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The 25th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

A celebration of Jewish identity, history, and tradition

July 21st marks the beginning of the 25th annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. It's hard to believe that it's been 25 years since the SFJFF began. 25 years ago the idea of a Jewish film festival was a radical notion and had never been done before. The SFJFF continues to explore themes and issues relevant to the Jewish community in unique and provocative ways. The festival opens on a light note with the "unorthodox" comedy, Go For Zucker! (see synopsis below) and closes with the tango infused drama, Rashevski's Tango. The SFJFF provides numerous opportunities to explore the social, cultural, and personal issues that affect the Jewish community.

A few highlights:

Go For Zucker!
As mentioned above, Go For Zucker! is an "unorthodox" comedy that revolves around the debt ridden pool shark, Jaeckie Zucker. Finding himself literally behind the eight ball, Zucker is a few days away from ending up in a dumpster. Having eschewed his Jewish heritage after his family fled West before the Berlin Wall was built, Zucker's past comes back to haunt him when he finds himself in an unique position to acquire a sizable family inheritance and address his debt provided he is an orthodox Jew. Absurdity and comedy ensue as Zucker tries to stave off loan sharks and collect his inheritance.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This disturbing drama focuses on the young, independent Or and her prostitute mother, Ruthie. Or and her mom are barely scraping by in Tel Aviv, making ends meet by collecting cans and bottles. While far from an uplifting film, Or is a powerful exploration of the relationship between an all too dependent mother and her young daughter who has aged all too quickly.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This fascinating documentary explores the impetus for and the creation of a somewhat failed utopia, the Black Bear Ranch in Siskiyou County, CA. Founded on the idea of "Free Land for Free People" (and "funded" by rock stars, actors, and other luminaries), this commune provided an alternate way of existing free of prejudice and uniquely egalitarian. The result was concurrently successful and flawed. Jonathan Berman's documentary engages and entertains while raising some interesting questions about the possibilities for a more egalitarian and humane existence.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The First Time I Was Twenty
Coming of age is never fun, but when you're overweight, wear glasses, and are generally abrasive and insolent, life can be a real bite in the ass. Fortunately, the 16-year old Hannah has other redeeming qualities. She plays a mean bass cello and has aspirations to join her school's all male jazz band. Taking place in the 1960s, The First Time I Was Twenty, is a comical and poignant film that explores the challenge of being unique and pursuing dreams…particularly those dreams perceived as "unconventional".
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A couple other films worth a view include:

Massacre- A stark reminder that genocidal horrors are far from a thing of the past. Directors Monika Borgmann, Lokman Slim, and Hermann Theissen examine a massacre carried out by members of a Lebanese Christian militia in 1982.

Metallic Blues- Two down-on-their-luck Israeli used car dealers travel reluctantly to the land of the Holocaust in a desperate attempt to unload a pristine 1985 Lincoln Continental limousine. You know what they say about the best laid plans…?