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Geneva Anderson digs into art

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 37 hits Marin this Friday: psychic sisters, Hedy Lamarr, an autism romance, historical dramas

A scene from Rachael Israel’s rom-com, “Keep the Change,” screening Saturday in Marin at the 37th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF37). This offbeat film, Israel’s first, picked up the top narrative feature award at the Tribecca Film Festival and was the opening film for SFJFF37’s San Francisco/Castro Theater segment. Israel relies entirely on non-actors, many on the autism spectrum, to tell a humorous and poignant love story that gets its kick start at a support group meeting for those with disabilities. The industry often tends to oversimplify disability and disease but this film manages to ring true while exploring the misconceptions we carry. SFJFF37’s Marin segment runs Friday-Sunday at the Smith Rafael Film Center and features 14 films, the very best selections from SFJFF37 which opened on July 20 with runs in San Francisco, the East Bay, and Palo Alto.

ARThound’s top picks for SFJFF37’s Marin weekend:

Paradise  (Friday, 3:50 PM)

Holocaust drama, innovative perspective-shifting storytelling, richly shot in black and white

Russian veteran Andrei Konchalovsky’s black and white WWII drama “Paradise” won the Venice Film Festival’s Silver Lion and was Russia’s entry for the 2017 Academy Award. The film looks back at the 1942-44 period from the perspective of three characters whose paths intertwine amidst the devastation of war— Olga (Julia Vysotskaya), a Russian aristocrat émigrée and member of the French Resistance; Jules (Philippe Duquesne) a French Nazi collaborator who is assigned to investigate her case; and Helmut (Christian Clauss), a high-ranking, quite naive German SS officer who once loved Olga and meets her again when she arrives at a concentration camp. The drama unfolds around several interviews in which the three main characters address an unknown authority and recount their stories as the film flashes back to the end of World War II and the days when their destinies crossed. Instead of focusing directly on the horrors of the Holocaust, which are well-known, Konchalovsky addresses the complex psychological trauma the characters underwent. Exceptional performances by Vysotskaya and Clauss round out this masterpiece. (2016, 130 min, Russian, German, French, Yiddish w/ English subtitles)

Planetarium (Friday, 8:35 PM)

American psychics in France on the eve of WWII

In Rebecca Zlotowski’s third feature, Planetarium, set in pre WWII France, Oscar-winning Natalie Portman and co-star Lily-Rose Depp portray American sisters who are rumored to possess the supernatural ability to connect with ghosts. When they meet a French producer (Emmanuel Salinger) who is fascinated by spiritualism and their gift and he hires them to shoot an ambitious experimental film, the experience spirals into a game of hidden agendas. The story is greatly bolstered by Emmanuel Salinger’s solid performance and by Natalie Portman’s cool demeanor and old world glamour. (2016, 106 min, English and French w/English subtitles)

1945 (Sunday, 2:15 PM)

Interesting drama set in rural Hungary in immediate postwar period with the feel of a Western

Selected as the festival’s centerpiece film, Hungarian director Ferenc Török’s chilling sixth feature, “1945,” delivers an exceptional slow-building drama that has some similarities to a Hollywood Western, except that the tension leads to more of a mental shoot out than an actual gunfight. The film exemplifies one of the trends in independent filmmaking over the past few years, approaching big subjects through small, personal stories. 1945 is an adaptation of Gábor T Szántó’s short story Homecoming which addresses WWII and Hungary’s collaboration with the Nazis through the lens of a small village where preparations are being made for a wedding. Amidst these preparations, two Orthodox Jews arrive at the train station carrying mysterious boxes. Their arrival triggers primal fears amongst some villagers who speculate that they may be forced to give back their ill-gotten gains and in others, it brings up deep feelings of remorse about their inhumane treatment of Jews who had lived amongst them as brothers. As personal stories unfold, we see how all the fates of the villagers are inextricably intertwined and how the events they participated in as perpetrator or victim have inescapable moral consequences. (2017, 91 min, Hungarian w/English subtitles)

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (Sunday: 4:15 PM)

Savvy biopic revealing the brainy side of a Hollywood pinup icon

Co-produced by Susan Sarandon, Alexandra Dean’s documentary “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” has its West Coast Premiere at the festival and explores Hollywood pinup actress Hedy Lamarr’s big beautiful mind. Lamarr achieved international notoriety when she casually swam nude in the 1933 Czech Gustav Mahaty film “Ecstasy,” the first time nudity had been depicted in a mainstream film. She leveraged her smoldering beauty and sudden fame into a remarkable Hollywood career but her deeper passion was technology and mechanics. The doc explores her life and fascinating history as a gifted inventor. Never-before-heard audio clips include Lamar telling her story as she chose to frame it, along with first person accounts from stars who knew her, including the late Robert Osborn of TCM fame. Lamar discusses her marriages and her relationship with Howard Hughes. The enduring take away is her little-known contribution to war-time technology.  The mathematically-gifted Lamarr first learned about military technology from dinner party conversations between her first husband, Austrian arms-manufacturer Fritz Mandel and Nazi German generals.  In the early 1940’s, she co-invented an early form of frequency hopping (spread spectrum communication technology) with avant guarde composer George Antheil who happened to be her neighbor.  Their idea, patented in 1942, became the basis for a torpedo guidance system that utilized a mechanism similar to piano player rolls to synchronize the changes between 88 rapidly changing radio frequencies, drawing on the premise that a constantly changing frequency is harder to jam. Lamarr gave her patent to the Navy and received no credit for her contributions. (2017, 90 min, English)

