21st Toronto Jewish Film Festival April 11-‐21, 2013 GAT PR Press Summary
Interviews completed TV
CHCH TV – Morning Live! Interviewed: Marc Halberstadt (CowJews & Indians)
Global TV – The Morning Show Interviewer: Avraham Melamaed (The Eleventh Day)
Global TV – The Morning Show Interviewed: Mark Breslin (A Universal Language) TFO Interviewed: Jeremie Abessira Radio
680 News Interviewed: Helen Zukerman
CBC -‐ Here & Now Interviewed: Mark Breslin (A Universal Language)
CBC Radio-‐Canada Interviewed: Lewis Cohen (Jews and Money)
CBC Radio-‐Canada – Champ Libre Interviewed: Renaud Cohen (In Case I don’t Win the Golden Palm) CIUT 89.5 – The More The Merrier Interviewed: Jeff Lieberman (Re-‐Emerging: The Jews of Nigeria) CIUT 89.5 Interviewed: Peter Sanders (Altina)
CHOQ FM Interviewed: Sylvain Estibal and Myriam Tekaia (When Pigs Have Wings)
Sirius XM -‐ The Comic Strip Interviewed: Jean Paul (A Universal Language)
Radio Regent – Frameline Interviewed: George Geddeon (In the Presence of my Neighbours)
Radio Regent – The Middle Passage Interviewed: Stuart Hands Print/Online
Canadian Jewish News Interviewed: Debbie Werner
Canadian Jewish News Interviewed: Danny Ben-‐Moshe (Shalom Bollywood) Canadian Jewish News Interviewed: George Geddeon (In the Presence of My Neighbours) CBC Arts Online Marc Halberstadt (CowJews & Indians) Examiner.com Interviewed: Debbie Werner, David Ross (DDB) Forward – The Arty Semite Interviewed: Danny Ben-‐Moshe (Shalom Bollywood)
Indiewire – Shadow and Act Interviewed: Avishai Mekonen (400 Miles to Freedom) Inside Toronto Interviewed: Jean Paul (A Universal Language) L’Express Interviewed: Jeremie Abessira L’Express Interviewed: Renaud Cohen (In Case I don’t Win the Golden Palm) L’Express Interviewed: Sylvain Estibal and Myriam Tekaia (When Pigs Have Wings) National Post – The Diarist Featured: Stuart Hands Notable.ca – Executive Reads Featured: Helen Zukerman Toronto Star Interviewed: Marc Halberstadt (CowJews & Indians) The Weekly Voice Interviewed: Danny Ben-‐Moshe (Shalom Bollywood) Xtra Interviewed: Allen Baude, Lihu Roter (Out in the Dark)
Toronto Jewish Film Festival opens with serious satire Quirky CowJews and Indians kicks off 21st festival on April 11. By: Linda Barnard Movies, Published on Mon Apr 08 2013 http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/movies/2013/04/08/toronto_jewish_film_festival_ope ns_with_serious_satire.html
The title of the April 11 opening movie of the 21stToronto Jewish Film Festival may be weighty but the premise is simple, according to Marc Halberstadt, the American writer-‐director of CowJews and Indians: How Hitler Scared My Relatives and I Woke Up in an Iroquois Longhouse — Owing the Mohawks Rent.
“This film began with a very small ambition: to document a film about just another Jew rebelling against the reparation model,” said Halberstadt, who started working on his satirical doc with a serious message more than 10 years ago. Eventually, he went to Germany to make a point about his grandparents’ home being seized by the Nazis and the folly of a $1,000 payment designed to make amends in 1951. (The doc reveals an unusual twist in the tale.) Cowjews opens with that scene and Halberstadt’s polite refusal to leave a dress shop in a German town, now located in the downstairs of the home once owned by his family. The doc then makes the case for his unusual formula for reparations, which he presents to representatives of American aboriginal tribes, using archival footage, maps, cartoons and a good dollop of wry humour. “The hypocrisy hit me. Here I am in Germany complaining about the property taken away from my ancestors when my ancestors did the same to the Native Americans,” said Halberstadt, who also heads “the world’s only analogy service,” the AAA Analogy Service Corp. “There’s a parallel between what happened to Jews and what happened to Indians,” he added. Halberstadt’s family came to America and settled in upstate New York on land that had once belonged to the Mohawks. As he explains in the doc: “I have a thought: If the Germans owe me for 65 years’ worth of back rent — and I owe the Native Americans for 65 years’ worth of back rent, why don’t I let the Native Americans collect directly from the Germans? Cut out the middleman.” The doc follows Halberstadt and four Native Americans — including Joyce Tekahnawiiaks King, director of the Akwesasne Justice Department, who will join the filmmaker for a question-‐and-‐ answer session after the April 11 screening — on a tour of Germany. They explain the model to government and religious leaders, seeking support for the unusual idea. Amazingly, there’s some solid support. For those who prefer docs on more cultural subjects, the TJFF wraps on April 21 with writer-‐ director Roberta Grossman’s affectionate doc Hava Nagila (The Movie), about the ubiquitous song of Jewish celebration seemingly heard at all weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs. The doc traces the song’s Ukrainian roots to North America, with interviews (and performances) from Harry Belafonte, Connie Francis and Glen Campbell. Leonard Nimoy even talks about his love of the infectious tune, and the religious inspiration for his famous Spock salute that debuted on TV’s Star Trek. TJFF features 90 films from 17 countries, ranging from music, to drama, comedy and even horror, including two world premieres and three international premieres. Among the other movies on the bill: Joe Papp in Five Acts: about the man behind stage hits including Hair and A Chorus Line; Neil Diamond: Solitary Man (a free screening);Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir, God’s Neighbors, an Israeli feature that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and French comedy My Best Holidays, about an Algerian-‐Jewish family vacationing in rural France in the 1970s. For tickets and schedules, go to tjff.com.
Toronto Jewish Film Festival features people who put the pop in culture GEOFF PEVERE Special to The Globe and Mail Published Thursday, Apr. 04 2013, 5:15 PM EDT http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/film/toronto-jewish-film-festival-features-people-whoput-the-pop-in-culture/article10784595/
From April 11 to 21, the world’s largest festival of Jewish and Jewish-‐related film unfolds in Toronto. While nearly 100 dramatic features, shorts, documentaries and TV productions have been programmed from around the world, among the more conspicuous elements of the 21st Toronto Jewish Film Festival are the non-‐fiction movies about Jewish artists and entertainers. There’s nothing new in this, but the fact is inescapable. Indeed, when Neal Gabler wrote his 1988 account of the role of Jews in the American movie business, he called it An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood. Given the fact of Jewish contributions to international entertainment generally, the book might well have been one of a several-‐volume set calledFrom Allen to Zimmerman: How the Jews Put the Pop in Culture. Because, as the documentary component of TJFF once again renders irrefutably clear, you can take showbiz out of the Jew, but …
Beautifully Broken: The Life and Work of Rafael Goldchain While the fixation with history and identity that defines the work of the celebrated Toronto photographer Rafael Goldchain are hardly uncommon in the work of Jewish artists, the man’s own approach to these issues is truly singular. By shooting himself dressed as his own ancestors in a series of haunting portraits, Goldchain raises questions of legacy, responsibility and multi-‐ generational Judaism that filmmaker Vladimir Kabelik uses as a frame for interpreting the man behind the camera. (April 17, 6:30 p.m., ROM; April 21, 4:30 p.m., Sheppard 5) Gainsbourg by Gainsbourg: An Intimate Self Portrait In Pierre-‐Henry Salfati’s absorbing but elliptical first-‐person account of the life and career of the late Russian-‐born French pop singer, the man’s own words describe a life of hardship, untreated alcoholism, shame and – with apologies to Edith Piaf – no regrets. Despite the fact he was a national hero, an international star, a critical darling and accompanied by some of the world’s most breathtaking women – Anna Karina, Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin – he retained a sense of personal fraudulence because he wasn’t a ‘true’ artist. One can only conclude he didn’t spend much time listening to his own work. (April 20, 9:15 p.m., Innis College) Hava Nagila (The Movie) In Roberta Grossman’s wry account of the history and subsequent global ubiquity of the world’s most famous Jewish party song, there is much dissent over the origins of the composition, the best way to play it, what it really means, and whether or not it’s a sublimely rousing expression of Jewish communal solidarity or the most annoying assembly of musical notes ever. However, as the movie probes these issues and implications, it confirms one thing: Wherever there were Jews gathered for celebration in the last century, Hava Nagila was played, heard and danced to, a reminder of a people’s fundamental insistence on joy. (April 21, 8 p.m., Bloor) Jerry and Me When the American-‐based, Tehran-‐born filmmaker and teacher Mehrnaz Saeed-‐Vafa was growing up in the Shah’s Iran, she was transfixed by the hyperkinetic human cartoon image of Jerry Lewis, who came to symbolize for the young woman not only a spirit of constant resistance against norms, authority and convention, but a kind of maverick outsider’s sensibility that found an enduring affinity with Saeed-‐Vafa’s own lifelong sense of exile. A kind of personal essay told with clips from Lewis’s largely self-‐directed oeuvre, Jerry and Me is a movie about Jewishness as a unifying metaphor: Under properly alienating circumstances, Jerry is the Jewish Everyman. (April 13, 3 p.m., Innis) Joe Papp in Five Acts Tracie Holder’s and Karen Thorson’s film profiles the late New York theatrical force, who began by challenging Broadway but ended up ruling it. Joe Papp in Five Acts is about a man of considerable complexity and dimension, who at once insisted on theatre for the people but presided autocratically over his own, who concealed his Jewishness for much of his life and then embraced it, and who considered theatre in the very same familial terms he denied his own family. But the contradictions were crucial to the career, which was based in a belief that art is surrounded by walls that are there for the storming, and the only thing standing between the common guy and Shakespeare was a mythical moat of shallow snobbery. (April 15, 6:45 p.m., Innis; April 16, 4 p.m., Sheppard 5)
Koch The recently deceased, multiple-‐termed mayor of New York never met a camera he didn’t like. And it’s almost impossible to watch Neil Barsky’s fascinating, carefully wart-‐conscious portrait of Ed Koch without feeling like you’re witnessing one of the Big Apple’s longest-‐running showbiz spectacles. Koch was as motivated by his own gargantuan ego and need for public affirmation as he was by political ambitions and ideals, but the impressive thing about this documentary, completed not long before its subject died in February, is that it provides a comprehensive account not only of both sides of Koch, but how inextricably hitched they were. (April 14, 5:45 p.m., Bloor) My Father and the Man in Black When filmmaker Jonathan Holiff was growing up in London, Ont., his dad Saul wasn’t around much, and when he was, he wasn’t much of a dad. Meanwhile, Saul Holiff was engaged in the considerable feat of “managing” the unmanageable Johnny Cash, turning the Man in Black into a huge international pop crossover star despite the fact the amphetamine-‐gobbling singer was aptly named for much more than his sartorial habits. Although somewhat marred by an overuse of awkwardly intrusive re-‐enacted sequences, Holiff’s movie about his father’s struggle with Cash is ultimately touching and illuminating, an account of an unlikely but deeply bonded partnership. (April 18, 9 p.m., Innis) Neil Diamond: Solitary Man On camera, the great pop songwriter and performer Neil Diamond is open and unaffected yet inscrutable and remote. He feels like he’s presenting himself rather than being himself. Not as much as, say, Bob Dylan in No Direction Home, but let’s just say you shouldn’t turn to British filmmaker Samantha Peters’s hour-‐long portrait of the so-‐called “Jewish Elvis” for much more than a breezy recap of a hook-‐heavy career. The music, of course, is mostly terrific, and the archival footage irresistible. But Diamond is a guy who built his brilliant career on being careful and in control, and that comes across almost as forcefully here as the chorus for Cherry Cherry. (April 13, 7 p.m., Innis) Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir The world’s most perpetually controversial film artist sits down, while still under house arrest in Switzerland two years ago, and talks about his life with one of his best friends, the producer Andrew Braunsberg. For anyone who’s read about Polanski or heard him interviewed before, Laurent Bouzereau’s simply-‐rendered, two-‐gentlemen-‐talking documentary won’t offer much by way of revelation, but it is an opportunity to observe a truly world-‐class raconteur narrate his own story. And what a story: From the shattering experiences in the Lodz Jewish ghetto when the half-‐Jewish Polanski was a boy to his more recent struggles, including the 1977 case where he plead guilty to illegal sexual relations with a minor, the Polanski story is one of those very few that gives even his movies a run for their money as pure drama. (April 17, 4 p.m., Sheppard 5; April 21, 3:15 p.m., Innis) For more information on the Toronto Jewish Film Festival see tjff.com. This article can also be seen in the following outlets:
Weekly roundup: Apps, awards and premiere dates February 8, 2013 by Matt Sylvain http://playbackonline.ca/2013/02/08/weekly-‐roundup-‐apps-‐awards-‐and-‐premiere-‐ dates/#ixzz2SG3s4abQ Herewith, Playback’s weekly curated briefs of news of interest to the industry. New TJFF program manager Stuart Hands has been promoted to program manager from position of assistant program manager at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival. He has worked at the festival since 2006, and among other industry experience has written for the Canadian film journal CineAction. The festival runs Apr. 11 to 21.
Weekly roundup: ideaBOOST and film and TV premieres March 28, 2013 by Matt Sylvain http://playbackonline.ca/2013/03/28/weekly-‐roundup-‐ideaboost-‐and-‐film-‐and-‐tv-‐premieres/
Playback has prepared this weekly collection of industry news-‐briefs on Thursday instead of Friday due to the Easter long weekend. Happy Thursday! Film premieres The Toronto Jewish Film Festival announced this week its lineup for the event that runs Apr. 11 to 2. Among the numerous screenings are three Canadian-‐ made films that are having notable premieres. Director Igal Hecht’s A Universal Language is to receive its world premiere, director George Gedeon’s In The Presence of My Neighbours is to receive its North American premiere and Lewis Cohen’s Jews and Money(pictured) is to receive its Canadian premiere.
Toronto Jewish Film Festival opens with CowJews & Indians
Posted: Apr 11, 2013 10:41 AM ET http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2013/04/10/cowjews-‐tjff.html
American filmmaker Marc Halberstadt, left, examines Holocaust reparations, Native land claims and whether they might be related in CowJews and Indians. (Marc Halberstadt)
Filmmaker Marc Halberstadt plays out an extended analogy in the Toronto Jewish Film Festival's opening film, titled CowJews & Indians: How Hitler Scared My Relatives and I Woke Up in an Iroquois Longhouse — Owing the Mohawks Rent. The Nazis had forced his Jewish grandfather to give up his property in Germany, but decades later, American Halberstadt realized he was himself living on Mohawk land in New York. “I started out to try to get my family’s property back in Germany," Halberstadt told CBC News.
“Once I got to Germany, after some time there, I realized I was a hypocrite because here I am complaining about the property taken away from my ancestors, when in America I’m living on land taken away from the ancestors of Native Americans. “If the Germans owed me 65 years of back rent and I owed the Native Americans 65 years of back rent, why not let the Native Americans collect directly from Germany and cut out the middleman?” In his film, which gets its Canadian premiere Thursday at TJFF, Halberstadt recruits a group of Mohawk and Lakota heritage to travel to Germany and argue that the Germans should pay reparations directly to them for property Jewish families lost to the Nazis. Not such a far-‐fetched idea It proves not to be such a far-‐fetched idea, as the group members are able to get German lawyers to examine the legal precedent on their behalf and find locals surprisingly supportive. CowJews & Indians is Halberstadt’s first feature and its trickster premise stirs up awareness of what Native Americans lost with the arrival of Europeans. The Native Americans agreed to participate with the documentary for various reasons, Halberstadt said. “I presented my idea and I offered to pay for travel expenses and living expenses and different people went for different reasons,” he noted. One of the Lakota group members had a great-‐grandfather buried in Germany, while another wanted to further his art career. A third individual, a working comedian, was looking for comic insight into a difficult issue. Halberstadt will answer audience questions after Thursday night's screening of his film. Exploring Jewish identity The Toronto Jewish Film Festival focuses on movies that explore Jewish identity, this year including documentaries that profile Neil Diamond, Roman Polanski, Serge Gainsbourg and late New York mayor Ed Koch.
In 400 Miles to Freedom, Avishai Yeganyahu Mekonen talks about the kidnapping he endured as a child while his family was en route to Israel. (TJFF) There is also a spotlight on African films, with five movies from West Africa set to screen. 400 Miles to Freedom, a 2012 documentary about Ethiopian Jews making their way to Israel, will have its Canadian premiere at the festival. The film’s co-‐director Avishai Yeganyahu Mekonen recounts his family’s
exodus from Ethiopia in the 1980s, a long journey, by foot, that included his being kidnapped at age 11. Israel gives his family a mixed welcome, insisting the Ethiopians "convert" to Judaism, although they are already Jews. Feature fiction films on the TJFF program include: My Best Holidays, a French comedy set in the 1970s about a Jewish Algerian family taking a vacation in a French rural village never visited by Jews before. God’s Neighbors, an Israeli movie that screened at Cannes about a religious gang that enforces a strict moral code in a Jaffa suburb and what happens when its leader is attracted to a girl who won’t follow the rules. Aliyah, about a young Parisian who is selling drugs to pay off his brother’s debt and also to raise enough money to immigrate to Israel. The Toronto Jewish Film Festival runs April 11-‐21, with movies screening around the Greater Toronto Area.
This article can also be seen in the following media outlets:
A Universal Language http://globalnews.ca/video/472158/a-‐universal-‐language
Thu, Apr 11: Yuk Yuk’s founder Mark Breslin stops by The Morning Show to preview a documentary in which he takes six Canadian comedians on a tour of Israel.
Diary: Stuart Hands of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival STUART HANDS, SPECIAL TO NATIONAL POST | 13/04/07 | Last
Updated:13/04/08 11:13 AM ET http://arts.nationalpost.com/2013/04/07/diary-stuart-hand-of-the-torontojewish-film-festival/
TJFFThough genre fare is rare in Israeli cinema, this year's TJFF features Poisoned, a fun and exciting 45minute film about a young nebbish battling his fellow Israeli soldiers, who have been turned into flesheating zombies.
The National Post takes you through a week in the life of a notable cultural figure. This week: Stuart Hands is the program manager of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, which runs April 11 to 21. For tickets and information, visit tjff.com.
Monday This year the Festival screens many remarkable Israeli films as we commemorate the country’s 65th anniversary. Over the years, we have seen new trends emerge in the country’s film output. A number of our programmers and I have noticed a great crop of Israeli “genre films” (such as musicals, horror films, screwball comedies and psychological thrillers). A few years ago, the Festival screened a musical TV miniseries made by Eytan Fox (The Bubble, Yossi) called Mary Lou, about a young drag queen in search of his mother. To me it was clear that Fox understood the conventions of the musical and how they push the story forward and develop the main characters. A year later, we screened what has been called the first Israeli “slasher” film, Rabies. A Tel Aviv University film lecturer, Aharon Keshales and his former-‐student, Navot Papushado, co-‐ directed this well-‐crafted and intelligent film. The filmmakers clearly understood what today’s horror film fans expect and cleverly manipulated the “slasher” film conventions to create something fresh that spoke to modern Israeli society on a deeper level. Tuesday
TJFFCats on a Pedal Boat
Genre films are rarely produced in Israel, but there is much potential for change. This year, I, along with fellow Festival programmer Jérémie Abessira, are very excited about two horror-‐comedies, which are being screened on one bill during the Festival. There’s Poisoned, a fun and exciting 45-‐minute film about a young nebbish battling his fellow Israeli soldiers, who have been turned into flesh-‐eating zombies. Then there’sCats on A Pedal Boat, pictured, a self-‐parodying, very low-‐budget tribute to American teen films of the ’80s. Perhaps it can be described as an odd but hilarious cross between Piranha and The Goonies. Both films are being co-‐presented with the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. This double-‐bill is one of the programs that I most excited about attending. The director of Poisoned will be there, and I look forward to hearing about the future of this impressive cycle of Israeli films.
