• Love, Gilda
  • Sammy Davis, Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 2018

Castro Theater, San Francisco
July 19-29, 2018
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With 67 films from 23 countries, this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival–the 38th–remains the world’s largest, and, of course, still the oldest.
And, by the way, 53% of the films are directed by women.
The festival opens July 19th at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theater with “Love, Gilda,” a portrait of former “Saturday Night Live” performer and beloved comedian Gilda Radner; and it ends its Castro run on July 29th with a tribute to another comedian, Jew-by-choice Sammy Davis, Jr. (“Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me”). The festival will also be held at Palo Alto’s Cinéarts theater (July 21 to 26th); the East Bay’s Albany (July 27 to 29th) and Piedmont Theaters (August 3rd to 5th); and San Rafael’s Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (August 3rd to 5th).
This year’s two sidebars will be on Black/Jewish relations, and on Austria. The first, entitled black.ish / jew.ish, include the Sammy Davis film as well as two films about music (“Blue Note Records: Beyond the Blues,” and “Satan and Adam,” about the partnership of an African-American busker and a white, Jewish harmonica player).
The second sidebar, entitled “Bless My Homeland Forever,” starts with a collaboration with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival: “The City Without Jews,” the international premiere of a newly-restored 1924 Hungarian film, with live music accompaniment; and continues with “The Waldheim Waltz,” a documentary about the 1986 election of former Nazi Kurt Waldheim to the Austrian presidency.
Here, in no particular order, are some other films that caught my eye:
“Baby Face” is a 1933 film starring Barbara Stanwyck as an ambitious small-town girl who “sleeps her way to the top,” as they used to say, of the executive suite. Aside from its having been “based on a treatment” by Darryl F. Zanuck, I’m not sure of the film’s Jewish connection. Still–who can resist?
“The Oslo Diaries” is a documentary about the 1992 peace negotiations between Israel and the PLO. Doesn’t that seem long ago and far away?
“Budapest Noir,” co-sponsored by the Film Noir Foundation, is set in–of course–Budapest in 1936. Its hero is a crime reporter investigating the sudden death of a pro-Hitler prime minister. The cinematographer is Elemer Gagalyi, cinematographer of last year’s hit, “1945.”
“The Invisibles,” from Germany, is a “documentary/narrative”–part doc, part enactment–about some 7,000 Jews who continued to live secretly in Berlin after the Nazis had decreed the city “Judenfrei” (free of Jews) in 1943.
“Shalom Bollywood: The Untold History of Indian Cinema” is the story of “how four Jewish/Indian actresses came to dominate the Indian movie industry for nearly forty years.”
Another intriguing-sounding documentary is “The Twinning Reaction,” which explores what happened when families discovered that a Jewish adoption agency had secretly separated and studied identical twins.
The festival’s ticket policy is intricate and based on whether ticket-buyers are members of the Jewish Film Institute or not.
For complete information, visit sfjff.org. Detailed ticket information is available at sfjff.org/tickets. The festival box office’s phone number is (415) 621-0523.

San Francisco ,
Renata Polt, a freelance writer and critic, is the translator and editor of A Thousand Kisses: A Grandmother's Holocaust Letters.