Roberta Levine on April 6, 2016
Opening tonight is one of my favorite events – JFilm: The Pittsburgh Jewish Film Forum.
Every spring, JFilm brings in a whole range of films from Israel and around the world—true stories, comedies and dramas that often wouldn’t make it to town otherwise, some provocative, some moving, some roaringly funny and almost all, a treat.
For me, one of the most enjoyable films from previous festivals is Kidon, a French-Israeli crime-caper comedy about the Mossad.
Some of the most disturbing films I’ve seen include Bethlehem, the story of the complex relationship between an Israeli Secret Service officer and his teenage Palestinian informant, and The German Doctor, the true story of an Argentine family who lived with Josef Mengele without knowing his true identity.
A surprisingly credible story was told in Switched at Birth, in which two young men, one Israeli and one Palestinian, discover they were accidentally switched at birth.
Sometimes the festival organizers make great event pairings, such as bringing in Joshua Bell with his 1713 Stradivarius—the instrument once owned by renowned Polish Jewish violinist Bronisław Huberman, who founded what became the Israel Philharmonic—with the showing of The Return of the Violin, a story about survival, of people and of the remarkable violin. Bell talked about how he came to have the violin and graciously answered the inevitable question from the largely Jewish audience: “Are you married?” (Sorry, he is not available.)
Another special event occurred at a showing of Ahead of Time, a documentary about Ruth Gruber, an international foreign correspondent and photojournalist who was the first journalist to enter the Soviet Arctic in 1935, escorted Holocaust refugees to America in 1944, covered the Nuremberg trials in 1946 and documented the Haganah ship Exodus in 1947. Gruber, a spry 100+ year-old, attended the showing.
One great pairing this year will be the Pittsburgh Premiere of In Search of Israeli Cuisine, following Israeli-born, Pittsburgh-raised chef Michael Solomonov as he travels throughout Israel, feeding his curiosity and appetite for the diverse foods of his native country. The showing on April 13, at 7:30 p.m., will be followed by a conversation with the chef himself.
I’m also looking forward to seeing Raise the Roof, To Life, Flory’s Flame, Atomic Falafel and Francofonia. Be sure to study the schedule; there’s something for everyone.
The 23rd annual festival opens April 7, at 7 pm at the Manor Theatre, with Norman Lear: Just Another Version Of You, followed by a reception at the JCC Katz Theater in the Robinson Building, 5738 Darlington Road, Squirrel Hill. For information and tickets: http://jfilmpgh.org/
Image from the film Raise the Roof, about the ambitious endeavor to reconstruct one of the world’s greatest wooden synagogues, built in Gwozdziec, Poland during the 18th century.