The Jewish International Film Festival


The films of this festival are currently screening in the Australian capital cities. There is a wide selection of films, feature narratives as well as documentaries, entertaining as well as frequently informative and illuminating.

As might be expected, there is quite an amount of material looking back into the past, looking to Europe in the 1930s, World War II, the Holocaust, the sufferings of the Jews in the concentration camps, the aftermath.

For those interested in possibilities for peace in Israel, there are two documentaries which one might call must-see. One is The Oslo Diaries, narrative taken from the diaries of Israeli and Palestinian diplomats involved in the discussions in Norway, the preparation and signing of documents, Yasser Arafat for the PLO, Prime Minister Rabin for the Israelis, and the International presence of Bill Clinton and Hosnai Mubarak. It is amazing to look back on what might have been achieved during the 1990s and the subsequent conflicts, the reaction against Rabin and his assassination, the establishing of Hamas.

The companion piece to this documentary is another, The Jewish Underground, amazing for those not aware of the fanatical Zionist movements in the 1970s and 1980s, the desire to bomb the Dome of the Rock and build the Third Temple, assassination of Mayors, placing explosives on Jerusalem buses for mayhem in peak hours, with members of Mossad being interviewed, – and leaders of the Underground being interviewed in the present, their continued presence, even advisory to current Israeli government ministers.

There is another diary film, visualising quotations from men and women involved in the Warsaw ghetto, Who will write our history? There is a recreation of the Sobibor concentration camp and the buildup to the famous escape. There is a contemporary journey where an old man interrogates the family of a Nazi leader in Austria to try to understand what happened, The Interpreter.

Of particular interest in terms of Catholic-Jewish dialogue, there is a fine film about the Jewish philosopher, Edith Stein, who became a convert to Catholicism in the 1920s, became a Carmelite nun, Sister Teresa Benedicta, who died in Auschwitz. The film is called A Rose in Winter, an excellent opportunity to learn more about a strong-minded woman, feminist in the early decades of the 20th century, a woman attracted by God questions and the mysticism of Teresa of Avila, a committed nun but one who was willing to die as a Jewish woman in the gas chambers. John Paul II declared her one of the patrons of Europe.

On the lighter side of things, there is an American comedy, To Dust, about an orthodox man grieving his wife and puzzled about what happens as the body decays and uses some absurd situations to discover the truth. There is a spy thriller about a Hezbollah informant being protected by Mossad. The extreme Zionists are featured again in a kibbutz in northern Israel in the early 1970s, the non-Jewish volunteers who work there – and the film turning into a slasher movie, a condemnation of narrow racist Zionist views.

The catalogue for the festival is well worth consulting, many films well worth seeing.

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