The 14th annual Pittsburgh Jewish-Israeli Film Festival, spotlighting films that represent Jewish experiences, continues through Sun., March 25.
Films screen at four area theaters: SouthSide Works Cinema, on the South Side (412-381-7335); the Galleria, in Mount Lebanon (1500 Washington Road, 412-531-5551); the Cranberry 8 (Rt. 19, Cranberry, 724-772-3111); and the Manor Theater, in Squirrel Hill (1729 Murray Ave., 412-422-7729). Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $5 for students. For tickets and more information, see www.ujfpittsburgh.org/filmfestival or call 412-992-5203.
The second week's selections are as follows:
ALL IS WELL BY ME. This 2005 documentary, co-directed by Yaron Amitai and Erez Tadmor, chronicles the life of singer Josie Katz. A Pittsburgh native, she relocated to Israel, initially to work on a kibbutz. After hooking up with the Israeli popular music scene, she stayed to help found a successful musical trio. Over time, Katz' personal and professional lives deteriorated, but after presenting her trials, All Is Well catches up with Katz today, as she pursues a comeback. Director Amitai will lead a discussion following the film. In English, and Hebrew, with subtitles. To be screened via video projection. 7:30 p.m. Thu., March 15. SouthSide Works
FROZEN DAYS. In Danny Lerner's psychological thriller, shot in moody black and white, Israel's pillow-lipped answer to Audrey Tatou (Anat Klausner) slowly loses herself in the identity of a man she never quite managed to meet. Our nameless heroine treks through the Tel Aviv night selling drugs to club kids and meatheads, and tries to rendezvous with her online friend, Zero, with whom she has a brief, but faceless, encounter. Further complications intervene: Zero gets blown up and rendered comatose, and spends the rest of the movie in mummy-style body bandages. Almost mindlessly, she becomes his stand-in, but realizes to her horror that her real self is gone for good. As she discovers that no one ever really knew the man whose life she's faking, the very notion of identity implodes. Creepy. In Hebrew, with subtitles. 9:30 p.m. Sat., March 17. SouthSide Works (Melissa Meinzer)
A GREEN CHARIOT. In this hour-long drama from Gilad Goldschmidt, a pious young yeshiva scholar, Yair, is newly engaged to a beautiful Israeli girl. All seems well in his ordered world, but when a package of family mementoes arrives from his Russian aunt, Yair must question just how Jewish he actually is. After an existential crisis of the 22-year-old-male variety -- and a little slumming with Gentiles who know how to party -- Yair reconciles what he really is with what he wants so badly to be. Screens with Like a Fish Out of Water. In Hebrew and Russian, with subtitles. To be screened via video projection. 7:15 p.m. Sun., March 18 (Manor) and 7:30 p.m. Tue., March 20 (SouthSide Works) (Aaron Jentzen)
LIKE A FISH OUT OF WATER. This slim, hour-long romantic comedy set in Israel follows the comic travails of Marcelo, a recent immigrant from Argentina, where he had been a noted telenovela actor. A single dad and a noncommittal Jew, he now pumps gas for a living and falls hard for his Hebrew teacher, who comes from a quirky but deeply religious family. The conclusion is foregone, but director Leonid Prudovsky has a light touch, and Fish never fails to remind us that Israel is a nation of diverse immigrants united under a shared heritage -- if not, quite yet, a shared language. Hebrew speakers will no doubt find more humor in Marcelo's bumbling attempts at pouring out his heart than the subtitles can possibly convey. Screens with A Green Chariot. In Spanish and Hebrew, with subtitles. To be screened via video projection. (Al Hoff)
LITTLE HEROES. A small band of Israeli kids pool their resources -- one's good at navigating; another has brute strength; still another can drive a tractor -- to rescue a pair of reckless campers, stranded in their 4x4 in a remote lake. Itay Levi's family film emphasizes some obvious lessons about resilience, teamwork and shouldering the pains of youth. But these come at the expense of a rather more attractive theme: Kids should undertake dangerous missions on their whim, without consulting adults. In Hebrew and Russian, with subtitles. 1 p.m. Sun., March 18 (Manor); 7 p.m. Mon., March 19 (Galleria); and 7 p.m. Wed., March 21 (Cranberry) (AH)
