February 24, 2011
The Asheville Jewish Film Festival returns this year, touching "light" subjects like Jewish foods and Israeli sumo wrestlers, and probing even more weighty topics like protest movements in the West Bank, the lives of Jewish Civil War soldiers, the lessons of genocide survivors, and the obscenity trial of poet Allen Ginsberg. The festival is presented by the Center for Jewish Studies at UNC Asheville, in partnership with the Asheville Art Museum and the Fine Arts Theater. The films will be screened from March 26-April 1 at the Fine Arts Theater, 36 Biltmore Ave., downtown Asheville.
The festival will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 26, with "The Gefilte Fish Chronicles," a documentary directed by David Burnett and produced by Iris Burnett. The film focuses on the unbroken traditions and ceremonial foods of an extended family that has gathered annually for Passover for more than 100 years. An opening reception with the filmmakers will take place at 6 p.m. at the Blue Spiral 1 craft gallery next door to the Fine Arts Theater. The film will also be shown 1 p.m. Sunday, March 27. A question-and-answer forum with the filmmakers will follow both the screenings.
"Howl," starring James Franco as Beat poet Allen Ginsburg, will be shown at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 27, and repeated at 1 p.m. Thursday, March 31. Directors Rob Epstein and Jerry Friedman used court records, interviews, animation, and the poem "Howl" itself to chronicle Ginsberg's 1957 obscenity trial which pitted generation against generation and art against fear. A discussion with poet Sebastian Matthews will follow the screening at 1 p.m. Thursday, March 31.
"Budrus," directed by Julia Bacha, is an award-winning documentary that examines an ongoing non-violent protest movement on the West Bank by both Palestinians and Israelis. The film will be shown at 1 p.m. Monday, March 28 and at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 30. Featuring actual protest footage and the responses by the Israeli military as well as interviews, this film about one village tells a much bigger story about what is possible in the Middle East. Each screening of the film will be followed by a panel discussion.
Coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, "Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray," by Jonathan Gruber, is a documentary exploring the little-known struggles of Jews in both Union and Confederate armies. Actor Sam Waterston portrays Abraham Lincoln. The film will be shown at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 28 and a question-and-answer forum with co-producer Robert Marcus will follow. A repeat showing will take place at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 29.
"A Matter of Size," winner of three Israeli Oscars and many Audience Awards at festivals around the world, will be shown at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 29, and repeated at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30. This comedy about a group of overweight Israelis who embrace Sumo wrestling, follows its characters on their tender and funny path from body shame to celebration, and from loneliness to love. Directed by Erez Tadmor and Guy Nattiv, the film is in Hebrew and Japanese with English subtitles.
The festival will close with a reception and showing of "The Last Survivor," a documentary directed and produced by Michael Pertnoy and Michael Kleiman, which follows the lives of four survivors from genocidal atrocities in different places and times - the Holocaust, Rwanda, Darfur, and the Congo. Embedded in each of their stories is the determination to share their experiences with the rest of the world in an effort to ensure these tragedies do not befall others. A pre-screening reception with filmmaker Michael Kleiman will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 31, at the Blue Spiral 1, with the film to follow at 7 p.m. There will be a repeat showing at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 1. Each screening of the film will be followed by a question-and-answer forum with Kleiman.
All regular screenings are $8. Tickets for the special receptions and movie showings are $18. Festival ticket packages are available. Tickets will go on sale March 4, and may be purchased at the Fine Arts Theater. The box office is open daily from 12:30-9 p.m. For more information, contact the Fine Arts Theater at 828/253-3227 extension 120, or visit http://www.ashevillejewishfilmfestival.com.