Details:   SFJFF37 is at the Smith Rafael Film Center Friday, August 4, through Sunday, August 6, 2017.  Films start roughly at noon and run until 10 PM, with 4 to 5 films daily. The Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center is located at 1118 4th Street, San Rafael.  For detailed descriptions of the 14 films screening and to purchase tickets in advance online, click here.  Tickets ($15 general admission, $14 seniors/students) may also be purchased directly at the Festival Box Office at the Smith Rafael Film Center.

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August 2, 2017 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 35th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival hits the Smith Rafael Film Center this Friday, August 7, through Sunday, August 9—the art line-up is impressive

It’s been 35 years since her death and radical socialite, philanthropist, art collector and personality Peggy Guggenheim is still a subject of keen fascination.  Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s new documentary, “Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict,” screens twice at the 35th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and, along with her most important and interesting artworks, the film features clips from recently re-discovered audio tapes of Guggenheim in conversation with her authorized biographer, Jacqueline Bograd Weld and film clips with artists Jackson Pollack and Willem DeKooning.  SFMOMA curator Janet Bishop will introduce the film at its Oakland screening on August 7, exploring controversial issues related to Guggenheim’s legacy and it also screens at the Castro Theater on Sunday, July 26.  Photo: SFJFF

It’s been 35 years since her death and radical socialite, philanthropist, art collector and personality Peggy Guggenheim is still a subject of fascination. Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s new documentary, “Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict,” opens the Marin portion of the 35th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and screens Friday, August 7 at 12:30 PM at the Smith Rafael Film Center. Along with Guggenheim’s most important and interesting artworks, the doc features clips from recently re-discovered audio tapes of Guggenheim in conversation with her authorized biographer, Jacqueline Bograd Weld, and film clips with artists Jackson Pollack and Willem de Kooning. Photo: SFJFF

The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF), the first, the largest, and arguably the best in the proliferation of Jewish film fests, returns to Marin’s Smith Rafael Film Center Friday afternoon with a line-up of 15 new films showcasing the best in independent Jewish film.  All of the films have been selected from the 120+ film line-up that has been playing in San Francisco, Oakland and Palo Alto since July 23.  The Marin segment has been curated with our North of the Golden Gate viewing preferences in mind—great story-telling, thought-provoking content on current issues and art.  Three of the films are art related and with fabulous storylines and seem well worth the drive and time spent indoors.

The festival kicks off Friday at 12:30 with Lisa Vreeland’s acclaimed documentary, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (2015), which made its California premiere at the festival.

And on Saturday, at 12:30 PM, Yari Wolinsky and Cary Wolinsky’s Raise the Roof (2014) tells the inspiring story of the complete architectural restoration of a decimated 18th century wooden synagogue in Gwozdziec, Poland by a team of committed volunteer artisans from around the globe who use original methods and tools to restore the churches elaborate exterior and immense and complex interior frescoes.

On Saturday, at 6:20 PM, French director François Margolin’s docu-drama, The Art Dealer (“L’Antiquaire”) (2014), journeys through a family’s secrets and European history.

In French director François Margolin’s “The Art Dealer” (“L'Antiquaire”) (2014), Anna Sigalevitch portrays a Jewish woman who becomes obsessed with the provenance of a painting allegedly created by French artist, Jacques-Laurent Agasse (1767-1849), one of Vernet’s protégés.  Her research takes her back to her own grandfather’s art collection and the German occupation of France.  The story is based on a true story involving the Seligmann family and patriarch art dealer and antiquarian Jacques Seligmann who ran famed galleries in Paris and New York and fostered American interest in European art.  The film is one of several art films screening at the 35th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, July 23-August 9, 2015.  The festival comes to the Smith Rafael Film Center August 7-9 and “The Art Dealer screens on Saturday, August 8.  Photo: SFJFF

In French director François Margolin’s “The Art Dealer” (“L’Antiquaire”) (2014), Anna Sigalevitch portrays a Jewish woman who becomes obsessed with the provenance of a painting allegedly created by French artist, Jacques-Laurent Agasse (1767-1849), one of Vernet’s protégés. Her research takes her back to her own grandfather’s art collection and the German occupation of France. The story is based on a true story involving the Seligmann family and patriarch art dealer and antiquarian Jacques Seligmann who ran famed galleries in Paris and New York and fostered American interest in European art. The film screens at the 35th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, at the Smith Rafael Film Center on Saturday, August 8, at 6:20 PM. Photo: SFJFF

On Saturday, at 6:20 PM, French director François Margolin’s docu-drama, The Art Dealer (“L’Antiquaire”) (2014), uses the story of a painting to journey through a famous family’s secrets and European history.