Wednesday Since joining the Toronto Jewish Film Festival in 2006, I have noticed how few British films have been produced about the Jewish experience. The most memorable in recent years have been Sixty-‐Six, starring Helena Bonham Carter, and last year’s eccentric documentary How to Re-‐Establish a Vodka Empire. Compared with the United States, markers of Jewish identity are not as easily found in British film and television. (Or, as someone who grew up with Woody Allen and Seinfeld, am I just not recognizing British signifiers of Jewish identity?) But there’s a sign things are changing. Films with more Jewish content are being produced and more studies are currently being written chronicling the impact of Jewish artists and entrepreneurs on the British film and television industry. For this year’s Festival, when soliciting films, I paid particular attention to what was coming out of Britain, and ended up with a smashing lineup of films from across the pond. Thursday
TJFFJewish Mum of the Year
Although not many British films are normally produced about the Jewish experience, we have found a great selection to present at this year’s Festival. Exploring the history of the Jewish community in Leeds, the poignant documentary The Last Tribe offers rare insight into the struggles and successes of the Jews of Britain. The film also provides an interesting counterpoint to the often-‐told narratives of American Jewish assimilation. On a lighter note, the British reality show Jewish Mum of the Year, pictured above, is a hilarious and highly addictive series that aired on U.K.’s Channel 4 and was watched by 1.6 million Brits. We are proud to have this original series make its North American premiere at our Festival. I am convinced Toronto audiences have never seen anything
quite like it. Lastly, our program of Jewish comedy shorts features two little gems from Britain that, for me at least, now begs the question: Is there such a thing as British-‐ Jewish humour? Friday This year, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival is programming a poignant Israeli experimental documentary about photography and memory called Hunting Time. Over the past few years the Festival has been aiming to include films that are challenging artistically. Sometimes, we come across wonderful experimental short films, only to find that we have no appropriate features with which to pair them. A few years ago, we took a chance on an avant-‐garde campy musical feature called The Stockholm Syndrome. A fellow programmer, Allen Braude, introduced the film to an audience of 20 or so. The next day, an older, well-‐dressed couple who attended the screening approached Allen, who expected them to question the programming we do. Instead, to his delight, they expressed how pleased they were to have seen a film so different from what they would normally see in theatres. Of course, this unexpected feedback taught us to not make assumptions about people, but it also reinvigorated us to continue screening artistically challenging work, in the hopes of eventually cultivating an audience that will appreciate them.
Toronto Jewish Film Festival
BY: ADAM NAYMAN http://www.thegridto.com/culture/film/toronto-‐jewish-‐film-‐festival/
April 11–21. An Israeli comedy-‐horror hybrid at this year’s Toronto Jewish Film Festival, co-‐presented with the gore-‐hounds at Toronto After Dark, Didi
Lubetzky’s Poisoned (April 13, 10 p.m., Innis College) takes its place in the canon of thrillers set on specific holidays: April Fool’s Day, Black Christmas, Halloween. The special day in question here is Passover, which is transformed from an evening of celebration and reflection to a pitched battle between Israeli Defense Forces and a gaggle of zombies. The hero is a meek custodian (David Shaul) who must take up arms (and other implements) to dispatch an entire barracks’ worth of mutated commandos, and there’s a good enough ratio of laughs to gore to sustain the film through its short running time. By contrast, Yuval Mendelson and Nadav Hollander’s Cats on a Pedal Boat, which screens during the same programme, is painfully protracted in its spoofing of American B-‐movies. Still, it features a few likeably surreal touches, including a confrontation with some feline sea monsters. The presence of such genre fare at TJFF suggests that the festival’s programmers are trying to rope in a younger crowd, but there are also numerous examples of more traditional material. The narrative standout is probably Rama Burshtein’s Fill The Void (April 21, 6 p.m., Bloor Hot Docs Cinema), a melodrama about the ultra-‐Orthodox Haredi community of Tel Aviv that pivots on a teenage girl’s decision about whether or not to forgo an arranged marriage. The film, which showed last fall at TIFF, swept the Israeli Academy Awards. As usual, TJFF has brought in a number of documentaries about well-‐known Jewish entertainers and public figures, including Jerry Lewis—who figures in Iranian-‐American director Mehrnaz Saeedvafa’s intriguing and autobiographical Jerry and Me (April 13, 3 p.m., Innis College)—and Neil Diamond, who gets the BBC doc treatment in Neil Diamond: Solitary Man (April 13, 7 p.m., Innis College). Neil Barsky’s Koch (April 14, 5:45 p.m., Bloor Hot Docs Cinema), which was shot two years before the death of its subject—the iconic, oft-‐embattled former New York City mayor Ed Koch—and has an appropriately valedictory feel. Barsky’s long interview segments with his eponymous star yield both candid reflections and confrontational posturing. (“None of your fucking business,” the octogenarian Koch barks when presented with rumours about his sexuality.) Testimony from his many critics prevents any chance of things sliding into hagiography. There’s a more fawning tone in Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir (April 17, 4 p.m., Sheppard 5; April 21, 3:15 p.m., Innis College), in which the great director reminisces about his relentlessly eventful life with his longtime friend and producer Andrew Braunsberg. The film quite obviously means to reupholster its subject’s reputation, downplaying his illicit activities and emphasizing that the young woman he raped has unequivocally long since forgiven him. The result is a documentary that’s far less nuanced and complex than the man it describes, and while Polanski’s descriptions of his nightmarish childhood and his reaction to learning of Sharon Tate’s murder are nearly verbatim from his 1984 autobiography, the stories are compelling in the extreme.
Toronto Jewish Film Fest, Spotlight On Africa -‐ '400 Miles to Freedom' BY MASHA DOWELL | APRIL 19, 2013 6:34 PM http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/toronto-‐jewish-‐film-‐fest-‐spotlight-‐on-‐africa-‐400-‐miles-‐to-‐ freedom
“400 Miles to Freedom” tells a collective story of Jews from the African Diaspora. Leading in telling this amazing and often unheard of story, is the story of a young man, film director Avishai Mekonen. At 10 years old, he was kidnapped and held captive in Sudan; while his family lived in Ethiopia (Beta Israel). After his return; his family made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
The Beta Israel region of Ethiopia was a 2,500-‐year-‐old community of observant Jews. The goal of this community (including Avishai’s family) was to land in their religious home country of Israel. However, once there, they learn that although they are Jewish, they are not accepted. Avishai was inspired to create this film because he wanted to be able to explain to his son his history as a man from Ethiopia; yet, of Jewish faith. His goal for this project was to assist people with their identity issues; and to educate the non Jewish community. Throughout the documentary, Avishai struggles to explain to high officials in Israel of his religion. There is one scene where one high ranking Rabbi questions his religion. This hurts him deeply, and he has a discussion with his family about the incident. They don’t understand why he is not easily identified as a Jewish man in Israel. The last thing that he wants to do is blame his confusion on racism. However, it was through this revelation that this documentary came about. Because after he discovers and releases his frustrations; he decides to travel the world to learn about other black Jews. It would then take Mekonen seven years to complete this film. The documentary then goes on to introduce us to other Jews from the African Diaspora. The stories are amazing. Yet, I can’t help but think of a challenge it must have been for many black Jews to be committed to a faith; yet, not readily accepted. This documentary opened my eyes to something that I never concluded about religion. That not only is it about a faith in something higher than one’s self, but I have come to understand that religion creates a sense of belonging in various communities. By watching Avishai’s pain and challenges I realized that it appeared that he longed to have a home country and to be accepted. Yes, he was African and of Jewish faith, but through it all he wanted to belong to a group; and that group happened to be Judaism. As an African-‐American; that happens to be a Christian. This documentary presents many great questions for me to explore. If religion creates a feeling of belonging in communities; what happens to people that are spiritual; but not religious? Furthermore, this documentary makes me wonder about the many questions of belonging that many blacks in America may have. In this film, Avishai knew his family was from Ethiopia; and he knew that they fled a dictatorship and landed in Israel, however, what about the black people in America that don’t know anything; will they forever possess the feeling of not belonging?
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Toronto Jewish Film Festival http://www.chch.com/morning-live-blog/item/12398-toronto-jewish-film-festival The Toronto Jewish Film Festival is entering its 21st year and joining us now with information about this year's festival is Marc Halberstadt, director of one of the opening night filims, Cowjews and Indians: How Hitler Scared My Relatives and I Woke Up in an Iroquois Longhouse, Owing the Mohawks Rent.
This Week in Film: Like Someone in Love, Upstream Color, Images Festival, and Toronto Jewish Film Festival Posted by Blake Williams / APRIL 11, 2013 http://www.blogto.com/film/2013/04/this_week_in_film_like_someone_in_love_upstream_color_i mages_festival_and_toronto_jewish_film_festival/ Toronto Jewish Film Festival (April 11-21)
Is film what Jews do best? To find out, you'll have to attend the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, now in its 21st year and once again offering a fresh slew of films celebrating Jewish culture, politics, struggles, history and identity. With nearly 100 films from over a dozen different countries, TJFF has something for everyone -‐ Jewish or otherwiseserving up a diversity of genres, content and styles from all over the world, including hot titles pulled from Cannes (Aliyah), last year's TIFF (Fill the Void) and the silent film archives (Oded the Wanderer, which will include live piano accompaniment!). This is another festival that is spread out across various venues throughout the city, so check dates, times, titles, and locations on there website. Tickets can be purchased online here for a $1 convenience fee, or also at the venue on the day of the screenings.
Five must-‐see movies from this year’s Toronto Jewish Film Festival April 11 – By Anthony Marcusa http://www.postcity.com/Eat-‐Shop-‐Do/Do/April-‐2013/Five-‐must-‐see-‐movies-‐from-‐the-‐Toronto-‐ Jewish-‐Film-‐Festival/
Would the Toronto Jewish Film Festival be complete without a zombie movie like Poisoned?
“Film. It’s what the Jews do best,” reads the homepage of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival. It’s playful and quite possibly true, considering the breath of the 11-‐day movie event. There are documentaries and dramas, naturally, but also horror, comedy and even a screening of a reality program. Playing across Toronto starting today, the festival features entries from around the world.
Here are just some of the many noteworthy films in the expansive lineup. CowJews and Indians: How Hitler Scared My Relatives and I Woke Up in an Iroquois Longhouse — Owing the Mohawks Rent While the verbose title may seem a bit esoteric, this opening night documentary, grandiose in scope and incredibly idealistic, is simple and pure in heart and purpose. Marc Halberstadt tells the story of a longstanding global issue: displacement. His descendents in Germany — workers in the cattle trade, where the titular “CowJew” originates — were removed from their home, and he wants it back. Halberstadt shares his bold ideas with the audience as well as a group of Native Americans, who he describes as the rightful landlords of North America. Quixotic, smart and compelling, Halberstadt’s film is undeniably passionate and evocative. April 11, 8:30 p.m., Bloor Cinema Poisoned No film festival is complete without zombies — well, that seems to be the mantra of this decade, at least. This Israeli export is a horror comedy, finding the inept-‐yet-‐charming son of a legendary military hero amid a zombie apocalypse. An army base becomes infected over Passover, and only Danny and Maya are left to fight and survive the night. Short, sweet and super bloody. April 13, 10 p.m. Innis College A Universal Language Yuk Yuk’s founder Mark Breslin takes a colourful collective of Canadian comics (some Jewish, some not) over to Israel in the name of humour, understanding and compassion. This comedic pilgrimage explores the boundaries of humour and its common, uniting thread throughout the world. The film is at times funny and awkward, endearing and uncomfortable. April 14, 8:30 p.m., Bloor Cinema Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean This wondrously titled 40-‐minute documentary follows a global collective initiative from Uganda. A country with an impoverished people, surrounded by other poor nations, Uganda relies on the export of coffee beans, the world’s second largest commodity. Full of hope and history (and narrated by the dulcet tones of Ed O’Neill), the film introduces viewers to a small village made up of Christians, Jews and Muslims, who join together to develop a sustainable and fruitful economic collective. They name it Mirembe Kawomera — delicious peace. Simple and illuminating, the enthusiasm and optimism is palpable as the co-‐op gains global recognition and support. April 15, 1 p.m., ROM Second Movement for Piano and Needlework A beautiful, lyrical romance, this colourful entry is one of the festival’s more surprising pieces. A peculiar but curious uncertainty underscores this 50-‐minute film that follows a pair of strangers, one a Korean music teacher and the other a Jewish clothing designer, through their intertwining lives in São Paulo, Brazil. Music and art, culture and heritage and men and women of varying age, size, colour and sexual orientation make up this lovely, warming Brazilian film. April 18, 3 p.m., ROM
Jerry Lewis shows sensitive side in The Jazz Singer TV remake of Al Jolson movie screens at Toronto Jewish Film Festival. Staff Reporter., Published on Fri Apr 12 2013 http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/movies/2013/04/12/jerry_lewis_shows_s ensitive_side_in_the_jazz_singer.html By: Eric Veillette
There’s long been a joke about the French inexplicably loving the films of Jerry Lewis. But maybe they’re onto something. Although a number of politically incorrect comments made by the Hollywood legend over the past decade have not helped his image, Murray Pomerance of Ryerson University thinks film enthusiasts should take another look. “So many people who have negative things to say about Jerry Lewis do not pay close attention to his art,” he says.
An especially sensitive side to that art will be on display on Saturday as the Toronto Jewish Film Festival screens The Jazz Singer, a 1959 televised remake of the first talking picture, which starred Al Jolson. The film was unseen for decades until it was released on DVD last year. It was one of two films Lewis long refused to discuss. The other was the controversial The Day the Clown Cried from 1972. Much like its largely silent predecessor from 1927 — and an earlier remake from 1952 —The Jazz Singer centres on a cantor’s son who deviates from traditional family expectations. Pomerance, who edited the book Enfant Terrible!: Jerry Lewis in American Film, was deeply touched by the sincerity in Lewis’s performance. “It intersects in many ways,” he says. “It’s Jerry Lewis and his own feelings toward Judaism, toward his own father — a Borscht Belt comic — and a sense of allegiance to the family tradition.” Also on display is a sense of maternal hunger, where the mother instructs her child to give up his career. “That kind of sacrifice is absent from most of his comedic work, where he’s not giving anything up to anyone but himself.” As the story goes, Lewis, as Joey Rabinowitz, ultimately relents, giving up his showbiz career to perform the sacred “Kol Nidre” before Yom Kippur in place of his absent father. But showbiz and what’s happening in the synagogue are not that unrelated, adds Pomerance. “He’s still standing on a stage, still playing a role and the Kol Nidre is still scripted. It’s not improvised.” Rob King, who teaches film comedy at Columbia University, says The Jazz Singer, produced three years after the breakup of Lewis’s 10-‐year partnership with Dean Martin, testifies to a crazy moment in Lewis’s career: “The split unleashed all of his ambitions. There’s an impetus in his career to become the total entertainer, which was not unlike Al Jolson. “What you’re seeing in Jerry Lewis is someone whose career overlaps with a number of ends. It’s the end of the studio era, it’s the end of Vaudeville, and both of these ends required him to come up with a new kind of comedy.” American critics of Lewis would disparage his frenetic mugging, his spasmodic comedy. “It required a dynamic pace, a real genius which was unparalleled in any previous style of comedy,” says King. The same year as The Jazz Singer, Lewis signed a $10-‐million, 14-‐picture contract with Paramount Pictures to write, direct, produce and edit his own films. He made a case for himself as an autonomous filmmaker — “unprecedented since Orson Welles,” notes King — and in the early 1960s released a string of films like The Errand Boy, The Nutty Professor and The Ladies Man, the latter a deconstructionist experiment in big-‐budget filmmaking that later influenced Jean-‐Luc Godard. When Martin sings, it seems effortless, but with Lewis, who is now 87, every breath, every tap dance is meticulously learned, says Pomerance. “In typical Jewish fashion, Lewis wants you to know that he learned the lesson.” The Jazz Singer screens April 13 at 3 p.m. at Innis College. See http://tjff.com/www.tjff.comEND for information.
Toronto Jewish Film Festival You’ll be singing I’m A Believer after watching these Toronto Jewish Film Fest flicks http://www.nowtoronto.com/movies/story.cfm?content=192017 TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL opens tonight (Thursday, April 11) and runs to April 21. Various locations. $8-‐$20. tjff.com. See listings.
Jewish Elvis NEIL DIAMOND: SOLITARY MAN (Samantha Peters, UK). 59 minutes. Saturday (April 13), 7 pm, Innis College. Rating: NNN Neil Diamond fans – and I know you’re out there – won’t want to miss this doc about how an introverted boychik from Brooklyn became the extroverted Jewish Elvis.
Solitary Man mines home movies (starting with footage his haberdasher dad shot of Neil’s mom coming home with her baby from the hospital) and interviews with childhood friends like Neil Sedaka, and the producers he fought with – Jeff Barry in particular. The doc tracks Diamond’s teen years, the first of his songs that charted, how his tune I’m A Believer became a hit for the Monkees and changed his life, through to his recent appearance at the mammoth Glastonbury Festival. Problem is, there’s too much repetition on the theme of Diamond’s difficulties finding his footing as a performer and, unfortunately, he’s the least interesting character in the movie. But his music catalogue sure has legs. Seems like all 200,000 people at Glastonbury knew the chorus to Sweet Caroline. SUSAN G. COLE Comic journey A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE (Igal Hecht, U.S.). 70 minutes. Sunday (April 14), 8:30 pm, Bloor. Rating: NNN Yuk Yuk’s founder Mark Breslin and six Canadian stand-‐ups travel to the Holy Land to see if their jokes detonate in one of the world’s most politically charged centres. Sounds like a great premise, and it pays off, up to a point. Breslin and some comics – particularly Rebecca Kohler, Jean Paul and Aaron Berg – are in fine form in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, playing to everyone from senior citizens to savvy hipsters. There are contradictions aplenty, like the comedy club that bans the word “crap” and anything sexual. The worst response they get is in a club in East Jerusalem, when an entire table leaves after one comic fails to mention Palestine. A shame director Igal Hecht and crew didn’t follow those patrons for a response. But it’s a joy seeing the comics integrate their trip into their material (Jean Paul’s Dead Sea joke is priceless). And there are plenty of moving moments, as when Breslin inserts the set list of Jewish comic Stewart Silver, who was to have joined them but died suddenly before the trip, into the Western Wall. GLENN SUMI Roman holiday ROMAN POLANSKI: A FILM MEMOIR (Laurent Bouzereau, UK). 90 minutes. Wednesday (April 17), 4 pm, Sheppard Grande 5; April 21, 3:15 pm, Innis College. Rating: NNN The title gives the game away: Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir isn’t going to be an exposé or a hard-‐hitting look at the career of the controversial director (and convicted child rapist). Instead, it’s a convivial meander through his illustrious past with the filmmaker and his friend Andrew Braunsberg. They recall the good old days when Polanski was friends with lots of famous people and made classics like Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown, before the unpleasantness that caused him to flee America and work in Europe for over three decades. Director Laurent Bouzereau, who made his name producing epic making-‐of documentaries for Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, finds some great archival material and clearly has his subject’s trust. I just can’t help feeling it might have been worth risking that trust to dig a little deeper into the man’s psyche. NORMAN WILNER
Reliving Munich in ‘72
Thu, Apr 18: Avraham Melamed, two-‐time Olympic swimmer for Israel, is on The Morning Show to talk about the film The Eleventh Day, screening at the Jewish Toronto Film Festival.
A tentative celebration of Roman Polanski: Knelman Controversial director Roman Polanski makes no excuses in a documentary making its belated Canadian premiere. By: Martin Knelman Entertainment, Published on Tue Apr 09 2013
In Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir, the controversial movie director and fugitive says that years ago he enjoyed attending film festivals. But the 2009 Zurich Film Festival is not among his happy memories. He had made the trip from France to accept a lifetime achievement award. At the Zurich airport he walked into a trap — and was arrested on a U.S. warrant in connection with a sex crime in Los Angeles more than 30 years earlier.
