5th ANNUAL PORTLAND JEWISH FILM
This year's PORTLAND JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
explores themes of spirituality and Jewish identity throughout all parts of the
world, especially how American Jews perceive themselves in a larger social context.
Many of the works premiering are informed by the experience of the Holocasut,
an event that has shaped the lives of generations this century. The films, in
their abundance, touch on tragedy, embrace humor and recount the emotional and
tangible gains and losses of a people. Two programs in particular focus on contemporary
Judaism and its links to other religions, particularly Buddhism. The political
and social life of Israel is seen through the eyes of people of the younger generation
and the magic of the late composer Leonard Bernstein, whose lifelong affinity
with Israel never faltered, is captured in two new works. THE PORTLAND JEWISH
FILM FESTIVAL is cosponsored by The Institute for Judaic Studies, Mittleman
Jewish Community Center and THE JEWISH REVIEW. Special thanks to our
many supporters including The Aspen-Mitzvah Fund of the Oregon Jewish Community
Foundation, The Jordan & Mina Schnitzer Foundation and numerous individual
JAN 6 10
WED 6 7:30 P.M., SUN 10 2 P.M.
OPENING NIGHT PORTLAND
DIRECTOR: ALEXANDER ROSLER
Norway, 1954. Nine-year-old Mendel
Trotzig and his displaced family are one of a few post-war German families who
have been granted citizenship in Norway. Welcomed by Christian missionaries, they
are about to experience a world as strange as they must appear to their hosts.
Into this land of Santa Claus and Jesus, Mendel's parents carry the pain of the
concentration camps and the hard truths they try to shield Mendel from. In this
bittersweet coming-of-age story, Mendel must first grapple with the unknown, inventing
his own twisted mythology of World War II, until finally, through information
gleaned from photographs, other refugees and books, the reality of the Holocaust
and anti-Semitism take their dark shape. With an excellent performance by Thomas
Jorgen Sorensen as the young boy, Dachau-born Rosler has crafted a delicately
textured look at children of survivors and the legacy they must carry. "Rosler's
first, loosely autobiographical feature is an evocative exploration of the humor,
melancholy and strange growing pains of the average German-Jewish-Norwegian childhood."—THE
VILLAGE VOICE (95 mins.)
POST-FILM DISCUSSION LED BY CHARLES
SCHIFFMAN ON JANUARY 6.
JAN 13 14 17
TUES 13 7:30 P.M.WED 14 7:30 P.M.,
SUN 17 2 P.M.
THE JEW IN THE LOTUS
DIRECTOR: LAUREL CHITIN
"I'd come to Dharamsala as a skeptic.
A cultural Jew, a Jew by birth. But my religion? Nervous was my religion....They
say if you lie down in a deep well, even in daylight you can see the stars. I
was in a deep well, looking up. And I saw something absolutely brilliant."—Rodger
In 1990, the Dalai Lama invited a group
of American rabbis to the Himalayan foothills to share the Jewish "secret of spiritual
survival in exile." Writer Rodger Kamenetz was invited on the trip by his best
friend, organizer Mark Lieberman, to observe and perhaps write about his experience.
Little did Kamenetz know the personal odyssey on which he was about to embark.
Award-winning documentarian Laurel Chiten (TWITCH AND SHOUT) followed the writer
on his intense personal journey back to his Jewish roots, combining remarkable
images of the Tibetan people and the expanding links between Tibetan Buddhists
and American Jews this congress brought about. Among those featured in the film
are some of the most progressive Jewish thinkers in North America—Blu Greenberg,
Reb Zalman Shachter-Shlomi, Rabbi Yitz Greenberg and Rabbi Jonathan Omer Man—and
the Dalai Lama himself. "Chiten's fascinating film becomes a universal lesson
about human validation as much as a poetic record of East-West understanding and
Tibetan-Jewish dialogue."—THE JEWISH ADVOCATE (60 MINS.)
POST-FILM DISCUSSION LED BY RABBI ARYEH
HIRSCHFIELD ON JANUARY 13.
TUES 7:30 P.M.
