The 11th annual Pittsburgh Jewish Israeli Film Festival wraps up this week with screenings Thu., March 18, through Sun., March 21, at the Loews Waterfront and Destinta Bridgeville theaters. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and $5 for students. Six-film passes for $40 are also available. For tickets and more information, see www.pjiff.net or call 412-992-5203.
BIT BY BIT: THE JEWS OF SWEDEN
COLUMBIA -- THE TRAGIC LOSS (Israel, 2004). PJIFF hosts the American premiere of an hour-long documentary recounting the final journey of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon and his six colleagues, who perished last winter on the space shuttle Columbia. Using actual video footage shot in space, e-mails from the crew, excerpts from Ramon's journal that was discovered amidst the wreckage, and remembrances from Ramon's relatives, director Naftaly Gliksberg paints a portrait of a native-son pioneer. To be screened via video projection. In English and Hebrew with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Thu., March 18, at Loews Waterfront, and 1 p.m. Sun., March 21, at Destinta Bridgeville.
MISS ENTEBBE (Israel, 2003). Director Omri Levy sets his story of three disaffected neighbor kids against the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Entebbe, Uganda. The mother of one child is aboard the plane (admittedly, a bit of a narrative stretch), and the three, inspired by the news reports, decide to kidnap a local Arab boy and hold him hostage as "trade" for the Air France captives. Despite their geo-political goals, it's more likely that their immediate troubles -- sibling rivalry, a divorce, burgeoning adolescence -- have inspired their bold act. Employing naturalistic actors, Levy depicts that world of savvy children where adults are peripheral figures whose actions are intrinsically antagonistic, frequently petty and immediately suspect. The dusty hills on the edge of the city effectively capture the troublesome gulf between childhood and maturity where these confused children act out their drama. Gabriel Wagon, producer and cinematographer of Miss Entebbe, will be present at the screening. In Hebrew with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Sat., March 20. Loews Waterfront
THE POWER OF BALANCE (Israel, 2002). This hour-long documentary from Amit Mann and Tom Barka'i traces the creation, rehearsal and eventual performance of a piece from the Israel dance company Vertigo that incorporates both abled and disabled participants. Company director Adam Benjamin guides his mixed crew through seminars, encouraging those in wheelchairs and on crutches to find the grace in their damaged bodies, and those capable of full movement to create complementary motions. The resulting dance performance is inventive and captivating as the participants move seamlessly together, crutches and chairs now instruments of artistry, and will certainly challenge perceived ideas of "dance" and "disability." Dancers from the film will attend the screening to discuss their work. To be screened via video projection. In English and Hebrew with subtitles. 4 p.m. Sun., March 21. Loews Waterfront
FOREIGN SISTER (Israel, 2000). Naomi (Tamar Yerushalmi) is stressed to the very edge: a full-time job plus a husband, two teens and a mother-in-law who can't do a damn thing for themselves. Worried, her husband employs a young undocumented Ethiopian woman, Negist (Askala Markos), to help out. Naomi, who is neglected as well as harried, discovers an unlikely companionship with Negist, though it remains tempered with perhaps irresolvable class and economic distinctions. I'd hoped the film might make a stronger comment on the role of women and labor: Naomi's husband's solution is not to help himself or enlist the able-bodied kids, but to simply hire (and explicitly exploit) another woman, yet any overt critique of this is subsumed by the immigrant drama of the film's second half. That Naomi chooses to make Negist her friend, and not her housekeeper, is a nonetheless a small stand within her circle. Following the screening, the film's director, Dan Wolman, will discuss the current state of filmmaking in Israel. In English, Hebrew and Amharic with subtitles. 7 p.m. Sun., March 21. Loews Waterfront