Polanski was jailed for eight weeks, then kept under house arrest. Eventually Swiss authorities denied the U.S. extradition request — so he was free to return to France, where he lives with his second wife and their children while continuing to make movies. On April 17, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival will offer the belated Canadian premiere of this 2011 doc from director Laurent Bouzereau. Yes, I know. Many will avoid seeing this film, dismissing it as propaganda for a villain who should be rotting in jail. But without pretending Polanski was innocent, this film provides a rich, compelling chronicle. It’s hard to sort out your responses. First we have the tragic yet inspiring story of a kid with a nightmare childhood who not only survived but went on to become one of the world’s best movie directors. Then we have the second act of a guy who, just when he seemed at the top of his game, was devastated by the senseless, horrific murder of his wife. Polanski was born in France 1933, but moved with his family to Poland not long before the Second World War. His mother (pregnant at the time) was snatched away by the Nazis and killed. Decades later he used painful memories of the Nazi occupation to provide the texture of his greatest movie, The Pianist (2002), for which he won the Oscar. The historical film clips enrich the doc and take it beyond talking heads. Producer Andrew Braunsberg, an old friend of Polanski who serves as narrator and interviewer, is annoyingly fawning and gabby. Yet Polanski comes across as a more complex human being than you might expect. To his credit, he never makes excuses. Just as painful as his childhood was the 1968 loss of his wife, Sharon Tate, murdered at their L.A. home along with several other people in what seemed like a freak crime. Making the trauma worse were suggestions in the media that Polanski (then in London directing a film) was somehow responsible for the murders. Only later was it revealed they had been committed by the Manson group by mistake. They were seeking revenge on a former tenant of the house Polanski and Tate had rented. Polanski picked himself up and went on — reaching a career high when he directed Jack Nicholson in Chinatown (1974). Creepily, it was at Nicholson’s house in 1977 during a photo-‐shoot that he had illegal sex with a 13-‐year-‐old model named Samantha Geiger. If you’re looking for a film that goes into all the grisly details of that case, you won’t find it here. Polanski says what he did was wrong. But he also says Samantha was a double victim — not only of the crime he committed but of the media. Indeed, in a famous TV appearance, she told Larry King that she has forgiven Polanski, and that the media did far more damage to her than Polanski did. Even if there’s no excuse for his behaviour, Polanski was also a double victim — of the media and of a corrupt judge who shockingly changed his mind after all sides had agreed to a deal. That’s why Polanski seized his chance to leave the U.S. permanently. So if there’s a big party to celebrate his 80th birthday in August, it won’t take place in L.A. But in 2011, Polanski did go back to the Zurich Film Festival, where he finally picked up his lifetime achievement award. “Better late than never,” he said.
Jewish Stars of Bollywood By Michael Kaminer http://blogs.forward.com/the-‐arty-‐semite/174754/jewish-‐stars-‐of-‐bollywood/ A talk at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival on April 14 will recall Jewish movie greats — like Sulochana, Pramila, and Nadira.
Jewish Bollywood star Pramila
They were towering stars of Bollywood, the century-‐old Mumbai-‐centered film industry that still cranks out 800 films a year, more than double the output of the U.S. And Danny Ben-‐Moshe, a research fellow at Deakin University in Australia, has spent six years piecing together their fascinating and largely forgotten stories for“Shalom Bollywood,” a documentary set for release
later this year. The film “tells of the 2,000-‐year-‐old Indian Jewish community and its formative place in the Indian film industry,” according to its web site. Peppering his presentation with rare film clips, Ben-‐Moshe will “tell the tale of how I stumbled on the story, how it unfolded, and the trials and tribulations of trying to make [the film].” He corresponded by email with The Arty Semite before boarding a plane for Toronto. Michael Kaminer: How did you get into this subject, and what compelled you to make a movie about it? Danny Ben-‐Moshe: An Indian student of mine gave me an obituary of Nadira, the last of the great Jewish Bollywood actors to pass away. I knew there were Indian Jews but had no idea there was such a prominent Jewish on screen star. I went to India to do some research to see if there was enough material to make a film about Nadira but I found out she was the tip of the iceberg. The compelling factor was that it was such an intriguing different and eye-‐opening story. Given the subject matter, it offered the opportunity to make a vibrant, fun, slightly quirky film. How often do filmmakers get the opportunity to make all-‐singing, all-‐dancing documentaries? How did Jews get involved in Bollywood films in the first place? To some extent Jews got involved in Bollywood, or Indian cinema as it was then known, through a quirk of cultural circumstance. When Indian cinema began, it was taboo for Hindu and Islamic women to appear onscreen, so initially female roles were played by men, in the style of Shakespeare or Monty Python! However, the Jewish community was more liberal and progressive and they were prepared to take these role. The fact that they had lighter skin made them all the more suited for celluloid. These communities had very different values. Jewish women worked on other professions that at the time Hindu and Islamic women shunned, like being telephone operators. The Jews did not regard it as dirty and neither did the viewing public, who adored these stars. Was there any Jewish involvement in the creation of Bollywood itself, like in Hollywood? It doesn’t quite compare because Hollywood was a studio system. Indian cinema was going for several years before the first studio opened. However, the first female superstar was the Jewish actress Sulochana (aka Ruby Myers), and she and other Jewish stars had a formative impact on the development of Indian cinema. While in the early days of Hollywood the Jewish influence was behind the camera, in India it was front-‐and-‐center onscreen, but there were some important exemptions to this. Foremost of these is the scriptwriter David Joseph Penkar, who wrote the first talkie in India cinema, “Alam Ara” in 1931 that established the template Indian film was to follow. Could you tell us about just a few of the biggest Jewish Bollywood stars? Along with Sulochana, there’s Pramila (aka Esther Abrahams), the first Miss India, and Nadira, one of the all time great vamps of India cinema, who regularly featured in the films of legendary director Raj Kapoor. Was there a Jewish influence on other elements of Bollywood cinema, like music, choreography, costumes or screenwriting?
Jews worked in all these fields, and some still do, but their major impact was on screen. They were the biggest of the big stars and pushed the boundaries of Indian cinema. I should, however, mention the late Bunny Reuben, the right hand man to Raj Kapoor and maybe Bollywood’s greatest-‐ever publicist. This month marks the centennial of Bollywood filmmaking. Is there any awareness in India – or anywhere – about the roles Jews played? I have spoken to many prominent industry figures in India past and present and few knew these people were Jewish. That is part of the story my film tells, which is because of the stage names of the Jewish stars people assumed they were Muslims. The Indian Jewish community was and is so tiny people don’t even know what a Jew is. They were often confused with a prominent minority, the Parsis. Are you aiming to get some recognition for the lost Jewish stars of Bollywood around the centennial? I started making this film in 2007 so I wasn’t even thinking of the centenary then. This anniversary does of course give the story greater resonance. Is there any Jewish presence in Bollywood today? Yes, but in a more modest way, such as choreographer Baba Herman, who is in my film.
Radar: Craft Your Senses, Toronto Jewish Film Festival, Serena Ryder, Sagapool, Say Sneeze
Posted by Lauren Pincente / APRIL 11, 2013
http://www.blogto.com/radar/2013/04/radar_craft_your_senses_toronto_jewish_film_festival _serena_ryder_sagapool_say_sneeze/ FILM | Toronto Jewish Film Festival Themes and identities of Jewish culture are explored in the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, which opens tonight with the festival opener, a documentary titled CowJews and Indians: How Hitler Scared My Relatives and I Woke Up in an Iroquois Longhouse-‐-‐Owing the Mohawks Rent. Hundreds of films of all film genres will play over the ten-‐day festival at locations across the city. For a full screening guide and a list of free films showing at the festival, visit TJFF.com. Various locations 8:30PM $8-‐$20
Out on a limb?
Israeli film raises questions about pinkwashing ahead of Jewish Film Festival screening BY XTRA STAFF Published Fri, Apr 12, 2013 12:00 am EDT http://www.dailyxtra.com/toronto/news/limb
Out in the Dark, directed by Michael Mayer, tells the story of two men caught in an impossible love story. Nimr is a Palestinian student. Roy is an Israeli lawyer. They hook up. Seems like a pretty straightforward boy-‐meets-‐boy story. But when you are crossing the Palestinian-‐ Israeli divide, nothing is that easy. Filmmaker Elle Flanders sat down with Mayer and Nicholas Jacob, who plays Nimr, when they were in Toronto in September for the Toronto International Film Festival. In the video interview below, Flanders and Mayer talk about Out in the Dark, pinkwashing and the role of film. Out in the Dark screens at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival on April 18.
Out at the Jewish Film Fest Discovering queer themes at TJFF 04.16.2013 | By Michael Lyons http://www.fabmagazine.com/fab-blog/out-at-the-jewish-film-fest
For dramatic purposes, there probably couldn’t be a better setting than the Israeli-‐Palestinian conflict. The Toronto Jewish Film Festival presents Out in the Dark, which tells the story of Nimr (Nicholas Jacob), a young Palestinian psychology student living with his family in Ramallah. Though closeted at home, he lives openly when he is able to sneak across the border into Tel Aviv. While partying with his flamboyant friend, an illegal Palestinian refugee, he meets the hunky Roy (Michael Aloni), an affluent and attractive Israeli lawyer. Nimr witnesses his friend’s violent murder at the hands of his brother and compatriots, and Nimr and Roy’s relationship becomes entangled in the corrupt politics of the border and their own bigoted families. If the events in Out in the Dark seem melodramatic, audiences need only turn to another TJFF film to see that this story is routed in an intense reality. The Invisible Men is a documentary that follows Louie, a gay Palestinian, as he tries to survive illegally in Israel. Louie is hesitant to seek asylum and find a home elsewhere, explaining, “Honestly, I don’t want to go abroad. I want to live in a country that’s close... I want to breathe my culture, my land.” Their sexuality complicates these men’s lives, given the volatile political climate, ethnic prejudices, corrupt authorities and ignorant families. The choices for the men in both movies are to leave their homes and escape abroad or stay and face a violent, unknowable future. The Invisible Men screens Sun, April 14, and Out in the Dark screens Thurs, April 18 and Fri, April 19 at Innis College, 2 Sussex Ave. tjff.com
MUSIC & THE MOVIES: The Toronto Jewish Film Festival 2013 The WholeNote Blogs - MUSIC & THE MOVIES
Written by Paul Ennis | Friday, 12 April 2013 10:40 http://www.thewholenote.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=23421:music -‐a-‐the-‐movies-‐the-‐toronto-‐jewish-‐film-‐festival-‐2013&catid=512:music-‐a-‐the-‐ movies&Itemid=319
After “The Three Lennys” in 2011, its 19-‐event exhaustive examination of Lenny Bruce, Leonard Bernstein and Leonard Cohen, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival knew what it would do for an encore: TJFF’s sidebar series in 2012 was “The Sound of Movies: Masters of the Film Score.” With special guests, composers David Shire and Mychael Danna, leading the way, Toronto audiences were treated to a celebration of the Jewish gene’s musical genius. For this year’s edition of the TJFF (tjff.com), which began on April 12, there’s no such overt attention being paid to the role of music in Jewish life, but there are a number of films that create an identity through music. Pierre-‐Henry Salfati’s Gainsbourg by Gainsbourg: An Intimate Self-‐Portrait tells the riveting story of the iconic French musician in his own words, no mean feat since he died in 1991. Yet the conceit works brilliantly as a way into the mind of this man who would hear people say “God he’s ugly,” when he was onstage. He calls his face “ravaged” and says “I was misogyny incarnate,” but he romped with Anna Karina, had a child (Charlotte Gainsbourg) with Jane Birkin and wrote two of his most famous songs – “Je t’aime . . . moi non plus” and “Bonnie and Clyde” – for Brigitte Bardot. Born Lucien Ginzburg, he became Serge out of nostalgia for Russia (“I am Slav in my soul”), a country his parents left after the revolution. Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was “his first revelation,” but he couldn’t play it the way his father could. And his father was a harsh critic. Still, once his father died, he felt close to him through classical music. Art Tatum, Rachmaninoff, Berg and Chopin moved him and he turned part of Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 into a pop song. The film begins with a live concert near the end of his life (he died a month short of his 63rd birthday in
March 1991), a veritable love-‐in thanks to his fans. Many of his revelations are accompanied by his own collection of videos, with movie pals Jean Gabin and Michel Simon or his daughter playing the piano under his tutelage. He drops personal and professional nuggets along the way. He was haunted by the Occupation when he was forced to wear a star and carry an axe into the woods for protection. He was an architecture student playing piano in a bar when he met Boris Vian (a major influence). Jacques Brel told him he’d only get ahead once he realized he was a crooner. Needless to say, that’s what happened. Neil Diamond was only three years younger than Gainsbourg; his more prosaic route to success is examined in Samantha Peters’ Neil Diamond: Solitary Man. Gifted with knack of writing pop songs with musical and emotional hooks, Diamond took years to discover who he was. Ironically, that allowed him, following a number of sold-‐out shows at L.A.’s Greek Theatre, to become “the Jewish Elvis.” As David Wild of Rolling Stone says: “He was selling sensitivity, raw sensitivity that’s not allowed anymore.” This taut BBC documentary serves up all you’d ever want to know about the creation of “Sweet Caroline,” “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “I Am, I Said” from the creator himself. As well as fine archival footage of Diamond at The Bitter End in the 1960s, plus talking heads from record execs to Neil Sedaka and Robbie Robertson. Diamond began working with legendary record producer Rick Rubin a few years ago, after Rubin revived Johnny Cash’s career with American Recordings when the man in black covered “Solitary Man.” An intriguing addition to the Cash iconography is Jonathan Holiff’s My Father and the Man in Black, in which a son’s desire to discover a father he never knew leads him down the path of showbiz arcana: Holiff’s father Saul managed Johnny Cash, when the singer wasn’t the most reliable act in show business. And Holiff fils has the phone recordings, the audiotape journals, the letters and the memento-‐filled boxes to prove it. What the film may lack in style, it makes up for in substance. A low-‐key hymn to finding love amidst the loneliness of urban life, Marco Del Fiol’s Second Movement for Piano and Needlework is a curious piece of cross-‐ cultural pollination set in Sao Paolo’s Jewish quarter. After leaving the park where she’s been sketching dress designs, a woman is drawn to a modal tune on a piano being played by a Korean man. We watch these strangers continue their workaday lives until by chance they meet again. The pianist is sweet and so, in its simplicity, is this minimal movie.
In 1980, Neil Diamond starred in an updated version of The Jazz Singer (the songs he wrote for it made the soundtrack album a hit). In 1959, Jerry Lewis starred in The Jazz Singer for the TV show, Startime. TJFF is showing a restored version of this well-‐regarded vintage nugget on a program with Mehrnaz Saeedvafa’s short film, Jerry and Me. Before you scoff, the stars of two subsequent films directed by The Jazz Singer’s director, Ralph Nelson, went on to win Best Actor Academy Awards – Sidney Poitier in Lilies of the Fields Cliff Robertson in Charly. Ms. Saeedvafa, meanwhile, confesses in her film clip-‐packed 38 minutes that “the hero of her childhood [in pre-‐ revolution Iran] was the one and only Jerry Lewis.” She personalizes colonialism, the CIA, Bresson and poetic cinema, the Iran-‐Iraq war, feminism and fear of the atomic bomb. And as a bonus, we see Jerry Lewis dubbed into Farsi. If you think that’s farcical, you’re right. What Joe Papp and “Shakespeare in the Park” did for Don Byron: “When you got people of colour doing Shakespeare, then Shakespeare was mine. And then Sondheim was mine, Mahler was mine and Bartok was mine.” What Don Byron did for Tracie Holder’s and Karen Thorsen’s straightforward documentary, Joe Papp in Five Acts: he composed the tuneful, lively score for it. Three films unavailable for previewing promise some intriguing musical insights. Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy, directed by Michael Kantor focuses on the central question: Why has the Broadway musical proven to be such fertile territory for Jewish artists of all kinds? Peter Bradshaw wrote in The Guardian that Laurent Bouzereau’s Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir “is strongest in elucidating the effects his life has had on his movies. Before this, I didn't realise how closely the 2002 film The Pianist was based on precise childhood memories of the Krakow ghetto. It is the film he says he is proudest of now.” Danny Ben-‐Moshe’s Shalom Bollywood: The Untold Story of Indian Cinema tells of the 2000 year old Indian Jewish community and its formative place in the Indian film industry. Who knew? Nu?
ÉMISSION DU 11 AVRIL 2013
http://www1.tfo.org/cine/video/emission-‐du-‐11-‐avril-‐2013 On critique Trance et The Place Beyond the Pines et on discute du Toronto Jewish Film Festival. DURÉE: 27 min 50 sec http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vd0_sO4-‐aMA
Rencontre avec Jérémie Abessira, programmateur du 21ème Toronto Jewish Film Festival, à propos de la sélection de ce festival qui a lieu du 11 au 21 avril.
Beaucoup de films francophones à l’honneur au Festival du film juif de Toronto Post by Le Métropolitain 31 March 2013 http://www.lemetropolitain.com/en/content/beaucoup-de-films-francophones-a-l%E2%80%99honneur-aufestival-du-film-juif-de-toronto
Le 21e Festival du film juif de Toronto va prendre ses quartiers du 11 au 21 avril prochains au Hot Docs Bloor Cinema, au Al Green Theatre ainsi que dans différentes autres salles de la ville. Près de 100 films d’une quinzaine de pays sont à l’affiche cette année. Un chiffre important mais tout relatif quand on sait que plus de 400 films ont été envoyés au comité de programmation.
L’édition 2013 de ce festival mis sur pied pour explorer les différentes facettes de l’histoire et du monde juifs fait la part belle aux films francophones. Ainsi, ce ne sont pas moins de dix films en français qui y seront projetés. À signaler entre autres : Du vent dans mes mollets, une comédie de Carine Tardieu avec Agnès Jaoui, Isabelle Carré et Isabella Rossellini; Au cas où je n’aurais pas la Palme d’or de et avec Renaud Cohen, l’histoire d’un réalisateur névrosé qui se découvre une tumeur qu’il croit être cancéreuse et qui décide de faire un film sur sa fin proche; et l’acclamé Le chat du Rabin, merveilleux dessin animé de Joann Sfar et Antoine Delesvaux. Mais le rendez-‐vous à ne pas manquer pour les cinéphiles francophones est définitivement Je suis venu vous dire... (Gainsbourg par Ginzburg), un documentaire de Pierre-‐Henry Salfati qui présente le célèbre chanteur avec ses mots à lui et des images d’archives jamais montrées jusqu’ici. Tous les thèmes chers à ce génie torturé se retrouvent dans les longs extraits d’interview : son malaise par rapport à sa « tête de chou », l’attachement à ses origines russes, son rapport compliqué aux femmes, l’alcool et les abus, sans oublier ce sentiment profond de culpabilité de faire un art mineur (la chanson) au détriment d’un art majeur (la peinture, un de ses grands dadas). On apprend par exemple que pendant 15 ans, Gainsbourg essayait de peindre comme Raphaël mais détruisait quotidiennement ses toiles. Racontée à la première personne, cette autobiographie est à l’image de l’homme : brillante mais confuse, certaines des déclarations du grand Serge sonnant comme des mensonges de petit enfant espiègle. Comme lorsqu’il explique que, gamin pendant la Deuxième Guerre mondiale, le directeur de son école lui avait dit que les miliciens allaient venir pour une rafle, lui avait donné une hache et l’avait envoyé dans les bois, en lui conseillant de s’y cacher et de dire qu’il était fils de bûcheron si jamais il tombait sur la milice ou les SS. Que l’anecdote soit vraie ou pas n’a pas beaucoup d’importance : « Je suis venu vous dire... » colle à l’image de ce chanteur, crooner caché derrière un mur d’arrogance (de timidité?) : attachant malgré tous ses défauts. Le Festival ouvrira le 11 avril prochain au Hot Docs Bloor Cinema avec le film Cowjews and Indians », documentaire qui raconte comment le réalisateur Marc Halberstadt a essayé de récupérer le domaine de ses parents pris par les nazis ainsi que les 65 ans de loyer. Dans sa tentative, il découvre que le domaine en question a été pris à des natifs et tente alors de tout faire pour que ce soit à eux que reviennent le terrain et le loyer. Photo : Du vent dans mes mollets (2012) Auteur: Benoit Gheeraert
FESTIVAL DU FILM JUIF DE TORONTO: DÉCALÉ ET AVANT-‐GARDISTE CINÉMA Par Hélène Durand, Camille André-‐Poyaud et Guillaume Garcia – Semaine du 9 avril au 15 avril 2013 http://www.lexpress.to/archives/11619/
Le Festival du film juif de Toronto a toujours voulu se démarquer en présentant une programmation originale et à contre-‐courant des préjugés. L’affiche du festival et le «teaser» ont d’ailleurs fait parler d’eux lors de leur présentation il a quelques semaines. Parmi tous les films présentés, on compte de nombreux longs-‐métrages en français ou réalisés par des francophones. L’Express a rencontré Jérémie Abessira, programmateur au festival. «Il y a toujours une volonté d’aller à contre-‐courant, de se différencier des autres et d’être osé dans les choix de films», explique Jérémie Abessira. «Par ce biais, on veut montrer que le festival n’est pas réservé à une certaine audience.» Par exemple le film d’ouverture de cette année CowJews and Indians: How Hitler Scared My Relatives and I Woke Up in an Iroquois Longhouse—Owing the Mohawks Rent, n’a été montré dans aucun autre festival de film juif. «Il n’y a pas de grille de lecture. Chaque film entraîne un débat pour savoir si le film est approprié pour le festival», résume Jérémie. «On ne veut pas faire un festival qui se complait sans une certaine image d’Israël. L’idée c’est de montrer un éventail d’opinions sur tout», poursuit-‐il.
