The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the first and largest of its kind, is now in its 27 year. “Independent Jewish cinema is an expanding, vibrant and surprising field, and our 54 films reflect that,” says Peter Stein, the festival’s executive director.
The festival begins July 19 at the Castro Theater and continues July 28-Aug. 4 at the Roda Theater in downtown Berkeley.
In addition to the usual wide range of comedies and dramas, short subjects and features, this year’s program focuses on two particular themes: Jewish boxers, and new documentaries from Israel.
Between 1901 and 1939 there were 27 Jewish world-champion boxers. More Jews participated in boxing than in any other professional sport. The festival will delve into this history with screenings at the Roda of Orthodox Stance, Jason Hutt’s documentary about Dmitriy Salita (6:30 p.m. Monday, July 30); Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1943 My Son, The Hero (2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1), coupled with Avida Livny’s short mockumentary Max Baer’s Last Right Hook, a fictional tale of the great heavyweight’s experience in 1942 Palestine; and Robert Rossen’s 1947 classic Body and Soul (4:15 p.m. Monday July 23), starring John Garfield.
The boxing theme continues with a special screening at the Castro Theater of His People (7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 21), a rarely seen 1925 silent film, co-presented with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and featuring a live jazz score by New York composer Paul Shapiro and his sextet.
Documentaries from Israel showing at the Roda include Nurit Kedar’s Wasted, an examination of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Lebanon; The Cemetery Club (4:15 Tuesday, July 31), Tali Shemesh’s portrait of the Holocaust generation; Hot House (4:15 Sunday, July 29), Shimon Dotan’s film about Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
Another festival highlight is sure to be Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, a documentary about six great comediennes: Molly Picon, Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, Joan Rivers, Wendy Wasserstein and Gilda Radner. The film screens at the Roda at 10 p.m. Saturday, July 28.
SAN FRANCISCO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
For a complete schedule see www.sfjff.org. Tickets can be purchased through the website or by calling (925) 275-9490 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Image: Scene from The Cemetery Club, a new documentary showing at the Jewish Film Festival.