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The Pittsburgh Jewish-Israeli Film Festival

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The 15th annual Pittsburgh Jewish-Israeli Film Festival, offering films representing Jewish experiences from Israel and around the world, continues.

Films screen through Sun., April 13, at five area theaters including SouthSide Works Cinema, on the South Side (412-381-7335); Cranberry 8 (Rt. 19, Cranberry, 724-772-3111); Regent Square Theater, in Edgewood (1035 S. Braddock Ave., 412-682-4111); Melwood Screening Room, in North Oakland (477 Melwood Ave., 412-682-4111); and Carmike 15, in Greensburg (Westmoreland Mall, 724-834-1977). 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:

 

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Arranged. Crafting an empowering chick flick rooted in two deeply traditional cultures takes some finesse, but Diano Crespo's low-budget indie feature manages admirably. Two young Brooklyn women -- one an Orthodox Jew, the other a Muslim -- meet at work, and find among their commonalities that each is struggling to have a say in their impending arranged marriages. A low-key but charming film that wins its quiet battles honestly and without compromising these modern young women's commitment to their faiths. In English, and some Hebrew and Arabic, with subtitles. To be screened via video projection. 7 p.m. Wed., April 9. SouthSide Works (Al Hoff)

 

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Aviva, My Love. Actually, it's "Aviva, mon amour," her crazy mother's name for the beleaguered Israeli family woman, sous chef and aspiring writer in Sheni Zarhim's effective dramedy. Then there's Aviva's sweet, unemployed husband; her three teen-age kids (neurotic, slothlike and angry, respectively); her unhappy sister and temperamental brother-in-law; and finally, the Famous Writer whose morally fraught proposition hits our heroine as she's perched on the edge. Aviva is contrived but funny and humane, and imaginatively shot by Zarhim. Still, the show belongs to the marvelous Rotem Abuhab, whose Aviva is grounded and empathetic in the craziest situations. In Hebrew, with subtitles. 1 p.m. Sun., April 6. SouthSide Works (BO)

 

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Bad Faith. The cultural divide between Clara (Cécile de France) and Ismaël (Roschdy Zem) ranges from sweetly comic to bitter in this French romance, which Zem also directed. When pregnant, Jewish Clara brings Ismaël home to meet the folks, her father mistakes her Arab-Muslim beau for a delivery man. Though the lovers are open-minded, Ismaël still gets the heebie-jeebies when Clara hangs a mezuzah in his apartment. And Clara becomes enraged when Ismaël insists the baby take his father's name if it's a boy. The film tenderly probes the pair trying to reconcile a millennium of religious conflict while giving fair treatment to the relationship's detractors, such as Clara's mother. To be screened via video projection. In French, with subtitles. 9 p.m. Sat., April 5. SouthSide Works (Adam Fleming)

 

Bittersweet. As the title of Doron Benvenisti's film suggests, life is falling short of perfect for this group of friends in Tel Aviv. Ran gives all of his attention to his ailing mother, keeping him busy enough not to notice that his wife's psychiatrist might be responsible for her pregnancy. Keren and Leon's marriage is coming to an end quicker because they can't agree on having children. Meanwhile, their closeted friend David spurns his boyfriend for the "real" straight life, blissfully ignorant of what is going on around him. Ultimately a superficial look at what keeps people together and drives them apart, Bittersweet is just that. In Hebrew, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Mon., April 7. SouthSide Works (Lydia Heyliger)

 

Constantine's Sword. Ex-Catholic priest turned journalist James Carroll starts out investigating anti-Semitism and institutional evangelizing at the U.S. Air Force Academy; he ends up unmasking 17 centuries of Christian brutality. Oren Jacoby's top-notch 2006 documentary, based on Carroll's eponymous book, visits Rome to learn how the emperor Constantine made the cross both the symbol of Christianity and one with the sword, then sweeps from the Crusades to Nazism. It's a fascinating, highly personal journey for the eloquent and passionate Carroll, a Vietnam-era anti-war priest whose father was a high-ranking national-security official during the Cold War. To be screened via video projection. In English and various languages, with subtitles. 4 p.m. Sun., April 6. SouthSide Works (BO)

 

The First Basket. Basketball was once widely considered a Jewish sport: Who knew? That is, literally, the question asked by this light-hearted documentary, which explores basketball's influence on Jews, and Jews' influence on basketball. David Vyorst's film introduces teams like the Sphas and Dux, as well as figures like legendary coach Red Auerbach and current NBA Commissioner David Stern. You'll meet the first player to score in a professional league game, and even a gangster or two. (Often, "the games weren't exactly kosher," one former player confides.) Anti-Semitism appears briefly, but mostly the film waxes nostalgic over the American immigrant experience, and the pivotal role of sports in culture. To be screened via video projection. 7 p.m. Tue., April 8. SouthSide Works (Chris Potter)