Details:  Screenings at the Smith Rafael Film Center start Friday, August 7, at 2:30 PM and run through Sunday, 10 PM.  Click here for complete program and ticket information.  A Marin Pass, good for all screenings in Marin, is $100 for members Jewish Film Institute / $120 General Public.  The Smith Rafael Film Center is located at 1118 4th Street, San Rafael.

Festival Box Office Hours: The Festival Box Office for the Smith Rafael Film Center screenings will be next to the venue’s regular box office and easy to find.  It will open 1 hour prior to the first SFJFF screening of the day and will remain open throughout the day until 15 minutes after the last screening begins.   Orders set to will call will be available at the venue and on the day of the first screening in the order. If all tickets were purchased on the same order, they will all be available for pick up at the first screening in the order; if tickets were purchased on separate orders, they will be available or pick up at the first screening of each order.  Marin Passes will be available for pick up at the Rafael Film Center on August 9th.

August 6, 2015 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SFJFF hits the Smith Rafael Film Center for a long weekend, Friday-Sunday—14 films, great stories, from all over the world

Who would have thought that listening to old fishmongers could be so interesting?  The Russ sisters, Hattie, 100, (L) and Anne, 92, (R), daughters of Joel Russ, founder of New York’s Russ & Daughters, have hit their golden years with their sense of humor fully intact and banter delightfully on screen in Julie Cohen’s documentary, “The Sturgeon Queens.”  Cohen’s doc has its world premiere at the 34 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and screens Sunday at noon at the Smith-Rafael Film Center.  Others docs screening in San Rafael cover topics as diverse as a profile of the creator of the word genocide, a woman who learns her birthfather was black, American-style football in the Holy Land and the story of the son of a Hamas leader who became a spy for Israel’s Shin-bet.   Image: courtesy SFJFF 34

Who would have thought that listening to old fishmongers could be so interesting? The Russ sisters, Hattie, 100, (L) and Anne, 92, (R), daughters of Joel Russ, founder of New York’s Russ & Daughters, have hit their golden years with their sense of humor fully intact and banter delightfully on screen in Julie Cohen’s documentary, “The Sturgeon Queens.” Cohen’s doc has its world premiere at the 34th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and screens Sunday at noon at the Smith-Rafael Film Center. Others docs screening in San Rafael cover topics as diverse as a profile of the creator of the word genocide, a woman who learns her birthfather was black, American-style football in the Holy Land and the story of the son of a Hamas leader who became a spy for Israel’s Shin-bet. Image: courtesy SFJFF 34

The 34th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF 34) comes to Marin’s Smith Rafael Film Center this Friday-Sunday for a long weekend, presenting 14 of the festival’s top films.  I’ve attended this Marin segment for the past five years and the savvy programmers understand what clicks with our Marin, Sonoma and Napa attendees—intellectually resonant stories, creatively told.  Bonus points added for food, wine, art and causes we can get behind.  Begun in 1980, SFJFF is the oldest and largest Jewish film festival in the world and it traditionally kicks off and runs at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre before opening at other Bay Area venues.  This year, SFJFF 34 screened 67 films from 17 countries; 44 of those had some sort of premiere and over 30 visiting filmmakers and international guests attended.  For those of us in Northern California, battling the recently horrendous traffic on 101, the weekend in Marin is the only thing that that makes this beloved festival doable at all.  In our favor, the Smith Rafael Film Center’s offers an intimate setting and unbeatable acoustics and its wise liberal vibe contributes to sharp and sizzling audience exchanges.  All the films in this mini-fest exemplify the humor, warmth, wisdom, angst, and diversity of Jewish experiences around the world and introduce a strong crop of independent filmmakers.  Now, on to ARThound’s recommendations—

Friday, August 8, 8:45 p.m.—24 Days

In “24 Days,” French director Alexandre Arcady re-examines l'affaire du gang des barbares, (the Affair of the Gang of Barbarians)—the 2006 abduction and brutal torture in Paris of the first French Jew, since WWII, to have been viciously attacked for being Jewish.  The suspenseful ransom story is told through the through the voice of a grieving mother, Ruth Halimi, played by Zabou Breitman, who informs the audience that the events they are about to see actually happened.  The film captures the dramatic struggles of the family and French authorities who were at odds with each other over calling this abduction an act of anti-Semitism.  Image: courtesy SFJFF34

