"For the first 20 or so years of its existence, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival drew most heavily on the Israel-Germany-United States triumvirate for its programming," begins Michael Fox at SF360. "The world has opened up in the last decade: The historical archives of the former Soviet bloc countries are finally being mined to illuminating effect, for example, while filmmakers are freer to confront their countries' less-than-shining WWII records — even as US theatrical bookings of foreign films have declined, giving niche festivals access to a greater swath of high-quality dramas. The upshot is that local connoisseurs of international cinema beyond the festival's identity-based target audience know to scope out the Jewish Film Festival program (as well as those of Frameline, the Asian American International Film Festival, et al.)."
"The 30th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival includes several documentaries that at least peripherally touch on the Holocaust," notes Max Goldberg, "but two are particularly ambitious: Einsatzgruppen: The Death Brigades and A Film Unfinished. The former is an exhaustive cataloging of the Nazi execution squads' brutal charge to render the Eastern front Judenfrei, incorporating textbook history, eyewitness accounts (adhering to Shoah's trifurcated structure of Jewish survivors, local collaborators and onlookers, and former Nazis on hidden camera), and an unrelenting case of archive fever. The same color footage of starving Jewish children we see in Einsatzgruppen washes up in Yael Hersonski's A Film Unfinished, but here it's the provenance of these images, filmed by Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto, that's being scrutinized."
Also in the Bay Guardian, Dennis Harvey: "Hollywood has traditionally been reluctant to embrace the J-word or identity, despite Jewish artists and entrepreneurs' huge industry contributions from earliest days. The same studio heads who imitated upper-crust goyim lifestyles and Anglicized Jewish stars' backgrounds were disinclined to let their rare screen representations encompass machine guns and shakedowns.Curated by former programming director Nancy Fishman, Tough Guys: Images of Jewish Gangsters in Film reprises a few times that policy of polite cinematic omission was lifted."
Michael Hawley previews the two docs and one narrative feature that make up another strand, Voices of the Former Soviet Union.
The festival opens tonight at the Castro with Ludi Boeken's Saviors in the Night (image above). Michael Fox: "This earthy, pungent German-French co-production is based on the true story of a German-Jewish mother and daughter sheltered during the war by a family of farmers. Class and lifestyle differences generate almost as much tension as the risk of discovery by the local Hitler Youth, leading to a domestic friendship that provides the film’s emotional core."
IN OTHER NEWS
Jonathan Rosenbaum, Gonzalo Maza, Quintín (Eduardo Antín), Diego Lerer and Roger Alan Koza have gathered in Córdoba, Argentina for Semana Internacional de la Crítica, which began on Thursday and carries on through tomorrow. Flavia de la Fuente has been covering the goings on at La lectora provisoria.
The summer reading list is outpacing summer itself. Hot on the heels of new issues of Jump Cut, Film Comment, Senses of Cinema and Sight & Sound and the inaugural issue of Camera Lucida within just the past few weeks, comes word from Catherine Grant that there's a new issue of Scope up, "Using Moving Image Archives." Catherine's broken it down at Film Studies for Free.
Mark Asch in the L Magazine: "Jonas Mekas, from whom we still have much to learn about contemplative cinema, has programmed a series of Boring Masterpieces at Anthology Film Archives beginning with Andy Warhol's Empire [tonight], and continuing with Masaki Kobayashi's The Human Condition on August 7 and 8, and Robert Kramer's Ice on September 2."
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