Talk About It

Q & A with FEMINEM director and star Noemi Zeigler

Gypsy Davy, Berkeley Opening Night

A friend kindly invited me out Saturday night to see the west coast premiere of Gypsy Davy, an incredibly moving and honest documentary by Rachel Leah Jones, shown at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. I didn’t know what to expect. Honestly, when we got there, there was a line down and around the block to get in. I turned to my friend and asked if we could just go home, because sometimes I’m just lazy like that. I’m so glad she made me get over myself, pick up the tickets, and move into and through the theatre to our seats in the last row of the upper level.

This woman’s exploration into a musically gifted father who also happened to be emotionally absent was both honest and brave. You see, I have a similar story about the father who left, but he left once for another family, not five times. So, I cried through most of the film, using my sweater to sop up the tears that fell from viscerally knowing the sorrow and disappointment depicted in the film. I also celebrated her acceptance of this man for who he was and what he was /wasn’t able to give. Finally, I celebrated the strong beautiful women whose lives he impacted and the children they raised.

Her soothing and grounded voice as narrator, the use of beautiful old photos and video, the passionate flamenco guitar, singing and dance all allowed the brave and honest conversations she had with her father and his other children and wives to shine through in a way that was real, raw and often humorous.

Once the film was over, I was relieved to know the ride wasn’t over. You know that feeling when you sit there after a movie, staring at the credits and hoping there’s more because you aren’t ready to leave? You are still allowing it to work you and want to stay in the space the movie took you to for just a bit longer. That’s when you know it was a good movie.

Thus, I was pleased to not have to get up and to remain seated for the question and answer period with the filmmaker, followed by a beautiful flamenco performance. We then moved through a lovely reception with good wine, food and conversation, where I ran into Judy, the filmmaker’s mother and my favorite character, and thanked her for her beautiful performance and her bravery. She is my mother in some ways and the film created a space for an important story to be told, in a delightfully creative and heartfelt way.

Photos courtesy of Anita Bowen Photography

Filmmaker Party at Bisou Bistro

The filmmakers party was an event of grand portions. A collection of filmmakers, board members and guests filled Bisou Bistro. Wine glasses full and tummies satisfied, conversation carried on late into the night. The Jewish Film Festival offers a diverse selection of films from all around the world. And, in turn the filmmakers themselves share perspectives that are independently unique. This mixture of diverse backgrounds all share one platform, film, or in our case, Jewish film.

Photos courtesy of Anita Bowen Photography

Want to attend the Filmmaker Party next year? Join the Jewish Film Forum and receive invitations to VIP festival parties and events including Opening Night Film & Bash, Shabbat Dinner, Filmmaker Dinner, Nightcap at Churchill, and Closing Night!

Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat dinner was fantastic. Hosted by Axis Cafe, the venue offered the perfect set up for a family-oriented celebration. Inside, a delicious array of cheeses and wines got everyone comfortable and mingling. Once the guests arrived, we gather outside for introductions. Filmmakers, past board members, festival veterans and special guests like Judy Blume and Elliott Gould all introduced themselves. Following introductions was the blessing. Elliot Gould passed the first piece to Executive Director, Lexi Leban's six year old daughter, Sóla. Next, was dinner a delicious selection of fresh greens, sautéed fish and my favorite the potato latkes. And individual ice cream cups for dessert. As the night came to a close, outside people nestled by the fire, visiting and enjoying one another's company. I can't wait for next year's Shabbat dinner.

Photos courtesy of Anita Bowen Photography

Interested in attending next year's Shabbat? Join the Jewish Film Forum and receive invitations to VIP festival parties and events including Opening Night Film & Bash, Shabbat Dinner, Filmmaker Dinner, Nightcap at Churchill, and Closing Night!

Opening Night is a Celebration, and Celebrate We Did!

Photo courtesy of Anita Bowen Photography

Sometime around 6 o'clock yesterday evening, festival goers began to gather outside the historic Castro Theatre for this year's 32nd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. In true San Francisco fashion, we bonded over the joy of the first sunny day in weeks, sporting new sunglasses, huddeled together for protection against the wind. The festival was on everyone's mind, and stories of festivals past were shared among old friends and new, as we were serenaded by Inspector Gadja, playing hit jewish tunes.