La principale différence entre le festival de Toronto, qui est le plus grand du monde, et les autres vient du fait qu’il n’est pas chapeauté par une organisation juive. C’est ce qui permet de faire un festival plus audacieux. «C’est un festival pour tous, qui n’a pas peur d’interpeller. On ne se prend pas au sérieux. On rigole des clichés sur les juifs en jouant sur les clichés», indique Jérémie à propos de l’affiche du festival qui dit «Film. It’s what jews do best». Mais pourquoi autant de films en français dans un festival de film juif à Toronto? Selon Jérémie, l’explication est que la France est un des pays qui produit le plus de films à contenu «juif». «Ça permet aussi aux Canadiens de découvrir l’histoire d’un pays et sa culture à travers les films.» Le Top 3 de Jérémie pour le festival: Le cochon de Gaza, God’s neighbors et Gainsbourg by Ginzburg. Et en joker Out in the dark. Je suis venu vous dire… Gainsbourg by Ginzburg Dans ce documentaire, on découvre Gainsbourg qui raconte sa vie, son enfance, sa réussite, ses peurs et ses amours. Personnage magnifié en France, ce documentaire est absolument à voir pour comprendre le personnage. Le Cochon de Gaza À Gaza, un pêcheur remonte un cochon dans ses filets. Musulman, est écoeuré par l’animal et ne sait pas quoi en faire et veut s’en débarrasser. En cachette, il garde finalement la bête qui lui permet de gagner de l’argent grâce à différents stratagèmes! Un bijou de réalisme et d’humanisme. Au cas où je n’aurais pas la palme d’or Simon, réalisateur, peine à tourner le moindre film. Suite à un pari avec un copain, il se rase la tête et découvre sur son crâne une bosse. Après avoir consulté des médecins qui ne le rassurent pas, il décide de tourner ce qui pourrait être son dernier film. Le chat du rabbin En 1920, à Alger, le rabbin Sfar vit avec sa fille Zlabya et un chat espiègle qui se met à parler pour ne dire que des mensonges. Le rabbin veut éloigner le chat de sa fille, mais amoureux celui-‐ci est prêt à tout pour rester près d’elle, même à faire sa Bar Mitsva! Un peintre russe débarque ensuite dans la communauté, et entraîne avec lui une petite troupe pour partir à la recherche de Juifs d’Afrique. Drôle et cynique, ce dessin animé met continuellement les religions face à leur contradiction de manière subtile. Alyah Alex vend de la drogue à Paris pour gagner sa vie. Il prête régulièrement de l’argent à son frère Isaac, qui accumule les dettes et devient un fardeau. Lorsque son cousin lui annonce son projet d’ouvrir un restaurant à Tel-‐Aviv, Alex décide de le suivre pour prendre un nouveau départ. Mais pour cela, il doit trouver beaucoup d’argent et passer son Alyah. Album(s) d’Auschwitz Ce documentaire retrace l’incroyable témoignage du camp d’Auschwitz-‐Birkenau laissé par deux albums photographiques datant de mai 1944. Le premier a été découvert par une jeune fille juive à la libération du camp. Les photos montrent l’arrivée de Juifs hongrois à Auschwitz avant leur extermination, ainsi que d’autres détenus. Le deuxième album appartenait à un SS et montre des moments de loisirs des officiers.
RENAUD COHEN, AVEC OU SANS PALME D’OR CINÉMA Par Camille André-‐Poyaud – Semaine du 23 avril au 29 avril 2013 http://www.lexpress.to/archives/11761/
Renaud Cohen réalise une autofiction sur la difficulté d’écrire un second film. Le réalisateur Renaud Cohen est venu jeudi dernier présenter son film au festival du film juif de Toronto. Intitulé Au cas où je n’aurais pas la Palme d’or, le film est une autofiction et s’inspire en grande partie de la vie du réalisateur. Il y a 10 ans il réalisait son premier film de fiction, Quand on sera grand. Au cinéma, il paraît que le 2e film est toujours le plus compliqué à écrire. La spontanéité et la découverte s’effacent pour laisser place aux attentes et aux responsabilités. «C’est très fragile, tout peut s’écrouler», nous explique Renaud Cohen. Au cas où je n’aurais pas la Palme d’or va donc s’inspirer de cette difficulté d’écrire ce second scénario. Autofiction Renaud Cohen joue lui même Simon, le personnage principal du film, un réalisateur qui ne parvient pas à écrire son scénario. Suite à un pari avec un de ces amis, il se rase la tête et découvre une bosse au sommet de son
crâne. Inquiet il consulte des médecins qui ne le rassurent pas. Dans l’angoisse de savoir ce qui l’attend, il décide de tourner rapidement un film au cas où celui-‐ ci soit le dernier. Une autofiction qui si elle s’inspire de la vie de Renaud part ensuite dans des gags et des situations cocasses qui apportent beaucoup d’humour au film. «Pour donner un chiffre je dirais qu’il y a 75% de part d’autobiographie, après je me suis donné la liberté d’aller un peu où je voulais» nous explique le réalisateur. Pendant les 10 ans qui ont séparé ces deux films, Renaud Cohen a réalisé des documentaires. Après un premier film apprécié par la critique, la marche vers le second long métrage n’a pas été facile. Il avait envie de retrouver la fiction, mais le processus a été plus compliqué que pour le premier. Renaud Cohen nous confie: «Après le premier film de fiction, je découvrais tout. Entre mon premier et mon second film, je n’ai rien géré du tout, j’ai recommencé à écrire et puis au fur et à mesure j’ai commencé à sentir le temps passer, et les choses sont apparues de plus en plus difficiles.» Un film dans le film En réalisant un film dans le film, Renaud Cohen réussit une mise en abîme qu’il tient de ces mentors, Nanni Morretti et Woody Allen. «J’ai toujours aimé les réalisateurs qui jouaient dans leurs films, je trouve que ça réorganise le film de manière différente. Le personnage joué par le réalisateur est toujours un point d’autant plus fort qui est vrai et sincère» se confie Renaud Cohen. En famille Avec peu de financement, Renaud Cohen qui a également produit le film a utilisé les moyens du bord pour la réalisation. Il a ainsi demandé à ses parents et ses enfants de jouer leurs propres rôles. «Comme c‘était un film pauvre sans argent, je ne voulais pas que ce soit seulement un film pauvre, je voulais qu’il amène quelque chose de différent. La différence c’était de faire jouer des amateurs et des professionnels ensemble» nous explique-‐t-‐il. Il a également utilisé sa propre maison comme lieu de tournage. «Il y a plein de choses que j’ai voulu utiliser, un peu comme si c’était un film bio en fait. Il fallait utiliser tout ce qu’il y avait de proche et le transformer en quelque chose de différent.» Renaud Cohen est toujours surpris de voir son film sélectionné dans les festivals de films juifs. L’identité juive apparaît surtout à travers l’humour de certaines scènes. «Une identité parmi tant d’autres» selon le réalisateur.
Toronto Jewish Film Festival http://www.cjnews.com/arts/toronto-‐jewish-‐film-‐festival Marc Halberstadt’s “playfully provocative” film CowJews and Indians will be the headliner at this spring’s Toronto Jewish Film Festival, TJFF organizers announced last week. In a nutshell, CowJews and Indians offers a quirky Swiftian modest proposal as its main thesis. North American Jews are owed reparation money from Germany for the Holocaust, the filmmaker observes, and native Americans are owed reparations from the Europeans who deprived them of their lands. The thesis is that natives should “skip the middleman” and seek reparation payments directly from Germany. “I think Marc is an idiot for even coming up with the idea,” said former Mohawk chief Cheryl Jacobs about the film. The quote comes directly from the TJFF’s promotional material, which further describes the film as “Borat meets Michael Moore.” But the filmmakers and producers earnestly describe CowJews and Indians as “a serious, unflinching yet entertaining examination of both Jewish and native American displacement, and the contributing causes.” It was screened at a Beverley Hills film festival last November but positive comments about it on the Internet seem highly elusive. The festival opens April 11 and closes 10 days later with Hava Nagila, a cinematic “look at the history of the song that represents both kitsch and continuity.” tjff.com, 416-324-9121.
Film fest highlights emerging filmmakers Andy Levy-‐Ajzenkopf, Staff Reporter, Friday, March 22, 2013 http://www.cjnews.com/arts/film-‐fest-‐highlights-‐emerging-‐filmmakers#sthash.amBb44gp.dpuf
When the 21st annual Toronto Jewish Film Festival (TJFF) opens to the public on April 11, it will bring with it the usual fine mix of movies that entertain, challenge and educate. The CJN will be reviewing some of the festival’s 100 or so films in upcoming editions and on our website. The presentation of quality films aside, TJFF executives are also on a twofold mission: courting future fest-‐goers and preserving the past. In terms of the former, the festival has made a concerted effort this year to engage a younger demographic, and is sourcing films that “aren’t your bubbie’s” cup of tea, said TJFF managing director Debbie Werner.
“Today’s films are not the same as we were showing 21 years ago. They’re new, by emerging filmmakers,” she said. “They tell fresh stories through fresh eyes. Some of the themes are familiar, but they’re being reinterpreted with a fresh perspective.” Werner said that sometimes the festival gets “trapped” by its name, because many young Jews feel they need to look toward a “more secular” venue to get their arts and culture. “So they overlook us just because of our name. [Youths] think we’re going to be a religious experience,” she said. “Yes, we do offer stuff for those looking to learn from a religious standpoint, but we also offer tons to those looking to learn culturally about what the Jewish experience is worldwide. The festival is the story of the Diaspora.” As such, before this year’s official festival opening, the organizers held a pre-‐screening of Polish Bar, an edgy indie film directed by Chicago native Ben Berkowitz that looks at the life of a Jewish DJ in his 20s struggling with his own moral code and connection to Judaism as he works the turntables in a strip club. TJFF also has a long-‐running program aimed at Jewish and non-‐Jewish students called FilmMatters. The education outreach initiative invites schools from around the city to participate in screening Jewish films for cross-‐cultural, bridge-‐building purposes. “The beautiful thing about this program is that it brings kids from all walks of life and ethnicities together,” Werner said, “and it breaks down the barriers of their surface differences and let’s them see that they share similar interests.” On the preservation front, Werner said she hopes that an archive of Jewish stories committed to celluloid – and digitally – will provide the Jewish community with a resource for future generations. The TJFF is working to set up its “dream project,” the Toronto Jewish Media Library, an online archive of films for posterity. It would be the first of its kind. What it lacks is the funding to get it done. “There are a lot of charities and nonprofits asking people for support. We’re not saving lives or curing diseases, but what we are trying to remind people to do is remember the importance of arts and culture, and of protecting this heritage of the Jewish experience through the years around the world that’s been amassed on film,” she said. Werner noted that funding for the arts over the last few years has been “a hard-‐hit area.” Longstanding funders such as UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and other private donors have given less as the economy has forced cutbacks across the board, she said. The archives project is in the “development phase,” Werner said. The 2013 TJFF — www.tjff.com — runs from April 11 to 21. Its advance box office opens on March 28.
From Dickens to Polanski at TJFF Sheldon Kirshner, Staff Reporter, Friday, April 5, 2013 http://www.cjnews.com/arts/dickens-‐polanski-‐tjff#sthash.8ASnIQbh.dpuf
This year’s edition of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival runs from April 11 to 21 and features a first-‐class lineup of films. A sampler: The British novelist Charles Dickens, in Oliver Twist, described Fagin, one of his most loathsome characters, as “an old shrivelled Jew.” But who was really Fagin? A figment of his fertile imagination? Or an actual flesh-‐and-‐blood figure? The mystery is apparently resolved in The
First Fagin, which explores the topic in voluminous length, blending the historical record with dramatic re-‐enactments. Fagin was modelled after Isaac (Ikey) Solomon (1785-‐1850), a pickpocket and a dealer in stolen goods. Like William Shakespeare’s Shylock, Fagin validated antisemitic tropes and stereotypes about Jews. But in The First Fagin, directed by Alan Rosenthal and Helen Gaynor, Solomon is portrayed more benignly as a loving husband and father who was thrown into the maelstrom of crime by circumstances beyond his control. Raised in London’s impoverished East End, Solomon was born into crime, his father having been a criminal. Britain’s rigid class system, as well as the endemic antisemitism of his times, left him with few options. Of course, he could have hewed to the straight and narrow. But having been exposed to malodorous influences, he embarked upon a crooked road. The First Fagin unfolds in London and on the Australian island of Tasmania, a British penal colony where he, his long-‐suffering wife and children ultimately ended up. This informative and entertaining semi-‐documentary evokes a mean-‐spirited era when a man could be hanged for the slightest of crimes. Royal Ontario Museum, April 12, at 3:30 p.m. and Sheppard Cinema 3 on April 18, at 5 p.m. Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir, directed by Laurent Bouzereau, examines a tumultuous life of tragedy and triumph. Much of it unfolds in the form of an extended interview conducted by Polanski’s friend, Andrew Braunsberg. File footage from events that shaped him rounds out the rest of this penetrating film. Polanski was born in Paris, but on the eve of World War II, his Polish-‐Jewish parents moved back to Poland, which, as he observes, was “a big mistake.” Caught up in the Nazi occupation, the Polanski family suffered greatly. His best friend was deported, his mother was murdered in Auschwitz and his father was marched away. He recalls these traumatic moments with considerable emotion and tears. Polanski survived by going into hiding with compassionate Polish families. After the war, he was reunited with his father, who bitterly disillusioned him by taking a new wife and leaving him in the care of strangers. The film also charts his fling with acting and his career in cinema in postwar Poland, his marriage to Sharon Tate – the victim of a brutal murder – his incarceration for having sex with a minor, and his flight to Europe after a warrant for his arrest was issued by the U.S. government. Sheppard Cinema 5, April 15, at 4 p.m. and Innis Town Hall on April 21, at 1:30 p.m. Re-‐emerging: The Jews of Nigeria, by Jeff Lieberman, takes a sympathetic look at the Igbos, some of whom observe Judaism and claim to be the descendants of one of the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel. Their narrative, however valid, is discounted by an American professor of Bible. They are a tiny minority. Fewer than 3,000 of 25 million Igbos have adopted Judaism. In case you’ve forgotten, the Igbos touched off a civil war in the 1960s by declaring independence in the newly created but abortive nation of Biafra.
Lieberman interviews a succession of Igbos who converted to Judaism. “I know in me there is a Jewish soul,” says an Igbo who was once a Catholic. “I’m done with Jesus.” In subsequent frames, an Igbo in flowing red robes blows a shofar and a woman cooks a traditional Sabbath meal. Sheppard Cinema 5, April 15, at 4 p.m. and Royal Ontario Museum, April 18 , at 3 p.m.
Franziska Schlotterer’s fine-‐tuned German-‐language feature film, Closed Season, is a most unusual film. It opens in Israel as a young German tourist disembarks from a bus and tries engaging a kibbutznik in a serious conversation. In vain, he urges the German to go back home to Germany. At this juncture, Closed Season flashes back to 1942. As Albert, a German Jew, tries to cross into neutral Switzerland from Nazi Germany, he is apprehended by Fritz, a German hunter and farmer. Fritz and his wife, Emma, cannot have children. But since Fritz needs an heir, he strikes a deal with Albert. In exchange for impregnating Emma, Albert will be allowed to remain on the farm, far from prying Nazi eyes. At first, the sex between Albert and Emma is coldly mechanical. But as Emma learns to love it, she falls hard for Albert, compromising her relationship with Fritz and imperilling Albert. The film is relentlessly realistic in tone and the performances could not be better. Sheppard Cinema 5, April 16, 6:15 p.m. and Bloor Cinema, April 17, 9 p.m. My Father and the Man in Black is about a tempestuous relationship. Saul Holiff, a Canadian Jew from London, Ontario, was the manager of the legendary country singer Johnny Cash. When they met in 1958, Holiff did not know that Cash, a wild southern Baptist, popped pills and had a
dysfunctional personality. Cash did not always show up at concerts, annoying Holiff, an organized and reliable person. This absorbing film is directed by Holiff’s son, Jonathan, a former Los Angeles-‐based talent agent. Innis Town Hall, April 18, 9:15 p.m.
Hotel Lux, a surreal German/Russian production directed by Leander Haussmann, takes place in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and revolves around a hilarious case of mistaken identity in which a German comedian who mocked Adolf Hitler on stage is recruited to be Joseph Stalin’s personal astrologer. Innis Town Hall, April 16, 3:15 p.m. and Sheppard Cinema 3, April 21, 3:30 p.m. Altina is the story of Altina Schinasi (1907-‐1999), a sexually liberated artist of Turkish and Greek descent who defied social conventions and made a life for herself at a time when society kept bourgeois women like herself on an extremely tight leash. The scion of a wealthy tobacco merchant who invented the cigarette-‐rolling machine, a device that revolutionized the industry, she was smart, independent and lusty. Peter Sanders’ film captures her spirit deliciously. Innis Town Hall, April 14, 1 p.m. and Sheppard Cinema 5, April 15, 6 p.m.
Film on Canadian Comics in Israel hits film festival April 9, 2013 -‐ Atara Beck | Israel Correspondent http://www.jewishtribune.ca/arts-‐and-‐culture/2013/04/09/film-‐on-‐canadian-‐comics-‐in-‐israel-‐ hits-‐film-‐festival “I really tried to stay…away from politics this time around,” filmmaker Igal Hecht said in a discussion about his latest work, A Universal Language, in which he followed Canadian comedians on their first trip to Israel last spring. Yuk Yuks founder and CEO Mark Breslin toured Israel for a week together with Aaron Berg, Sam Easton, Mike Khardas, Rebecca Kohler, Jean Paul and Nikki Payne (see ‘Yuk Yuks comics create controversy in Israel,’ Jewish Tribune, June 15, 2012). Yet it’s impossible to avoid politics here totally, Hecht acknowledged. Nevertheless, he did an outstanding job of filming the troupe’s journey to the Holy Land, which included sightseeing, performances and interaction with local stand-‐up comics, both Israeli and Palestinian. He succeeded in presenting incidents of conflict – along with the reactions of the comedians – while refraining from influencing the viewers’ conclusions. Breslin and his group were clearly affected by their visits to the holy sites and even more so at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, where they were moved to tears. The trip was “wonderfully intense,” Payne said. “Free speech in the arts trumps absolutely everything else,” Breslin pointed out in the film. He and his troupe relish their “freedom to swear” and enjoy “pushing the envelope,” and they hoped to encourage their Israeli counterparts to do the same. “If we inspired anybody here in Israel to take an extra chance, say an extra word that they’re not supposed to say or delve into a topic that they heretofore did not, then I think we did something great,” Breslin said. “And I think that we probably did. We love this country and we’re gonna come back.” Truth is, however, that their performance lacked wit. Indeed, Palestinian comic Adi Khalefa’s clip was superior, notwithstanding its anti-‐Israel premise. Perhaps the funniest scene was offstage, before the first Jerusalem show, where the audience was mostly middle aged or elderly – looking “like old people and their parents,” according to Breslin, who himself fits into that demographic – and the comics were riddled with anxiety. The world premiere of A Universal Language takes place at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival on April 14. For information, go to tiff.com. It will also be shown on April 18, 9 p.m., on the documentary channel. The TV cut is about 20 minutes shorter that the feature. st The 21 annual Toronto Jewish Film Festival (TJFF) is currently underway. 103 films from 15 different countries are st being showcased until April 21 , ranging from dramas and comedies to biographies, shorts, and archival films.
