What is it about the movies that keeps us coming back for more, month after month, year after year? Ask Mr. Capra, Mr. Coppola or Mr. Spielberg, and we’d be certain to hear a slew of theories ranging from psychological to psychedelic. But did Frank Lloyd Wright have an opinion?
“When I think movies, I think architecture,” said Gene Alterman, long-time executive director of the Orange County International Jewish Film Festival (OCJFF).
Movies, according to Alterman, represent ways out, and ways in. They are escape hatches when we need to distance ourselves from our personal realities; windows into the lives of others — windows that, in daily life, often remain shuttered and silent. They are closets to hide in, cellars where we seek shelter. But mostly, movies are one-way portals to broadened horizons, opening our eyes, swelling our hearts, expanding our minds.
Fest Looks at Judaism Through the Eyes of the Young
It can be difficult, in crafting a Jewish film festival, to select a wide spectrum of subject matter. When Jews endeavor to make movies about Jews, two themes tend to dominate: war and war.
With few exceptions, this year’s festival committee acknowledges the trend; but, at the same time, it has chosen to take a close look at the impact of war and political strife on young people in particular. Be it 1928 in the Netherlands (Sonny Boy); a village in Nazi-occupied France (Au Revoir les Enfants); New England in the 1950’s (School Ties); Poland or Paris during the rebellious 60s (Little Rose, Free Men); or Israel right now (Room 514), we are ushered inside the innocent, unsuspecting mind of Everychild as he/she grapples with the harsh realities of a world gone awry.
Humor also has its place in this year’s lineup, as we giggle at a frantic family reunion (Reuniting the Rubins); at a wacky encounter between a German, apolitical ladies’ man and the Russian chief of police (Hotel Lux); and, at a neurotic father and 20-something daughter trying to navigate today’s topsy-turvy family dynamics (The Day I Saw Your Heart).
Michael Berlin to Lead Animated Intro and Afterword
Psychologist/screenwriter/playwright Michael Berlin adds a stimulating intellectual pop to the festival as he returns to introduce and lead a post-film discussion with the audience at each screening. Dr. Berlin has written, produced or consulted on more than 150 television episodes. His feature films include Anguish, winner of six European Film Awards, Breaking Point for Paramount and Republic Pictures and the Robo-Warrior series for Paramount Pictures. He has worked as a script doctor and co-wrote the book and the lyrics for a theatrical musical.
Documentary Series Adds Depth & Diversity to Lineup
As if it weren’t enough to offer up a full slate of Jewish-themed features, the OCJFF committee has tacked on a seven-film documentary series, along with two new venues.
The Regency South Coast Village 3, located just across Sunflower Street, adjacent to South Coast Plaza, will be hosting all Sunday morning screenings, as well as the ever-popular Shirley’s Bagels and cream cheese in the lobby from 8:30 a.m. University Synagogue, which founded the festival 23 years ago and continues today as its principal sponsor, will host the documentaries in its sanctuary.
The decision to add a documentary series, said Alterman, was driven by a relatively new trend among cinephiles that has been recognized, and greatly enhanced, by the television industry, when it jumped head first into the world of reality shows.
“Documentaries have come a long way in terms of their acceptance by the general public,” noted Alterman, who previewed several films distributed by Brandeis University and the Simon Wiesenthal Center prior to making final selections. “As the telling of these true stories has become more sophisticated and compelling, movie-goers have begun to see that film can entertain and educate, both at the same time.”
In leading off the feature series with a documentary about the untimely death of Benjamin Netanyahu’s younger brother, Yoni (Follow Me), festival organizers are banking on the audience’s interest, not only in Jewish themes, but in Jewish history.
For detailed synopses, schedule, location and ticket information, please visit www.ocjff.org or call University Synagogue at (949) 553-3535. Tickets also will be available at the door.