In “24 Days,” French director Alexandre Arcady re-examines l’affaire du gang des barbares, (the Affair of the Gang of Barbarians)—the 2006 abduction and brutal torture in Paris of the first French Jew, since WWII, to have been viciously attacked for being Jewish. The suspenseful ransom story is told through the through the voice of a grieving mother, Ruth Halimi, played by Zabou Breitman, who informs the audience that the events they are about to see actually happened. The film captures the dramatic struggles of the family and French authorities who were at odds with each other over calling this abduction an act of anti-Semitism. Image: courtesy SFJFF34

24 Days   U.S. Premiere (France, 2014)  French director and actor, Alexandre Arcady (Day of Atonement (original French title: Le Grand Pardon II) 1992), takes us back to 2006 and astutely delves into l’affaire du gang des barbares (the Affair of the Gang of Barbarians)—the abduction and brutal torture in Paris of the first French Jew, since WWII, to have been viciously attacked for simply being Jewish.  And what a story he weaves, meticulously researched and narrated with a surprising degree of suspense through the voice of a grieving mother.  After Shabbat dinner on January 20, 2006, Ilan Halimi, a 23 year-old telephone vendor of Moroccan Jewish descent, decides to go out, against his mother’s wishes, and celebrate.  On his way out, he kisses his mother, Ruth Halimi (Zabou Breitman), who will never see her son again.  Arcady, himself an Algerian-born Jew who emigrated to France at age 15, adapted the story from the mother’s book and police records. She had a gut feeling that her hapless son was abducted because he was Jewish and the kidnappers assumed that all Jews have money, but the authorities stubbornly refused to acknowledge this as a factor in the abduction.  During their three-week nightmare, relived on film, the mother and her ex-husband, Didier (Pascal Elbé), received over 650 insulting, anxiety-producing phone calls.  It turns out that their son was being held in a public housing block in a Paris suburb by a multi-racial gang of French youngsters and at least 30 people knew about it but did nothing, afraid of what the gang’s leader, Fofana (Tony Harrison), would do to them if they snitched to the authorities.  This is such an important story and so faithfully told that the French Ministry of Education had it shown in French schools.  111 min (Screens at 8:45 p.m.)

6:30 p.m. The Green Prince  (Germany, Israel, UK, 2014)  Nadav Schirman’s espionage documentary opened SFJFF 34 at the Castro to a full house on July 24 and won the Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award (World Cinema: Documentary).  The film is based Mosab Hassan Yousef’s startling memoir, Son of Hamas, and relives how Yousef, the son of one of the leaders of the Palestinian group Hamas, became a spy for Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, while working for his father.  The film’s title refers to the Israeli security agency’s nickname for Yousef, named for the color of the Hamas flag and his high-ranking affiliation with the Islamist organization.   Given the recent violence in Gaza, which we’re all heartsick over, the film’s happy-ending— Palestinian-Israeli friendship—falls apart.  ARThound recommends seeing it later, when it opens in the Bay Area.  99 min (Screens 6:30 p.m.)

Saturday, August 9, 3 p.m.—Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz’s documentary Little White Lie (USA, 2014) has its world premiere at SFJFF34 and screens Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Smith Rafael Film Center.  Lacey (L) grew up believing she was white and Jewish.  When confronted, her mother, Peggy (R), confessed that she had hidden an extramarital fling with a black man from her and that Lacey was the result.  Image: courtesy SFJFF34

Lacey (L) grew up believing she was white and Jewish. When confronted, her mother, Peggy (R), confessed that she had hidden an extramarital fling with a black man from her and that Lacey was the result. Lacey Schwartz’s documentary, “Little White Lie” (USA, 2014), has its world premiere at SFJFF34 and screens Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Smith Rafael Film Center. Image: courtesy SFJFF34

Little White Lie  World Premiere  (USA, 2014) Harvard Law School graduate Lacey Schwartz turns the camera on herself as she explores how she was raised as white and Jewish and learned as an adult that was her biological father was black.  This relatively short but engrossing doc is about as real as it gets when it comes to confronting one’s long held feelings about identity and race and how those solidify or change with new information.  Schwartz grew up in the mostly white town of Woodstock, New York, and her tawny complexion was always attributed to her father’s deep olive-toned Sicilian Jewish grandfather.  She learned by accident that she was biracial while she was an undergraduate at Georgetown University.  Based on the photo accompanying her entrance application, her contact information was forwarded to its black student association.  When Schwartz confronted her mother, Peggy, she confessed that she had hidden an extramarital fling with a black man from her and that Lacey was the result.   A few years into living with the news, Lacey says this shocking news has not changed the way she sees herself but it has influenced the way she sees the world and, of course, her mother.    65 min (Screens at 3 p.m. with Little Horribles: Mini Bar, a darkly comedic web series that tracks the poor decisions of a self-indulgent lesbian, here trying to resist raiding her the mini bar in her family’s hotel room.)

