San Francisco Jewish Film Festival: Sunday at the Castro

Sunday was my first full day at this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. I saw three features: two documentaries and one narrative. They were all good, but none were excellent.

This Is Personal

Watching this documentary sometimes feels like experiencing all the horrors of the last three years all over again. But it also has an optimistic side. Director Amy Berg follows several women, mostly young and of color, as they form women’s marches, get arrested, and try to make this a better country. In the best scene, activist Tamika Mallory (almost the star of the movie) talks with a lesbian rabbi about Mallory’s relationship with the very anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan. But the film avoids the Dykes’ March Jewish Pride flags controversy (Sorry for the error. I have corrected it).

I give this documentary a B-.

Why is this a Jewish film? Along with other forms of bigotry, it deals with anti-Semitism from both the left and right. Then again, there’s the Jewish commandment of Tikkun Olam – repairing the world.

There was no Q&A in the theater after the movie. There was a discussion in a nearby location that I did not attend.

You have another chance to see This is Personal at the Piedmont on Sunday, August 4, at 1:45.


This documentary takes a humane look at Golda Meir, the reluctant Prime Minister of Israel from 1969 through 1974. Fighting cancer yet continuing to smoke, she hated the job and its responsibilities. Seen as a feminist icon in America, she’s largely hated in Israel, mostly because of the Yom Kippur war. Directors Sagi Bornstein, Udi Nir, and Shani Rozanes used a recently-discovered, never aired, absolutely fascinating, 1977 TV interview as the film’s backbone. One thing bothered me: The filmmakers picked a man – and one who sounded like Werner Herzog – to read aloud excepts from her autobiography.

This was the first screening of the film outside of Israel. I give this film a B+.

After the screening, two of the three directors came on stage for a Q&A. Some highlights, edited for brevity and clarity:

  • We came onboard because we were fascinated about the feelings people have about her in Israel and elsewhere.
  • The tape was found in a television archive in America. No one knew what was in that box.
  • Of course, we fought with each other. We were three Jews making a film together.
  • In the end, we fell in love with her. We knew people felt she was the bad grandma that did a lousy job. But by the end, that she was great.
  • On audience reactions in Israel: Yom Kippur veterans had problems watching. Some said “I can’t forgive her.” Others said the opposite.
  • There’s great bitterness to the left in Israel. She built and destroyed the labor party.

You have one more chance to see Golda. That will be at the Albany Twin, Saturday, July 27, at 2:00.

Dolce Fine Giornata

In her introduction to this Polish/Italian narrative film, Jewish Film Institute Executive Director Lexi Leban told us that this is the sexiest film in this year’s festival. If that’s true, don’t expect much sex in this year’s Jewish Film Festival.

Okay, on with the movie – the only narrative film of the day.

A Polish family living the good life in the Italian countryside is falling apart, thanks mainly because of the self-centered matriarch. She’s a famous poet, about to win the Noble Prize. In her mid-60s, she’s having an affair with a young, Egyptian man. She also has trouble accepting a hug from her daughter. In an important speech, soon after a suicide bombing, she calls terrorism a form of art. To make matters worse, Italy is falling into nationalism, and bigotry is on the rise.

How is this a Jewish film? We discover, in that speech, that she’s Jewish, but it’s never mentioned again. I give this film a B+.

There was no Q&A.

One thought on “San Francisco Jewish Film Festival: Sunday at the Castro

  1. Thanks very much for your reviews! I appreciate them as I try to decide what to see, and if I don’t have a chance to see a particular film I enjoy reading what you said about it, it provides additional insight to what the SFJFF program provides.

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