Jewish Film Festival Invites You to Test Your ‘J-‐ DAR’ Did you know that ‘Bridesmaids’ is actually 9.64% more Jewish than ‘Fiddler on the Roof’? By: Ashley Baylen Published: April 16th, 2013 in Culture » Film » News http://www.shalomlife.com/culture/19142/jewish-‐film-‐festival-‐invites-‐you-‐to-‐test-‐your-‐ j-‐dar/
But, the real question is… what makes a film Jewish? Are a majority of the cast and crew Jewish? Must the film feature Jewish content? Are these films any more Jewish than your favorite Hollywood films? Check out TJFF’s “J-‐DAR” to find out.
Did you know that ‘Bridesmaids’ is more Jewish than ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, that ‘White Christmas’ is more Jewish than ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ or that ‘Spring Breakers’ is 48% Jewish? “J-‐DAR” is a fun online tool developed by TJFF to calculate how Jewish your favorite Hollywood movies are. Since TJFF is intended to appeal to everyone-‐ both Jews and non-‐Jews alike-‐ what better way to get people interested in attending a Jewish Film Festival than to show them how Jewish their favorite films really are? “J-‐DAR” uses a complex algorithm that analyzes the content and key roles associated with a film, and cross-‐references a database of the majority of Hollywood-‐affiliated Jews. For every film, weighted percentile points are assigned based on the importance of the role (content, director, actor, producer, etc). These points are added up to generate a “J-‐DAR” score. Movie fans are encouraged to discover the Jewish factor to as many films as possible. Each “J-‐DAR” score is complemented by a TJFF film recommendation based on the genre you searched, and furthermore, connects users to the TJFF website to purchase tickets and search the schedules. “TJFF is largely perceived to be a religious festival – featuring movies heavy on Jewish content and light on action, drama, suspense and laughs,” says David Ross, creative director, DDB Canada. “To expand our reach to include a younger Jewish and non-‐Jewish demographic, we set out to change this perception by proving to people that they’re already fans of Jewish movies, and may not even know it.” “This year’s campaign takes a tongue-‐in-‐cheek approach to communicate that Jewish people have a long-‐standing reputation for making great films in Hollywood and beyond,” says Helen Zukerman, executive director, TJFF. “TJFF is an authentic cultural experience that celebrates Jewish culture by screening outstanding films, documentaries and shorts from around the world, and showcases quality films that aren’t shown anywhere else.” The “J-‐DAR” website also allows you to test your own J-‐DAR, choosing the more Jewish movies between ones presented in a game format. Find out more info about J-‐DAR and TJFF at www.J-‐DAR.ca and www.tjff.com
Bollywood’s Jewish Connection Sunday April 13, 2013
Shalom Bollywood: The untold story of Indian cinema is a feature-‐length narrated documentary that tells of the 2000 year old Indian Jewish commu-‐ nity and its formative place in the In-‐ dian film industry. It is being made to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Indian cinema in July 2013. Helming the production of this film is documentary filmmaker and professor Danny Ben-‐Moshe. Dr. Ben-‐ Moshe will also screen a few clips of the film as well as deliver a special presentation on Sunday April 14th at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival. The doc delves into the world of the great stars of the silent and golden eras of Hindi Cinema, from India’s first film in 1913 through to the euphoric post-‐independence day of the 1950s, all of whom were pivotal in shaping what was to become the world’s larg-‐ est film industry. Through their glam-‐ orous and often tumultuous lives, the film takes viewers on a journey into the fascinating world of Hindi cinema, India and its unique Jewish commu-‐ nity. Unlike Hollywood, where the Jewish role was formative as produc-‐ ers, in Bollywood that influence was on screen where, until Jewish women started acting in this revolutionary form of entertainment, all women’s roles were played by men – sort of Monty Python or Shakespearian style. While the conservative nature of Hin-‐ du and Muslim societies shunned the notion of female performers, the Jew-‐ ish community was more liberal and educated and willing to embrace the exciting new medium of film. The fact that Indian Jews were a lighter shade of brown made these women seem all the more suited for celluloid. The story is told in four parts: The Birth of Bollywood and
the Silent Era 1913-‐ 1930; The Talkies 1931-‐1947; Indian Independence and The Golden Era 1947-‐1970; & BollyJews Today. As a primarily historical story relying on stills, press cuttings and film posters – none of the silent or early sound era films survived -‐ retro style 2D anima-‐ tion is selectively used to give this ar-‐ chive a cheeky Bollywood feel. As in any good Bollywood film, music is a prominent feature. The film creatively exploits the synthesis of the Indian-‐ Jewish themes so that the film’s mu-‐ sic, for example, includes the classic Jewish tune hava nagila played on the sitar and Bollywood tunes in a Yiddish soundingclarinet. Thefilmfocuseson the famed Jewish actresses of the si-‐ lent and golden eras and tells of many firsts, including: • Firoza Begum (Susan Soloman) a star in 1920s and 30s although because of her stage name most people thought she was a Muslim, a common occur-‐ rence for Indian Jewish film stars • Sulochana (Ruby Meyers), who was the highest paid actress of her time and the first superstar in Indian film, who was so popular that Gan-‐ dhi’s shorts were scheduled to screen before her films to increase his audi-‐ ence. Introduced into the world of films by Ardeshir B. Irani, the father of Indian talkies, her legendary co-‐star with whom she had multiple on-‐screen romances was Dinshaw Billimoria, • Eremeline, who with her stunning looks picked her male co-‐stars at will, and began the Kapoor family cinemat-‐ ic dynasty by selecting Prithviraj Ka-‐ poor from a line of extras as she liked the look of him • Rose, the silent era actress who struggled to make the transition to the talkies, as we learn about from her granddaughter, former swim wear model and now film editor Rachel Reuben • Pramilla (Esther Abrahams) the first Miss India in 1947 who in 1938 starred in “Mother India” which ran for an incredible 82 weeks and holds the honor of being the first film from the subcontinent to be screened at Buckingham Palace, who we learn about from Pramilla’s actor and script writer son Haider Ali and her grand-‐ son, Bollywood film editor Akiv Ali • Nadira (Farhat Ezekiel), who passed away in 2006 after starring in over 60 movies and had the audacity to play negative villain roles in the 1950s and 1960s, when most females played heroine roles, who is described by her close friend and Jewish community leader Soloman Sopher • David Abraham, the revered “uncle” figure of Indian cinema made famous for his role in the Raj Kapoor 1954 classic “Boot Polish”. Through the personal lives of the Jewish stars the film tells the broader Indian Jewish story. We visit the lush Konkan coast, a 20 minute boat ride from Mumbai’s famous Gateway of India Arch, to see the villages seem-‐ ingly still stuck in time where the Bene Israel tribe lived for 2000 years before making the short journey to Bombay at the turn of the twentieth century. We learn of the arrival in the 1700s of the Baghdadi Jews from across the Middle East whose ornate Mumbai synagogues were the places of worship of many of the Bollywood stars. The told without understanding the broader story of Hindi cinema which the film reveals. These actresses worked with the biggest producers, directors and actors of their time, so through their stories the film delves into the history of Indian cinema: the early male heart throbs, the big studios, and the leading directors. Present day senior Bolly-‐ wood figures, including Rishi Kapoor and Emmy award winning director Shekhar Kapur, are interviewed in the film discussing the industry in general and the impact of the Jewish stars in particular. While the film focuses on the
pioneering and glamorous Jewish women on screen, it also explores the pivotal off camera role Jewish men played, such as: • Joseph Penkar who wrote the script for the first talkie in Indian cin-‐ ema “Alam Ara” • Ezra Mir who having worked as an extra in Hollywood returned to India to become the first chief of the India Film Division • Bunny Reuben, the flamboyant Bollywood publicist, and Raj Kapoor’s right hand man and biographer, who provided Raj Kapoor with the Jewish prayers he meditated with. By explor-‐ ing the story of the Jewish Bollywood greats it also explores the theme of in-‐ terfaith relations, in what is described as a land without anti-‐Semitism, as the Jewish stars married Muslim and Hin-‐ dus, harmoniously sharing in each oth-‐ er customs. The film takes viewers on a journey enriched by magnificent co-‐ lours and the many sounds of India in general and Jewish India in particular, providing an entry into synagogues, mosques and temples and present day Mumbai’s markets, street kids, squalor and high rises, – and of course its cin-‐ emas. The Weekly Voice connected with filmmaker, professor Ben-‐ Moshe and asked him a few ques-‐ tions Professor Ben, how did you hit upon this theme? What's your connection to India, if any? I’m also an academic and an Indian student of mine gave me an obituary of Nadira, the last of the great Jewish Bollywood actors to pass away. I knew there were Indian Jews but had no idea there was such a prominent Jewish on screen star. I went to India to do some research to see if there was enough material to make a film about Nadira but I found out she was the tip of the iceberg. I have no specific connection to India – or at least I didn’t until I started travelling there to make this film. Now I have many dear friends in Mumbai and feel connected to its Jewish history and related locations such as Konkan. This looks like a lot of material, how long did it take to shoot, and tell us some of the challenges you faced? Challenges? Well as just about any documentary filmmaker will tell you there is the perennial challenge of fi-‐ nancing, and I am in fact still on the hunt for funds to complete the editing of the film for which I have started a crowd funding campaign. In terms of material there actually was not that much to shoot. The time was more in finding who to shoot and that meant locating people who were part of or had ties to the Jewish Bol-‐ lywood story. A lot of time has been spent of finding archive and working my way through Indian bureaucracy and sitting on planes getting to and from India from Australia! I first went to India for a pre-‐pro-‐ duction research trip in 2007 so it has ben a long stop start journey, but hope-‐ fully a worthwhile one. The local Jewish community, ironi-‐ cally, is not so much into Bollywood anymore? I’m not sure what you mean by local, but in India the Jewish community is as much into Bollywood as anyone. However, as you would know cinema in India has changed with the devel-‐ opment of multiplexes and different forms of story telling, and like other Indians, Jews are also interested and involved in that. Of course most Indi-‐ an Jews have left the country, but their love for Bollywood endures, reflected in the annual Bollywood festival held in Israel.
Executive Reads: Helen Zukerman By: Notable Posted in: Shop - Nationwide || April 12, 2013, 11:30 pm http://notable.ca/nationwide/shop/Executive-Reads-Helen-Zukerman/
Helen Zukerman is the Co-‐Founder and Artistic Director of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, presenting its 21st Festival from April 11-‐21. She has seen the Festival evolve from its first year and 34 films at the Bloor Cinema with 7500 attendees, to this one which will have 108 films from 18 countries at five venues and thousands of people. She is often amazed by the fact that Jewish content films are being made in countries like Norway, Macedonia, or Uruguay. This year, they previewed over 508 films before choosing their final program. Growing up in Montreal and not being able to go to the movies until she was 16 (as this was the law back then), she became an avid reader from very young. So it is with great difficulty that she has selected three recent and one vintage book as being outstanding in their influence…
Hope: A Tragedy by Sholom Auslander I guess because of my involvement in the Film Festival, and having shown films about Anne Frank and her story, it was a merry-‐go-‐round ride for me and this novel. A couple, wanting to move out of NYC, buy a house in suburban New York State, only to find Anne Frank living in their attic. A foul-‐mouthed, selfish squatter that orders people around and whose most outstanding line to the owner of the house is "blow me." As hysterically implausible as that sounds, it worked for me. Auslander is the epitome of irreverence in his work. Foreskin's Lament (his first) should have been an "omen" of what was to follow. His irreverence justifies, to me, some of the controversial films we show because he makes me believe that there are people like him who will appreciate those films. The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge The Brain and its functions have always intrigued me. Since I'm now in my sixties, I see brain changes in myself that sometimes trouble me. This book was comforting because not only was it readable, but it was good to know that brains of any age can accommodate change and "rewire" themselves. It made me try to brush my teeth with my left hand instead of my right hand. It took about 10 days but it worked! The Immortal Life of Henrietta Laks by Rebecca Skloot I cannot tell you how fascinating I found this story to be, thinking about this poor, black woman in the southern U.S. whose Hila cells are being used today in labs across the world. My niece, who is a researcher at Sick Kids Hospital, never knew the story about the Hila cells she is using today. It amazes me how far we have come and yet how close we are to our history. And finally, I just could not leave out this book, a children's book. When I had my own children, we would go to the libraries in Toronto each Saturday and they would take out as many books as was allowed. The best bedtime story I would read was… The Camel who Took a Walk by Jack Tworkov No matter how many times I read it to the girls, I would always roar with laughter as the end approached. Whenever you have a tiger, monkey, squirrel and a bird making a plan to take down a camel, you've got a problem. Because life rarely goes according to plans...
J-‐DAR MEASURES JEWISHNESS FOR TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL April 05, 2013 | Carly Lewis | Comments http://www.marketingmag.ca/news/media-‐news/j-‐dar-‐measures-‐jewishness-‐for-‐toronto-‐ jewish-‐film-‐festival-‐75798 The Toronto Jewish Film Festival, a showcase of movies “heavy on Jewish content,” has created an online tool for calculating “J-‐DAR.” According to a statement, J-‐DAR refers to how “Jewish” popular Hollywood films are. DDB Canadacreative director David Ross, whose agency developed the tool, said it’s a fun means of educating people on the important contributions that Jewish actors, writers, directors and producers have made to film. “J-‐DAR was designed to highlight the fact that many of the festival’s films are no more Jewish than what you’d see in Hollywood,” he said. The site is also meant to correct the misconception that the annual festival is exclusively for Jewish people. “People think many of the films are religious in focus and geared only toward a Jewish audience,” Ross said. As for how that Jewish-‐ness is calculated. Ross said a meticulous formula was employed. DDB Canada consulted with a statistician and considered criteria such as the people who made the films, the content and the setting. As an example, Spring Breakers, a controversial new film about four girls on vacation in Florida, is 48% Jewish (its lead actor James Franco, writer/director and producer are Jewish, according to J-‐DAR). Another popular film, Silver Linings Playbook, rated as 35% Jewish thanks to its composer, producer and actor Bonnie Aarons. Users can type a film title into the J-‐DAR database to learn its score. They are then linked to recommendations for similar movies also playing at the festival, alongside a direct link to purchase tickets.
The Toronto Jewish Film Festival Spotlights Everything from Neil Diamond to “Hava Nagila” More than two decades in, the TJFF is as eclectic as ever. BY KEVIN SCOTT
Marc Halberstadt in Cowjews and Indians. Promotional still courtesy of the TJFF.
Now in its 21st year, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival remains as committed as ever to projecting every facet of the Jewish identity. This year’s programme consists of an eclectic mix of films in a multitude of genres and formats, from silent to animated. The documentaries alone cover a huge number of subjects, ranging from Neil Diamond, to Serge Gainsbourg, to Roman Polanski, and even to the history of the popular Jewish song “Hava Nagila.”
The festival opens on Thursday with a screening of the provocative Cowjews and Indians, in which filmmaker Marc Halberstadt attempts to “cut out the middle man” by enlisting NativeAmericans to take back his ancestors’ land in Germany. Here are a few other films worth seeking out during the festival’s run.
Any documentary about former New York City mayor Ed Koch (who was Jewish) is bound to chronicle not only the person, but also the city he served from 1978 to 1989. As such, Koch (Showtimes) provides a fascinating look at how an irrepressible man, though not without his faults, helped steer a metropolis through a turbulent period in its history. From savvy political maneuvering—like a decision to deceptively position one of Koch’s female friends during his mayoral campaign to fend off persistent rumours of homosexuality—to his lasting legacy of housing reform, the film uses old footage and interviews with biographers, journalists, and key figures (including Koch himself) to recreate history. It’s easy to see how someone who paraded around with such pompous bluster and such an solicitous catchphrase (“How’m I doing?”) could make for an ideal leader. Even so, director Neil Barsky doesn’t shy away from asking the hard questions. Koch expresses genuine regret for some of his unpopular decisions while in office. In light of the ex-‐mayor’s death earlier this year at age eighty-‐ eight, it’s fortunate that we now have this lasting testament to all of his chutzpah and ragged charm.
A gleefully irreverent mash-‐up of comedy and horror, with light doses of sci-‐fi and romance thrown in, Cats on a Pedal Boat (Showtimes), an Israeli production, is pure cinematic nerd candy. Using an aesthetic that marries the deadpan sensibilities of Wes Anderson with the silly (and economical) brand of the macabre typified by B-‐movie producer Roger Corman, the film manages to be dazzling and hilarious. In a playful subversion of The Princess Bride, it opens with a punk kid refusing to be subjected again to his grandfather’s boring stories. Instead, the kid launches into an improvised yarn about a young couple in love. The couple takes a trip to a lake where they defy the rules by bringing along a cat in their pedal boat—a decision that leads to the cat jumping into the water and vanishing. How exactly the lake being polluted by toxic waste and a deranged man known as “The Admiral” factor into the story are discoveries that shouldn’t be spoiled. One of the highlights is when a group of derelict Sea Scouts attempt to save the day, only to get distracted by arguments over things like who in the group should be allowed to wear a bow tie. In a piece of inspired programming, the feature will be presented with the short film Poisoned, a lively and funny zombie tale set at a military base.
With his magnetic turn in God’s Neighbors (Showtimes), Roy Assaf taps into a fundamental struggle between leading a solemn life of religious servitude and violently imposing those beliefs on anyone who refuses to do the same. His character, an Israeli man named Avi, is certainly not a bad guy by any means. He helps out regularly at his father’s fruit store and composes religious trance music that he distributes to a rabbi who excitedly blasts the tunes from his van. But when a group of drunken louts insists on partying outside his window during Shabbat, he feels obliged to force them to adhere to the day-‐of-‐rest custom by any means necessary. This inner conflict even extends to his relationship with a young woman in his neighbourhood, Miri (Rotem Zussman), whom he initially confronts about baring too much skin, before taking tentative steps towards romance. It’s this recurring tension that allows Assaf and writer-‐director Meny Yaesh to create a complex character whose motivations are never quite as black and white as they appear to be.
Interview with George Geddeon – Thursday April 18 https://soundcloud.com/barbara_frameline/frameline-‐apr18-‐2013-‐edited
THE 21st. TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL.... Interview With Stuart Hands Tuesday, April 9, 2013 http://inthemiddleofthepassage.blogspot.ca/2013/04/the-‐21st-‐toronto-‐jewish-‐film-‐festival.html http://archive.org/details/The21st.TorontoJewishFilmFestival....InterviewWithStuartHands This is a recording of an interview that I aired on my show "The Middle Passage"(Radio Regent), in Toronto, that I had with Stuart Hands, Programme Manager for The 21st Toronto Jewish Film Festival which will be screened at various Toronto venuse starting April 11th 21st.We discussed some of the films that will be screened as well as insights into the proccess involved in making this such a successful film festival.... enjoy! CLICK ON WEB LINK BELOW TITLE TO ACCESS MEDIA PLAYER!)
21st Toronto Jewish Film Festival By: Staff 28th February 2013 http://www.classical963fm.com/events/21st-‐toronto-‐jewish-‐film-‐festival/#sthash.OodElYlN.dpuf Date/Time | Date(s) -‐ 11/04/2013 -‐ 21/04/2013: All Day | Category(ies): Family st The New Classical 96.3 FM is an Official Radio Sponsor of The 21 Annual Toronto Jewish Film Festival running at venues throughout Toronto from April 11 to 21. It’s a cinematic exploration of Jewish life, history and culture through film representing 17 different countries and 63 premieres. For more information visit: tjff.com.
Toronto Jewish Film Festival Review: Poisoned April 12, 2013 – By William Brownridge http://thetfs.ca/2013/04/12/toronto-‐jewish-‐film-‐festival-‐review-‐poisoned/
Danny (David Shaul) is a maintenance worker at an army base, always living in the shadow of his war hero father. During Passover, his high school crush Maya (Orna Shifris) arrives to distribute a new vaccine to the troops. Instead of preventing disease, the vaccine turns everyone at the army base into zombies. Now it’s up to Danny to save the day, especially since Maya believes he is part of the special forces. The zombie genre continues to shamble on, despite the fact that many of the films produced are far below good quality. Poisoned thankfully joins the ranks of some of the best zombie comedies out there, and never overstays its welcome with a short 45-‐minute running time. While the ideas aren’t exactly new, the film delivers what we’ve come to expect from a zombie movie, and does it in a very hilarious way. Danny is the definition of frightened, so watching him try and deal with this new zombie menace leads to plenty of laughs. David Shaul does a great job playing the character, so his eventual, and obvious, heroic change will have audiences cheering. Of course, no zombie movie is complete without some gore, and Poisoneddoes a good job of satisfying horror fans. It’s not the greatest example of makeup effects, but first time director Didi Lubetzky does the best with what is there.
