Jewish films easy on Israel
Askini; a hypercritical secular Jew In nil on Ihe Tornnin Jewish f ilm PwtiVol without resersations is like asking Wood) Allen to write an uhjeciisc biograph) of Mia Farrow.
I do know that programming speCiatit) rilnis. the mandate ol the lestival, now in its sixth vear. is challenging. Qualitv leatures arc often withheld and launched al international festivals, where there's a greater chance ol gaming distribution.
So I understand whv. though the festival dawns in the shadow of Israel's 50th btrthdav. it's slanted awa> from an artistic [\;rspccti\eon Israeli sociclv. Political withdrawal Israeli directors have reacted to the current situation by withdrawing politically, producing historical melodramas or films on domestic issues like consumerism, as in the quirky but disappointing Beep (Monday, Ma> 11, 7:30 pm), ihe JFF's lone contemporarx Israeli feature.
Afewof the 17 documentaries, about Jewish hie both in Israel and the diaspora, are intriguing.
The constant intrusion of the political into the private is precisely the focus ol Dan Katzir s Out For Love... Be Back Shortly (Sunday, May 10, 7;3()pnil.
It begins as a ridiculous quest by ihe director, accompanied by his camera, to find I girlfriend in Tel Aviv. Elsewhere, this would lean toward enamintng cinema and voyeurism; here, it's a touching document ot intimacy problems in a mil- itan/ed society where emotion is expressed mainly in groups
In Our Own Hands: The Hidden Story Of The Jewish Brigade In WWII (Thursday, Max 7,7 'in and The Long Way Home (Thursday, May 14.9 pmi—which won this year's best feature-documentary Oscar, beating the perennially slighted Spike Lee — should be seen by non-Jews or Jews only exposed to post-Holocaust reconstruction through Paul Newman's halt-Jewish eyes in Hxodus.
Both uncritically examine the l»4()s. The former tells the story ol the all-Jewish unit that fought for the British, and the latter examines the flight of survivors from hurope to Israel. While watching both staid efforts, I Hashed back tograde 11 — it's like watching the llistorv Channel.
Such inspirational films educate Ihe non-Jew while giving Jews the will to continue, along with a conviction of moral superiority,
A recent survey found that .^X per cent of Americans don't know that the Holocaust occurred during the second world war and 71 per cent believe the U.S. granted refuge to all European Jews who asked for it. so I'm certainly not slagging Holocaust-era docs.
Both galas, though, exist in a his¬ torical vacuum.
The violence now perpetrated by ultra-Orthodox nationals owes as much to the building ol military institutions during the second world war as to the siege mentality that develops when a nation's borders arc not secure. You wouldn't know it Irom Michael Karpin The Road To Rabin Square i Sunday. May 10. 5.M) pm). which charts a conspiracy theory more elaborate than Oliver Stone's version ol the events of Dallas 198!
Karpin's muckrackmg. while persuasive, fails to connect the present to the past.
He doesn't question the process of Israel's founding, and how it validated violence as an acceptable means lor achieving political change and served as a regional example lor the Intifada
More a Dateline NBC expose than a History Channel-style presentation, superficially lelitst docs like Rabin Square are wake-up calls for Israelis. Locals, though, should benefit from offerings examining worldw ide Jew ish diversity.
Pleasant surprise The Jew In The Lotus (Thursday, May 14. 7 pm) is the sympathetic story behind author Rodger Kamenetz's enlightening experience in a meeting between rabbinical emissaries and Ihe Dalai Lama. It's a pleasant surprise that the film does not draw facile comparisons between Judaism and Buddhism but instead focuses on how self-hatred leads to a search for spiritual answers within Kamenet/'s birth religion.
The German-made Sabbath In Paradise (Monday. May 11. 5:30 pmi celebrates diversity hy interviewing New YorkjaZZ artists who have decided to explore their roots, juxtaposing traditionalists like Andy Statman wuh experimentaltsts like Marc Ribot Musical collision provides a subtle metaphor for internecine arguments over "Jewish music."
Score speaks John Zom. ihe conflict'a impetaa, lets his musical score speak lor him It's recommended lor those who detest the Epstein Brothers' reac lionarv wedding music as much as do. •
The existence of Judaism outside of a traditional faith system is investigated in two portraits of unusual communities, Minyan On The Mira and Pushcarts And Plantations t Wednesday. May 13.5:30 pm i.
While Pushcarts tracks the adaptive measures of Louisiana Jews. Minyan introduces us to the dying Jewish community of (ilace Bay
We're shown the daily operations of the community and are drawn closer to the everyday members of a synagogue that has difficulty drawing a minyan (the 10 men required by traditional law i for services.The film works, simply because the directors ask crucial questions about a meaningful subiect
Knowing the Cape Bretoners will disappear within 10 years doesn't depress me excluding women from synagogue is clear religious intolerance But the old-timers' strong beliefs show how diaspora Jews must work at their culture.
More than the self-congratulatory films that end with the triumphant founding of what's become a troubled state, the slubborn behaviour on the Cape convinces me of the spirit that has kept Jews going for the last 50 years. •