Saturday, August 9, 4:45 p.m.—God’s Slave

César Troncoso is Ahmed, a Kuwaiti Muslim extremist posing as surgeon and family man in 1994 Buenos Aires in Joel Novoa’s debut feature, “God’s Slave,” (2014), which has its Bay Area premiere at SFJFF 34.   This well-crafted political thriller pits two determined men against one another, crossing paths in the aftermath of the real-life bombings in Buenos Aries in 1994 against the Jewish community.  Image: courtesy SFJFF34

César Troncoso is Ahmed, a Kuwaiti Muslim extremist posing as surgeon and family man in 1994 Buenos Aires in Joel Novoa’s debut feature, “God’s Slave,” (2014), which has its Bay Area premiere at SFJFF 34. This well-crafted political thriller pits two determined men against one another, crossing paths in the aftermath of the real-life bombings in Buenos Aries in 1994 against the Jewish community. Image: courtesy SFJFF34

God’s Slave (Ecsclavo de DiosBay Area Premiere  (Argentina, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela) 90 min)  The  plot sounds familiar—as children both a Muslim and an Islaeli witnessed unspeakable atrocities which have come to define the men they became and the violence they will perpetuate in the name of religion.  Ahmed Al Hassama (Mohammed Al-Khaldi) masquerades as a Venezuelan surgeon waiting until his assignment, a suicide bombing, is revealed to him.  David Goldberg (Vando Villamil) is a cold-blooded Mossad intelligence agent stationed in Buenos Aires, with a relentless aptitude for terrorists’ careers and threats.  Fernando Butazzoni’s screen play, which is set against the 1994 AMIA car-bombing in Buenos Aires, which left 85 people dead, becomes a living breathing portrait of crusaders about to implode in the hands of Venezuelan director Joel Novoa. A master storyteller, Novoa transforms a seemingly open-and-shut political thriller into a moving and nuanced portrayal of commitment and crusade. 90 min (Screens at 4:45 p.m.)

Saturday, August 9, 6:50 p.m.—El Critico

Argentinean film critic turned director Hernan Guerschuny’s comedy, “El Critico,” screens Saturday evening at SFJFF 34 in San Rafael.  Jaded, socially awkward, emotionally repressed, full of himself—film critic Víctor Tellez (Rafael Spregelburd) writes reviews for a daily newspaper in Buenos Aires and identifies so completely with the French New Wave, that the voices he hears inside his head speak French.  Newly divorced, he divides his time between watching films and then discussing them at a local dive with his nerdy friends.  All that changes when he accidentally meets quirky Sofia (Colores Fonzi) who seems to be right out of French comedy (and hence perfect for him).  Soon he’s even sobbing and relating to rom-com’s.  Image: courtesy SFJFF34

Argentinean film critic turned director Hernan Guerschuny’s comedy, “El Critico,” screens Saturday evening at SFJFF 34 in San Rafael. Jaded, socially awkward, emotionally repressed, full of himself—film critic Víctor Tellez (Rafael Spregelburd) writes reviews for a daily newspaper in Buenos Aires and identifies so completely with the French New Wave, that the voices he hears inside his head speak French. Newly divorced, he divides his time between watching films and then discussing them at a local dive with his nerdy friends. All that changes when he accidentally meets quirky Sofia (Colores Fonzi) who seems to be right out of French comedy (and hence perfect for him). Soon he’s even sobbing and relating to rom-com’s. Image: courtesy SFJFF34

Sunday, August 10, noon—The Sturgeon Queens

Who would have thought that listening to old fishmongers could be so interesting?  Filmmaker Julie Cohen has made "The Sturgeon Queens," a history of the legendary Russ & Daughters appetizing store on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  Pescatarian pioneer Joel Russ (center) surrounded by daughters (from Left) Hattie, Ida and Anne.  Image: SFJFF34

Who would have thought that listening to old fishmongers could be so interesting? Filmmaker Julie Cohen has made “The Sturgeon Queens,” a history of the legendary Russ & Daughters appetizing store on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Pescatarian pioneer Joel Russ (center) surrounded by daughters (from Left) Hattie, Ida and Anne. Image: SFJFF34

 

