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On April 5, the fifth annual Brooklyn Jewish Film Festival kicks off with the New York premiere of the French film "The Grand Role," directed by Steve Suissa. Although this edition of the festival is titled "Stand Up and Laugh," there isn’t much to laugh about in this movie about a Jewish actor, Maurice (Stephane Freiss), who auditions for the role of Shylock in a famous American director’s Yiddish screen version of "The Merchant of Venice," but doesn’t get to keep the part.

When the director (Peter Coyote) replaces him, Maurice doesn’t have the heart to tell his ailing wife, Perla (Berenice Bejo, pictured), so he takes on the greatest role of his life, acting as though he is going to the set each day - in order to bring joy to his beloved wife. Despite the dark cloud (the lovely wife slipping away) that hangs over the action, the film still manages to be fairly fast-paced (especially for a French film!), and even turns into a buddy movie as Maurice’s pals aid him in his subterfuge, doubling as his chauffeurs, journalists and costume designers.

What pulls the film back from the edge of being easily dismissed silliness is the truly heartbreaking, memorable performances of Freiss and Bejo whose love endures the plot’s twists and turns.

Also showing on April 5 is the short film "Advice and Dissent," featuring Eli Wallach as a rabbi. Wallach is expected to attend the screening and the opening night reception that follows. The festival, which continues through April 10, takes place at BAMcinematek (30 Lafayette Ave. at Ashland Place in Fort Greene). Tickets are $10. For more information, call (718) 636-4100 or visit the Web site at

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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