LONELY MAN OF FAITH: THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF RABBI JOSEPH B. SOLOVEITCHIK. Born in a Lithuanian village, coming of age in White Russia, Poland and Weimar Berlin before emigrating to Depression-era America, where he championed orthodox Judaic education: Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik lived, and influenced, a cross-section of the Jewish century. Ethan Isenberg's admiring if not worshipful documentary explores the honored Rav's way of blending Talmudic scholarship with modern thought, and sheer intellect with spiritual passion. (He felt the Sabbath.) A masterful teacher, the controversial Soloveitchik also instituted co-educational reforms that got him excluded from the yeshiva mainstream. But while interviews with former students are charming -- as are excerpts of autobiographical writings, read by Theodore Bikel -- the film is mostly dry and plodding. Equally frustrating is Isenberg's incomplete treatment of Zionism, which the rabbi embraced post-Holocaust: While Soloveitchik was active into the 1980s, the film never broaches the contemporary Israeli political issues on which its subject surely had a well-articulated opinion. To be screened via video projection. 3 p.m. Sun., March 18. Manor (Bill O'Driscoll)
PERLASCA. You might not have heard of Giorgio Perlasca, but you'll slip into his story like a warm bath: An Italian businessman trapped in Budapest in 1944 finds himself posing as a Spanish diplomat to save Jews -- reportedly, some 5,200. The remorseless Nazi captain, the Schindleresque hero, the Jews variously innocent, suffering, rebellious, resigned, shattered, devout, faith-stripped: While Perlasca the man merits public statuary, Perlasca the film grows narcotizing through its very familiarity. Director Alberto Negrin shoots it like a thriller (sentimental musical score notwithstanding), and Luca Zingaretti is charismatic as the heroic man of wit, action and a certain amount of cash. Another interesting element is how frequently Perlasca summons the threat of international war-crimes law in order to bully the film's heavies. But while this made-for-Italian-TV story is a polished tribute, as art it's uninspired. In Italian, with subtitles. 8:20 p.m. Sat., March 17. SouthSide Works (BO)
THE RAPE OF EUROPA. Plundering has gone hand-in-hand with conquest since the dawn of time, but Hitler's theft of Europe's treasures was unprecedented in both its premeditation and its totality. This documentary -- co-directed by Richard Berge, Bonnie Cohen and Nicole Newnham, and based upon the award-winning book by Lynn H. Nicholas -- explores how the plundering and ideological purging of Europe's art masterpieces was a highly industrialized and bureaucratized priority in the Third Reich. The film's shifts between historical accounts and footage, and contemporary attempts to locate and replace the stolen works, makes what could have been a dry history lesson into a surprisingly gripping narrative. Particularly fascinating is how art-collecting became an obligatory pastime, even a mania, among the Nazi elite, and how curators preserved national collections during the siege of Leningrad. Yet throughout, there's the tickle of an unanswered question: Is a work of art ever worth more than a human life? Franklin Toker, professor of art and architecture history at Pitt, will lead a discussion following the film. In English, and various languages, with subtitles. To be screened via video projection. 7 p.m. Thu., March 22. SouthSide Works (AJ)
ROOTS: FAMILIES FOR SALE. A Russian con man enlists the help of a colorful Ukraine village to play the part of long-lost relatives to a diverse selection of Jews from around the world who have paid for a reunion tour. There's cynicism aplenty in this black comedy from Pavel Loungin (Tycoon) -- for the blinded-by-sentiment relatives; the shabby tricks of the scam; and the former Soviet state's embrace of individual gain and easy capitalism over heritage. For students of contemporary Russian history, there's some merit in the film's allegories, but others may weary of Roots' somewhat shrill comic proceedings. However, Roots does provide another chance to see the marvelous 94-year-old actress Esther Gorintin, who stole the show in 2003's Since Otar Left. In Russian and Yiddish, with subtitles. 5 p.m. Sun., March 18. Manor (AH)