San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 2021

Written by:
Renata Polt
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              It’s back: the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the oldest and still the largest festival of its kind, has returned after last year’s pandemic-related hiatus.

              Well, let’s modify that: it’s back with caveats.  Only one day, July 25th, will see actual live screenings, in the festival’s usual San Francisco site, the magnificent Castro Theater.  With, of course, safety regulations to prevent the spread of Covid.  The rest of the program, like school classes and many jobs, will be online.  As usual, the full schedule is available from the festival’s website (Google San Francisco Jewish Film Festival).

              Here are some highlights:

              Opening night film Mischa and the Wolves (San Hobkinson, director) is a version of the ancient tale of a human adopted by a pack of wolves.  In this film, The adoptee is an orphan fleeing from the Nazis.

              Persian Lessons is another intriguing Holocaust story: a concentration camp inmate claims to be not Jewish, but Persian.  To prove his claim, he’s forced to give lessons in “Persian”—an imaginary language that the prisoner makes up on the spot—to his camp guard.

              Still another Holocaust-themed film is Plan A, the fictional story of a group of survivors who plan to poison the German water supply to get revenge for the Jews’ sufferings.

              Among other fiction films is a restoration of Edgar  G. Ulmer’s 1939 The Light Ahead, a Yiddish drama about a disabled couple trying to find happiness.  A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff  is a “mystical meta-musical” imagining a suitable closing act for the initiator of possible the greatest financial fraud in history.  It includes interviews and synchronized swimming.  No kidding.

              Documentaries look to be some of the strongest of the festival’s offerings.  The Conductor is a portrait of Marin Alsop, the first woman conductor of several international symphony orchestras, including ones in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Charlatan is Polish director Agnieszka Holland’s portrait of a Czech healer.  And The Adventures of Saul Bellow is a portrait of the famous 20th-century American novelist.  Elena Horn’s fascinating doc, The Lesson, explores the German rule requiring all 14-year-olds to study the Holocaust.

              For further information and for tickets to watch the festival’s films, visit San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

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