The Jewish Film Festival’s mixed bag

I often wonder who decides which films will be part of any given film fest. I was under the impression that these things were juried and only the best were chosen. I have since realized that this is not at all the case.

I often wonder who decides which films will be part of any given film fest. I was under the impression that these things were juried and only the best were chosen. I have since realized that this is not at all the case. It can’t be. If the films available for screening are representative of the whole Jewish Film Fest, I suspect there is something terribly wrong with the jury.

I hope they have an excuse, like drinking or being on strong antipsychotics. Of the five films available for screening, one was very good, another mediocre and the others crap.

Reviewer rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
The first, and by far the best, is a film called Noodle. When Miri, a flight attendant, comes home from work one day, her Chinese housekeeper has to go, and asks her to watch her son for an hour. When the woman doesn’t come back, Miri and her sister have to try to figure out what happened and what to do with the boy. After they discover the mother has been deported, it becomes a never-ending challenge to get the child home to his mother in Beijing.

The little boy is charming and so is the story. It’s one of those tales of people doing bad things for very good reasons. And since Miri faces the very real danger of spending the remainder of her life in prison should their plan fail, it’s pretty realistic. No explosions, car chases or sex. All the tension lies in real life people making real life decisions and learning a lot about themselves along the way.

Stealing Klimt
Reviewer rating: 3.5 stars
Stealing Klimt is a documentary about a specific incident of art stolen by the Nazis during WWII. The subject matter is very interesting. The Bloch-Bauer family in Vienna had everything of any value stolen, including five very large Gustav Klimt paintings, which the Austrian government refused to give back. The last remaining member of that family sued Austria for the return of the paintings.

However, the documentary itself has nothing special to recommend it. It’s old school and a little dull in places. As films go, it’s not wonderful but the material is compelling enough to watch. If you’re even remotely interested in art or the smaller stories of WWII, this documentary has a lot of great information, even if it lacks flash.

One Day You’ll Understand
Reviewer rating: Zero stars
One Day You’ll Understand has got to be one of the most stupefying, boring films to come out of the new wave of cinematic interest in the Jewish experience in WWII. It takes almost half the film to figure out what this guy’s problem is: Namely, he’s discovered that he is actually Jewish, not Catholic, and that his mother has been hiding it from him. Forty-plus minutes is too long to wait.

The remainder of the film contains an obnoxious teenaged son who rifles through his grandmother’s bags during her funeral, a pointless teenaged daughter and a wife who always seems to be laughing at the protagonist. The film ends in what seems like the middle of the story with no resolution. If someone offers to take you to this film, ask them why they hate you, then walk away. The plot is dreary and meandering, the characters unsympathetic.

The Gift of Stalin
Reviewer rating: 1 star
The Gift to Stalin is only slightly better than One Day You’ll Understand. Very slightly. The worst part of this film is that is has a great beginning but the story goes to hell fast. A large group of Jewish refugees are being resettled in Kazakhstan. However, they’ve been given no food or water, so the train stops in every village to unload the dead. A railroad worker in one of these villages rescues a little boy from the train after the boy is thought dead but is only catatonic.

From there, nothing of any real interest happens for a very long time. By the time things do start to happen, halfway into the film, the audience has completely lost interest in the characters. Even though some of the action is pretty horrible, in context with the rest of the film, it seems flat.

In addition, the subtitles are written by someone whose first language is most definitely not English, making for confusing reading and a terrible film. If you’re asked to this film, run away.