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The Fall Jewish Film Festival is back this year at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope with five films that, according to the synagogue’s Rabbi Gerald Weider, will provide "insight into Jewish life."

The films - "The Fighter" (Nov. 10, 8 pm), "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" (Nov. 11, 7 pm), "The Bombing" (Nov. 15, 7:30 pm), "The 3 Little Wolfs" (Nov. 17, 8 pm), "Happy Birthday Mr. Mograbi" (Nov. 18, 7 pm) - were chosen from about 30 screened by the selection committee for their controversial subject matter and their ability to "engender discussion," Weider said.

"We felt there was a need and a desire for a festival of films where people could see different aspects of Jewish culture, history and contemporary life," said Paul Rothman, who curated the film series. Encouraged by the success of last year’s festivals, a fall festival at the synagogue and a spring festival at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Rose Cinemas in Fort Greene, the film selection committee decided to expand both festivals, adding one more film to the fall festival and two days to the spring festival, which takes place April 16-22, 2002.

Rothman said that many of the films, like "The Fighter," which opened in New York this summer, are relatively new. Others, like "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg," have proven to be extremely popular.

To further stimulate discussion, one of the producers of "The Fighter," Alex Mamlet, will be on hand after the screening to discuss the film, and the star of "The 3 Little Wolfs," Tovah Feldshuh, will attend the showing of her film. "The Bombing" will be followed by what Weider calls an "open and frank" discussion on terrorism both in the United States and the Middle East. Rothman added that the program would also include excerpts from speeches Yasir Arafat has made to the Palestinians.

"The Fighter" is both a documentary and a philosophical treatise featuring two Czech-American Holocaust survivors, Jan Wiener and Arnost Lustig. Together the two friends retrace Wiener’s escape from Nazi-occupied Prague via Italy to Britain, where he joined the Royal Air Force, and finally his imprisonment in the labor camp to which the Czech Communist government sentenced him after the war. They also visit the concentration camp where his mother was beaten to death by the Nazi SS.

Directed by Amir Bar-Lev, the film is not only provocative, but also warm and funny, reflecting the intelligence, humor and compassion of the two friends.

Director Aviva Kempner’s tribute to baseball’s first Jewish star, "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg," tells the nostalgic story of this World War II-era Detroit Tigers batter who came close to breaking Babe Ruth’s homerun record.

Interwoven into this documentary of Hammerin’ Hank’s career during the Golden Age of baseball is archival footage that brings the ’30s and ’40s to life.

"The Bombing" goes beyond the headlines to present a different picture of Middle East reality. The film explores the perspectives of parents and siblings of the Palestinian youths - suicide bombers - who died in the process of killing Israelis in a downtown Jerusalem market in 1998.

The Jewish parents grieve, while the Palestinians bear the burden of knowing their children died killing others, and the film, directed by Simone Bitton, steadfastly refuses to take sides.

Feldshuh plays an overbearing Jewish mother in the true-to-life comedy "The 3 Little Wolfs," directed by Joey Craine. The feature-length indie film is based on conversations at a family Seder and illustrates how a family secret becomes as important as the Passover story. Viewers, however, need not be Jewish to relate to the humor and drama that emerge at family dinners.

"Happy Birthday Mr. Mograbi" is about Avi Mograbi’s vision of Israel’s 50th birthday. Mograbi is a documentary filmmaker hired by an Israeli TV producer to make a film about these celebrations.

The producer wants Mograbi to respond to every development in Israeli politics. A Palestinian colleague wants him to search for the Palestine that has been lost since the Nakba ("catastrophe") - pictures of places that used to be Palestinian and have become Jewish settlements. And Mograbi wants to tell the story of the Jewish dream - the purchase of a lot with the intention of building a small house outside the city.

All films will be shown on state-of-the-art equipment, with surround sound, in the recently renovated 150-seat rotunda area of Congregation Beth Elohim’s basement, at 274 Garfield Place at Eighth Avenue. The films will be shown on DVD or VHS and projected onto a movie screen. Some of the films shown at the fall festival will again be shown at the spring BAM festival, along with many new films. In the meantime, the Fall Jewish Film Festival is a good preview of what’s in store.


The Fall Jewish Film Festival runs Nov. 10-18 in Congregation Beth Elohim’s basement, 274 Garfield Place at Eighth Avenue. Tickets: $7, $4 children. For more information, call (718) 768-3814.

Some of the films shown at the fall festival will again be shown in the spring Jewish film festival at BAM (30 Lafayette Ave. at Ashland Place), April 17-22, 2002.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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