Take Action Day at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

Friday was the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival‘s Take Action Day, which, when you think about it, is a strange name for sitting on your butt all day. They screened five political documentaries at the Castro that day. I saw the first three.

None of these could reasonably be called Jewish films. The Festival justified them by the Jewish commandment of Tikkun Olam, which means healing the world. Well, the world needs healing.

B+ The Devil We Know

The movie had its intended effect; I doubt I will ever again buy a Teflon pan. C8, an important chemical in non-stick pans and many other things, can cause a lot of health issues. We all have a little bit of it in us by now, but Dupont workers and people living downstream of their plants get enough to have serious problems. Filmmakers Stephanie Soechtig and Jeremy Seifert intelligently focus not on the facts but on the victims. One man, Bucky Bailey, was born with facial deformities, and has a sad and inspirational story to tell.

You get one more chance to see The Devil We Know, at the Albany Twin, on Thursday, August 2, at 2:00.

On Take Action Day, each film is followed by a discussion with activists. Some highlights, edited for clarity and brevity:

  • If you have the pan already, it’s not going to do any more harm. Just don’t buy another one. The real solution must go beyond what we do in our own kitchens.
  • Some of these chemicals are in what are generically called “paper plates.”
  • In this country, chemicals are innocent until proven guilty. We need laws that keep chemicals out of the market until they are proved safe.
  • Some Republicans who don’t care about brown babies care about their own.

B- The End of Meat

This German documentary (with an English narration) sets out to not only convince you to go vegan, but to try to bring the entire human race into the fold (I’m halfway there; I’m a vegetarian). Marc Pierschel’s film spends only a little time on the cruelty of factory farming, and somewhat more on the environmental problems. The discussion of health advantages go by in a flash. Much more time is spent on the world’s growing number of vegans. The documentary also offers adorable animal scenes, including some starring Esther the Wonder Pig. The most interesting moments, near the end, cover advances such as cultured meat (flesh grown without raising or killing animals) and a newly-discovered, protein-rich seaweed that tastes like bacon.

You have one more chance to see The End of Meat, at the Albany Twin, Tuesday, July 31, at the 4:15.

A few highlights, edited and slightly altered, of the discussion.

  • Ninety-nine percent of American meat is raised on factory farms. Animal agriculture is another system of oppression. We exploit them to the hilt.
  • If you’re not ready to go vegan, try Green Mondays.
  • Free-range doesn’t really mean anything. It could just be a doggy door on the barn.
  • The consensus is that cultured meat is all kosher. It’s a get-out-of-jail-free card.

A- Netizens

Internet harassment can ruin a person’s life (almost always a female person). Cynthia Lowen’s documentary brings the problem right to your face by following several women who have experienced these cruel “jokes.” Some are victims, and some have devoted themselves to stopping them. Tina Reine was ready for a lucrative career when an ex-boyfriend put up a website calling her a prostitute. The law didn’t protect her, the website stayed up, and a job almost in her pocket evaporated. Carrie Goldberg hasn’t experienced that sort of thing herself, but as a lawyer, her clients do. (She’s also a very wild and funny person.) The film puts multiple faces on the problem, and in doing so, might change some minds.

You can still catch Netizens at the Albany Twin, on Sunday, July 29, at 2:15.

And yes, here’s my edited version of the panel discussion:

  • This is not just cyberbullying. This is destroying people’s lives.
  • From a victim: I couldn’t believe that this was happening. On the other hand, I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t happening.
  • There’s a phycology of victim blaming. You feel that you can’t defend yourself, and if you try, it will make things worse.
  • The attitude of many men is “Your voices don’t belong here. Your voices aren’t wanted here.”
  • When you take public action, things get worse before things get better.
  • We need education addressing the greater culture – teaching about respect and healthy boundaries. We need a healthy masculinity with strength over yourself rather than over others.

Note: I corrected a spelling error in this article. My thanks to Joel Rubinstein for bringing it to my attention.