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The Pittsburgh Jewish-Israeli Film Festival

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The 13th annual Pittsburgh Jewish-Israeli Film Festival concludes its program of international and domestic films representing Jewish experiences. Films screen through Sun., April 2, at the SouthSide Works, on the South Side (412-381-7335). Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $5 for students. For tickets and more information, see www.pjiff.net or call 412-992-5203.

 

 

THE BARBECUE PEOPLE. Four members of a troubled family find a joint moment of clarity at a barbecue picnic celebrating the 40th anniversary of Israel's independence. But there's no simple path there, as filmmakers David Ofek and Yossi Madmoni unfold several interwoven narratives, across nations and generations. This nonlinear approach yields some genuine surprises, and depicts how even ordinary lives are marked with extraordinary events whose significance may not be immediately apparent. This well-crafted drama, leavened with naturalistic humor, manages to logically incorporate such disparate aspects as kosher meats, Troma films, Arabic music, the 1948 war and the Iraqi Jewish experience. Only the circumstances of a murder feel inorganic. But the overall effect is satisfying, as the family's stories come together like the jumbled sides of a Rubik's cube twisted finally into an organized color scheme. In Hebrew, with subtitles. 9:30 p.m. Sat. April 1. (Al Hoff)

 

CAMPFIRE. With its actors who look like real people, and who do comedy without seeming to yearn for a laugh track, this funny, moving drama feels like a throwback to a certain brand of 1970s American cinema about kids. Indeed, it's set in 1981, where teen-age Tammy faces her coming of age alongside a rebellious older sister and a widowed young mother intent on helping found a new settlement in the West Bank. Displaying a beautifully sure touch, writer-director Joseph Cedar juxtaposes Tammy's journey with a power struggle between the other two women in her family, as well as with her mother's bittersweet search for a new mate. Assuredly, Campfire has its left-leaning say about Israeli politics. But it's most rewarding for its fine storytelling, naturalistic feel and complex, contrary and sympathetic characters, well acted especially by Hani Furstenberg (as Tammy) and Michaela Eshet (as mom Rachel). In Hebrew, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Thu., March 30. (Bill O'Driscoll)

 

ENCOUNTER POINT. Ronit Avni's documentary focuses on ordinary civilians in Israel and Palestine, and their grassroots efforts to foster peace and understanding in the region. A 25-minute selection of excerpts from the film will be presented. To be preceded by Richard Trank's documentary, "Beautiful Music" (40 min.), which profiles the generous spirits across borders that allow a severely disabled Palestinian girl to study music in Israel. Encounter Point's producer, Nahanni Rous, will lead a discussion after the screening. Both films to be screened via video projection. In English, Hebrew and Arabic, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Sun., April 2.

 

THE FIRST TIME I WAS 20. Adolescence is hell for Hannah Goldman, a pudgy Jewish girl growing up in 1960s suburban Paris, in Lorraine Levy's dramedy. Pestered daily about her weight by her mother and sisters, Hannah eats between meals in protest and withdraws in a surly huff to practice her double bass. Intelligent and musically gifted, Hannah imagines her life will change once she wins an audition for her high school's all-male jazz band. There, she will surely be appreciated for her talent, rather than judged by her looks. But with the feminist movement just germinating and anti-Semitism still commonly accepted, Hannah's victory is short-lived, and she struggles to gain the respect and acceptance of her cruel band mates. Marilou Berry (Look at Me) shines as Hannah in this pleasing underdog tale that illustrates how larger social movements can be propelled forward by small, personal victories. In French, with subtitles. 7:45 p.m. Sat., April 1, and 4 p.m. Sun., April 2. (Heather Mull)

 

NICHOLAS WINTON: THE POWER OF GOOD. Englishman Nicholas Winton kept an extraordinary secret for 50 years: In 1939, he had rescued nearly 700 children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Matej Minac's hour-long documentary tells Winton's inspirational story. In English and Czech, with subtitles. 1 p.m. Sun., April 2.

 

THE RITCHIE BOYS. It is hard to imagine a World War II story that remains unplumbed, but here apparently is one: German Jews who fled Nazi Germany, only to march back in with the American army. Although some were still classified as enemy aliens by the U.S. government when they gathered at Camp Ritchie in rural Maryland, they trained eagerly for psychological warfare and intelligence work. They pretended to be Russian officers to interrogate captured German soldiers, and pretended to be Americans when captured themselves. The film, by German writer-director Christian Bauer, tracks these now-aged boys to their homes and follows them back to Camp Ritchie. They are obviously proud of helping drive the Nazis from their homeland, and why not? The archival war footage serves mostly as backdrop; it is the voices and faces of these old men, sometimes wry, sometimes sober, that best tell the still-intriguing tales of the last best war. 7:30 p.m. Wed., March 29. (Marty Levine)

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