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The Pittsburgh Jewish-Israeli Film Festival 

 

 

The 12th annual Pittsburgh Jewish-Israeli Film Festival highlighting feature films and documentaries representing Jewish experiences concludes Sun., April 17. All remaining films will screen at the SouthSide Works Cinema, on the South Side (412-381-7335). Additionally, there are two free lectures at the University of Pittsburgh. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $5 for students. For tickets and more information, see www.pjiff.net or call 412-992-5203.

 

 

FILM AS A SUBVERSIVE ART: AMOS VOGEL AND CINEMA 16. "It's much more comforting to see things in the way you have always seen them," says Amos Vogel. "I, on the other hand, prefer to be upset." Paul Cronin's one-hour portrait of the self-described radical -- an Austrian Jew whose family fled to the U.S. during World War II -- focuses on how Vogel imported the Euro film-society concept to Manhattan via Cinema 16, a long-lived forum for "Films You Cannot See Elsewhere." Half this film is cozy reminisces, while the other half highlights Vogel's aesthetic concerns and endearing contrarian streak (battling censors, screening Nazi propaganda). Despite scant press coverage, Cinema 16 flourished for years, weaving the avant-garde with documentaries and foreign-language fare, introducing audiences to Ozu and Bresson and even hosting John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock. Ironically, Cronin takes few aesthetic chances himself, but Subversive Art (after Vogel's eponymous book) is a nice tribute. (The screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring director Cronin and local film curators and media professionals Bill Judson, Gary Kaboly and Charlie Humphrey, who will discuss experimental film, and the role Pittsburgh played in the 1960s and '70s.) To be screened via video projection. 7 p.m. Sun., April 17. (Bill O'Driscoll)

 

FILM SPEAK LECTURES. Paul Cronin, director of Film as Subversive Art, will speak on his work as a film historian from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at 501 Cathedral of Learning, on the University of Pittsburgh campus. From 7-9 p.m. Cronin will screen extracts from his latest project, about British director Alexander Mackendrick, at 324 Cathedral of Learning. Both events are free. Wed., April 13.

 

NITSAN AND SAGI. This hour-long documentary from Hadassah Ben-Herzl and Jackie Berman depicts the wedding of two young Israelis with Down Syndrome. A program on "Leadership for an Inclusive Society" follows the film. In Hebrew, with subtitles. To be screened via video projection. 11 a.m. Sun., April 17.

 

NO. 17. When a bomb kills 17 passengers on a bus outside Tel Aviv in 2002, only 16 bodies are claimed. A badly burned man -- No. 17 -- remains unidentified, until filmmakers David Ofek and Ron Rotem set out to solve the mystery. While their detection is as fascinating as any TV crime-analysis program, No. 17 also uncovers the intersecting strata of folk who comprise contemporary Israel -- Asian and African guest workers, Russian tourists, youthful soldiers and phlegmatic cops -- as well as their shared humanity. While a former military officer makes the best suggestion for zeroing in on No. 17, the documentary's key participant may be the very perceptive Identikit illustrator who understands that witnesses have seen more than they realize -- if they are only asked the right questions. The film's producer, Elinor Kowarsky, will speak following the screening. In English and Hebrew, with subtitles. To be screened by video projection. 7:30 p.m. Thu., April 14. (Al Hoff)

 

RASHEVSKI'S TANGO. When matriarch Rosa Rashevski dies, her death sets off some serious questioning of identity in the family. Though Jewish, Rosa had no use for religion or rabbis, and her decidedly mixed family of Reform, Orthodox, non-observant and interfaith-married Jews examine their heritage and what it means to be Jewish in the modern world. A gentle ensemble comedy directed by Sam Garbarski, Rashevski's Tango takes no stand on any of the characters or the decisions they make regarding their lives or the paths they chose to walk into their futures. A Belgian/French/Luxemburg co-production, Garbarski's directorial debut remains intimate and subtle throughout. His predilection for tight close-ups, and the resulting claustrophobia, sometimes works against the charm of the story, but Garbarski has, ultimately, fashioned a sweet and surreptitiously emotional film. In French, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Wed., April 13, and 4 p.m. Sun., April 17. (Ted Hoover)

 

TURN LEFT AT THE END OF THE WORLD. A novel premise is churned into overstuffed if entertaining melodrama in this feature by Avi Nesher. In the late 1960s, Jews from India and Morocco populate an isolated town in the Israeli desert -- all lured under false pretenses by a government eager to shore up its borders. Soon the father of our narrator, Indian schoolgirl Sarah, is having an inter-ethnic affair; another schoolgirl is seducing her teacher; there's a strike at the town's factory; someone's diagnosed with a terminal disease; and Indians are teaching Moroccans cricket. All this equals rote drama, passable comedy and a certain number of attractive people having sex, with requisite touches of cultural enlightenment for the masses. Though well-intentioned enough, Turn Left occasionally misplays its hand -- her dad's infidelity is depicted as a worse blow to Sarah than to her mother -- and generally has it both ways, titillating us with naughty behavior only to set things right for the tidy conclusion. In English, and Hebrew, French and Moroccan, with subtitles. 8:45 p.m. Sat., April 16. (BO)

 

WATERMARKS. It might surprise many who view Yaron Zilberman's documentary that even in early-1900s Austria, Jews were being persecuted considerably. Austrian sports clubs, for instance, excluded Jews; as a result, the now-legendary Jewish Hakoah sports club of Vienna was founded, and grew to become one of the continent's largest and most accomplished. Hakoah's swim team was especially skilled, and even made a reputable showing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Zilberman's simply produced but heartfelt documentary uses archival footage and in-person interviews with the female swimmers -- now in their 80s -- to re-tell the story of Hakoah's glory days. The women, many of whom still swim daily, finally travel from points across the globe to rendezvous at their Viennese training pool. Watermarks may be an uncomplicated film, but it overflows with spirit, hope and encouragement. In English, and Hebrew and German, with subtitles. 1 p.m. Sun., April 17. (Dan Eldridge)

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