palestinian city with a Jewish settlement within its boundaries. Two other documentation features, Mourning in Lod And Closed circuitto scrutinize the terrorist acts committed from one side to the other, and vice versa; Savoy re-enacts a 1975 PLO hostage-taking incident. Meanwhile, Israelism examines the conflicting views on related issues among young American Jews.
There are lighter versions of Diaspora life, including “East Bay Big Night” (on Saturday/5) A weekend in Gaza, a slapstick near-thriller that an argumentative Western couple are forced to take refuge behind “enemy lines” during a murderous contagion. Narrative selection of the centerpiece My neighbor Adolf has a reclusive Holocaust survivor (David Hayman) in 1960, South America begins to suspect that the secret new guy next door (Udo Kier, who should be there) is…well, you know.
Admittedly, the New Wave projector of the festival is the Canadian I like movies, whose protagonist is a teenage tyrant of a filmmaker in the last days of video rental stores. The new local filmmaker HP Mendoza The secret art of human flight focuses whimsically on a suburban widower whose grieving process includes the use of a singular New Age “life coach.”
Also tackling mortality with humour, veteran filmmaker Ralph Arlyck’s self-reflection I like to be hereand the much younger (but terminally ill) like-minded Kit Vincent red herring. Documentary The Catskills examines the heady history of upstate New York’s “Borscht Belt” resorts that launched countless showbiz greats on the path to fame.
As always, SFJFF emphasizes activism, with its flagship documentary “Take Action” being Plan C, about a grassroots organization fighting to preserve access to the “morning after pill” nationwide. Of similar interest is A compassionate spy, whose subject was a Manhattan Project physicist who risked everything in hopes of preventing a nuclear war; And Rabbi on the blockwhich follows an African-American rabbinical student and community organizer on Chicago’s South Side.
The international accounts come from Poland (March 68), Germany (Not quite kosher), Italy (The shadow of the day), France (stay with us), and beyond. There are also short programs, a 25th anniversary revival of the Exodus animated saga The Prince of Egypt (with songs by Stephen Schwartz from divine spell And Wicked), and more.
Speaking of animation – and anti-Semitism – if you want to delve into the tried-and-true theories and the new theories about this perennial Jewish plot against humanity (they killed Our Savior…they will surely kill you next!!), there is a documentary The conspiracy. It uses rotoscoping and other techniques to span centuries, illustrating how incendiary, often fantastical rhetoric has blamed the chosen people for everything under the sun. These ideas have claimed victims from Dreyfus to Trotsky to those pesky six million…and now God knows how many underground extremists must be considering violent “retaliation” because the internet told them Joos R Bad. As the saying goes, there’s a sucker born every minute…and in our country, probably a gun made for them every few seconds.
43RD SAN FRANCISCO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL July 20-30 in SF and August 1-6 in Oakland, More info here.