Sunday, July 30, 2006

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 26

What a long month it seems to have been between the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival preview and the time that I actually, finally started to attend. I was out of town during the San Francisco portion, so I am attending the Berkeley portion. The festival had a bit of a rough start on its opening day at Berkeley.

"Belzec" (dir. Guillaume Moscovitz, 2005, France, 112 min) Though it seems like "another holocaust documentary", its subject of the Belzec death camp in Poland, which was dismantled and literally buried to be forgotten, was pretty compelling. Through a series of interviews and photographs, the scenario of the building and deconstruction of the camp by the local citizens was documented. However, after the second reel, the projector broke down and the audience was sent out for refunds. I REALLY want to see the rest of this! However, I'll have to wait for another day.

The next two programs were presented on DVD, therefore bypassing the 35mm film projector which was on the fritz. However, the day would continue to be plagued by technical difficulties, however minor this time.

"A Voice Without a Face" (dir. Assaf Basson, 2005, Israel, 52 mins.) This documents the career of Magdi, a famous singer of Arabic music, who also was Yitzhak Basson, an agent for the Massod. A thorough exploration of the man's dual life would have been quite fabulous! However, the director, who is also the man's son, over personalized it and the film became more about his reactions to the secrets he learns about his fathers life, than an exploration of the drama his father must have lived through in pursuing his double-life. Or, at least, that is the film I would rather have seen. If one is more interested in this generations exploration and reaction to the tumultous lives their parents may have lived, then this would probably work. I for one, found it a bit too self indulgent. Also, the film had a tough start. The first 10 minutes was screened without subtitles. However, it did restart, from the beginning, for us to understand. It was also preceded by:

"The Substitute" (dir. Talya Lavie, 2005, Israel, 19 mins.) This was an odd little short concerning a new female recruit in the Israeli army and her emotional breakdown before taking over the position of an increasingly frustrated clerk. It was well made and performed. However, I'm not sure what I was to come out of it feeling or thinking. It didn't have much of a dramatic impact, as the new recruit is something of a cypher. The clerk she is replacing has more to play with, however she comes off pretty unsympathetic, since we do not know enough about her replacement. I'm quite mixed about this one, as it came so close, yet... eh. And finally, Gretchen joined me for:

"Sisai" (dir. David Gavro, 2005, Israel, 54 mins.) Yet another documentary, this time tracing a young Ethiopian-Israeli's search for his birth father. The film comes close to being very unique in that he finds that his birth father is a devout Christian, and Sisai has to face the conflict of whether he is a 'real Jew' or not. However, this conflict is briefly touched upon and the film focusses more on, what I would call, a typical 'birth parent search and reunion'. I wish it had explored his inner conflicts more, though the man is so young, I don't think he was able to express everything he was feeling at the time. The film is also directed by his foster brother, who may have lacked a certain objectivity and let the conflict slide by, or did not edit it in as fully as one may have wished. In other words, it became more of a celebration of the reunion, which is fine, but there was a bigger story just underneath the surface which I would have hoped to have explored more fully.

I also had a ticket for the 10:00 p.m. screening of "The First Zionist Bunny" (dir. Shiri Shahar, 2005, Israel, 75 mins.), however there was a 4 hour gap between "Sisai" which was filled with the 'official opening night feature and reception' that I did not attend. After dinner with Gretchen, which was done by 7:00, I decided to head back to San Francisco.


Maxxxxx said...

re "Belzec": 'Cranky bird!'
re "A Voice Without a Face": 'Doobie doobie dooo-ooo!'
re "The Substitute": 'What?'
re "Sisai": 'Wanna go back in the cage.'

Brian said...

The 35mm projector at Roda is on the fritz? I hope it's fixed soon! I'm thinking about attending later this week.