The Sturgeon Queens  Bay Area Premiere  (USA, 2013)   For New Yorkers noshing on smoked fish and fine appetizers wouldn’t be the same without the venerable Russ & Daughters which celebrates its centennial this year.  .  Julie Cohen, NY Emmy winner and founder of BetterThanFiction Productions, tells the story —100 years, 4 generations, 1.8 million pounds of pickled herring—delightfully.  It’s really a love story of family bonding and fish.  And of a noun called “appetizing”—a Jewish food tradition that is most typical among American (especially New York) Jews and has its origins in the Eastern European Jewish tradition of starting meals with cold appetizers, known in Yiddish as “forshpayz”….modern day translation “the foods one eats with bagels.”  One hundred years ago, workaholic founding father Joel Russ started hawking fine herring on the streets of New York with a push-cart and finally scrimped enough to get his own store on the lower East Side.  This is literally the house that herring built.  His three daughters, the Sturgeon Queens—Anne, Hattie and Ida—helped out their dad and worked behind the counter for decades, pulling their husbands and relatives right along.  In the film we hear from two of the sisters, now grandmas—100-year-old Hattie Russ Gold and 92-year-old Anne Russ Federman who still banter delightfully while reflecting on lives richly lived and customers who passed through their doors.  Their grandchildren, who run the store today,  Niki Russ Federman and Josh Russ Tupper, talk about carrying on the Russ tradition and bringing this institution into the age of computers and author Mark Russ Federman (Russ & Daughters, Reflections and Recipes from the House that Herring Built, 2013) adds more mouthwatering detail.  Well-known enthusiasts of the store add spice—Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, chef Mario Batali, New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin, and 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer.  54 min (Screens at noon) Will screen on various PBS stations later this year.

Sunday, August 10, 1:45 p.m.—Touchdown Israel

Almost four years ago, San Francisco-based documentary filmmaker, Paul Hirschberger, started learning all he could about the North American-style of tackle football that is being played in Israel.  “Touchdown Israel” (2014) has its world premiere at SFJFF 34 and explores how the growing sport is bridging cultural gaps in Israel.  Hirschberger will attend Sunday’s screening at the Smith Rafael Film Center.  Image: SFJFF34

Almost four years ago, San Francisco-based documentary filmmaker, Paul Hirschberger, started learning all he could about the North American-style of tackle football that is being played in Israel. “Touchdown Israel” (2014) has its world premiere at SFJFF 34 and explores how the growing sport is bridging cultural gaps in Israel. Hirschberger will attend Sunday’s screening at the Smith Rafael Film Center. Image: SFJFF34

Touchdown Israel  World Premiere, filmmaker Paul Hirschberger in attendance with post-screening Q&A   (USA, Israel, 2014)   Israel is the last place you would expect the corn-fed, Friday Night Lights tradition of American football to catch on.  But don’t tell that to the passionate players and coaches in the 11-team Israel Football League, who play for nothing but pride and have had to endure years of matches played on woefully short soccer fields, under bad lighting, with no locker rooms, in front of an indifferent public.  Touchdown Israel is a surprising look at how the gridiron sport has found an unlikely toehold in the Holy Land.  Initially imported in the 1990s by American-born Israelis who deeply missed the scrimmages of their youth, American football in Israel has had to counter not only the vastly more popular appeal of soccer and basketball, but legions of Jewish mothers worried about their grown sons’ injuries. As league macher Steve Leibowitz claims, “Jewish mothers somehow don’t get it, it’s nice to be bruised.” But the documentary has serious points to make as well, as it examines the Jewish-Arab camaraderie (and occasional tensions) within the multiethnic lineup of the Tel Aviv–Jaffa Sabres, as well as the controversial “bad boy” profile of the Judean Rebels, a team composed largely of West Bank settlers. Some rivalries go deeper than sports. (Synopsis by Peter Stein) 85 min (Screens at 1:45 p.m.)

Sunday, August 10, 4:15 p.m.—Watchers of the Sky

Watchers of the Sky  CA Premiere  The term “genocide” was created by the Polish Jewish lawyer, Raphael Lemkin, and first used in his 1944 book, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe.  MacArthur Award-winning documentarian, Edit Belzberg, explores Lemkin’s legacy in creating an international framework for prosecuting acts aimed at the intentional destruction of a people.  At Sundance, this smart doc picked up an Editing Award and Special Jury Award for Use of Animation US Documentary.  Inspired by Samantha Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (2013), Belzberg takes you on a very disturbing experiential journey over the past century of genocide intercutting Lemkin’s story with interviews from Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz; journalist-turned-UN ambassador Samantha Power, who covered Bosnia’s ethnic cleansing;  Luis Moreno Ocampo, prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, who is building the case against Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir over the deaths in Darfur; and Emmanuel Uwurukundo, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide now aiding Darfur refugees in Chad.  Belberg evokes Lemkin’s spirit through quotes from his memoirs and wonderful animation.  This is a must-see primer in human rights awareness and action. Watchers of the Sky will open theatrically in the US in October 2014.  114 min (Screens 4:45 p.m.)

Details:  The Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center is located at 1118 Fourth Street in San Rafael.  Metered parking is available on the street or chose from several lots close by.  The San Rafael portion of the festival starts Friday, August 8, 2014, and runs through Sunday, August 10, 2014.  Tickets: $14; $13 seniors and students.  Advance purchase is recommended—click on film links below or visit www.sfjff.org or call 415.621.0523. (Rafael passes, CFI Fast Passes or members’ discounts are not valid for these screenings.) The Rafael box office will not sell advance tickets; however, it will sell tickets remaining for various screenings on the day of their screening.

