Jewish and Israeli Film Festival, November 24 to December 6
Films go online in pandemic
The 13-day festival is the largest event of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe. It will open with a United States production, “Resistance”, a true story of legendary French mime Marcel Marceau (Jesse Eisenberg) who as a young boy worked with a group of Jewish boy scouts and the French Resistance to save the lives of ten thousand orphans during World War Two. The film features Hungary’s Géza Röhrig and Vica Kerekes in supporting roles.
The drama “The Song of the Names” was shot partly in Hungary and stars Tim Roth, Clive Owen and Catherine McCormack. It tells the story of an Englishman travelling through Europe to find his childhood friend, a violin prodigy. The friend disappeared several years earlier on the eve of his first solo concert.
Other titles include Russian drama “Yumorist” (The Humorist) about a week in the life of Boris Arkadiev, a fictional Soviet stand-up comedian in the 1980s. Arkadiev is tormented not only by external oppression and censorship but also by his own insecurities that poison all his relationships.
The documentary “93Queen” is set in the Hasidic enclave of Borough Park, Brooklyn, and follows a group of tenacious Hasidic women who are smashing the patriarchy in their community by creating the first all-female volunteer ambulance corps in New York City.
With unprecedented and insider access, “93Queen” offers up a unique portrayal of a group of religious women who are taking matters into their own hands to change their community from within.
In the Israeli animation “Dead End” two teenage siblings post-nuclear-war Jerusalem search for their little brother whom they lost in the aftermath of the bombing. They find that despite everything literally going up in smoke, nothing had really changed.
“Golda” is the eventful story of Golda Meir’s term as Prime Minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974 – from her surprising rise to power and iconic international stature as “queen of the Jewish people” to her tragic and lonely demise.
It is 1942 in “Persian Lessons” and Gilles, a young Belgian man, is arrested by the SS alongside other Jews and sent to a concentration camp in Germany. He narrowly avoids execution by swearing to the guards that he is not Jewish but Persian. This lie temporarily saves him but then Gilles is assigned a seemingly untenable mission: to teach Farsi to Koch, the officer in charge of the camp’s kitchen, who dreams of opening a restaurant in Iran once the war is over. Gilles finds himself having to invent a language he doesn’t know, word by word.
As a 22-year-old Hungarian woman, Chile was kidnapped from a pub in Hungary in “A Whore Like Me” and sold to a group of Israelis who trafficked for prostitution. Today, twenty years later, Chile is a different woman, one who has managed to get out of the drug abuse cycle, celebrating 10 years of sobriety, and volunteering at the Levinsky Clinic to try and help women on the street.
When the Ministry of Interior in Israel refuses to give her a resident certificate and to believe that she is a victim of trafficking in women, she goes looking for her kidnappers to obtain proof. The journey to the past forces Chile to return to the scene of prostitution, only this time with a little more power and a camera in hand. She begins to document and work through the trauma, but can you go back to your most painful place and stay alive?
“Born in Jerusalem and Still Alive” is a black comedy that follows Ronen Matalon’s journey to overcome his anxiety of terror attacks. Ronen uses writing and guiding a tour of terror-attack sites along Jerusalem’s Jaffa Street to try and break free from his trauma.
In “Family in Transition”, a father of a family from Nahariya, Israel, suddenly decides to share his secret desire to become a woman. Despite personal difficulties and social stigmas, the family members insist on staying together, believing that love will overcome all difficulties.
“The Crossing” sees four children on the run in 1942 during the Second World War. Sarah and Daniel are Jews about to be deported but they hide in the cellar of Otto and Gerda, until they are discovered and their parents are arrested. They have to get to faraway neutral Sweden.
In “Murer”, prestigious politician and large-scale farmer Franz Murer, responsible for the ghetto of Vilnius, Lithuania, as SS leader and National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi Party) functionary from 1941-1943, stands trial in Graz, Austria. Survivors of the mass murder arrive to testify and obtain justice, but to no avail.
“Incitement” details the year leading to the assassination of Israel’s Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin (1922-1995), from the point of view of the assassin.
“Peaches and Cream” is an existential comedy about a neurotic film director whose fears of failure, death and losing control all surface on the night his new film is released – a hysterical unforgettable night at least for him and his band of eccentric friends.
“Stones” is a documentary about the little square brass plaques seen on pavements outside the former homes of Jewish people. The festival is rounded out by “Crescendo”, in which world-famous conductor Eduard Sporck accepts the job to create an Israeli-Palestinian youth orchestra, quickly drawing him into a tempest of sheer unsolvable problems, and “Frau Stern”, in which Ms Stern wants her life to expire already but every attempt to leave this world brings her surprises. The absurd life circumstances and random encounters with strangers continuously conflict with the soberness of her desire to die.
Director of the festival Marcell Kenesei said: “For many people, these past few months have required them to reinvent themselves. Similarly, this year’s Jewish and Israeli Film Festival will also be a type of reinvention and experimentation. In the past, our festival has always been about the community, openness and unity. And while this year we are unable to be together physically, we believe that these values will be clearly reflected in our selection of films.
“Even though the events will be virtual this year, we will share a common experience together and we will be able to keep in touch with one another.”
The festival is presented by JCC Budapest-Bálint Ház.
Tickets: HUF 1500