Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Chris DeSouza
Assistant Editor 

Jewish Film Festival movie review


Brother Jozek and Franek in "Aftermath."

The 15th annual Central Florida Jewish Film Festival, co-produced by Enzian and the Roth Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando as part of the Cultural Festival Circuit and is supported by United Arts of Central Florida, is a cinematic celebration of Jewish life, culture, and history. Using the power of film to inform, educate, and most of all entertain, the festival challenges conventional perspectives on issues facing all of us. This year's festival will feature a newly expanded program with five films and an opening night program at the Orlando Science Center, 777 E Princeton St., Orlando. All other screenings take place at Enzian Theater, 1300 South Orlando Avenue, Maitland.

Tickets are sold in packages or individually as follows:

Mensch pass-$70 for all five films, first priority seating, doors open 30 minutes early

Series pass-$45 for all five films, second priority seating

Individual tickets-$10, third seating

Group rates (20 or more)-$1 discount on individual ticket

Table reservations are not available for this event.

Passes can be purchased online at enzian.org, in person at Enzian's box office, or the Roth JCC in Maitland. Individual tickets are available at enzian.org or Enzian's box office only. For group inquiries, please contact Allison Estes at (407) 629-1088, ext. 234.

The following is a review of the five films by Heritage movie "critic" Chris DeSouza.

"Zaytoun," co-presented by Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, Saturday, Nov.16, 7:30 p.m., at the Orlando Science Center. Directed by Eran Riklis, in English, Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.

"Zaytoun" (pronounced "say-toon") is a nonprofit organization established to support Palestinian farming communities by helping to increase the market for olive oil products. It's good to know this. The title makes sense as one views this film, set in 1982 Beirut, Lebanon, during the Lebanese civil war. Young Fahed, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy stuck in a refugee camp, has never seen the land where his family once lived. He only knows the tales his grandfather, mother and father have told him about their home in the northern hills of Israel. Fahed's life revolves around dodging Syrian Army bullets and PLO recruitment boot camps. He is a rebellious boy who never listens to reason, is opinionated and demanding.

Yoni is an Israeli fighter pilot whose plane is shot down close to the refugee camp. He is captured by the PLO nearby. Fahed spies on the prisoner and taunts him. After losing his father in a Syrian air-strike, Fahed is determined to go to his homeland plant an olive tree his father had tended and kept potted, proclaiming he would only plant it in "Palestine." Taking Yoni hostage, the two embark on a journey to cross the border-one to plant a tree and see his family's house, the other to return to his pregnant wife.

"When Comedy Went to School," shown Sunday, Nov. 17, 11 a.m. at the Enzian Theater. Directed by Mevlut Akkaya, Ron Frank and Lawrence Richards.

Take a trip down through the Catskill Mountains and a bit of American Jewish history in this documentary about Jewish comedians from the seeds of burlesque to vaudeville to the "boot camp" of New York's "Borscht Belt." Here Jewish immigrants such as the Grossingers and Kutshers gave birth to New York's largest resort complex. Comics like Jerry Lewis, Myron Cohen, Jack Carter, Sid Caesar, Jerry Stiller and Henny Youngman and many others cut their teeth on new and used material at night and worked as bell boys, tummlers, and waiters during the day.

The movie isn't just about these comedians. It's about the irony of Jewish comedy amidst much suffering and sorrow and reminds us all of the necessity of laughter in the midst of suffering in the world.

"Aftermath," shown Sunday, Nov. 17, 1:30 p.m. at the Enzian. It is the Southeast premiere. Directed by Wladyslaw Pasikowski, in Polish with English subtitles.

Of the five movies in the film festival, this one is the most thought provoking. Inspired by actual events, it won the Yad Vashem Chairman's Award at the 2013 Jerusalem Film Festival. It is the story of two brothers, Franek and Jozek Kalina, who grew up on a farm in a small Polish town. Franek cut all ties with his family for reasons not known and moved to the United States 20 years earlier. After Jozek's wife and children come to the states without explanation, Franek returns to find out what is going on with his brother.

Instead of learning of a marital spate, Franek discovers that Jozek has been doing strange things-like digging up Jewish headstones from roads and moving them to his wheat field. Asked why he is doing this, Jozek has no explanation, except to say he has to do this. For his actions Jozek is harassed and tormented by the community.

Eventually, the small community gives up its horrible secret and the brothers are faced with terrible truths about their father and community members. Not to give it away, there is a shocker near the end of the movie.

The only distraction with this movie is the fast-paced subtitles. Sometimes I couldn't tell which lines went with which brother and I couldn't watch the scenes as well. Other than that, "Aftermath" is riveting.

"Hava Nagila (The Movie)," shown Monday, Nov. 18, 4 p.m., at the Enzian. Directed by Roberta Grossman.

If you love Israeli music and folk dance, this is a movie to see. It is a documentary that is fun to watch and creatively tells the history of how this great standard came into being from its birthplace in Sadagora, Ukraine. There is a bit of controversy as to who wrote the lyrics-was it A.Z. Idelsohn or his student Moshe Nathanson? Their families continue to squabble over that one.

Siham and Amin in "The Attack."

Featured in the movie are Harry Belafonte, Connie Francis, Glen Campbell and Leonard Nimoy (who shared that the split fingers hand salute for "Be well and prosper" is taken from Jewish ritual). For those who know Israeli dance, they will be thrilled to see Israeli choreographers Dani Dassa, Ayala Gorn and mother of folk dance Gurit Kadman as they explain the fundamentals of Israeli folk dance.

"The Attack," shown Monday, Nov. 18, 6:45 p.m. at the Enzian. Directed by Ziad Doueiri, in Hebrew & Arabic with English subtitles.

This gripping movie is another story of coming face-to-face with an unbearable truth about a loved one. Amin, an Israeli Palestinian surgeon has fully assimilated into life in Tel Aviv. He and his wife live a very comfortable life. However, everything comes unglued after a suicide bombing in a local restaurant. The audience follows Amin as he travels into Nablus to search for answers-the why of all this. One can't help but notice the contrast between the Palestinian city and modern Tel Aviv. Making a cameo appearance is Abdallah El Akal, the young actor in "Zaytoun."


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