Is Poisoned Essential Toronto Jewish Film Festival Viewing? Funny, bloody, and a little bit sweet, this is one to watch. Plus, it’s not that often you see a zombie movie from Israel, so make sure you get to see this one. Poisoned Screening Times Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 10:00 pm at Innis College
Toronto Jewish Film Festival Review: Cats on a Pedal Boat April 13 – by Kristal Cooper http://thetfs.ca/2013/04/13/toronto-‐jewish-‐film-‐festival-‐review-‐cats-‐on-‐a-‐pedal-‐boat/ Mili and Noam are out for a romantic pedal boat ride on the lake when they encounter a few hiccups that might throw a wrench into any date. Mili’s cat falls into the water and goes missing, the nefarious owner of the boat rental business is dumping toxic waste into the water and is out to track down the key to his buried safe full of money, a key which Mili and Noam inadvertently lost and oh yeah, the toxic waste had apparently turned local cats into feral aquatic killing machines. This truly strange ode to ’80s-‐era trash horror cinema plays out like a cartoon on acid. The characters are straight out of a comic book – the moustache-‐twirling villian, the beatific heroine and the bumbling sidekicks are all included in the fun. The film does a great job of parodying old school horror comedies, adding ridiculous scenario on top of ridiculous scenario, resulting in a manic laugh-‐ fest that will please connoisseurs of b-‐grade so-‐bad-‐it’s-‐good movies. It also helps that Directors Yuval Mendelson and Nadav Hollander know to get in and out quickly so as not to wear out their welcome – the film runs at an efficient 86 minutes. Is Cats on a Pedal Boat Essential TJFF Viewing? Only if you totally love trashy horror comedies. All others will find this tasteless. Cats on a Pedal Boat Screening Time Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 10pm at Innis College
Toronto Jewish Film Fest Review: Oma and Bella April 13 – by Kristal Cooper http://thetfs.ca/2013/04/13/toronto-‐jewish-‐film-‐festival-‐review-‐live-‐or-‐die-‐in-‐entebbe/ In 1976 an Air France plane with 248 passengers was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the German Revolutionary Cells and flown to Entebbe in Uganda. The hijackers separated the 100-‐odd Israelis and Jews, holding them at the airport for seven days before they were freed by a daring counter-‐terrorist hostage-‐rescue mission carried out by commandos of the Israel Defense Forces. In the fray, Jonathan Khayat’s 20-‐year-‐old uncle Jean-‐ Jeacques Mimouni was killed, transforming his family forever. In the midst of all the celebrating surrounding the liberation of the hostages, the Mimouni family felt forgotten and Jonathan, who never met his uncle, wants to right that wrong and give them the answers he feels they never got. He embarks on a mission to speak to the survivors of the hijacking to piece together the last days of his uncle and what may have happened on the day he died. This film is less than an hour long so nothing about the hijacking itself is delved into too deeply which gives Live or Die in Entebbe a little less weight as a documentary. The idea of cobbling together the events by talking to the survivors and the soldiers who liberated them is certainly fascinating but because the film is so focused on finding answers about Mimouni specifically, the chance to address the larger-‐scale political and historical ramifications of the event is squandered. As it stands, the film is affecting on a sentimental level but doesnt strive to be much more than that. Is Live or Die in Entebbe Essential TJFF Viewing? Not essential but worth a look if you’re looking for a unique take on a historical event (or would like a good cry). Live or Die in Entebbe Screening Times Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 6:45pm at the Sheppard Centre Monday, April 15, 2013 at 3:15pm at the ROM Theatre
Toronto Jewish Film Fest Review: Koch April 16 – by Liam Valke http://thetfs.ca/2013/04/14/koch-‐review/
Koch is a documentary about the political career of one of the most famous mayors of New York City, Edward Irving Koch. It charts his unlikely rise to the top of the political heap, the constant skirmishes he fought once there, his political downfall, and his life after being king of New York. Koch is a portrait of a controversial and often contradictory man, both intensely private and fiercely political, but more than that it is a fascinating glimpse into one of the most tumultuous years of New York City in the 20th century, a city at the height of decadence, and in the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic. First time director Neil Barsky delivers a pretty straightforward political biopic here. It opens with 86-‐year-‐old Koch in his very active post-‐mayoral career as he goes around endorsing candidates for municipal and state elections. As he reflects on his own political career the narrative then follows suit and dips into a past replete with news footage, interviews and photographs, which occupy the bulk of the film. It shows a younger Koch, a U.S. congressman running for Mayor at the end of the ’70s, asking people on the street “How’m I doing?” which became his catchphrase. He’s an underdog in the election but he wins anyway, and then the film follows his mayoralty year by year, one crisis after another while Koch attempts to drag New York out of a recession. Barsky is skillful at compiling footage to highlight the moments where Koch really shines as a political personality, like when he passed a bill to protect gay people from discrimination in the
workplace; and perhaps his greatest legacy, the Ten-‐Year Housing Plan, an ambitious, multi-‐ billion dollar affordable housing project to rejuvenate the heavily impoverished neighbourhoods in Harlem and the Bronx. Barsky isn’t afraid of exposing the warts as well: it covers his decision to close down a hospital in Harlem which triggered major backlash from the black community; his inaction during the AIDS crisis which triggered major backlash especially from the gay community; and the huge corruption scandal in his administration that led to his undoing as Mayor. He is despised by many, accused of being a racist and an opportunist; and of course the answer is never as clear and simple as that. Each event in the film builds up a picture of a man who was a staunch Democrat all his life and by turns deeply conservative, and ever the enigma. The film is unclear on the nature of his personal life, but that is also because he was very private; he never married or had children, and he refused to declare his sexual orientation despite increasing public pressure. There’s a scene of him later in his life debating the Ground Zero Mosque with his family during Yom Kippur, suggesting that even with his family he was a political animal to the core. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit I’d never even heard of Ed Koch before seeing this film. But I can say that while the film offers nothing groundbreaking in the documentary genre, the material itself is engaging enough. Barsky weaves a good story out of Koch’s career and it’s a pleasure to watch it unfold. Is Koch Essential TJFF Viewing? If political biographies aren’t your subgenre of choice, I’d say don’t feel bad if you miss this one or decide to see something else at TJFF. If it is up your alley then by all means check it out. Even if, like me, you didn’t know much (or anything) about Mr. Koch. Koch Screening Time Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 5:45pm at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Toronto Jewish Film Fest Review: Oma and Bella April 16 – by Danita Steinberg http://thetfs.ca/2013/04/16/toronto-‐jewish-‐film-‐fest-‐review-‐oma-‐and-‐bella/
Meet Regina Karolinski and Bella Katz, two octogenarian best buds who happen to be the subject of the documentary Oma and Bella. The film follows them in their daily lives, as they hang out, cook traditional Jewish food, spend time with friends, and reminisce. Being Holocaust survivors, Regina and Bella both have stories worth hearing. There are so few survivors still left, and their first-‐hand accounts are irreplaceable. However, Regina and Bella talk about much more throughout the film: their husbands, their families, their friendship, and of course, food, which is what has truly bonded them over so many decades together. These two women have a contagious zest for life. You will undoubtedly be charmed by this duo. They bicker one minute, and are laughing the next. They are true ladies about town: they play cards with their pals, get their hair done, and go for afternoon drinks. There is never a dull moment, as their lives and personalities are certainly big enough to fill the 75-‐minute running time. In fact, I would gladly watch another 75 minutes of these two. My only gripe about this film is I felt like I needed more explanation when it came to who was who in the stories and photographs. Regina and Bella often spoke without much backstory, which is most likely a result of the director being Regina’s granddaughter. That being said, there is a level of intimacy and comfort that is also a result of the director being Regina’s granddaughter. I’ll take that trade off any day.
Is Oma and Bella Essential TJFF Viewing? When it comes to documentaries, you’re either interested in the topic or you’re not. If Oma and Bella sounds like your kind of thing, then it is most definitely is, making it essential TJFF viewing. It is rare to see female friendship portrayed in such an honest and caring way, so this is a film to be treasured. It is reassuring to know that friends can last a lifetime. Oma and Bella Screening Times Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm at Innis College Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm at the Sheppard Centre
Toronto Jewish Film Festival Review: Skin Deep APRIL 17, 2013 – BY WILL BROWNRIDGE http://thetfs.ca/2013/04/17/toronto-jewish-film-festival-review-skin-deep/ Pich decides to display his love for his girlfriend Malka by getting a heart tattoo with her name in it. He heads over to her house to surprise her, but walks in to find her having sex with another man. Heartbroken, and feeling rather dumb for getting a tattoo, Pich heads to the local bar. That evening he meets a girl, also named Malka, and the two strike up a conversation. Pich is instantly in love again, but will Malka
ever feel the same way about him? Skin Deep takes the simple idea of a man searching for love, and injects it with plenty of humour and quirkiness. Pich is a normal enough guy, but the world around him is full of oddball characters. This is only exaggerated by a local competition for strange talents. Pich’s co-‐worker plans to breath fire and burn dolls, their local bartender smashes bottles on his head, and the town barber/magician plans to wow the crowd with his magic. Into this world steps Malka. While Pich is instantly head over heels, Malka is less interested. After spending an evening together, Malka reveals what she dreams of, which leads Pich directly to the talent competition in an attempt to win her heart. His act is hilarious, and shows that love can make people do just about anything. Great humour, and chemistry between the two lead characters, makes Skin Deep a short, but worthwhile film. Is Skin Deep Essential Toronto Jewish Film Festival Viewing? Not only is Skin Deep funny, but it’s free as part of a discussion with director Etgar Keret. There’s no reason to miss the hilarious, and fascinating, presentation. Skin Deep Screening Times Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 12:30 pm at Innis College
A look at TJFF 2013 BY JANIS SEFTEL – APRIL 11, 2013POSTED IN: FILM FESTIVALS, MOVIE NEWS, MOVIES HTTP://WWW.CRITICIZETHIS.CA/2013/04/A-‐LOOK-‐AT-‐TJFF-‐2013.HTML
The Toronto Jewish Film Festival is always an exceptional week in the city’s cultural calendar, with so much ante being upped that other fests have their work cut out for them in the months ahead. The 2013 program book heralds the beginning of spring with its’ simple and clever “Holywood” beaming from a vivid blue sky. Reclaiming film as the forte of the Jews? Sure, it’s a big call, but the best thing about the TJFF is that their professionalism runs alongside their sense of humour. They’ve made a name for themselves in the city for intelligent, relevant and cutting-‐ edge programming that doesn’t take itself too seriously… kind of refreshing, and ultimately making for a very accessible festival. So here are five good picks for the film-‐frazzled among us… FYI, several feature-‐length films are screened with fantastic shorts: bonus! There’s also some great curated program streams like “Spotlight on Africa”, “Israel @ 65”, “Funny Jews” (a shorts series) and “REEL Ashkenaz” to help you make decisions around topics/themes.
TJFF at 21 By Dork Shelf | April 11, 2013 http://dorkshelf.com/tag/toronto-‐jewish-‐film-‐festival-‐2013/
Mazel Tov, Toronto Jewish Film Festival! If you were American you would be old enough to drink in this your 21st year of bringing the finest (and really not always holiest) films from people and subjects of Jewish interest to Toronto! Expanding to four locations this year with the new addition of the theatre at the Royal Ontario Museum , the festival is poised to be bigger than ever. Here is a look at just a small amount of the numerous films and shorts playing out across the festival, kicking off tonight (Thursday, April 11th) through Sunday, April 21st. For a full list of films, programmes, information, and so much more, visit the extremely comprehensive festival website at tjff.com.
Cowjews and Indians: How Hitler Scared My Relatives and I Woke Up in an Iroquois Longhouse – Owing the Mohawks Rent This year’s TJFF kicks off with a documentary that’s far more interesting in concept than in execution. Director Mark Halberstadt initially set out to demand from the German government that the land that was taken from his Jewish family during World War II be given back to them as reparations. Sensing his own hypocrisy, he remembers that his mother – and the place where he grew up in upstate New York – resides on land seized originally from Native Americans that are also deserving of similar reparations. With several Native American leaders in tow, Mark returns
to the hamlet of Altenstadt, Germany asking that the money just be paid directly to the Native Americans instead. It’s not that Halberstadt doesn’t have a good story or that he isn’t making an interesting argument (the parallels between treatment of Indians and Jews at the hands of the Catholic church are particularly telling), but he’s just not that good of a filmmaker. The results are scattershot and more often than not, repetitive. There’s about 40 minutes of good material here dragged out to 93, and quite needlessly since he feels the need to underline and highlight the same points over and over again to a point where it becomes tiresome to listen to. And it’s a shame because buried within the film is a pretty interesting and great story. (Andrew Parker) Screens Thursday, April 11th, 8:30pm, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema The Cutoff Man Facing the prospect of unemployment, Gabi (Moshe Ivgy) reluctantly takes a job cutting off the water supply of people who can’t pay their bills. The job is treacherous and openly vilified as Gabi frequently becomes the victim of their rage, suffering verbal and physical abuse. His only solace is his son who dreams of becoming a professional soccer player in order to avoid joining the army. The Cuttoff Man is the study of a man forced to provide for his family by depriving others. The only job that Gabi can get is this terrible paying bane of most other’s existence. Moshe Ivgy is excellent as the put upon Gabi, never standing completely upright and proud unless he is watching his son play soccer. His trial and tribulations make up the meandering narrative and the film is more ‘slice of life’ than a standard tree act scripted affair. Ivgy is more than prepared to shoulder the load here. The rest of the characters outside of Gabi’s family are mere pedestrians in the story as Gabi’s focus remains constant. Things slowly start to unravel as an incident threatens the future of Gabi’s son and well-‐being, but by the end the film delivers a satisfying portrayal of the perseverance and strength that someone desperate to provide for his own family must exhibit merely to survive. (Kirk Haviland) Screens Friday, April 12th, 3:15pm, Cineplex Odeon Sheppard Cinemas Monday, April 15th, 2:45pm, Innis College Neil Diamond: Solitary Man Neil Diamond: Solitary Man is a slick documentary chronicling the famed singer songwriter’s success story
from a shy Jewish Brooklyn kid to a magnetic stage performer sometimes called the “Jewish Elvis”. Produced originally for the BBC, director Samantha Peters takes us through his life and times with relative ease and manages to condense a fair bit of information into the film’s short running time. It’s every bit an authorized biography with extended interview clips featuring the man himself, as well as plenty of music and archival performances. It’s hardly a shocking expose of the man’s life and times, as his relationships with his two ex-‐ wives and children are simply glossed over. There’s also some aspects and his creative career that it would be interesting to see more of, particularly the recording of his iconic live album Hot August Night and his recent work with producer Rick Rubin that put him back at the top of the charts. Instead the film simply skims the surface of his long list of accomplishments for adequate yet still entertaining results. This free screening that will also feature a performance from the appropriately named The Hot August Nights. (Dave Voigt) Screens Saturday, April 13th, 7:00pm, Innis College Poisoned Short in length, but huge in laughs and overall grotesquery, Didi Lubetzki’s Israeli zombie comedy cribs gleefully and wisely from some of the all time genre greats, but never at the disservice of a winning story and probably the most sympathetic figure of its kind since Simon Pegg wasted stitches with a cricket bat. Looked down upon by his peers for never being able to measure up to his war hero father, Danny Aharonivitch (David Shaul) works as a janitor at a military base trying his best to stay out of everyone’s way. A bad batch of vaccines delivered by the woman of his dreams ends up turning almost everyone on the base into cannibalistic zombies, adding up to a Passover they won’t soon forget. Gleefully gory and filthy minded, Lubetzki wisely cribs more from action films like Die Hard and Assault on Precinct 13 than every zombie film ever made. It makes the eventual jokes feel a lot fresher, and the claustrophobic nature of the film brings out more sympathy for an already likable lead. It could stand to be a little longer than 50 minutes, but it’s debatable if the added length would really bring much to the table other than padding. It feels pretty great as is. (Andrew Parker) Screens Saturday, April 13th, 10:00pm, Innis Town Hall (preceded by Cats on a Pedal Boat)
Cats on a Pedal Boat Cats on a Pedal Boat is a pleasant surprise to say the least. This ultra low budget comedy/ fantasy/ horror from Israel makes up what it lacks in production value with a wealth of humour and creativity. Set in 1994, perhaps to complement its low-‐fi aesthetic, Cats turns the bedtime story motif on its head by having the yarn spun by a grandson tired of hearing the same old stories from his grandfather. Looking very much like I did in 1994 (prepubescent chubby kid w/ long hair and oversized heavy metal t-‐ shirts), Yotam is at that awkward age between being a kid and a teenager, making him a conscious observer of the adult world. In the opening scene of the film he engages four bullies who turn on him and are about to steal his skateboard before a young couple comes to his aid. The story he then concocts revolves around the young couple attempting a romantic afternoon on a pedal boat that gets interrupted by carnivorous radioactive cats dwelling just beneath the surface of the water. The funniest bits come from the bullies once they’ve entered Yotam’s story as a ragtag team of ‘Sea Scouts’ commissioned to help the couple. An outrageous comedy that owes a lot to American schlock yet brings with it its own unique charm, Cats on a Pedal Boat is like that student film that the rest of the class wishes they’d made. It brings a bit of midnight movie charm to this year’s festival, and it’s definitely slotted appropriately in the line-‐up to do so. (Noah Taylor) Screens Saturday, April 13th, 10:00pm, Innis Town Hall (Screens with Poisoned) A Universal Language In its World Premiere screening, director Igal Hecht takes us to the homeland in A Universal Language. It’s a story led by Yuk Yuk’s founder Mark Breslin and six Canadian stand-‐up comedians. Jews and non-‐Jews alike tour the Holy Land of Israel, Palestine and the surrounding areas, eager to perform their material in new surroundings and bridge potential cultural gap. It isn’t long before they’re up against religious, cultural and political sensitivities very different from what they’re accustomed to. Basically a PR stunt film for Yuk Yuk’s, it’s at the very least an interesting one, as we see how comedy, particularly the ethnic kind, plays there as opposed to here. These comics connect with
their surroundings it’s and react in different ways to being on the other side of the globe. Sometimes their jokes work and sometimes they don’t, but the film is ultimately a chronicle of how the performance artists constantly have to evolve and adapt. Hecht runs though the material at break neck speed, but there’s ample opportunity to see each of the performers and Breslin himself have their own reactions to the social differences and sometimes monumental historical significance of some of the places that they’re visiting, underlining just how certain jokes won’t play all that well. It’s a decent fly on the wall type social experiment and some kudos are deserved because as the old saying goes you never know until you try, and they add an entirely new context to the word “bombing” in that part of the world. (Dave Voigt) Screens Sunday, April 14th, 8:30pm, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema The Two Faces of Auschwitz This documentary is the incredible story of two albums filled with photographs taken at Auschwitz-‐Birkenau in May 1944. One was recovered in 2007 from an SS officer and contains photographs depicting moments of leisure enjoyed by officers responsible for the camp, while the other shows the arrival of Hungarian Jews a few hours before most of them would be executed. When Auschwitz is liberated, a young Jewish girl discovers this latter album and finds that it contains images of her now-‐deceased family members. Told entirely through archival interviews, personal journals, photos, film and news reels, The Two Faces of Auschwitz can hardly be described as entertainment. Dense and sombre it’s filled with knowledge that in some cases has only fully come to light in the last 6 years since the discovery of the SS officer’s photo album and journal. The film moves from the camps, with very detailed descriptions of mass exterminations and camp conditions, up to the trials of the officers conducted years later and a archived interview of the survivor responsible for protecting and keeping the ‘occupants’ photo album Lili Jacob. The film feels more like a history lesson than a piece of entertainment, a television special as opposed to feature documentary. But there is no denying the imagery on screen is profoundly moving. (Kirk Haviland) Screens Monday, April 15th, 1:00pm, Innis Town Hall Friday, April 19th, 2:00pm, Cineplex Odeon Sheppard Cinemas
Oma & Bella It played last year at Hot Docs, but this charmer returns to the city for a rightful second go around that’s as moving as it is potentially hunger inducing. Director ALexa Karolinski travels to Berlin to spend time with her elderly grandmother, Regina, and her best friend, Bella, as they reminisce about their friendship and their lost years during to the Holocaust, often while cooking traditional Jewish dishes or out on the town. It’s a very simple concept and it really is for the most part just two people talking to each other or to the director, but these women have a lot of heart and wit, and their stories are absorbing and touching. Also, the food looks fantastic. (Andrew Parker) Screens Wednesday, April 17th, 3:15pm, Innis Town Hall Thursday, April 18th, 4:00pm, Cineplex Odeon Sheppard Cinemas Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir In 2009, Andrew Braunsberg, producer, collaborator and friends through thick and thin with Roman Polanski, approached the Swiss abode where the acclaimed director was under house arrest. He says to the camera that he and Roman are going to have a conversation, “and whatever happens, happens.” That’s usually preluded to an interview gone wrong, or one full of drama, contempt and closed doors. Such is not at all the case with Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir, a filmed interview full of closed doors, but the sensation that no one even wiggled the handles. In the universe of film there are few directors who have suffered as much tragedy and trouble as Roman Polanski. Responsible for some of the greatest films and one of the most troubling affairs in Hollywood. Victim to one of the most infamous crimes and one of the most horrendous wars. In this casual chat with Andy, he recalls each chapter, some more intimately than others. The murder of his wife Sharon Tate, for which he was across an ocean during, and his surreal war torn childhood in Poland, are the best illustrated, the latter feeding directly into The Pianist, the most discussed film, not to mention bringing Roman to tears. His infamous hang-‐ups with the law are more explained than explored, and given that this was filmed when he awaited possible extradition to the States, it may have been a touchy subject (we all wanted to hear about).
