Jewish Film Festival 2019


For audiences looking through the program for the Jewish Film Festival, here is one suggestion. And, it is a suggestion for movie lovers and film buffs.

Included in the program are several documentaries which focus on films, on actors, on critics, on directors, on movie moguls.

Any audience, even those with a small affection for Fiddler on the Roof, there is a film which is most enjoyable but could serve as a masterclass, Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles. It goes back to the Ukrainian/Russian stories of Sholem Aleichem and some silent film versions of his stories of Tevye, the decision in the 1960s to create the musical, with composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick filmed talking at the time about their collaboration as well as their reflections 50 years later. There is an exhilarating section showing Jerome Robbins creating the choreography.

So many scenes are re-created from different stage versions as well as excerpts from the film with Topol. There is an opportunity to hear the songs, again in various versions, including a 2018 New York Yiddish version. And this documentary shows how universal the themes are, focusing on the plight of so many 21st-century refugees.

And, speaking of refugees from Russia, there is a very interesting, more than might have been anticipated, documentary on the life and career of actor, Anton Yelchin, killed in an accident at the age of 27, Love, Antosha. His parents were celebrated Russian ice skaters, experiencing anti-Semitic attitudes and migrating from Russia the end of the 1980s. Fortunately, for our appreciation of their son, Anton, they continually filmed him and so there is a great deal of footage from his early life, an exuberant boy, as well as footage of auditions, clips from his many films, appreciative comments from many of his fellow actors and directors. An arresting portrait.

And there is something for lovers of Casablanca, Curtiz,a fictional re-creation from Hungary of the difficulties of how to end the film, director Michael Curtiz often irascible, America’s entry into the war after Pearl Harbor and the government wanting the film, as did Jack Warner, to be a significant contribution to the war effort and American patriotism. Curtiz also has issues with his daughter and his ex-wife and attempts to get his sister out of Hungary (she was taken to Auschwitz). There are all kinds of themes about film production, the role of the writers, performances of the actors, and the complications from government liaisons and their pressures.

There is also a documentary about Pauline Kael, What She Said: the Art of Pauline Kael, one of the most renowned of American film critics of the 20th century but, often a dragon lady in her dealings with personalities and in her writing and judgements. This is an opportunity, especially for older audiences and those who love the movies of the past, to compare notes.

JIFF    Opens October 23rd

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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