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Faith Kaplan

Review of Rady JCC Jewish Film Festival: Faith and Hart Go to the Movies

by Faith Kaplan, May 18, 2011

Hart and I routinely purchase a festival pass for the annual Winnipeg International Jewish Film Festival,  and attend as many of the films as we can. Hart has his favourite spot in the back row, and if I can’t attend and neither Adam nor Yael are interested, he is kept company by Rena Boroditsky who likes that same spot in the Berney Theatre.  It’s their annual date.  And they’re not alone.  Looking around the theatre, there are couples and singles and groups of friends all mixed and matched who have one thing in common: they love the sound of Hebrew accompanied by subtitles and the opportunity to look at the world through Jewish eyes.  OK – two things.

Rady JCC Program Director Tamar Barr, who once upon a time, a long long time ago, was among a group of little girls I taught Israeli dances, has been producing this festival for a number of years. She consistently brings us wonderful, funny, poignant, and provocative films and this is my opportunity to thank her.  Thanks Tamar!

I love movies. After books, cinema is my favourite storytelling medium. (Opera and live theatre are my favourite sleep aids). Add the pleasure of discerning a new Hebrew turn of phrase, or gleaning an insight  that resonates, and I’m in heaven.  There was a German documentary film that we saw last year which suggested that the Shoah was motivated by economics, and started as just another in a series of grand thefts from European Jewry, similar to the expulsion from Spain in 1492. He further suggested that the subsequent murder of European Jewry was done to ensure that rightful owners couldn’t reclaim their stolen property.  The ease with which the Shoah was implemented was a function of European anti-Semitism whipped up by an impoverished Germany and thuggish government.  The concept is so monstrously base and evil that it must be true.  And I would never have seen this film otherwise.

I am delighted with the decision to screen films on Friday evenings at 5 pm – it makes good sense with Shabbes coming in so late- and doubling up on Sunday. How else can you fit in 11 films? I’ve attended three films so far and  I enjoyed  them all. Human Resources Manager is set during the intifada, when a Romanian foreign worker is killed in a terror attack. She had been fired by her manager at Jerusalem’s largest bakery, but he kept her on the payroll until she found another job so no one realized she was missing.  Her body lay unclaimed for days and the media was steadfast in holding the bakery to account for indifference .  The HR manager, whose life was unhappy and out of balance, was tasked with returning the body to her family in Romania.  In addition to an interesting story, characters who are well developed, and being well shot, it answers why non Jews would choose to work in Israel as foreign labourers.  Years ago when I was studying at Hebrew U, the most adorable South African fellow in my program answered “Romania” when I asked him if he was going away for Passover.  “I’m going to Romania,” he said.  Those were still the Ceausescu days, and I asked him why on Earth he was going there? He replied slowly, “ I’m going to Remain Here” – Romania in that equally adorable South African accent.  Clearly my sloppy hearing has nothing to do with age.

Last Friday, we took in The Matchmaker. Set in Haifa in 1968, this is a coming of age story in which mysterious Holocaust survivors mix with an Israeli teenager and his friends in the port area of Haifa. There are several characters whose lives intersect in unexpected and surprising ways, and a very poignant suggestion of the challenges faced by Holocaust survivors in Israel in the days before it was discussed.  The strong performances are haunting.

Last night was a very funny 60 minute documentary homage by a son to his father. The Worst Company in the World is the story of a failing insurance company run by three intelligent men who cannot be bothered to do things properly, and who have given up trying to meet others’ expectations, regardless of the personal cost. It is an endearing father-son journey. 

Hart also saw 5 Hours from Paris,  which he thought was excellent, with interesting characters, a love story between a beautiful and lonely music teacher and a fearful  cab driver.  There are three more films that will fit into our week and then it’s done. 
Run, don’t walk, to the box office and we hope to see you at the movies.

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