Miami Jewish Film Festival Director Igor Shteyrenberg has organized another impressive program that will run this year from January 12-26 at familiar spots from Aventura to Pinecrest. Your problem will be narrowing down the choices because there are 64 films from 20 countries in 10 venues with 50 filmmakers expecting 12,000 plus viewers.
I’m not a fan of binge watching. Downton Abbey made it easy to avoid such guilty pleasure, but in this on-demand gen, I have carefully managed to savor House of Cards, Luke Cage, The Get Down, Portlandia, The Office, and The Crown, one episode at a time. Amongst thousands of offerings, these are the few I have chosen. However, I did binge watch the trailers Igor offered me, and sadly, I cannot attend all the fine films he and his team have selected.
A good number of festival attendees are those inclined to eschew the parking garage aesthetic and chronic popcorn stench of the mainstream cinema experience. Way back when, Lina Wertmüller’s Seven Beauties ended all that for me. Antonioni, Bertolucci, Bergman, Buñuel, Fellini, Hallström, Truffaut followed, discussing things mostly unfathomable to an American boy. Watching the Orioles, Love Story, Patton, Deliverance, The Sting, American Graffiti, and The Towering Inferno differed from Black and White in Color, Get Out Your Handkerchiefs, The Tin Drum, and The Last Metro. Subsequently, even great films like Rocky, Star Wars, Jaws, and The Big Chill gave way to Salaam Bombay! Ju Dou, The Scent of Green Papaya, Central Station, and The Wedding Banquet.
Needless to say, in perhaps the understatement of the year, being Jewish is complicated. Is Jewishness race, religion, ethnicity, culture, memory? Let the arguments begin. In any case, identity, both fluid and complicated, informs film. Perhaps Life Is Beautiful is the cinematic tie that binds these questions and my memories to the Miami Jewish Film Festival.
AKA Nadia examines a double life and the anxiety resulting from it. Fever at Dawn presents a Hungarian love story between two young Holocaust survivors in Sweden. Harmonia adapts the biblical story of Sarah, Hagar, Abraham, Yitzak, and Ismail from the book of Genesis through orchestral maneuvers in Jerusalem. Daniel Burman directs a warm homecoming feature about faith, family, and reconnection in Buenos Aires in The Tenth Man. Basketball fans will cheer the story of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s 1977 European victory over the pride of the Soviet Union in On the Map. If you love hummus, Oren Rosenfeld’s documentary about it looks as delicious as Roger Sherman’s doc from last year – In Search of Israeli Cuisine. Finally, in The Last Laugh, through interviews and conversations, Ferne Pearlston reminds everyone who has ever suffered, how we often laugh to keep from crying.
Time and space do not permit further examination of all the excellent opportunities this 20th annual gathering offers. The events begin on January 12 with Israel’s box office smash, The Women’s Balcony, as Emil Ben Shimon channels Spike Lee who borrowed similarly from Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, a dramedy about fractures between orthodoxy and fundamentalism. If you want to see it, you’d better line up now, as the Rush Line $60 ticket appears to be the only hope.
To see what screens when and whether your dream film is already booked, details can be found here: miamijewishfilmfestival.org.