Welcome to the 13th annual Portland Jewish Film Festival, presented by The Northwest Film Center and the Institute for Judaic Studies and co-sponsored by the Jewish Review. We hope you will find that this year’s films, while they expresses specific Jewish experience, resonate beyond their cultural inspiration and speak to ideas, experiences and issues that confront our common humanity. We invite you to explore, discover and acknowledge as we do the generosity of our individual program sponsors and patrons, whose ongoing investments make the Festival possible.
 

WONDROUS OBLIVION
UK 2003 DIRECTOR: PAUL MORRISON

JAN 13 16 THU 7 PM, SUN 4:30 PM WHITSELL AUDITORIUM
Paul Morrison’s engaging, uplifting comic drama offers a warm view of a working class Jewish community in London in the 1960s. David Wiseman is a good, 11-year-old Jewish boy who is fanatical about cricket—and "wondrously oblivious" to the fact he has absolutely no talent for it. His hard-working Polish parents, refugees from the Holocaust, are viewed with suspicion by their less than tolerant neighbors. Social tensions further mount when the Samuels, a cricket-loving family of Jamaican immigrants, move in next door. As much as David is overjoyed, the neighbors are dismayed, forcing David to make a difficult choice between fitting in and finding the courage to stand up for what he knows is right. (106 mins.)

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HEIR TO AN EXECUTION
US 2003 DIRECTOR: IVY MEEROPOL

JAN 15 SAT 5:30 PM WHITSELL AUDITORIUM
On June 19, 1953, the U.S. Government executed Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for “conspiracy to commit espionage” by providing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union.

In an era of Cold War hysteria and McCarthyism, the Rosenberg’s were confirmed in the public imagination as either treacherous spies or socialist martyrs, depending on one’s political persuasion. 50 years after their deaths, their granddaughter, Ivy Meeropol, embarks on a quest to understand who her grandparents were, the dynamic of the Rosenberg family, the choices they made and what they believed in so strongly that they were willing to orphan their own children. “Often heart-wrenching, this highly personal film never turns maudlin or self-indulgent. Rather, by bringing her grandparents back home, Meeropol provocatively resurrects a story with profound resonance for our times."
—SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL. (90 mins.)

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LE GRAND ROLE
FRANCE 2004 DIRECTOR: STEVE SUISSA

JAN 15 SAT 7:30 PM WHITSELL AUDITORIUM

Laughter and tears vie for top billing in this lovely story of friends Maurice, Sami, Simon, Elie and Edouard, actors in their late 30s still waiting for their big break. One day, Grichenberg, the famous American director, comes to Paris looking for the lead role in his Yiddish adaptation of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE.

Maurice gets the part! It is the breakthrough he has been waiting for all his life. He hurries home to announce the news to his wife Perla but she also has news for him: she is terminally ill. When the part is given away to an American star, Maurice does not have the heart to tell Perla the truth. With the help of his friends he ends up playing the role of his life to allow his wife to be proud of him and to protect her from realizing the truth. (89 mins.)

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BROKEN WINGS
ISRAEL 2003 DIRECTOR: NIR BERGMAN

JAN 16 SUN 2 PM GUILD THEATRE
This bittersweet comedy portrays an Israeli family's struggles to persevere in the wake of the father's sudden death. It has been nine months since David, the father and breadwinner of a family of four, died, and things are not getting better for the Ulmans of Haifa, Israel. Dafna, the widow, has emerged from her grief-stricken catatonia into a punishing work schedule, which leaves 17-year-old Maya to care for her distracted siblings. When Maya's musical aspirations are crushed by her new responsibilities she becomes so forgetful that a fresh family tragedy ensues. A sweet, sad, but eventually optimistic film about living through death. "It's something of a rarity for an Israeli film (at least one exported to the United States) not to address political, societal or religious conflict. This story could take place anywhere there are families struggling to remake themselves in the aftermath of tragedy; its universality is perhaps the most potent political message of all."—THE OREGONIAN. Winner of nine Israeli Academy Awards including Best Picture. (84 mins.)

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IMAGINARY WITNESS: HOLLYWOOD AND THE HOLOCAUST
US 2004 DIRECTOR: DANIEL ANKER

JAN 16 SUN 7 PM WHITSELL AUDITORIUM
IMAGINARY WITNESS explores the ways American movies—feature films, documentaries and newsreels—have shaped our perception of the Holocaust. Using rarely seen footage, first-hand accounts by directors, actors, writers and producers, along with clips from such films as THE GREAT DICTATOR, THE PAWNBROKER, SOPHIE’S CHOICE and SCHINDLER’S LIST, Anker engrossingly examines Hollywood’s complex responses to the horrors of Nazi Germany. Beginning with American ambivalence and denial during the height of Nazism, through the silence of the postwar years, the impact of television and the current climate, this skillful historical essay reveals not only how influential Hollywood has been, but also to what degree it has acted in a responsible fashion. (92 mins.)