THE GREAT DICTATOR
DIRECTOR: CHARLES CHAPLIN
Humor has the power to both heal and
expose, transforming the unspeakable into the understood. As Roberto Benigni's
LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL most recently taught us, even the emotional realities of the
Holocaust can be given powerful and poignant definition through the use of humor
without diminishing its horrors. In 1940, Chaplin's devastating caricature of
Hitler created a sensation with audiences as one of the few pre-war films to attack
fascism. As David Robinson in "Chaplin: His Life and Art" noted: "The greatest
clown and best-loved personality of his age directly challenged the man who had
instigated more evil and human misery than any other in modern history." Chaplin
plays two roles in the film: Adenoid Hynkle (Der Fooer) and a meek Jewish barber
who is later mistaken for the leader. Even though it was made before Hitler
unleashed the full dimension of his insanity upon Europe, THE GREAT DICTATOR remains
a classic satire, full of Chaplin's visual wit and compassion for the little man.
Marking the last appearance of Chaplin's famous tramp, one should see the film
again just to listen to Chaplin's magnificent six-minute closing monologue which
echoes sentiments perhaps even more cogent today. (128 mins.)
POST-FILM DISCUSSION LED BY RABBI DANIEL
JAN 24 25
SUN 24 1 P.M. , MON 25 7 P.M.
LEONARD BERNSTEIN'S NEW YORK
GREAT BRITAIN 1997
DIRECTOR: HART PERRY
Among Leonard Bernstein’s many talents
were his special gifts for show music, symphonic dances and other forms blending
popularity with theatricality. His love was, of course, New York, which provided
the settings, sounds and rhythms for three of his five musicals—ON THE TOWN, WEST
SIDE STORY and WONDERFUL TOWN— and the background for his score for ON THE WATERFRONT.
Hart Perry’s salute to a great romantic’s Gotham features six stellar cabaret
singers—Mandy Patinkin, Audra McDonald, Donna Murphy, Dawn Upshaw, Judy Blazer
and Richard Muenz—and the orchestra of St. Luke’s, in staged reenactments of his
most famous numbers filmed in the very locations celebrated in the songs—Coney
Island, Central Park and Times Square. Part MGM, part MTV, an altogether winning
tribute to a legend’s music. (60 mins.)
SUN 24 2 P.M., MON 25 8 P.M.
LEONARD BERNSTEIN: REACH FOR THE
DIRECTOR: SUSAN LACY
One night in 1943, twenty-five-year-old
Leonard Bernstein stepped in to guest conduct for the New York Philharmonic’s
ailing Bruno Walter one night in 1943 and became an overnight sensation. Thus
began an extraordinary career as one of the century’s great composers, conductors
and educators. Told largely in Bernstein’s own words via diary entries, Susan
Lacy’s film charts his life from his birth to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents
in 1918 to early days as the "Orson Welles of the music world," and from his great
tenures in New York and Vienna to his monumental musicals and stirring performance
at the Berlin Wall in 1989. Rich in personal remembrances, home movies, performance
clips and interviews with his close friends and associates, this engrossing portrait
is a true celebration of the creative spirit. (117 mins.)
JAN 26 27
TUES 26 7:30 P.M., WED 27 7:30 P.M.
DIRECTOR: BRAD LICHTENSTEIN
"If you save the life of one, you have
saved the world entire."—Jewish proverb
A Czechosolokian Jew whose heroics
were instrumental in saving the lives of over seven thousand Slovak Jews, Andre
Steiner was dubbed "the Jewish Schindler" (though even as a Jew in Europe he was
able to save more than six times more people than Schindler). Now at 89-years-old,
the retired Bauhaus architect returns to Europe for the first time since the war
with his two sons for what turns out to be a pilgrimage of the heart. In Brad
Lichtenstein's stirring verité account of their journey, Steiner reveals
how he bribed Nazis and designed work camps to keep Jews safe from deportation.
The last surviving member of "The Working Group," underground resistance fighters,
Steiner also testified before the war-crimes tribunal. But since immigrating to
America, Steiner had put the war behind him and disassociated himself from the
past. This journey, one wrought with emotional revelations, explores for him and
the viewer the meaning of "zachor" or remembrance and the tension between
the collective obligation to remember and the personal need to forget. (55 mins.)
