Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival 2012

Kicking off tomorrow, this year’s Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival runs from November 3-18 at a number of different venues…

Saturday, November 3, 2012 / 7:30 PM
Opening Night / The Gershman Y

The Day I Saw Your Heart


Director: Jennifer Devoldère
France, 2011, 98 minutes
In French w/ English subtitles

Justine (Mélanie Laurent of Inglourious Basterds) needs to get her life together. After all, her dad, Eli, almost 60, is expecting a child with his young new wife, while her sister, Dom, is desperately trying to have children of her own. The only thing that seems
to keep Justine’s feet on the ground is her enduring commitment to an art project she hopes will turn 
into something more. While she struggles to find herself amidst all her confusing relationships, her father secretly works towards making amends with
the daughter he never quite understood. This quirky, dark dramedy offers an amusing glimpse into a French Jewish family’s quest for transformation and renewed love despite their differences. The Day I Saw Your Heart has garnered accolades from critics and has delighted audiences throughout the film festival circuit.
Preceded by Orbit
Director: Jessica Dorfman
USA, 2011, 19 minutes

In memory of Joel Gershman
Sponsored by Elaine, Bill, and David Levitt


The Gershman Y
Sunday, November 4, 2012
/ 3:00 PM
Kaddish For a Friend

Director: Leo Khasin
Germany, 2010, 94 minutes
In Arabic, German, and Russian w/ English subtitles

Two immigrants, Alexander and Ali, living in the
 same apartment house in Berlin, could not be more different. Alexander, an elderly Jewish war veteran from Russia, lives among his memories and fights 
to retain the culture of his past. Ali, a poor teenage Palestinian refugee from Lebanon, longs to fit in with his peers and keep his family above the law. When a local gang of Arab youths pressures Ali to vandalize Alexander’s apartment, he is forced to weigh his integrity against his desire to belong. Will Ali and Alexander bridge the gulf of age, nationality, and history or will this unlikely pair succumb to the pitfalls of cultural difference? Winner of audience awards
 in Boston, Dayton, Pittsburgh, and Washington, Kaddish for a Friend is a tragicomic gem from Russian-born German Director Leo Khasin.
Special Guest: Sunka Simon, Associate Professor of German, Film and Media Studies, Swarthmore College
Sponsored by Phyllis and Howard Fischer


Sunday, November 4, 2012 / 7:30 PM
Bryn Mawr Film Institute
Room 514

Director: Sharon bar-Ziv
Israel, 2012, 90 minutes
In Hebrew w/ English subtitles
*contains nudity

Four young Israeli soldiers find their reputations at stake pending the resolution of a brutal act of violence towards a civilian. Heading the investigation is Anna, an idealistic Russian-Israeli interrogator assigned to confront an elite IDF officer accused of inhumanely assaulting a Palestinian man from the occupied territories. Against the wishes of her commander, Anna embarks on a dangerous quest for justice as she commits herself to uncovering the truth, no matter the consequences. Inspired by true events, this bold and courageous drama explores the complex intersection between duty, justice, and national identity. Sharon Bar-Ziv’s tensely shot Room 514 is a seductive, hair- raising, psychological thriller that won a special jury mention at Tribeca in 2012.
Special Guest: Amy Kronish, author of “World Cinema: Israel” and “Israeli Film: A Reference Guide”
Sponsored by Neal Rodin and Sharon Schutte


Monday, November 5, 2012 / 7:30 PM
The Gershman Y
Omar Killed Me

Director: Roschdy Zem
Morocco and France, 2011, 85 minutes
In French w/ English subtitles

“Je m’appelle Omar. Je suis le jardinier,” were the only words Omar Raddad, an earnest Moroccan immigrant gardener, could say in French. Unfortunately, his simple line of defense was not enough to prevent an 18-year prison sentence for the murder of his wealthy employer.  As Omar is subjected to a series of trials through which he hopes to earn his freedom, his life is turned upside down as he endures humiliation and hardship. Injustice is on display in this provocative courtroom thriller – a modern-day Dreyfus Affair – as the idea that two separate justices, one for the powerful and one for the poor, exist inside the French courthouse. Based on actual events, Omar Killed Me, the Moroccan entry for best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, is a gripping drama of a man facing prejudice and adversity under circumstances not of his own making.
Guest speaker: François Massonnat, Visiting Professor of French, Villanova University
Sponsored by Center City Film and Video, The Louis D. Brandeis Law Society Foundation, and Comcast- Spectacor


Wednesday, November 7, 2012 / 7:30 PM
National Museum of American Jewish History
Circus Kids