 

Full Schedule, SFJFF 34 at Smith Rafael Film Center, Friday (Aug 8)–Sunday (Aug 10)

Friday

2:10 p.m. Mamele  (dir. Joseph Green, Konrad Tom, USA, 1938, 97 min)

4:20 p.m.  Swim Little Fish Swim  (dir. Ruben Amar, USA, France, 2013, 96 min)

6:30 p.m.  The Green Prince West Coast Premiere (dir. Nadav Schirman, Germany, Israel, UK, 2014, 99 min,

8:45 p.m.  24 Days  U.S. Premiere (dir. Alexandre Arcady, France, 2014, 111 min)

 

Saturday

1 p.m. My Own Man CA Premiere (dir. David Sampliner, USA, 2014, 83 min)

3 p.m. Little White Lie World Premiere (dir. Lacey Schwartz, USA, 2014, 65 min)

4:45 p.m. God’s Slave (Ecsclavo de Dios) Bay Area Premiere (dir. Joel Novoa, Argentina, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela, 90 min)

6:50 p.m. El Critico CA Premiere (dir. Hernán Guerschuny, Argentina, 2013, 90 min)

8:55 p.m. Comedy Warriors Northern CA Premiere John Wagner (USA, 2014) 75 min

Sunday

12 noon The Sturgeon Queens Bay Area Premiere (dir. Julie Cohen, USA, 2013, 54 min)

1:45 p.m. Touchdown Israel World Premiere (dir. Paul Hirschberger, USA, Israel, 2014, 85 min)

4:15 p.m. Watchers of the Sky CA Premiere (dir. Edit Belzberg, USA, 2013, 114 min)

6:45 p.m. Snails in the Rain CA Premiere (dir. Yariv Mozer, Israel, 2013, 82 min)

8:40 p.m. A Place in Heaven CA Premiere (dir. Yossi Madmoni, Israel, 2013, 117 min)

 

August 5, 2014 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dog Lovers! Tonight is your night…. Julian Roman Pölsler’s “The Wall” (“Die Wand”) screens at 8:45 at the Smith Rafael…part of a week of screenings of foreign Oscar nominees

As the only human survivor after an unexplained global tragedy, German actress Marina Gedeck bonds tightly with her loyal dog in Julian Roman Pölsler’s “The Wall” a film that is true to Marlen Haushofer’s exceptional novel . Image: courtesy of Music Box Films

As the only human survivor after an unexplained global tragedy, German actress Martina Gedeck bonds tightly with her loyal dog in Julian Roman Pölsler’s “The Wall” a film that is true to Marlen Haushofer’s exceptional novel . Image: courtesy of Music Box Films

I wouldn’t be ARThound if I didn’t do a special shout-out for Lynx, the amazing hound that co-stars in  The Wall (Die Wand, 2012) which screens tonight (Wed) at 8:45 PM at the Smith Rafael (Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center)  as part of their week of exceptional screenings of foreign Oscar nominations from around the world…. I can’t say it enough… consistently awesome programming!

The Wall (Die Wand):  Austrian director Julian Roman Pölsler’s film is based on Marlen Haushofer’s 1962 dystopian hit novel of the same name (just re-printed in English). The film stars German actress Martina Gedeck from the brilliant 2006 Stassi thriller The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) and tells the story of a completely ordinary middle-aged woman (Gedeck) who is vacationing with friends in a remote mountain hunting lodge.  Her friends go out to a pub and she stays back with the dog and when they don’t come back, she makes a very creepy discovery.  She is imprisoned on the mountainside by an invisible wall, behind which there seems to be no life.  She appears to be the sole remaining human on earth, along with the dog (a red hound that will steal your heart),a cow, a cat, and a kitten, with which she forms a tight-knit family.

The film rests entirely on Gedeck’s shoulders and she is riveting, delivering a very credible performance that will leave you shivering and running home to snuggle with your dog.  The odd beauty of this film is that this last survivor scenario may be your own romanticized idea of heaven, or hell (Who hasn’t said  “Fuck the world! I’m sick of people…give me just my dog!), but watching Gedeck use her time laboring hard, protecting her pack, and introspectively processing her present life, leads us to right into her moments of intensely felt angst, terror, joy and sorrow. (Screens Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 8:45 PM, Smith Rafael)

I first reviewed The Wall when it screened at last year’s Berlin & Beyond Film Festival—the very best new films by German, Austrian and Swiss directors—a noteworthy jewel in the huge array of festivals.  This year, the 18th annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, kicks off this evening at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre with Georg Maas’ Two Lives (Zwei Leben, 2012), Germany’s official entry, short-listed for the best foreign language Oscar at the 2014 Academy Awards.  Click here to read ARThound’s coverage of this year’s Berlin & Beyond.)  Two Lives also screens tomorrow (Thursday) at 6:30 PM at the Smith Rafael and filmmaker Maas will be in attendance for what will be a riveting Q&A.  So, in San Rafael, you’ve got the opportunity to see two great German-language films back-to-back as part of their foreign Oscar nominee programming and, in San Francisco, Berlin & Beyond offers 30 feature length German-language films and 7 shorts over the next week (including six North American premieres and two US premieres).