 

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Making Trouble. Rachel Talbot's documentary presents six précis of groundbreaking female comedians who, not coincidentally, never shied from incorporating their Jewishness into their acts: Yiddish theater star Molly Picon; "funny girl" Fanny Brice; the ribald Sophie Tucker; standup trailblazer Joan Rivers; SNL fave Gilda Radner; and playwright Wendy Wasserstein. The archival footage is great, but these quick sketches will leave you longing for deeper portraits of some fascinating, and funny, women. Screening to be preceded with live laughs from comedienne Marion Grodin. To be screened via video projection. 7:30 p.m. Thu., April 3. SouthSide Works (AH)

 

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Max Minksy and Me. In Anna Justice's sweet coming-of-age comedy, brainy Berlin teen-ager Nelly Sue -- for bizarre reasons known only to the adolescent heart -- struggles to make her school's basketball team. She trades a ne'er-do-well schoolmate named Max schoolwork for his b-ball training, and the unlikely pair finds they have more in common than mutual disdain. Familiar material, but well presented. In German, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Wed., April 2 (Cranberry 8) (AH)

 

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My Mexican Shiva. When high-living Moishe dies suddenly, his scattered, dysfunctional family and his theater friends come together for the traditional seven-day mourning. In Alejandro Springall's dramedy set in a large Mexican city, there are the expected squabbles, secrets revealed, breaches of religious procedures and, finally, the closure that ritual bestows even on the messiest families. And for added cultural value, there's a bittersweet cameo by a mariachi band. In Spanish, Hebrew and Yiddish, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Sun., April 6. SouthSide Works (AH)

 

Nina's Home. It's France, 1944, and Nina (Agnès Jaoui) runs a large country home designated as a "house of hope" -- a refuge for Jewish children left abandoned by the war. This relative sylvan idyll is shattered when the home takes in two dozen youth recently liberated from concentration camps; some are nearly feral, and all relate horrifying accounts that dispel any lingering fantasy about families reuniting. Richard Dembo's film is, as you might expect, heartbreaking in places, but ultimately hopeful, particularly in the quiet case it makes for strength and community won through religious tradition. In French and various languages, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Thu., April 10 (Greensburg), and 1 p.m. Sun., April 13 (SouthSide Works) (AH)

 

Praying With Lior. "From the mouths of babes ..." counsels the eighth psalm, and so it is with Lior Liebling, a Philadelphia-area boy with Down syndrome who finds an intense joyous purity in praying and singing religious songs. Lior is understandably excited about his upcoming bar mitzvah, and Ilana Trachtman's documentary tracks the teen through his preparations, which include much support from his family and the larger religious community. Lior may lack the gifts of precise articulation, but Praying reminds us that the mysteries of faith and their power to move are not exclusively the realm of the most eloquent tongue. To be screened via video projection. 10:30 a.m. Sun., April 6. SouthSide Works (AH)

 

She's Got It. In Jacob Goldwasser's comedy, feisty Malka is concerned with saving everyone's jobs at the Negev textile factory, while her friend and coworker Irena has to deal with her shlub of a husband. The pair soon realizes that Irena's husband is participating in a counterfeiting scheme/bank heist that includes Malka's unwitting younger sister. Armed with this information, the three women get a few ideas of their own, and wacky hi-jinks ensue. Relying on several slapstick fighting scenes for laughs, this predictable and charmingly goofy film is adorable if not terribly entertaining. In Hebrew, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Tue., April 8. SouthSide Works (LH)

 

Sixty Six. I laughed; I cried. Really. Paul Weiland's semi-autobiographical coming-of-age comedy, set in North London in 1966, trades easily in deadpan British humor without scrimping on the genuine miseries of everyday lives riddled with tiny heartbreaks. Nerdish Bernie hopes his "Gone With the Wind of bar mitzvahs" will finally bring him much-wanted attention, but the truly unthinkable happens: England makes it to the World Cup finals, held on the same day. A sweet, well-acted film that will have you rooting for Bernie ... and England. 7:30 p.m. Thu., April 10. SouthSide Works (AH)

 

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The Year My Parents Went on Vacation. This Brazilian feature from Cao Hamburger follows a young boy in 1970, when his parents must go on a "vacation" to avoid arrest by the military dictatorship. After his grandfather dies, he's taken under the wing of an older orthodox Jew in an all-Jewish neighborhood. Culture clash ensues, as the boy is only half-Jewish and was raised secularly. The 1970 World Cup serves as a unifying thread in the face of the cultural upheaval of the day. Not a thriller per se, but dramatic and thought-provoking, and beautifully shot. In Portuguese, Yiddish and German, with subtitles. 8:45 p.m. Sat., April 5. SouthSide Works (Andy Mulkerin)

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