Director: Alexandra Lipsitz
USA, Israel, 2010, 86 minutes
In English, Hebrew, and Arabic w/ English subtitles
*appropriate for ages 9 & up

From filmmaker Alexandra Lipsitz comes Circus Kids, a touching documentary about an eclectic group of young circus performers towing the line between friendship and adversity. The film follows an outstanding acrobatic troupe, the St. Louis Arches, made up of Jews and inner-city African Americans. Thanks to a newly forged partnership between their ambitious coach and an Israeli rabbi, the Arches travel to Israel and partner with ramshackle Arab/Jewish youth performers. Between juggling and backflips, language barriers and cultural clashes, the children learn to trust each other and move beyond their fears. Through their global performances, these brave and talented “peace ambassadors” show the world what can happen when humans focus on what they can build together instead of what sets them apart.
FilmConnects: Performance by Stone Soup Circus
Guest speaker: Jessica Hentoff, founder of St. Louis Arches and Circus Harmony
Sponsored by the National Museum of American Jewish History, Barbara and Mickey Black, and Andrea Snyder


Thursday, November 8, 2012
/ 7:00 PM
Centerpiece Film / Ritz East
The Lying Game (L’INFILTRÉ )

Director: Giacomo Battiato
France, 2011, 105 minutes
In French and Arabic w/ English subtitles

This outstanding spy thriller unearths the complex world of counter-terrorism. Giacomo Battatio’s The Lying Game recounts a war of nerves and intrigue between the Palestinian national movement and the French government during the 1980s. Abu Nidal is the ruthless leader of a Palestinian terrorist organization who carried out a string of attacks across Europe. With a recently declared war on sympathetic European nations and moderate Palestinians, his organization begins to crack. The French intelligence agencies, fearful that Abu Nidal’s terrorism will reach their soil, recruit a young, idealistic Palestinian soldier with the hope that he will serve as a double agent and bring down Nidal’s regime. Revealing a shadow world of secrecy and revenge, this film provides a rare glimpse into the ambiguity and division among Palestinian nationalists prior to the Oslo Accords.
Guest speaker: Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President of Research, Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Post-Film Reception: Free appetizers and great drink specials at Positano Coast, 212 Walnut Street. All ticket holders are welcome.

Sponsored by Gary Lozoff and Miriam Katz


Sunday, November 11, 2012
/ 3:00 PM
The Gershman Y
My Dad is Baryshnikov

Director: Dmitry Povolotsky
Russia, 2011, 105 minutes
In Russian w/ English subtitles
*ages 9 & up

It’s 1986 in the USSR: the rumblings of Perestroika have taken hold, borders are opening up, rock music is hitting the alleyways of Moscow, and black market jeans are all the rage. Enter gangly Borya Fishkin, the worst ballet student at the famous Bolshoi Theater Ballet Academy. Despite his diminutive size and the taunting jeers of his classmates, Borya is armed with confidence from his newfound belief that his father is Russia’s most famous ballet dancer, Mikhail Baryshnikov. Borya will stop at nothing to fit in and become a better dancer, all in the attempt to gain the attention of Marina, the school’s most beautiful star student, and secure a place in the Bolshoi company. Will Borya’s unconventionality pay off in a place where decorum and conformity rule. This hilarious comedy with a charming cast has delighted audiences worldwide.
FilmConnects: Performance by The Company of the Rock School for Dance Education
Guest speaker: Dr. Catherine Jeanne Robert, Professor of Liberal Arts and Dance Education at The University of the Arts
Sponsored by The Rock School for Dance Education


Sunday, November 11, 2012
/ 7:30 PM
Hiway Theatre
All In (La suerte en tus manos)

Director: Daniel Burman
Argentina, 2012, 110 minutes
In Spanish w/ English subtitles

From “Argentina’s Woody Allen” comes a bittersweet comedy of love lost and found. After a difficult divorce, Uriel, juggling the demands of family and the desires of bachelorhood, comes into his own in the least expected place: the poker table. What at first is a relaxing escape quickly turns into an all-consuming hobby. At an out-of-town tournament, Uriel runs into an old flame who, to his surprise, reignites the fire he didn’t realize he had been missing. Afraid to love and lose once again, Uriel has the opportunity to turn his back on the past and start anew. Grabbing hold of his destiny, he takes a risk and goes “all in.” Daniel Burman’s newest rom-com All In (La Suerte en tus Manos) throws fate and fortitude on the table as chips, encouraging us to define our lives not through our bluffs but by the hands we are dealt.
Preceded by Sorry, Rabbi
Director: Mark Slutsky
Canada, 2011, 11 minutes

Sponsored by Pam and Tony Schneider


Monday, November 12, 2012
/ 7:30 PM
The Gershman Y

Director: Feliks Falk
Poland, 2010, 105 minutes
In Polish and German w/ English subtitles
*contains nudity

Feliks Falk, one of Poland’s most renowned directors and co-creator of the “cinema of moral anxiety” movement with Krzysztof Kieślowski, brings us a haunting depiction of everyday life in Warsaw during the German occupation. Joanna, struggling to make ends meet in dire economic straits while waiting for the return of her missing husband, witnesses a seizure of Jews in which a young girl is separated from her mother. Torn between her own safety and sympathy for the abandoned child, Joanna must decide how far she is willing to go to save a human life. Urszula Grabowska delivers a brilliant performance as the title character, winning the best actress prize at the Moscow international Film Festival in 2011.
Guest speakers: Dr. Michael Steinlauf, Professor of History and Director, Holocaust and Genocide Studies Program at Gratz College; Alex Redner, Polish Holocaust Survivor
Sponsored by The Jimmy Katz Fund


Wednesday, November 14, 2012
/ 7:30 PM
National Museum of American Jewish History
Hava Nagila (The Movie)

Director: Roberta Grossman
USA, 2012, 75 minutes

*appropriate for all ages
– seating limited, advance tickets highly recommended

Adored or hated, the song “Hava Nagila” has without a doubt established its place in music history. By following the trajectory of the infectious Jewish 
party tune as it transcends its origins and becomes a worldwide hit, Hava Nagila (The Movie) leaps joyfully through time and space – from the shtetls of eastern Europe to the kibbutzim of pre-state Palestine to the cul-de-sacs of the American suburbs and more. Along the way, this fun and delightful film speaks to the controversy of the song’s lyrics, as well as the surprise success of Harry Belafonte’s hit recording, and further illuminates how a mere bar mitzvah staple became the universal emblem of “Jewishness.” A sharp new lens on the song everybody hates to love.
Preceded by B-Boy
Director: Lisa Cohen,
USA, 2011, 15 minutes

Guest speaker: Producer Marta Kauffman (co-creator of the TV show “Friends”)
Sponsored by the National Museum of American Jewish History and Ellyn and Seth Lehr


Saturday, November 17, 2012 / 7:30 PM
Closing Night / The Gershman Y

Director: David Grubin
USA, 2011, 90 minutes

This charming musical comedy of big apple dreams and Brighton Beach personalities stars real-life musicians in a singing love letter to the most musically rich city in the world. A family of talented Russian immigrant musicians plays the New York City subway in an attempt to make ends meet. The group’s star violinist, Sasha (Grammy winner Philippe Quint), has been given the chance of a lifetime: to study at Julliard for a shot at success as a professional musician and to earn a green card. During an open call audition, Sasha encounters “Downtown Express,” a jazzy, lounge-fusion, hipster band with a catchy sound and a captivating lead singer, Ramona (played by acclaimed recording artist/songwriter Nellie McKay). Hoping to win her love, he volunteers to play violin for her band and gradually disarms her through his virtuoso playing and innocent, old-world charm. Will it be Carnegie Hall or the coffee house for Sasha?
Special Guests: Director David Grubin & Star Nellie McKay


Sunday, November 18, 2012 / 3:00 PM
The Gershman Y
Free Men

Director: Ismaël Ferroukhi
France, 2011, 99 minutes
In French w/ English subtitles
*contains violence

Younes (Tahar Rahim of A Prophet) is a young, unemployed Algerian living in Nazi-occupied Paris, forced to turn to the black market to get by. Caught by the French police while hawking goods, Younes is coerced into infiltrating the Paris Grand mosque and its insubordinate imam, suspected of illegally aiding Muslim Resistance agents and North African Jews. Younes meets Salim, a popular Algerian cabaret singer with a beautiful voice and is immediately smitten. As their friendship deepens, Younes, who considers himself apolitical, becomes further entangled in the freedom movement. Will he give up his own security to fight for his newfound beliefs? Inspired by true events, this heart-thumping spy thriller is a powerful reminder of the universal struggle for liberation in a time of religious tension and radical change in the Middle East.
Sponsored by Susanna Lachs Adler
and Dean Adler and Land Services USA, Inc.


Official site.

Author: Eric Bresler

Eric is the Founder/Site Editor of whose additional activities are numerous: Director/Curator of the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), founder of Tokyo No Records, the brain behind Video Pirates, and active local film programmer including the Unknown Japan screening series. He’s served as a TLA Video Manager, Philadelphia Film Society Managing Director, and Adjunct Professor in Cinema Studies at Drexel University. He is shy and modest. Email Eric.

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