Static, ungracefully editing with fade cuts and devoid of criticism (which isn’t that shocking since it’s largely directed by Spielberg protégée and frequent EPK creator Laurent Bouzereau), A Film Memoir is a bit too friendly. That’s not to say it isn’t intimate. It should make for some interesting background material for Polanski fans. (Zack Kotzer) Screens Wednesday, April 17th, 4:00pm, Cineplex Odeon Sheppard Cinemas Sunday, April 21st, 3:15pm, Innis Town Hall God’s Neighbours An undeniably powerful and suspenseful drama, Meni Yaesh’s film about a gang of thugs who hide proudly behind their religion went over very well at Cannes and the Israeli equivalent of the Oscars last year and with great reason. It’s a genre film that holds a mirror up to some very hard to broach topics including what actually defines becoming an adult and how cultural identity plays into personal development. In many respects Yeash evokes Scorsese in some of the best possible ways. This story of several extremely proud, young Jewish men that have taken it upon themselves to protect their block and it’s religious dignity at any cost isn’t that far removed thematically from anything one would find in a film about the Irish or Italian mafia or even from an urban American crime saga in modern day. The emphasis is place squarely where it should be: on how identity shapes perception and humility. Things take a turn to the unpredictable when the group’s leader gets sweet on a non-‐religious girl that his boys look down on, but the real thrust here comes from the contradiction of the group itself. They are as westernized as can be despite busting up bootleggers, shaking down store owners for opening on the Shabbat, or calling out immodestly dressed women. They think they are old school, but they aren’t cognizant of how they’ve been moulded into something different and almost equally unholy. It’s an electric film to watch and ponder over. (Andrew Parker) Screens Wednesday, April 17th, 8:30pm, Cineplex Odeon Sheppard Cinemas Saturday, April 20th, 9:15pm, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema An American Tail Yes. This is a film that’s showing during this year’s TJFF as a free screening, and if you have seen it, you’ll know very well why I need to talk about it and probably why it’s such a great fit for the
festival. If you haven’t, you should probably hurry out and see one of the most touching, intense, and thoughtful animated films to come out in the last 40 years and the crowning achievement in the career of master animator Don Bluth and one of the best Steven Spielberg productions of the 1980s. That says quite a bit right there. Young Fievel Mousekewitz is a Jewish mouse forced to flee with his family from their homeland in Russia due to an invasion of cats. They make their way to America where there supposedly aren’t any, and the young Fievel becomes separated from his family in a harsh and uncaring city. A shockingly thorough retelling of the immigrant experience, Bluth’s film all but traumatized youngsters while enthralling them at the same time. Next to Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant, it might be the most underrated animated film in the history of the medium. Bluth’s mantra when it came to making films for kids was that they could handle anything as long as you reassure them that everything will be fine at the end. This is a film showcasing his work at its most poignant, and any time it plays somewhere it’s reason enough to take note and celebrate. (Andrew Parker) Screens Saturday, April 20th, 2:00pm, Innis Town Hall Hava Nagila (The Movie) If you had told me that the funniest and most interesting film I would have watched from this year’s festival would have been an examination of the most prevalent Jewish folk song ever created, I probably would have looked at you like you had two heads. Yet, this year’s closing night film is about just that and, well, here we are with probably the biggest delight of the festival. Roberta Grossman tracks the origins and roots of the biggest Jewish hit to ever get a party started from it’s Eastern Russian origins as a reminder to be happy to better serve God, through more modern day ownership over who actually created it, and through the eyes of some of the most famous performers to ever make a hit out of it (Regina Spektor, Harry Belafonte, Glen Campbell), the film is more than just a simple origin story. It’s a really engrossing pop culture history lesson the likes of which don’t come around very often. It even goes into how the song found its way into the 60s Civil Rights movement and takes a really loving look on how some comedians appropriated the song as a joke shortly thereafter. And did I mention that more often than not, it’s laugh out loud hilarious? That’s something that’s very hard for any doc – let alone a specifically ethnic one with an extremely narrow focal point – to pull off. It’s a charming blend of the academic and the silly and a great way to cap off the festival on a really high note. (Andrew Parker) Screens Sunday, April 21st, 8:00pm, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL 2013 -‐ Reviews By Greg Klymkiw -‐ 2 absolute must-‐see events at TJFF 2013: Jerry Lewis in THE JAZZ SINGER + COWJEWS AND INDIANS http://klymkiwfilmcorner.blogspot.ca/2013/04/toronto-‐jewish-‐film-‐festival-‐2013.html
FILM. IT'S WHAT JEWS DO BEST. By Greg Klymkiw
FILM. IT'S WHAT JEWS DO BEST. When I first saw this brilliant tagline for the Toronto Jewish Film Festival (TJFF), I let out a huge guffaw of recognition and appreciation. In fact, whenever those delightful words dance across my memory banks, they bring a warm smile to my face. Why? IT'S SO TRUE!!! (Apologies to any Jews who deign NOT to make movies, though the exception to this rule are those Jews who make and/or purvey deli.) And while there are plenty of Goyim who can spin a great yarn cinematically, we must never forget that Hollywood and the entire notion of the "American Dream" were both invented by Jews. (If you don't know this, you need to read Neal Gabler'sHollywoodism or see Simcha Jacobovici's film version.) The aformentioned TJFF tag almost goes without saying, but SAY, WE MUST!!! This year's 21st edition of the festival (running April 11-‐21) has a fine mix of Jewish pictures in every genre and I urge Jew and Goy alike to smuggle in some Centre Street Deli smoked meat (heavy fat, of course) & plenty of Nortown kishka to nosh while over-‐indulging in more cinematic Jewish treats than you can shake a stick at. Here are two highlights: THE JAZZ SINGER dir. Ralph Nelson (1959) **** Samson Raphaelson's classic tale of a young man who chooses show business over following in his father's footsteps as a cantor has always been best represented by the truly great Al Jolson film version that launched "talkies." (And whilst I LOVE Neil Diamond's stab at the tale, Jolson is, was and will, forevermore, be untouchable in the role.) That changes now. During television's "Golden Age", Jerry Lewis starred in this adaptation for the variety series "Startime" on NBC. Given straight-‐forward treatment by stalwart camera jockey Ralph Nelson, this might be my favourite hot tip for the entire TJFF. For me, the medium of television has NEVER been better than this magical age and Startime's production of The Jazz Singer is a solid example of why.
I always loved Lewis and ALWAYS thought of him as a great actor -‐ period. Too many people singled him out as a "mere" comedian which frankly, is unfair and disparaging to the art of acting and the genre of comedy. One look at Lewis in his best comedies -‐ The Nutty Professor, for example -‐ and you bear witness to one of cinema's most astounding talents. The Jazz Singer was recently discovered and restored to its original pristine and historic colour version (as opposed to the black and white kinescope uaed mainly for re-‐broadcast purposes). The film not only opens a window upon another age of entertainment styles, but allows us to see Lewis in what should have been the role of a lifetime, but had sadly been ignored and/or forgotten. He will delight, amuse and move you to tears. The supporting cast includes fine performances from Eduard Franz, Alan Reed, Anna Maria Alberghetti and MOLLY PICON!!! MOLLY PICON, ladies and gentleman!!! (Apologies for these superlatives, but MOLLY PICON always deserves superlatives.) This is a must-‐see! How can you go wrong? It stars Jerry Lewis in a rarely seen production and features Molly Picon. Does it get any better than this? But. of course. Admission is FREE!!! CowJews and Indians dir. Marc Halberstadt (2012) *** If you're able to ignore the clunky filmmaking (dull shooting, rudimentary cutting), the subject matter of this strange hybrid of personal documentary and activist cinema will keep you glued to the screen. Try to avoid reading any reviews (except mine) and program notes BEFORE you see this one. The title should be enough to lure you. The movie is best experienced knowing as little in advance as possible. In a nutshell, you'll experience a fascinating journey that involves reparations for a Jew and Aboriginal Americans -‐ working together in tandem to address wrongs they both share. It will inform, educate, surprise and delight. It probably could ONLY have been made by Halberstadt, but I do wish he'd been able to present his tale with a first-‐rate creative producer at the helm. For tickets and more information on the Toronto Jewish Film Festival click HERE
American Masters Review -‐ Joe Papp in Five Acts (2010) Thursday, 4 April 2013 http://www.flickeringmyth.com/2013/04/american-masters-review-joe-papp-in.html For those attending the 2013 Toronto Jewish Film Festival, they will be able to see the documentary Joe Papp in Five Acts (2010) which is to be aired as part of the PBS series American Masters back in 2010. The story is as educational as the man who decided to bring the plays of William Shakespeare to the masses by orchestrating free stage performances. “I believe that great art is for everyone--not just the rich or the middle class," stated Papp. "When I go into East Harlem or Bedford-Stuyvesant and see the kids who come to see our shows, I see nothing so clearly as myself.” Not only did the theatre company on wheels entertain audience members it also proved to be a fertile training ground for developing actors, playwrights, and future Broadway productions. The multi-tasking duo of Tracie Holder and Karen Thorsen who produced, directed and wrote the project have assembled a high profile cast of former performers who have gone on to become Oscar winners and nominees such as Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady), Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda), Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter), Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck), and James Earl Jones (The Great White Hope) as well as Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now), Mandy Patinkin (Homeland), and Ntozake Shange (For Colored Girls). Television interviews have been inserted to allow Joseph Papp who died in 1991 an opportunity to give voice to his passionate pursuit of theatrical excellence which led to the making of Broadway hits Hair and A Chorus Line but also resulted in four marriages and him being a neglectful father to his own children. Joe Papp in Five Acts is in fact constructed in five segments with each beginning with a Shakespearean quote, four of which are spoken by Kevin Kline; the life-long exploration takes a linear path of discovery from the poverty of childhood to the theatrical legend having to fatally deal with the prostate cancer and the death of his son Tony from AIDS. The well-constructed and researched documentary certainly deserves the opportunity to be rediscovered like Papp himself. Joe Papp in Five Acts will be receiving two screenings at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival with the first being April 15, 2013 @ 6:45 pm at Innis College and the second April 16, 2013 @ 4 pm at Sheppard 5.
Canadian comics, including Yuk Yuk’s founder Mark Breslin, bring their acts to Israel City Centre Mirror ByJustin Skinner http://www.insidetoronto.com/news-‐story/2522490-‐canadian-‐comics-‐including-‐yuk-‐yuk-‐s-‐ founder-‐mark-‐breslin-‐bring-‐their-‐acts-‐to-‐israel/
Standup comedy can be a tough gig at the best of times. Performing in a foreign country while trying to absorb the culture and overcome some innate differences can make it that much more difficult. That did not stop Yuk Yuk’s founder and Canadian comedy icon Mark Breslin from taking six comedians on a tour of Israel where they performed to largely supportive – but sometimes decidedly less-‐than-‐ enthusiastic – crowds. The tour was captured in the documentary A Universal Language, which will be screened at the upcoming Toronto Jewish Film Festival.
“I thought a tour of Israel was a great idea,” Breslin said of the tour. “I went to the Israeli Consulate and (the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs) and everybody had a nice response to it, but it didn’t really excite them.” That changed when filmmaker Igal Hecht signed on to document the tour. “It changed from six people coming back from Israel and saying ‘What a nice country’ to thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people seeing a film about the tour,” Breslin said. In addition to following the comics around to gigs, the film features travelogue-‐style moments, showcasing the culture and beauty of Israel. Breslin, who lives in the South Hill area, was adamant the comics not censor or temper their material. While most of their material consisted of tried and tested routines they had mastered in Canada, the comics based some of their material on their experiences in Israel. They were, however, careful not to wade into political dialogue. “Who are we, a group of comics going there for a week, to make jokes about a very complicated political situation?” Breslin said. While the comics were generally well-‐received, there were definite stumbling blocks. Each comedian had shows where they shone and others where they fell flat. “We had lots of walkouts,” Breslin admitted. “Religious people don’t like it when you talk about sex and drugs.” Breslin acknowledged the mixed response makes the film’s title somewhat ironic, though he noted that all six comics did well on the tour as a whole and feels the trip was definitely worthwhile. “I hope people admire our pluck for taking some acts to represent Canada, Yuk Yuk’s and standup comedy,” he said. While in Israel, Breslin looked into the possibility of setting up a comedy exchange that would see Israeli comedians travel to Canada to perform. Unfortunately, he found the English-‐language standup comedy scene had not developed enough to make that dream a reality just yet. “It will happen,” he said. “Tel Aviv is a city of hustlers. It’s a historic city but also very young and new, so I think a lot of amazing things will come out of there.” Breslin, who considers himself “a cultural Jew but not a practicing Jew,” had originally intended to bring his wife Karina Lemke along for the trip. When the tour took place later than expected, life threw the couple a curveball – albeit a pleasant one – in the form of a child. “The hardest part of the trip for me was being away from my little boy for a week,” he said. He was happy to return to the South Hill community he has called home for the past five years. “I love this area because it’s just far enough from downtown to be peaceful but just close enough to downtown to be convenient,” he said. A Universal Language will premiere as part of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor St. W. at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, April 14. For tickets or information, visit www.tjff.com
Thornhill filmmaker hopes comedy cure for Middle East conflict Thornhill Liberal BySimone Joseph
Beware. Thornhill filmmaker Igal Hecht’s latest documentary contains dirty jokes.
After all, that is the point. A Universal Languagefollows six Canadian comedians and comedy icon Mark Breslin as they travel to different venues in Israel. “It is raunchy. It is funny — I hope. It pushes boundaries,” Mr. Hecht, 35, says. “In that region, there needs to be a lot more laughter.”
A Universal Languagewill have its world premiere at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival April 14 at 8:30 p.m. at the Bloor Cinema. The story behind the making of the film really begins with Mr. Breslin, Yuk Yuk’s founder. He was shocked when activists tried to boycott Israeli-‐made films at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. A year later, while planning a tour of Israeli comics at Yuk Yuk’s clubs across Canada, Mr. Breslin was reminded that, though nearly 60, he had never visited Israel. So he decided to travel to the Holy Land and bring Yuk Yuk’s to Israel. Mr. Breslin ended up leading the group of six Canadian comedians on an uncensored tour, aiming to bridge years of conflict through the universal language of laughter. Comedians include Aaron Berg, Nikki Payne, Jean Paul, Sam Easton, Rebecca Kohler and Michael Khardas. Mr. Hecht, who directed and produced the film with his company Chutzpa Productions, was born in Israel and has lived in Canada 25 years. By watching his documentary, he hopes people are exposed to “amazing Canadian talent”. The film showcases the experiences of each comic as he or she tries to bring laughter to the Middle East while absorbing the people, history and culture of the Holy Land. For eight days the cameras documented the comedians. They toured from May 30 to June 7 last year, performing at a variety of venues. While filming the 70-‐minute documentary, Mr. Hecht met everyone from Orthodox Jews to Palestinian comedians. Some Orthodox Jews walked out of a performance they thought was too raunchy. The comedians also performed at another venue for a mainly Palestinian audience. Mr. Hecht also filmed an intensely personal movie last year calledThe Shtetl, taking his parents back to their native Ukraine in 2012. He is hoping to finish the film this year. The movie is is about Jews living under Communist rule, being a minority and living in a hostile environment. Shalom TV in the U.S. has expressed interest in the movie and Mr. Hecht is hoping Canadian broadcasters will be interested, too.
