Jewish Film Festival Preview, Part 2

Here’s four more movies that will screen at this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. As usual, I’ve listed them from best to worst – although there are no real turkeys in this batch.

You can also check out my first collection.

A Fanny’s Journey

In occupied France, a school mistress attempts to smuggle a group of Jewish children to safety. But as the school mistress and other adults fade away, 13-year-old Fanny (Léonie Souchaud) must take on the responsibility to bringing these kids to safety. The suspense builds almost unbearably as the children, some too young to understand what’s really going on, move from one dangerous situation after another. And yet the kids can still play and smile and laugh like children. A powerful tale of a struggle to survive against a government that wants you dead. Based on a true story.

A- Intent to Destroy

The Armenian genocide of 1915-16 is to Turkey what climate change is to America; it’s a clearly documented truth, but the government insists otherwise. Joe Berlinger’s disturbing documentary shows and explains both the genocide and the century of denial that’s still going on. But Intent to Destroy is also a making-of movie, documenting the production of an upcoming Indiewood epic
about the slaughter
called The Promise. That seems like a strange mix of documentary genres, but it works, thanks largely to the knowledge and dedication of the people making The Promise.

How does this belong in a Jewish film festival? The Armenian genocide was a precursor to the Holocaust. Besides, due to our history, Jews have a responsibility to shine a light on atrocities.

  • Freedom of Expression Award: Joe Berlinger, Castro, Thursday, July 27, 6:00
  • Albany Twin, Saturday, July 29, 3:50

B+ Body and Soul: An American Bridge
The first thing you should know is that this documentary is that it’s not really about the song Body and Soul. It’s about musicians, Jewish and African American, collaborating in the golden age of jazz. African Americans invented the form, but American Jews picked it up as a way to express their own feelings of alienation. While the film celebrates the great collaborations between the two groups, it doesn’t shrink away from the negative aspects – where Jewish artists and businessmen exploited black musicians. This movie swings, not just with the music, but with a playful visual style, as well.

The second thing you should know is that the movie is way too short at 58 minutes. It should have been twice as long. The Festival will precede Body and Soul with the short Bagels in the Blood. The Castro screening will be followed by a live jazz performance by The Marcus Shelby Quartet.

B- Avanti Popolo

The Six-Day War is over, and two Egyptian soldiers, without food or water, try to make their way home over a landscape controlled by what they still feel is the enemy. A
serious drama with flashes of black humor, Avanti Popolo presents strong arguments against the waste and absurdity of war. Despite its many strengths, this low-budget, 1986 movie suffers from amateur mistakes (dead man breathing) and main characters who do unbelievably stupid things just to keep the story going. Arab Labor‘s Salim Daw (looking much younger, of course) plays the lead character. New digital restoration.

This is my last preview for the Festival. The next time I’ll write about it will be after opening night.