Before you knew it, the doors opened, and over 1200 people were gathered in the theater, comfortably seated, or scouring the sea of people for their friends. "She said she was about 10 rows down from the back on the right side...and this is the right side, right?", said one woman to me as we smiled together at the hilarity of the "needle-in-the-haystack" situation. Sadly, I did not know the answer, and have found this guide (right) to use for stage reference to share with you. 

The lights dimmed, and the Festival remained true to its tradition, showcasing the past years festival trailers, a wonderous way to remind us of the festival's history, but the highlight was this years trailer, hinting at whats to come. Did you recognize the song behind the trailer?

During the opening statements, Director of Programming, Jay Rosenblatt, obviously touched by the support of the community and a packed house, welcomed everyone to "San Francisco's largest jewish secular synagogue". New Executive Director, Lexi Leban too, was moved by the occasion, and took a second to "take-it-all-in." She spoke of her longtime relationship with the festival over 20 years as a participant, sometimes skipping work to attend screenings. She thanked supporters of all kinds for continuing to help grow and strengthen the organization for years to come, so that her daughter, Sola, now age 6, can benefit from the independent voices of the jewish community.

Photo courtesy of Anita Bowen Photography

One such voice, Filmmaker and Director Roberta Grossman, took the stage to introduce her feature documentary, hot off the press (only finished days before), the humors tale of Hava Nagila (The Movie). "It began as a quest," said Grossman, a search for an understanding of the meaning and tradition behind the famous song, Hava Nagila. Featuring interviews with Harry Belefonte, and all-too-familiar archival footage of the songs appearances in American pop-culture, the film both entertained, informed, and "reminded me of the spiritual connection in Hava Nagila", said audience member, Hillary Banks. 

As you walked the few blocks from Castro to the Opening Night Bash at The Swedish American Hall, groups of people were all singing or whistling their own renditions of Hava Nagila. Everyone enjoyed the film. There was so much to like, no one person shared the same favorite moment.

The celebration continued at the bash, as well-dressed party-goers accessorized with 3D glasses offering a fantantic lightshow of the Star of David. Or, was that the wine? Hey, there's Elliot Gould! Just then, a familiar song began to play from the band, La Peche Quintet. And just as we had watch in the theater, it took just a few notes for all in the room to realize it was time. A lively crowd immediately took the chance, gathered hands, and danced the Hora into the night. 

Photo courtesy of Anita Bowen Photography

As part of this year’s festival, we’ve added a fantastic musical line up!

Ben Lee: Catch My Disease

Australia’s international pop sensation Ben Lee will be joining us, at the Castro Theatre on Tuesday, July 24th after the screening of Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s biodoc Ben Lee: Catch My Disease.

The film offers an intimate window into the life of this young pop star who at the age of 16 became internationally recognized.

In the last fifteen years, Lee has released twelve albums:

  • 2011 Deeper Into Dream
  • 2010 Noise Addict – It Was Never About The Audience
    free download
  • 2009 The Rebirth of Venus
  • 2008 The Square
  • 2007 Ripe
  • 2005 Awake Is The New Sleep
  • 2004 The Ben
  • 2002 Hey You, Yes You
  • 1999 Breathing Tornados
  • 1997 Something To Remember Me By
  • 1996 Noise Addict – Meet The Real You
  • 1995 Grandpaw Would
  • 1995 Noise Addict – Young & Jaded
  • 1993 DEF

Now, at age 33 Lee opts to take a more introspective route with his music. His latest album release Deeper Into Dream reflects Lee’s own awareness. “I find dreams to be incredibly honest despite the kind of world we live in,” Lee says. “[Dreams are] proof that every single person on the planet is an artist and is completely creative. I really don’t like that elitist attitude to art – I like the idea that we are all creative and dreams prove it because people create entire worlds every night.

Lee does not have any upcoming tour dates but you can download his albums on iTunes. You can also download the song "Get Used To It" for free on Ben’s site.

Y-Love Y-Love

Yitz Jordan, better known as Y-Love is the “premier Orthodox Jewish entity in hip hop.” He explores a variety of new styles from dance to hip-hop to pop, channeling each one to express his underlying anti-prejudice message: “Unity builds the world, all divisions destroy the world.

Join us for the world premiere, and meet Director Caleb Heller and subject Y-Love in person at the Castro Theatre on Tuesday, July 24.

Y-Love has been keeping hip-hop kosher since 2005 with five different album releases:

  • Change
  • The Y-Love Mixtape

Raised by an Ethiopian father and Puerto Rican mother, he first discovered Judaism at age seven, "I saw a commercial that said, 'Happy Passover from your friends at Channel 2,'" he said, "and I went drawing six-pointed stars on everything in my mother’s house." In collaboration with beatboxer Yuri Lane, Y-Love released, Count It (Sefira) as a vocals-only album. Orthodox Jews can listen to this album year-round, including the period between Passover and Shavuot, when it’s not permitted to listen to musical instruments. His freestyle lyrics bring together his eclectic world view. The Jerusalem Post called Y-Love a “spiritual, rapping guru” who is “front and center in a trending hip-hop revolution."

Click here for more information about our Jews & Tunes: Spotlight on Music

**ANNOUNCEMENT**The Create-Your-Own Jewish Alliteration Trio Contest - Deadline: July 16, 2012 - 11:59pm PST

COME UP WITH YOUR OWN VERSION of a 3-part Jewish Alliteration

in the spirit of ...

“Kvell, Kvetch, Knish & Film”

In honor of SFJFF’s triptych alliterations marketing initiative, we’re inviting our audience to submit its own original 3-word alliterations inspired by the diversity, humor and complexity of Jewish life and experience. Using the same first letter, submitters should come up with their own 3-word alliteration in the spirit of the ones featured on the front of our festival catalog this year.

 

 

You have a chance to win the following prizes:

  • 1st prize: Featured on SFJFF web site, a Jewish Film Forum membership for one year, a t-shirt or poster from the 32nd festival, and an all-festival pass to the 33rd festival in 2013;
  • 2nd prize: A Jewish Film Forum membership for one year; a T-shirt or poster from the 32nd festival; 4 free tickets to the 33rd festival in 2013.
  • 3rd prize: A Jewish Film Forum membership for one year; a T-shirt or poster from the 32nd festival.

Contest Rules:
Alliteration submissions must be submitted NO LATER THAN 11:59pm PST, July 16 by one of the following (3) pathways:

  • By email: Send your name, phone number, & your trio to:  contests@sfjff.org
    Put “Create-Your-Own Jewish Alliteration Trio Contest” in the subject heading of your email.
  • Like us on Facebook: then post your original alliteration submission on the Festival’s Facebook wall.
  • Follow us on Twitter: then submit your original alliteration submission online using the at-reply function on Twitter. Our Twitter ID is @SFJewishFilm.

SFJFF staff will review all submissions, and finalists will be featured in the SFJFF pre-show slide show for a public voting period that starts on Opening Day, July 19th. Finalists will be voted on during the festival by audience members using an interactive, real time SMS voting tool called SNOOOZY, as well as through offline ballots. Winners will be announced during the Berkeley run of the festival. Details forthcoming!

**ANNOUNCEMENT** Hava Nagila Rendition Contest - Deadline: August 3rd - 11:59pm PST

In celebration of the world premiere of our opening night film, SFJFF32 is pleased to host our own Hava Nagila Rendition Contest. We invite our audience members to submit your own video/musical versions of the world famous song “Hava Nagila”.

You have a chance to win the following prizes:

  • 1st prize: Featured on SFJFF web site, a Jewish Film Forum membership for one year, a t-shirt or poster from the 32nd festival, and an all-festival pass to the 33rd festival in 2013.
  • 2nd prize: A Jewish Film Forum membership for one year; a T-shirt or poster from the 32nd festival; 4 free tickets to the 33rd festival in 2013.
  • 3rd prize: A Jewish Film Forum membership for one year; a T-shirt or poster from the 32nd festival.

Contest Rules:
Video submissions should be uploaded to your personal YouTube channel NO LATER THAN 11:59pm PST, August 3rd. Then notify SFJFF by one of the following (3) pathways:

  • By email: Send your name, phone number, and an attached Quicktime movie file (if you have an iphone, you can record your video and send it directly from your phone) or a link to your YouTube rendition/clip to:  contests@sfjff.org
    Put “Hava Nagila Video Rendition Contest” in the subject heading of your email.
  • Like us on Facebook: then post your name and link to your YouTube rendition/clip on the Festival’s Facebook wall.
  • Follow us on Twitter: then send the festival a shortened link to your submission online by using the at-reply function on Twitter. Our Twitter ID is @SFJewishFilm.
  • SFJFF staff will review all submissions, and 3 top finalists will be featured on the SFJFF You Tube Channel. The winner will be featured in our online Newsletter and the video will be played on our web site as part of online shorts program following the close of the 32nd Festival.

    Need inspiration? Search “Hava Nagila Rendition” on YouTube for all kinds of fun, inspiring, wacky and out of the box versions of ““Hava Nagila,” then come up with your own. Or, check out this How-to video on the comedy website, Funny Or Die

Q&A With "Kosher" Director Isabelle Stead

SFJFF’s online short for January 2011 "Kosher", follows happy-go-lucky Issac: six years old, mop-topped, as he trots through life from behind his bottle-top spectacles. Ridiculed by other children, Issac's imagination comes to life when a little pig miraculously shows up at his doorstep filling Issac's little world with some much needed hope, and in no time upsetting his Orthodox Jewish family.  Below watch director, Isabelle Stead discuss the inspiration for her film.

 
 
Isabelle, a Sundance fellow and the British Council’s EFP ‘Producer On The Move 2010′ is co-founder of the multi-award winning Human Film, a Leeds/Rotterdam production company with an internationally acclaimed back catalogue of social impact features and shorts across the Middle East.  The director's enchanting film "Kosher" is currently screening on SFJFF's YouTube Channel, click here to watch now!  

 

 

Q&A WITH THE LITTLE NAZI DIRECTOR PETRA LUSCHOW

Image Petra Luschow 1. What inspired this film?
I think a lot of the children and grandchildren of the followers and perpetrators of the Nazi regime are still struggling with the emotional heritage and emotional responsibility. They can’t see why they should feel responsible for something former generations have done. They want to be good, they don’t know why they feel guilty or ashamed. This can be followed by new rejection and enmeshment, sometimes new resentment. Many of my generation and even younger people tend to make up stories about their grandparents in which they appear as people who were against Hitler, who helped Jewish people and other people persecuted by the Nazis.

2. The subject of Nazism is handled with such comic grace in the film, especially the scene in the elevator between the husband and the wife comparing their family histories. How did you find the right tone for the film?
We rehearsed a lot, but I had an idea about the right tone from the beginning. This was also why I wanted to direct the film myself. It is my first work as a director. The decision to become one stems from a big frustration as to the wrong tone of some of the films I wrote the screenplay for.

3. What has the reaction been to your film in Germany and have you noticed a different reaction with Jewish audiences in particular?
Mostly good reactions. Before a screening people may say you mustn’t make a comedy about a serious topic like the Nazis and their crimes. But right after they don’t say that anymore. I haven’t noticed a different reaction with Jewish audiences, besides the fact that a few Jewish festivals have invited the film.
In Germany the film is shown in schools and will be on TV right before Christmas.

4. The grandson in the film is unaware of who Adolf Hitler was. Do you find this to be true of the younger generations in Germany now?
No. This is rather a satirical exaggeration/warning about what happens when history is rejected in family memory and people tell false stories.

5. What was your greatest challenge during the filmmaking process?
It was my first film as a director, so everything was a challenge, but: challenge is just another word for fun!

6. What film/media has inspired you lately?
For this project: Lubitsch, Wilder, Loriot (a German comedian).

7. Tell us about your next project.
In the moment I am writing a feature film, also a comedy, about the relation between gender, body, beauty and fascism.

To watch Petra Luschow's film on our Youtube channel click here.
 

 

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