Thursday, October 3, 2013

Do a mitzvah and attend the Mandel JCC Cleveland Jewish Film Fest (and what's a "mitzvah?"), October 3-14.

Event Preview by Charles Cassady, Jr.

Suppose you're on the run from Mel Gibson. Where would you hide out, where he'd never think to find you? Well, Mr. Eszterhas (see, then the place to get away from that meshugenah Gibson is the annual Jewish FilmFest, put on by the Mandel Jewish Community Center of Cleveland.

This is actually something of a successor to the old Cleveland-Israeli Film Festival of about two decades ago, which brought to the area the rarely-screened films from the Mideast, particularly the lively Tel Aviv movie industry (does anyone call it Matzoh-bollywood? I just thought that up, I swear!). The Mandel JCC Cleveland Jewish Film Fest has broadened that mission to include cinematic Judiaca, fiction and nonfiction, shorts and features, live-action and animation, from all over the world.

Screening venues roam the east side of Cuyahoga County, with the bulk of the films shown at the Cedar Lee, but with additional showings at the Fairmount Temple, Shaker Square, Solon Cinemas and the Mandel JCC itself.

Besides the imports from Israel, the 2013 edition has entries from France, Poland, the Czech Republic and even the United States. Yes, Hebrew-with-subtitles is the predominant language, but it is interesting to note in the shorts program "The Tailor," an American short from Gordon Grinberg about Hasidic boys and nuns, that gets the job done with no dialogue whatsoever.

Other exceptionally cool-sounding movies: Holland's family-friendly THE ZIGZAG KID, co-starring Isabella Rosellini (likely not as the title character), concerns a detective's son, days away from his Bar Mitzvah, who sees his chance to undertake a crash-course in criminal investigation on his own. It shows Thursday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. at Shaker Square Cinemas with a festival-closing encore (expressly for teen audiences) on Oct. 14 at the Fairmount Temple.

The German-Israeli CLOSED SEASON, from 2012, is a Holocaust suspenser about a young male refugee hiding from the Final Solution with a Swiss farm couple. It turns out the farmer is unable to have children with his wife, and, well, one thing leads fatefully to another. It shows at the Cedar Lee on Oct. 5 at 9 p.m. LIFE IN STILLS, a 2011 Israeli documentary, recounts efforts to save a venerable family-run photo lab and camera store from going out of business in the digital-imaging age. Yes, we wax nostalgic for the era of 35mm, 110- and 126 cartridges, sheet film and 120/220 rolls, but the deal here is that the place holds a historically important cache of nearly a million celluloid negatives spanning the history of Israel. It screens Wednesday, Oct. 9 at the Cedar Lee.

As with so much of worldwide film markets, native-made film product in Israel is often crowded off the screens by bombastic Hollywood exports, but 2012's THE WORLD IS FUNNY was a major box-office hit and even a critical favorite. It's about the now-adult kids in a wildly dysfunctional family who try to get over their long estrangement by participating in the antics of an Israeli comedy troupe. Did even the Palestinians laugh? Find out if the picture's hit appeal crosses borders when THE WORLD IS FUNNY screens Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. in Shaker Square.

Regular theatrical rates ($10 for evenings, $8 for matinees) apply to most screenings, with a premium price for opening night and some discount specials. And some shows even have free ice cream. For a complete schedule of the Cleveland Jewish FilmFest, check out

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