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January 15, 2014 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dance Aficionado? A pioneering project brings the new film “Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance” to Santa Rosa and San Rafael this Saturday, January 28, 2012

With simulcast, a film’s world premiere, traditionally limited to one locale, can go truly global and it’s happening for the first time this weekend.  This Friday evening, Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance, a riveting feature documentary profiling the legendary Joffrey Ballet has its world premiere as the opening film at 40th Annual Dance on Camera Festival at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater.  On Saturday, when the film repeats at the festival, select audiences around the country can watch it streamed live via simulcast in their local theatres.   In coordination with Emerging Pictures’ electronic cinema, the film will be streamed in the Bay Area on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. in Santa Rosa at Summerfield Cinemas and in San Rafael at Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center.  The Saturday simulcast includes introductions as well as an interactive live panel discussion featuring top Joffrey stars, past and present.  Audience members throughout the US will be able to ask the stars questions live via a live Twitter feed.

Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance: (Director: Bob Hercules, USA, 2012, 90 min)
This insightful documentary is the first film to chronicle how the legendary Joffrey Ballet revolutionized American ballet by boldly combining modern dance with traditional ballet at a time when it such merging not routinely accepted.  Weaving a wealth of archival footage, behind-the-scene photos and interviews with over 20 former and current Joffrey star dancers, director Bob Hercules (Bill T. Jones: A Good Man) documents the struggles and achievements of the Joffrey from its newfound beginnings in 1956 to the Company’s present international success.  Many times the Joffrey Ballet had to rebound from crippling financial difficulties starting in 1964 with its acrimonious break from the Rebekah Harkness Foundation. This breakup left Robert Joffrey with only 2 dancers and no company to his name. The company nearly dissolved in the mid-90’s due to financial problems but resurrected itself in 1995 with its move to Chicago. The film features rare excerpts from many seminal Joffrey works including Astarte, Trinity and Billboards, as well as breakthrough collaborations with choreographers such as Twyla Tharp, Leonid Massine, Laura Dean, and Kurt Jooss.  Founders Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino and a host of ballet notables, including Gary Chryst, Trinette Singleton, Helgi Tomasson (current Artistic Director, San Francisco Ballet), Kevin McKenzie and more, are featured in the film.  Narrated by Tony® and Emmy® Award winner Kevin McKenzie , the film is a rich chronicle of a ballet company that continues to reinvent itself, raise the bar and invigorate audiences worldwide. Executive produced by Harold Ramis and Jay Alix and produced by Una Jackman and Erica Mann Ramis. 

“Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance” will have its world premiere at the 40th Dance on Camera Festival at Lincoln Center this weekend and will premiere simultaneously in theaters around the country via simulcast this Saturday, January 28, 2012. It will screen locally at the Summerfield Cinemas in Santa Rosa and the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael. Included in the Joffrey story is Gerald Arpino's "Light Rain." Photo: Herbert Migdoll.

The Joffrey Ballet:  Co-founded in 1956 by visionary teacher Robert Joffrey and dancer Gerald Arpino, who would become the organization’s principal choreographer, The Joffrey Ballet began as a DIY dance company of six dancers touring the United States in a borrowed station wagon.  What started as a childhood dream quickly grew into one of the world’s most exciting and prominent ballet companies.  Together, Joffrey and Arpino transformed the face of dance by merging classical ballet technique with bold new perspectives for edgy new ballets that challenged conventions.  Aggressive touring took the Company from school auditoriums across America’s Heartland, to the White House at Jacqueline Kennedy’s invitation, on to Russia for a month-long tour during the height of the Cold War, and beyond.  They also garnered extensive media attention for their daring originality, which included appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, the cover of Time Magazine, and in major motion pictures such as Save the Last Dance and Robert Altman’s The Company (which is based on the Joffrey).

Classically trained to the highest standards, The Joffrey Ballet expresses a unique, inclusive perspective on dance, proudly reflecting the diversity of America with its Company, audiences and repertoire, which includes major story ballets, reconstructions of masterpieces, and contemporary works.  The Joffrey Ballet continues to thrive under internationally renowned Artistic Director Ashley C. Wheater and Executive Director Christopher Clinton Conway.   To learn more, visit joffrey.org.

Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance screens Saturday, January 28, 2012:

Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA) at 10:30 a.m.  Purchase tickets online here.

Summerfield Cinemas (551 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa, CA) at 10:30 a.m.  Purchase tickets online here.

January 26, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment