News Philly Film Top — 12 March 2012 » Written by
PJFF: New Filmmakers Weekend

From the release:

Each year, the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival grants first-time filmmakers with Awards for Excellence in Filmmaking for their first feature films. This season, we will be screening the winners at the Prince Music Theater from Saturday, March 17th through Monday, March 19th. You can purchase tickets to any of these films in advance by visiting our website at www.pjff.org.

LOCAL THEME AWARD: TO SAVE A LIFE
Director Steven Pressman
Saturday, March 17, 8:30pm at The Prince Music Theater
with Awards Ceremony for all Winning Filmmakers prior to screening

To Save A Life is a new documentary film that tells the dramatic and never-­before-told story of Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus, a Jewish couple from Center City Philadelphia who traveled into the heart of Nazi Germany in the spring of 1939 in a daring effort to rescue 50 Jewish children and bring them back to the United States. Not only did the Krauses have to deal with high–ranking Nazi officials in Berlin and Vienna, but they also had to get around America’s rigid and restrictive immigration policies, which made it nearly impossible to bring Jewish refugees — even children — into America. In carrying out this incredible mission, Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus were responsible for rescuing the largest known American transport of refugee children throughout the Holocaust.

INTERNATIONAL AWARD: THE RABBI’S CAT
Directors Joann Sfar and Antoine Delesvaux
Sunday, March 18, 2:30pm at Rave University City 6

Directed by one of France’s most celebrated young comic artists, Joann Sfar, and first-time filmmaker Antoine Delesvaux, The Rabbi’s Cat (based on the graphic novel by Joann Sfar) tells the unique story of a rabbi, his daughter, and their talking cat – a philosopher brimming with scathing humor and surprising tenderness.

In Algeria in the 1930s, a cat belonging to a widowed rabbi and his beautiful daughter, Zlabya, eats the family parrot and gains the ability to speak. To his master’s consternation, the cat immediately begins to tell lies (the first being that he didn’t eat the parrot). The rabbi vows to educate him in the ways of the Torah, while the cat insists on studying the kabbalah and having a Bar Mitzvah. They consult the rabbi’s rabbi, who maintains that a cat can’t be Jewish – but the cat, as always, knows better. The delivery of a box from Russia further complicates things when a painter is discovered inside. He is on a quest for a hidden tribe and a mythical utopian city. Convinced that acceptance must truly exist somewhere, he sets off on an incredible adventure, taking with him the Rabbi, his cat, a wise old Arab Sheikh, and an eccentric Russian billionaire. Sfar’s style and vision carries a universal message of tolerance, in this highly original, beautifully crafted film, celebrating a joyful and multi-colorful return to hand-drawn animation.

NATIONAL AWARD: PAUL GOODMAN CHANGED MY LIFE
Director Jonathan Lee
Sunday, March 18, 7:30pm at The Prince Music Theater

Paul Goodman was once so ubiquitous in the American zeitgeist that he merited a “cameo” in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. Author of legendary bestseller Growing Up Absurd (1960), Goodman was also a poet, 1940s out queer (and family man), pacifist, visionary, co-founder of Gestalt therapy-and a moral compass for many in the burgeoning counterculture of the 1960’s.

Paul Goodman Changed My Life immerses you in an era of high intellect (that heady, cocktail-glass juncture that Mad Men has so effectively exploited) when New York was peaking culturally and artistically; when ideas, and the people who propounded them, seemed to punch in at a higher weight class than they do now. Using a treasure trove of archival multimedia-selections from Goodman’s poetry (read by Garrison Keillor and Edmund White); quotes from Susan Sontag, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Noam Chomsky; plentiful footage of Goodman himself; plus interviews with his family, peers and activists-director/producer Jonathan Lee and producer/editor Kimberly Reed (Prodigal Sons) have woven together a rich portrait of an intellectual heavyweight whose ideas are long overdue for rediscovery.
*Followed by panel discussion led by Elliot Ratzman (with filmmaker and other panelists TBA)

CHAIR’S CHOICE (A BONUS NEW FILMMAKER SCREENING)
REUNITING THE RUBINS
Monday, March 19, 7pm at The Prince Music Theater
Selected by PJFF Chair, Phyllis Fischer

An up-tight lawyer, Lenny Rubins, (Timothy Spall), has to put his dream retirement on hold when his ailing mother (Honor Blackman) emotionally blackmails him into reuniting his estranged children for a Jewish holiday. They may be peas from the same pod, but in Lenny’s eyes, his grown-up children are certainly not even from the same planet: a ruthless control-freak and hard-nosed capitalist, an outspoken, argumentative eco-warrior committed to the cause, an outer-worldly Buddhist Monk; and to cap it all, a bible obsessed Rabbi. While they might quarrel, fight, and perhaps even initiate a war in Africa, they are still family. It is going to take a whole lot of soul-searching and sacrifice for everyone to come together in this comic drama.

Official site.

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Eric is the Founder/Site Editor of Cinedelphia.com 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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