I've been spending the past several weeks working with colleagues at Heeb Magazine and the genial staff at the newly opened 92YTribeca to organize the Third Annual Heeb Film Festival, so if you know me, please help out by checking out the lineup and attending a few of the screenings. Now that the program has been finalized, I'm pleased to announce that we've got an exciting international lineup of documentaries and features equally accessible to hardcore Jewnuts and former altar boys alike. In fact, we've even planned for the attendance of a former altar boy, Michael Tully, for a screening of his documentary Silver Jew on November 22.
But that's not to say we don't have a few familiar tropes as well: Jan Troell's surreal drama of literary confusion, Love Comes Lately, adapted from several Isaac Bashevis Singer stories, will screen in nebbish vision later that evening. On Sunday, November 23, pack some kosher tacos for our Spanish-language matinee double-bill of El Brindis and My Mexican Shivah, which together showcase modern Latin American Jewry. These will be followed by the New York premiere of My Mother's Garden, a fascinating diary film by Cynthia Lester about her mother's debilitating hoarding disorder.
Finally, the festival closes out with an evening of short films I've titled THE GENTILE GAZE, partly because I like the way it sounds, but mostly because of the program's provocative content, which centers on non-Jewish and Jewish identities coming to blows. That said, most of the shorts are directed by members of the tribe. The purpose of highlighting the gentile gaze is not to create a sense of boundaries, but rather to question preconceived notions of those boundaries. Y'see, when it's all said and done, the gentile gaze is itself fairly Jewish. Nosh on that, Lenny Bruce.
Full list of program (with shorts) below. BUY TICKETS HERE! (Please.)
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 22:
David Berman, reclusive frontman of the Silver Jews, went fifteen years without playing a single live show. Then, his newfound interest in Judaism changed his perception of the world, and in 2006, he took his band on a tour of Israel. Michael Tully was there for the journey, and captured the entire event on camera. The result is a unique, unexpectedly thoughtful travelogue. (Q & A with director Michael Tully to follow the screening)
Love Comes Lately
At turns delightful, solemn and strange, Jan Schütte’s adaptation of three short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer follows aging romantic author Max Kohn as he drifts through relationships, Kafkaesque fever dreams and expressionistic nostalgia trips. Renowned Austrian actor Otto Tausig carries the show as Kohn, creating a lovable shlemiel with more than a few stories of his own to tell.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 23:
SPANISH LANGUAGE DOUBLE BILL!
El Brindis (To Life)
A young photographer travels from her home in Mexico to visit her ailing father in Chile, where he is preparing for a late-in-life bar mitzvah. His gentile daughter finds herself in the middle of curious traditions and an alienating community, until the kindly local rabbi finds a way to her heart. Shai Agosin’s gentle dramedy takes a razor to preconceived notions of faith and forgiveness, resulting in a funny, poignant look at interfaith family dynamics.
My Mexican Shiva
This hilarious exploration of a dysfunctional Mexican-Jewish family gathered to pay their last respects to the reviled patriarch in his home takes several chaotic, surreal and darkly comic twists over the course of one disastrous week. Two invisible angels presiding over the affair grow increasingly befuddled by the constant squabbling. Fortunately, there are enough characters so that any viewer can find a point of sympathy: Whether you choose to root for the Orthodox son with a drug-dealing problem or his well-intentioned secular father, the movie never becomes less than enthralling. Directed by Alejandro Springall, a longtime colleague of Guillermo del Toro.
My Mother’s Garden
NEW YORK CITY PREMIERE!
Cynthia Lester and her siblings encounter a daunting challenge when they try to help their mother, Eugenia, cope with hoarding disorder. The condition, largely ignored by the modern medical community, leads the woman to fill her California home with trash she finds on the street. A Polish immigrant raised by an Auschwitz survivor, Eugenia’s neuroses are at once poetic and terrifying. When Cynthia decides to take her mom out of her shell on a trip to New York, the story takes an unlikely turn toward renewal. (Q & A with Producer Elisabeth Harris to follow the screening)
(10 min)A blind date goes off without a hitch until the Holocaust comes up and ruins everything — or does it?
THE GENTILE GAZE: JEWISH SHORT FILMS WITH OUTSIDER PERSPECTIVES
Jewish identity gets sized up from a variety of non-Jewish perspectives in this diverse, international selection of recent short films.
At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema in the
Derek & Simon: The Pity Card
Playing with Other Tigers
The Holocaust Tourist
The Unkosher Truth