For this week’s silver screen recommendations, it’s all about the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, spread this year across theaters in San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Palo Alto and San Rafael.
July 21 – Aug. 7
Various Bay Area theaters
Dani Menkin’s rah-rah documentary On the Map, receiving its world premiere at Cinéarts in Palo Alto this Saturday, July 23 as part of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, revisits with unabashed pride of the 1977 run of the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team to the European Championship. Another Israeli doc maker, Shimon Dotan, offers a more skeptical and complicated picture of nationalism in The Settlers (screening four times during the festival), a balanced history of the sometimes erratic, sometimes systematic relocation of (mostly religious) Israelis into the West Bank and Gaza after the Six-Day War.
The 36th edition of the SFJFF, which runs this Thursday, July 21 through Aug. 7 in San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Palo Alto and San Rafael, also includes several features — Sand Storm, Baba Joon, Mountain, Blush, One Week and a Day — from Israel’s sizable coterie of accomplished narrative filmmakers. Another highlight is the appearance of Arab Israeli writer Sayed Kashua, presently teaching at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with the U.S. premiere of his autobiographical TV series The Writer.
The festival’s lens is much wider than just the Middle East, of course, with excursions (among many, many other locales) to Argentina for writer-director Daniel Burman’s poignant opening-night confection of father-son dynamics, The Tenth Man, and the U.S.A. for Adam Nimoy’s tribute to his own father, For the Love of Spock.
Another television pioneer and influential liberal, Norman Lear, receives the Freedom of Expression Award prior to the doc Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, while the titular funnyman of Robert Klein Still Can’t Stop His Leg takes the stage before and after the screening of that portrait. Ferne Perlstein achieves the near-perfect synthesis of comedy, conscience and conflict in her provocative doc, The Last Laugh, which embraces the question of whether the Holocaust is off-limits for comedians. As you might imagine, Mel Brooks and Sarah Silverman have an opinion on the matter.