21st Toronto Jewish Film Festival Features Spotlight on Africa Posted on 27 March 2013
The 21 Toronto Jewish Film Festival presents an eye-‐ opening film program reflecting on the diversity of the African and Jewish communities commencing April th
12 through April 21 at various theatres in Toronto. Countries represented include Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon and Northern Ethiopia. Film Schedule: April 12 – 1 PM – Sheppard Centre Cinema 3 and April 15 – 1PM – Royal Ontario Museum “Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean: Toronto premiere Living in Uganda with lingering intolerance a well as collapsed coffee prices, struggling, Jewish, Christian and Muslin coffee farmers come together to form the Delicious Peace Coffee Co-‐operative. Directed by Curt Fissel. April 12 – 1 PM – Sheppard Centre Cinema and April 15 – 1 PM Royal Ontario Museum. Honorable Ambasador/Kyod Hashagrir: – Toronto Premiere. Israel’s ambassador to Cameroon struggles to persuade the residents of rural villages to adopt new technology that would resolve their irrigation difficulties. Directed by Jonathan Paz. th
Please note: April 12 and April 15 screenings are double features. April 17 – 4 PM – Royal Ontario Museum and April 18 – 5:15 PM – Sheppard Centre Cinema Re-‐Emerging: The Jews of Nigeria: Canadian PremiereAn unforgettable journey to Nigeria where the Igbo people, in researching their roots and history, find convincing cultural connections with Judaism. Directed by Jeff L. Lieberman April 19 – 1 PM – Sheppard Centre Cinema 3 and April 21 – 1 PM – Royal Ontario Museum 400 Miles To Freedom: Canadian premiere. Co-‐director Avisahi Yeganyahu chronicles his story from his community of observant Jews in Northern Ethiopia, his escape from Africa and his life in Israel where he felt like an outsider. April 21 – 1 PM – Innis Town Hall (2 Sussex St.) The Rabbi’s Cat: – An animated adaptation of Joann Sfar’s French graphic novel. Rabbi Sfar lives with his beautiful daughter and her talking cat in pre-‐war Algiers. Joined by a Russian painter and a wise old Arab Sheikh, Sfar and the mischievous pet set out on a quest into the unknown depths of Africa. Directed by Joann Sfar, Antoine Deslesvaux. Tickets/Information – Main number to call: Festival Box Office 416.324.9121 Single tickets $13.00 – Seniors/students $9.00 – Matinees $8.00 – Gala Opening and Special Presentations – $20.00 Advance Tickets: In person: Toronto Jewish Film Festival Box Office (basement level) – 19 Madison Ave., Monday – Sunday 12PM – 6 PM – NOTE: No Wheelchair access – please call above number for assistance by phone. From th
March 28 to April 11. Then Monday – Sunday 12PM – 6 PM, Cineplex Odeon Sheppard Centre Cinemas – April 1-‐11 – 4861 Yonge St. (Sheppard subway stn.) Monday – Sunday 2PM – 6 PM – Sunday – Friday 12PM – 6 PM
Toronto Jewish Film Festival Opens the 21st edition of the Festival with "CowJews and Indians: How Hitler Scared My Relatives and I Woke Up in an Iroquois Longhouse-‐Owing the Mohawks Rent" http://www.indiantime.net/story/2013/04/04/artist-‐spotlight/toronto-‐jewish-‐film-‐festival-‐ opens-‐the-‐21st-‐edition-‐of-‐the-‐festival-‐with-‐cowjews-‐and-‐indians-‐how-‐hitler-‐scared-‐my-‐ relatives-‐and-‐i-‐woke-‐up-‐in-‐an-‐iroquois-‐longhouse-‐owing-‐the-‐mohawks-‐rent/9402.html TORONTO – The 21st annual Toronto Jewish Film Festival opens April 11 with “CowJews and Indians: How Hitler Scared My Relatives and I Woke Up in an Iroquois Longhouse—Owing the Mohawks Rent” -‐ a film about righting history’s wrongs, that’s been dubbed “Borat meets Michael Moore.” TJFF is proud to kick things off with Marc Halberstadt’s playfully provocative CowJews and Indians. This sardonically funny film draws a straight line between the meager reparations his family received from Germany in 1951 for Nazi-‐confiscated property, and the ongoing patchwork of treaties and outright land theft that has been the legacy of North American aboriginals. As Halberstadt tries to get back the property that his parents lost to the Nazis, he realizes that the land his family fled to and settled on in America had been seized from Native Americans, to
whom, in fairness, he now owes 65 years of back rent. Then it hits him – why not let the Native Americans collect directly from the Germans? Cut out the middleman! As former Mohawk chief Cheryl Jacobs says, “I think Marc is an idiot for even coming up with the idea.” Writer/Director Marc Halberstadt and Tekahnawiiaks King will be in attendance for the opening night. We asked Tekahnawiiaks (Joyce King), Turtle Clan, to talk a little about the film and her role in it. IT: How did you end up in the film? TK: I was the Administrator for the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs. As part of my duties, I assisted other people getting Indian Time up and running again after Indian Time was closed for about eight months. I would work as the MNCC Administrator for four days and as the Indian Time Managing Editor Thursday evening, after hours and on Friday. So, as Managing Editor, Marc Halberstadt was interested in finding Native Americans who would participate in the documentary. He hired Aardvark (Mathew Herne) to make introductions. Mathew brought Marc over to speak with me as the Managing Editor. Marc made a presentation through a storyboard. I told Marc what was wrong with the storyboard because it stereotyped Indians. Later, Marc would call and ask questions about “Indians” and I would respond to how the Mohawk Nation would address topics. Marc grew up in Malone. He didn’t find a suitable candidate to participate in the film in Germany. He wanted a Mohawk to participate. Having never traveled overseas, I said I would go as a communications specialist to facilitate the conversation between the Germans and the Indians (eventually, there were three other Indians attending). IT: What do you think about the film, why should people see it? TK: I haven’t seen the film in its entirety. People should see it because the idea of the documentary is very thought-‐provoking and it should create more dialogue in regard to land and treaties. Besides, there’s Indians in it! IT: What role did you play in the film, what is your contribution? I was the Communication Specialist. I had to work out details between the Indians and the Producer, Marc. However, sometimes I took the bull by the horns and had to ask the questions. The other Indians were very happy I took on this role. It was also hard to carry out the objectives of the documentary: we dealt with issues that some people don’t want to deal with. The parallels between displacement of the Jews and the displacement of the Indians become apparent in the film. There were some Germans who didn’t want to talk about it: to bury the past, similar to the people in this area who said outstanding Indian land claims are part of the past, the land is now in the hands of other people, and by virtue of this happening a long time ago, Indians should give up their claim to the land. German Jews were given a pittance for their land under duress. Indians in North America were given a pittance for their land and signed off on the transaction under duress and/or under unscrupulous tactics.
Help support “Shalom Bollywood: The Documentary” http://reelasian.com/blog/?p=6031
This past Sunday, I attended Shalom Bollywood: The Untold Story of Indian Cinema talk at The Toronto Jewish film festival Director Danny Ben-‐Moshe gave a very interesting presentation about the early history of Bollywood that most people might not know about. Did you know that the Indian Jewish community, albeit smaller compared to other religious communities in India, were some of the pioneers in building the country’s cinema landscape? Not only directors and writers, but the first female superstar leading ladies were also of Jewish background. Click here to see Shalom Bollywood’s working trailer The documentary is still in progress as Danny and his team are in need of funding for the final stages of post-‐production. Help support them by donating to Shalom Bollywood’s crowd-‐funding site here. In the meantime, you can also visit their facebook page www.facebook.com/ShalomBollywood We can’t wait to see this project when it’s completed!
How Jewish is your favorite film? •
TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL | APRIL 12, 2013 | BY: LYNN FENSKE
http://www.examiner.com/article/how-‐jewish-‐is-‐your-‐favorite-‐film-‐1 Everyone knows about radar. But what about J-‐DAR? It’s the inherent ability to detect all things Jewish -‐ a concept wrangled by the organizers of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival (TJFF) into a really cool, interactive website that evaluates mainstream “Hollywood” films according to their Jewishness. When comedians want a guaranteed laugh (of recognition) they joke about how Jewish people rule Hollywood. Now any film enthusiast can run with that idea by putting their favorite films to the J-‐DAR test. Developed by the creative minds at DDB Canada, J-‐DAR is an engaging site launched as a marketing tool for the Toronto Jewish Film Festival to increase ticket sales amongst non-‐Jewish audiences. “People are prone to see us in a certain light,” comments Debbie Werner, Managing Director of TJFF. “Some people look at us and they think they are going to see things that are either solely religious content or all holocaust films. They don’t really understand the depth and breadth of what the Festival has to offer, that we are showing new films by emerging filmmakers, and returning filmmakers. There is so much diversity.” Consequently, J-‐DAR is a thoroughly entertaining way of showing that there really is something for everyone at TJFF. Or as David Ross, Associate Creative Director, DDB Canada observes, “most people are fans ofJewish films. They just don’t realize it.” In addition to movie ratings, the site provides comparisons between seemingly unrelated films, based on the algorithms and databases fueling the site, as well as links to information about the movies screening at TJFF. The plan is to keep J-‐DAR operational throughout the year, with new movies being accessed on a regular basis. Live as of the end of March, the site is quickly becoming the latest online addiction for many cinephiles. Visitors can use the site in several ways; to search movies by title (even films that have yet to be released) to determine their J-‐DAR score, to determine a personal J-‐DAR score by playing a game – an incredibly fast, timed round of choosing movies by their perceived Jewishness, or to view information about TJFF films and purchase tickets for TJFF screenings. F.Y.I. “Iron Man 2” is 19.17% more Jewish than “Iron Man 3.” Check it out.
TJFF: The best little film fest in Toronto TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL | APRIL 13, 2013 | BY: LYNN FENSKE
http://www.examiner.com/article/tjff-‐the-‐best-‐little-‐film-‐fest-‐toronto In a city that hosts over 75 film festivals a year, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival (TJFF) stands out for its depth and breadth of quality films, friendliness and camaraderie amongst staff, volunteers and patrons, and food that is cheerfully distributed by local sponsors to movie goers as they wait in line. Now that’s service. A springtime staple, TJFF opened Thursday and runs until April 21 at select Toronto theatres including Hot Docs Bloor Cinemaand ROM Eaton Theatre. TJFF audiences are dedicated, passionate and appreciative of the Festival’s multi-‐genre, multi-‐ cultural diversity. “I’ve never seen a bad film,” comments Lorraine Weygman, a Toronto resident and 12-‐year TJFF attendee. “The people are very friendly and the films are very timely, with an International appeal.” “This is our most eclectic year ever,” says Debbie Werner, TJFF Managing Director. “This year we really succeed in having something for everyone.” The complement of TJFF films includes drama, comedy, documentary and biography, both feature length and short. Themed programs include: Spotlight on Africa – a five-‐film program, co-‐presented by the University of Toronto’s African Studies Program, that examines rarely seen Jewish life in Nigeria, Uganda and Cameroon. Israel @65 -‐ featuring eight films that commemorate Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day. Reel Ashkenaz – a four-‐film series highlighting a variety of musical themes, including a documentary about how Saul Holiff, a Jew from London, Ontario became Johnny Cash’s manager. For a complete list of films, schedules and venues visitTJFF. For those interested in what’s being served up, other than films, the food sponsors (affectionately known as nosh donors) are Boston Pizza, By the Way Café, Café Mirage (Sheppard Centre), Cobs Bread, Crêpes à GoGo, Feature Foods, Ghazale Restaurant, Limonana, Metro Supermarkets, Pusateri’s Fine Foods, and Spring Rolls (Sheppard Centre). Stay tuned for more about some of the documentaries and biographies screening at this year’s TJFF, from this avid film enthusiast who, just for the record, isn’t Jewish. See you at the movies.
Yuk Yuk’s comics invade Israel in ‘A Universal Language’ TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL | APRIL 15, 2013 | BY: LYNN FENSKE http://www.examiner.com/article/yuk-‐yuk-‐s-‐comics-‐invade-‐israel-‐a-‐universal-‐language Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club founder Mark Breslin is fearless when it comes to comedy. Recently he took six Canadian comics to the Holy Land for unrestricted performances of their coarse brand of comedy. The sometimes stunning results are documented in a new film “A Universal Language” which had its world premiere at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival Sunday night. The project was inspired by a public boycott by anti-‐Israeli activists of Israeli films at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. In shocked response to the boycott Breslin asked himself, “what would happen if I had an Israeli comedy festival?” His somewhat rhetorical question motivated him to investigate the possibilities, leading to conversations with Embassy personnel and the all-‐inspiring question, “why don’t you go to Israel first?” So he did. With the help of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Breslin embarked on an uncensored tour aimed at bridging religious and political differences through comedy. To boldly going where no potty-‐mouthed Canadian comedian had ever gone before, Breslin invited Aaron Berg, Sam Easton, Mike Khardas, Rebecca Kohler, Jean Paul, and Nikki Payne. Yuk Yuk’s comics invade Israel in ‘A Universal Language’ “For me, free speech in the arts trumps absolutely everything else,” comments Breslin in defending his decision to launch the tour. Directed and produced by Igal Hecht and his company Chutzpah Productions, “A Universal Language” captures the experiences of each comic as they toured the Holy Land, visiting the Holy Sepulchre and Wailing Wall during the day while performing in Christian, Jewish and Palestinian sections of Jerusalem at night. “Mark really saw that the best way to fight discrimination and censorship of art by anti-‐Israel activists is through art itself,” said Hecht. “He set out to foster dialogue and a deeper understanding among Canadians of Israel and the Middle East through the power of comedy.” The tour lasted eight days. The memories will last a life time. “If we inspired anybody in Israel to take an extra chance, to say an extra word that they’re not supposed to say, delve into a topic that they heretofore did not delve into, then I think we did something great,” concludes Breslin. The film has its world broadcast premiere on Thursday, April 18 at 9 pm on the Documentary Channel. See you at the movies.
TJFF: “The Eleventh Day” in memory of murdered athletes TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL | APRIL 16, 2013 | BY: LYNN FENSKE http://www.examiner.com/article/tjff-‐the-‐eleventh-‐day-‐memory-‐of-‐murdered-‐athletes On a day when our nation is still processing the horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon, it is tough to be reminded of the deadly attack on athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympics. Yet despite the heart-‐ wrenching media coverage of the Boston bombings, an audience will gather at Cineplex Odeon Sheppard Cinema Wednesday evening to view “The Eleventh Day: The Survivors of Munich 1972.” The screening is part of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival and will be attended by one of the Munich survivors, Olympic swimmer Avraham Melamed. The film was produced by the German Biography Channel in collaboration with the Israeli History Channel and was originally broadcast prior to the London Olympics to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Munich games. It recounts how, in September 1972, 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken captive by a Palestinian terrorist group and later murdered during a failed rescue attempt. Using archival footage and present-‐day interviews, the story is re-‐told by the seven survivors who, in February 2012, reunited and returned to Munich. During the hour-‐long documentary audiences get acquainted with seven men – Dan Alon (fencer), Shaul Paul Ladany (speed walker), Zelig Shtorch (marksman), Yehuda Weinstain (fencer), Henry Hershkovitz (marksman), Gad Tsabary (wrestler), and Melamed, the veteran Olympic swimmer attending the Munich games as team supporter. Once young, iron-‐bodied competitors, these senior spokesmen are open and compassionate about their unforgettable ordeal. In four decades they have hardly spoken about what happened yet the terror and tragedy of Munich remains in their hearts. It is their common legacy. Like the news reports we hear today about the human carnage and near misses in Boston, “The Eleventh Day” tells the story of athletes who barely survived and how a few dramatic hours changed their lives forever. The drama changes our lives too. The lesson is to not be a victim. Be a survivor. "The Eleventh Day: The Survivors of Munich 1972" screens again on Thursday at Innis Town Hall. For ticket availability visit TJFF. The Toronto Jewish Film Festival continues until April 21 with many more inspirational stories about human courage and perseverance yet to screen. See you at the Festival.
TJFF: Roman Polanski tells his own story TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL | APRIL 17, 2013 | BY: LYNN FENSKE http://www.examiner.com/article/tjff-‐roman-‐polanski-‐tells-‐his-‐own-‐story A documentary about controversial film director Roman Polanski has its belated Canadian premiere this afternoon during the Toronto Jewish Film Festival. “Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir” is an intimate portrait of a tragic figure. In conversation with his close friend and film producer Andrew Braunsberg, Polanski speaks candidly about his turbulent life; growing up in occupied Poland during WWII, his early years as an actor and filmmaker under a communist regime, his move to Hollywood, the brutal murder of wife Sharon Tate, and his admitted guilt and subsequent trial for statutory rape of a 13-‐year-‐old. The circumstances of his 1977 trial and punishment led Polanski to flee the United States and live in Europe where in 2009 he was apprehended on route to the Zurich Film Festival and placed under house arrest. Regardless of what’s been written or said about Polanski, no one has had the opportunity to hear all the gritty details of his personal story, until now. His candor is compelling. 'Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir' Produced in 2011, the filmed conversations took place in Polanski’s Swiss home during his court-‐ ordered confinement. The Braunsberg/Polanski dialogue is illustrated with archival images, news footage, press clippings, private and exclusive photos, and excerpts from Polanski’s films. Let it not be forgotten that Polanski directed iconic films including “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Pianist” and “Chinatown.” “Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir” has its own impressive pedigree. The film premiered at the Zurich Film Festival in 2011 and was a featured selection at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012. The Canadian premiere takes place at the Cineplex Odeon Sheppard Cinema at 4 p.m. today. It is co-‐presented by the Polish-‐Jewish Heritage Foundation of Canada. Special guest attending isThom Ernst, Host/Producer of TVO’s “Saturday Night at the Movies.” This film screens again April 21, the final day of the Festival. See you at the movies.
TJFF biographies showcase cultural icons •
TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL | APRIL 17, 2013 | BY: LYNN FENSKE
Every year the Toronto Jewish Film Festival devotes ample screen time to worthy biographical movies. Certainly the real laughter and tears of non-‐fiction stories can be more compelling than anything fabricated by even the best Hollywood screenwriter. As always the TJFF 2013 selection of featured biographies is eclectic, educational and highly entertaining. I share with you my favourites. Given their common thread of arts and entertainment, these particular films hold true to the Festival’s tagline, “Film. It’s what Jews do best.” For schedule details and tickets for remaining screenings, contact TJFF. See you at the movies.
'Joe Papp in Five Acts' -‐ TJFF biographies showcase cultural icons • •
TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL APRIL 17, 2013
'Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir' -‐ TJFF biographies showcase cultural icons • •
TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL APRIL 17, 2013
'Norman Mailer: The American' -‐ TJFF biographies showcase cultural icons • •
TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL APRIL 17, 2013
'My Father and the Man in Black' -‐ TJFF biographies showcase cultural icons • •
TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL APRIL 17, 2013
THE TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL EXPLORES HAVA NAGILA •
April 10, 2013 / Written by Addison Wylie
http://www.blog.filmarmy.ca/2013/04/the-‐toronto-‐jewish-‐film-‐festival-‐explores-‐ hava-‐nagila/?doing_wp_cron=1365730349.7750179767608642578125 The 21st Toronto Jewish Film Festival arrives soon and promises lots of films worthy of your time. The festival, which begins on April 11 and carries through to April 21, has many films to pick from that offer entertainment (such as the Funny Jews: 7 Comedy Shorts programme) and insight (including screenings of Jeff L. Lieberman’s Re-‐Emerging: The Jews of Nigeria). There’s also the Canadian premiere of Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir and to follow suit, there’s a free screening of Polanski’s Oliver Twist. Give the J-‐DAR a spin! The J-‐DAR provides at-‐home audience participation asking moviegoers to type in a movie title to find out how Jewish that particular film is. It’ll also include a comparison to another film that may or may not be as Jewish as it and provides a break-‐down as to how that film has a Jewish connection. I was fortunate to check out one of the films to be featured at this year’s Jewish Film Festival. Roberta Grossman’s documentary Hava Nagila (The Movie) intrigued me with its subject matter and worried me with the thought of listening to the same song for over an hour. What did I think of Grossman’s doc? Keep reading: HAVA NAGILA (THE MOVIE) IS ONE HALF OF A GOOD DOCUMENTARY Half of Roberta Grossman’s Hava Nagila (The Movie) is a good movie that I’d feel comfortable recommending. Unfortunately, it follows an uninvolving history lesson that relies heavily on monotone narration and a plethora of grainy stock/home footage. The documentary about the origin and the meaning behind the popular Jewish folk song introduces its narrator as a woman with no name and credits her as “(Your Name Here)”. I
suppose Grossman realized how bored the voice-‐over sounded and immediately saved the provider (or herself?) the embarrassment. Along with the “(Your Name Here)” credit, Grossman’s documentary has a joking attitude as it takes it topic seriously. It wants to deliver a documentary that may answer those lingering questions one might have about the much-‐played folk song, but it isn’t afraid to throw the odd visual joke at its audience. This is something we’ve seen done to great effect in documentaries directed byMichael Moore or Morgan Spurlock, but because the narration is so unenthused and the jokes come at random, the humour can never stick its landing. It’s as if Grossman and her narrator realized Sophie Sartain’s writing isn’t that polished and decided to stick with a dull script rather than to try to lift the material. *UPDATE: According to other reviews, the narration was provided by Rusty Schwimmer. Whether her name is left off the project intentionally or is properly credited in the Toronto Jewish Film Festival screening and I was watching a rough cut, I just hope she can walk away from this experience knowing she needs more rehearsal time and more direction in the sound recording booth for better results.* The history behind Hava Nagila is tough to sit through since moviegoers figure out that its background and why it exists can be summed up in a few lines. That’s not to undercut the crucial Jewish backstory nor the interesting conversation of who wrote the song first and the even more interesting competitive nature between the two modern families, but it all seems irrelevant in a documentary that wanted to highlight this specific song and its impact.
However, Hava Nagila (The Movie) finds its stride when the story focuses on Jewish people living in hunky-‐dory America’s suburbia in a post-‐Holocaust world. The interviews shift from those who are older and feel unnatural on camera to well-‐known artists and musicians. Again, this isn’t to take those prior interviews about Jewish history down a peg, but the interviews with musicians bring an element of excitement to the table. It’s excitement that sparks passion in their presence and their speech, as if they’ve been bottling these opinions up for quite some time anticipating someone asking them these very questions. It’s easily more compelling than Hava Nagila (The Movie)’s meandering history lesson. Interviews with Harry Belafonte, Leonard Nimoy, and Regina Spektor all stick out as winners, providing plenty of content to take out of the film. Even an interview with Josh Kun, a professor at the University of Southern California, is very charismatic and offers some amusing man-‐on-‐ the-‐street bits. It’s disappointing to see Grossman’s project take on a weak start leading me to think Hava Nagila (The Movie) would’ve made a better short-‐form doc. Because, everything in the film’s latter half (sans botched narration) is worthy to take on its own documentary. And for those wondering, you do hear different renditions of Hava Nagila throughout Grossman’s doc, but surprisingly, you never grow tired of it because of those uplifting attitudes towards the song.
Catch Hava Nagila (The Movie) at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival on April 21 at 8 p.m. at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema! Click here for more details and to buy tickets. Visit the official Toronto Jewish Film Festival webpage here! Check out my Re-‐Emerging sneak peek/interview with Lieberman here! Do You Tweet? Follow These Tweeple: The Toronto Jewish Film Festival: @TJFFtweets Film Army: @FilmArmy Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie
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