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MOVING HEAVEN AND EARTH
US 2003 DIRECTORS: DEBRA GONSHER, DAVID VINIK

JAN 19 WED 7 PM GUILD THEATRE
Meet the Abayudaya, a tribe that has been practicing Judaism in Uganda for over 80 years. Even in the face of rampant anti-Semitism (especially under Idi Amin) and many in world Jewry—whose definition of who can be a Jew cannot include them—the Abayudaya continue to hold fast to Jewish practice and belief in observance of Talmudic Law and the teachings of the Torah. At the beginning of February of 2002, a Beit Din (Rabbinical Court) went to Uganda to officially recognize the over 300 Abayudaya, and welcome them into the larger community of world Jewry. The film asks a resonant question about Jewish identity while celebrating the music, culture, and devotion of these African Jews. (45 mins.)

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WITH
THE LAST MARRANOS
FRANCE/ISRAEL 1990 DIRECTORS: FREDERIC BRENNER, STAN NEUMANN

In the late 15th century the Spanish Inquisition brought an end to Sephardic Jewry on the Iberian peninsula. The Marranos (pigs) as Christians called them, were forced to convert to Catholicism to avoid persecution and death. But many continued to observe their Judaism in secret and five centuries later in the village of Belmonte, north of Lisbon, a small enclave of Sephardic culture still endures. The present day Marranos attend church on Sunday but privately follow barely understood Jewish rituals passed down from generation to generation. Today they practice their faith openly and have boldly established a synagogue for the first time in five centuries. (65 mins.)

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THE NINTH DAY
GERMANY 2004 DIRECTOR: VOLKER SCHLÖNDORFF

JAN 20 THU 7 PM GUILD THEATRE
Based on an agonizing true story, THE NINTH DAY

recounts events in February, 1942 when Catholic Priest Henri Kremer is surprisingly released from hellish imprisonment at Dachau and sent home to Luxembourg. Upon his arrival, he soon learns that this is not a reprieve or a pardon of his crime—voicing opposition to the Nazis’ racial law—but that he has nine days to convince the bishop of Luxembourg to start cooperating with the Nazi occupiers. Gestapo commander Gebhardt is under pressure from his superiors to dampen resistance by creating a rift between the Luxembourg church and the Vatican—or be transferred to duty in the death camps in the East. Gebhardt, a former Catholic seminarian, tried to use theological arguments— including the role of Judas in Christianity—to bring Kremer around, but when they don’t work he resorts to more draconian measures. If Kremer fails to influence the Bishop, he returns to Dachau. If he escapes, his family and all the priests in the camp will be killed. (97 mins.)

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WATERMARKS
ISRAEL 2004 DIRECTOR: YARON ZILBERMAN WATERMARKS

JAN 22 SAT 5:30 PM WHITSELL AUDITORIUM
tell the story of seven remarkable Jewish women athletes: Austrian national swimming champions and members of the legendary Jewish sports club, Hakoah Vienna. Founded in 1909 in response to the Aryan Paragraph banning Jewish athletes from Austrian sports clubs, Hakoah (“The Strength” in Hebrew) quickly grew into one of Europe’s largest athletic clubs. In the 1930s,

its women’s swimming team dominated the Austrian national competitions. The members fled the country when Hitler annexed Austria in 1938 and Nazis shut down the club. Today the women are in their 80s and scattered around the world. All swim daily. Director Yaron Zilberman lets these wonderful women speak for themselves and he engineers a reunion at their old pool in Vienna, their first reunion in 65 years, an event full of memories and celebration. (90 mins.)

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HITLER’S HIT PARADE
GERMANY 2003 DIRECTOR: OLIVER AXER, SUSANNE BENZE

JAN 22 SAT 7:30 PM WHITSELL AUDITORIUM
JAN 23 SUN 2 PM GUILD THEATRE

When the Nazis came to power in the 1920s and1930s, Germany was one of the world’s most sophisticated, highly educated cultures, home to many of the world's pre-eminent artists, writers, composers, scientists and thinkers. How was it that this advanced society could unleash one of civilization’s greatest tragedies? HITLER'S HIT PARADE uses a collage of music and archival footage—from feature films, homemovies, educational and propaganda films and commercials—to reveal the false idealism that characterized the Nazis' rise to power. Forgoing didactic narration, Axer and Benze’s sound and image track of the popular culture of the era provides a meditation on the emotional undercurrent in a nation blithely preparing to destroy much of the world. (76 mins.)

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MY UNCLE BERNS
US 2003 DIRECTOR: LINDSAY CRYSTAL

JAN 23 SUN 4 PM—visiting artist WHITSELL AUDITORIUM
An 88-year-old artist, WWII veteran and renaissance

man, Bernhardt Crystal’s life plays out like a great novel. From his troubled youth spent on the streets of Brooklyn to his experience as a combat artist at D-Day, to September 11, when he was evacuated from his home across from the Twin Towers, he has lived much of the American experience. Grandniece Lindsay Crystal, fearing she could have lost him on that tragic day, set out to chronicle her great uncle's extraordinary past and present it in intimate fashion. Featuring interviews with the filmmaker's father Billy, MY UNCLE BERNS is not just a story of a man's life, but a celebration of older generations and poignant lesson in how to approach life: with laughter, song and the occasional dirty joke. (83 mins.) Director Lindsay Crystal will introduce the film.
Following the screening we invite you to join us at the Art Museum for an opportunity to meet director Lindsay Crystal. A benefit for this year's Film Festival, tickets to the reception are $36 and limited. Tickets are available by calling the Institute for Judaic Studies, 503-246-8831.

