By Jared Bowen
|The Boston Jewish Film Festival runs through Nov 14th at local theaters, including the Coolidge Corner Theatre.|
2010 marks the 22nd Anniversary of the Boston Jewish Film Festival, and in that time, its mission has kept consistent and clear.
“We began as a way to showcase films with Jewish themes from around the world, and we’ve pretty much stayed that way,” says Sara Rubin, artistic director of the Boston Jewish Film Festival.
“We focus on very contemporary films. Sometimes we push the envelope a little bit, if it’s a fiction film, but we want either the theme or the characters to the Jewish. We don’t really care about who directed the film, or who acts in it. And if it’s a documentary, most things from Israel are going to be fair game.”
Being steeped in the Jewish experience certainly hasn’t limited the appeal of this festival, especially for film lovers simply looking for good films that wouldn’t come to Boston otherwise. And for Boston’s Jewish community, says Sara, “I think that film festivals are a place where Jews who might be a little uncomfortable in a more organized setting—a synagogue for example—can come and be comfortable exploring their Jewishness.”
In terms of “place”, the “place” Sara refers to is the community that gets built each year through the festival, and continues year-round. The festival itself is housed in a number of venues, primarily the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline and the Museum of Fine Arts. Additionally, there are a number of screenings in the suburbs, including the West Newton Cinema and Arlington’s Capitol Theater.
One of the highlights of festival is the film Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story.
Sara explains, “It’s a wonderful, wonderful film, and what it does is touch upon something that has obviously struck a nerve.”
Directed by Peter Miller (who grew up in Lexington) and narrated by Dustin Hoffman, Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story confronts an old stereotype: That Jews are not athletic. It does this by exploring the historical connection between Jewish Americans and the nation's pasttime.
“It’s the puny Jew versus the strong athletic Jew,” says Sara. “I think that there are a couple of really strong characters that have resonated with audiences. Certainly, Sandy Koufax by not playing on Yom Kippur, and Hank Greenberg who did the same. They’re both real giants, both physically… and um… sort of morally.”
Sara also recommends a couple of hidden gems, including one called The Socalled Movie, about a very quirky artist called Socalled. Who is he?
“Socalled’s real name is Josh Dolgin, and he’s from Montreal. I’d say that he is kind of a ‘schlump,’ which is a Yiddish word for someone that’s sloppy. He’s taken Klezmer music, which is an old music from Eastern Europe, and has added hip-hop music to it. He’s got quite the following among Klezmer and hip-hop types alike."
“We’ve shown more traditional Klezmer films, and this one is a little bit cutting edge. So I hope people will go, because they’ll see something different. That’s what we try to do with the Festival.”
The Boston Jewish Film Festival is underway all the way through November 14th.
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