VISAS AND VIRTUE
DIRECTOR: CHRIS TASHIMA
Chris Tashima's Academy Award-winning
short also pays homage to a man who took part in a conspiracy of humanity. At
the beginning of World War II, Consul General Chiune Sugihara and his wife were
stationed in Lithuania. With hundreds of Jewish refugees outside their gates,
they faced a most difficult decision: provide life-saving transit visas to the
refugees against the orders of Japan or turn their backs on humanity. Their answer
to this moral dilemma forms the basis of this moving portrait which will surprise
and hearten. (30 mins.)
POST-FILM DISCUSSION LED BY SYLVIA
FRANKEL ON JANUARY 26.
FEB 2 3
TUES 2, 7:30 P.M., WED 3, 7:30 P.M.
JEWISH SOUL, AMERICAN BEAT
DIRECTOR: BARBARA PFEFFER
Is assimilation leading to the disappearance
of the Jewish community in the United States or are we in the midst of a Jewish
renaissance? With equal parts humor and insight, Barbara Pfeffer (ART AND REMEMBRANCE:
THE LEGACY OF FELIX NUSSBAUM) canvasses the American Jewish landscape, meeting
with both the prognosticators and proponents of a new Jewish vitality. Pfeffer
gathers perspectives from many in the arts, among them musicians and composers
John Zorn, Steve Reich and Elizabeth Swados, authors Tony Kushner, Cynthia Ozick
and Arthur Hertzberg, and other Jewish intellectual and spiritual scholars. She
also investigates the new Jewish everyman—those in intermarriages, new converts,
Jews across the racial spectrum and others as she visits a standing room only
synagogue, a Yiddish cabaret, a feminist seder and follows a Russian immigrant
family now free to practice their religion. Taken in total, JEWISH SOUL, AMERICAN
BEAT offers a vibrant tapestry of modern Jewish life. (60 mins.)
THE FIRST SEVEN YEARS
DIRECTOR: RACHEL SALTZ & KRYSSA
Based on a short story from THE MAGIC
BARREL by Bernard Malamud, a writer who eloquently captured the Jewish experience
in America, THE FIRST SEVEN YEARS deftly explores issues of social class and upward
mobility as a shoemaker hopes to marry off his daughter to a man with potential.
But love lurks elsewhere and patience just might be the road for the virtuous.
Starring Carol Kane (HESTER STREET), Daniel London (PATCH ADAMS), Ned Eisenberg
(PRIMARY COLORS) and Israel Horowitz, THE FIRST SEVEN YEARS was shot on location
in true Malamud country, the Lower East Side of Manhattan. (24 mins.)
POST-FILM DISCUSSION LED BY RABBI JOSHUA
STAMPFER ON FEBRUARY 2.
SUN 4 P.M.
JENNY & JENNY
DIRECTOR: MICHAL AVIAD
Jenny and Jenny, first cousins who
are both 17-years-old, meet, speak and even exchange letters on a daily basis.
These third generation Jewish immigrants from North Africa have settled with their
parents in Bat Yam, a working class suburb south of Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean
coast. Director Michal Aviad (EVER SHOT ANYONE?, 95 PJFF) observes one summer
in the life of the two Jennies, tracking their wanderings between childhood and
womanhood. Passionately, innocently, the two move in the twilight zone between
their heart's desire and the stark reality that must mold it in the end. How is
the world deciphered? What do they love and what causes them suffering? What is
their version of Israeli culture? How do they reconcile the mid-eastern traditions
in which they were brought up with the western ways of Tel Aviv? Can they negotiate
the opposing claims of religious fundamentalism and permissive secularism? Aviad
captures a pivotal chapter in their lives, revealing a vitality and passion that
echoes a generation.(60 mins.)
GREAT BRITAIN 1997
DIRECTOR: CATRINE CLAY
Love's mysterious power can be transcend
the most difficult and tragic of circumstances. In 1942, Lily Wurst, the
wife of a low ranking Nazi official, was the model Aryan with a German motherhood
medal for bearing the Fuhrer four sons. But then she met 21-year-old Felice Schrader,
a Jew with false identification papers who was part of the Jewish underground.
Now 82, Lily tells their remarkable story in Clay's elegiac and heart-rending
documentary which draws upon surviving love letters, photographs, poems, archival
footage and the remembrances of other women who were part of the Resistance Movement.
"But nothing equals the powerful sight of Lily talking about the love of her life."—THE
BOSTON PHOENIX (60 mins.)
POST-FILM DISCUSSION LED BY BARBARA