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PAPER CLIPS
US 2004 DIRECTORS: JOE FAB, ELLIOT BERLIN

JAN 23 SUN 7 PM WHITSELL AUDITORIUM
In the small, mostly white and Christian, community of Whitwell, Tennessee (population 2,000), the middle school students were having trouble understanding the massive scale of the Holocaust—a crime against humanity so removed from their daily lives as to seem unfathomable. So they decided to try an experiment: collect a single paper clip to represent each individual exterminated by the Nazis. Before long it became clear just what an enormous task that was, and the community found themselves in the middle of an unforgettable project that opened the community to the world beyond their valley. The amazing result, which stands permanently in their schoolyard, is an inspiring lesson of how a committed group of children can change the world, one classroom at a time. (82 mins.)

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CHECKPOINT
ISRAEL 2003 DIRECTOR: YOAV SHAMIR

JAN 26 WED 7 PM GUILD THEATRE
When the Oslo Peace Accord was signed in 1993 it sparked worldwide hope for a possible resolution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. CHECKPOINT visits the flashpoints of the current crisis—Jenin, Nablus, Hebron, Ramallah and the Gaza Strip—which regulate the borders between Palestinian and Israeli zones, director Shamir provides a first-hand look at the tedious business of division. Top prize at the Amsterdam Documentary Festival 2003 and the Golden Gate Award for Best Documentary at the San Francisco International Film Festival 2004. (80 mins.)

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WALK ON WATER
ISRAEL 2004 DIRECTOR: EYTAN FOX

JAN 27 THUR 7 PM WHITSELL AUDITORIUM
Eyal, a tough Mossad hit-man, is assigned to try and get close to Axel and Pia, the brother and sister grandchildren of a Nazi war criminal, in the hope of discovering whether their grandfather is still alive and where he is hiding. Axel, a smart, attractive gay teacher from Berlin has traveled to Israel to see the country and visit Pia, who is living with her boyfriend on a kibbutz. Eyal poses as Axel’s tour guide for the trip. But as Eyal spends time with them, especially the spontaneous and engaging Axel, he finds his deep-seated prejudices and preconceptions challenged. A colorful, contemporary road movie/thriller that takes its characters around Israel and later to Berlin, WALK ON WATER explores fears—personal, cultural and political—and the role of the past in the present day lives of young people in Israel and Germany. "Excellent”—TEL AVIV MAGAZINE. (104 mins.)

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ARNA’S CHILDREN
ISRAEL/PALESTINE/NETHERRLANDS 2003 DIRECTORS: JULIANO MER KHAMIS, DANNIEL DANNIEL

JAN 29 SAT 5:30 PM WHITSELL AUDITORIUM
Arna Mer Khamis came from a Zionist family and in the 1950s she married a Palestinian Arab. On the West Bank she opened a theater for children from Jenin to help them to express their frustrations, anger and fear. Arna’s son, Juliano, worked with his mother and filmed her passionate commitment to the children and the project over seven years up to her death in 1996. Five years later, he returned to see what had happened to these children and try to understand the choices they made. To his dismay, he discovers that some have sacrificed themselves as suicide bombers, and that others will die in conflicts shortly after his return. Shifting back and forth in time, the film reveals the tragedy and horror of lives trapped in a battleground. “ARNA’S CHILDREN is obligatory viewing for anyone who cannot understand the Intifada.”—TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL. Best Documentary, Tribeca Film Festival; Critic’s Prize, Hot Docs Festival, Toronto; Best Film, Prague Human Rights Film Festival. (84 mins.)

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NINA’S TRAGEDIES
ISRAEL 2003 DIRECTOR: SAVI GABIZON

JAN 29 SAT 7:30 PM WHITSELL AUDITORIUM
Winner of 11 Israeli Academy Awards, including Best Film, and the most popular film in Israel last year, NINA’S TRAGEDIES is a “A Very Sad Comedy,” told from the point of view of a 14-year-old boy. Nadav must cope with his parents’ divorce, his high-strung mother, and his newly Orthodox father. Packed off to live with his beautiful Aunt Nina, with whom he is secretly and utterly smitten, he shares in her suffering over her husband’s death in a terrorist attack and is devastated when a new man enters her life. Unfolding through a series of humorous and touching journal entries in which Nadav reminisces, this sexy and surprising film explores the tenuous but fierce connections between lovers, parents and children, and the grace and humor found in the sadness and conflict of daily life. “A deliciously soulful tragic comedy.”—LA WEEKLY. (110 mins.)

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