Arts & Culture: Film
We Jews are particularly good at text study.
We can take a source, examine each word, individually and in relation to the others surrounding it. We can squint, we can change the angle and the light, and then look again. We can investigate each word’s history, play with the spelling, change the verb tense, listen to the rhythm, follow the allusions. We can consider the period in which it was written and the personalities of generations of its explicators.
So who said we can do that only to written text?
LOS ANGELES — Some 65 years after a band of foreign volunteers took to the skies to ensure Israel’s birth and survival, filmmakers are racing to bring their exploits to the screen before the last of the breed passes away.
Among the competing producers and their financial backers are such famous names as Spielberg and Lansky. And though their budgets fall well short of Hollywood blockbuster standards, their competitive spirits are just as intense.
Nancy Spielberg, the youngest of Steven Spielberg’s three sisters, is the producer of “Above and Beyond: The Creation of the Israeli Air Force.” Her main challenger is Mike Flint, with his “Angels in the Sky: The Birth of Israel.” His father, Mitchell, battled the Japanese in the skies of World War II before joining Israel’s famous 101st Squadron in 1948.
Twenty-seven year-old female. Single. Jewish. Certified Public Accountant. Works with brother. Lives with grieving widower father. Searching for love.
That’s the premise for “Dorfman In Love.” Sounds a bit clichéd, which it is, down to listening to the father, played by Elliott Gould, calling just about everything around him “farkakte”— crappy! Then this young woman leaves the San Fernando Valley and temporarily moves to downtown Los Angeles, where she finds some independence, multiculturalism, possible romance — and herself. “I Am Woman,” circa 2013.
As the film begins, you don’t know what to make of it. Come on! Can a movie be so trite? How long do I have to sit through this one? When am I going to see the hall of mirrors? The hutch with the sterling silver menorahs? The “Goodbye Columbus” wedding scene?
If you’re looking for information on Philip Roth’s private life — his marriages, his romances, the state of his health — you won’t find much in “Philip Roth: Unmasked,” the documentary showing on March 29 on PBS as part of its American Masters series. (It has a short run at the Film Forum through March 19.)
What you will find is a thoughtful and often intimate portrait of the writer as both a young and an old man. Roth is arguably the best American writer living, and certainly the best Jewish American writer. He would object to the latter description, of course; “I don’t write in Jewish,” he says a little peevishly, and he chooses Saul Bellow as the greatest American writer of the second half of the 20th century.
When most people think of the refugee ship “Exodus,” the Paul Newman movie and Leon Uris novel on which it was based come to mind. But not many people know that one of the heroes behind the real-life Exodus was American businessman named Dewey D. Stone.
Stone’s role in buying ships and weapons — under the nose of the FBI — and helping to orchestrate the founding of Israel is the subject of a new documentary, “The Dewey Stone Connection: From Exodus to Independence.”
From the time she first came on board as director of the Guttenberg Center for Special Services at the Kaplan JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly five years ago, Shelley Levy knew she wanted her agency to host the ReelAbilities film festival.
Last year, after talking to the director of the program and being invited to the Manhattan JCC for the opening night screening of the films, “I began to have conversations about our becoming a venue for this festival,” she said.
Those conversations paid off, and this year, although the films will be shown in other places throughout the state, “we are the only northern New Jersey venue for the festival,” she said.
Wednesday, March 13, 7 p.m.
“Sons of the Stars”
(China, 90 minutes;
Director Michelle Chen Miao)
Zheng Zheng, a young mother of an autistic child, travels a great distance to look for her husband with her special-needs child in tow and finds herself alone in an enormous city with nothing but her wits and inner strength to guide her.
(USA; 3 minutes; Director Miguel Jiron)
This animation provides a glimpse into the sensory overload experienced by people with autism and how it intertwines in their everyday life.
Thursday, March 14, 7: 30 p.m.
“The Importance of Tying Your Own Shoes”
(Swedish; 100 minutes;
Director by Lena Koppel)
A young man named Alex gets a job as the leader of a local theater group for people with disabilities and his outlook begins to change as he comes to appreciate that everyone has his or her own talents that can continue to grow with opportunity and support.
“Autism in Love”
(USA; 9 minutes;
Director Michelle Friedline)
A dapper 50-year-old man with autism learns to suppress certain behaviors so he can embrace life more fully and he and his wife, nine years his senior, learn to share secrets and bond in ways that reveal the true meaning of unconditional love.
“Be My Brother”
(Australia; 8 minutes;
Director Genevive Clay)
A young man with Down Syndrome breaks down the barriers of social prejudice when his charm and charisma challenge the prejudices of a stranger at a bus stop.
Sunday, March 17, 7 p.m.
(USA, 2012, 77 min;
Director: Jacques Spitzer)
Steve Wampler, who has cerebral palsy, does 20,000 pull-ups to climb the famous El Capitan Mountain in Yosemite — only 2-6 inches at a time. His wife and two children cheer him on from below, as do fans who have come to support his mission. Stephen Wampler and his family will join the audience for a conversation following the screening of the film.
“Dancing Outside the Box”
(USA; 15 minutes; Director David Block)
Wheelchair bound, able-bodied partners bring their worlds together on the dance floor, proving everyone can dance.
(USA; 3 minutes; Director Don Hertzfeldt)
Mary, a young girl who has attended hundreds of tap dance auditions, is going strong in an audition until her prosthetic hand, her well-kept secret, falls off.
All films are captioned and other accommodations, such as CART, ASL interpretation, and audio description, are available upon request.
|The cast from one of the films to play at the ReelAbilities Festival. Courtesy JCCOTP|
ReelAbilities, a film festival showcasing the lives and artistic expressions of people with disabilities, plays at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly on March 13, 14, and 17. The JCC is one of 13 metropolitan centers throughout the United States to present ReelAbilities, the largest film festival in the country dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation for the lives, stories, and accomplishments of people with disabilities.
Opening night will feature a keynote address by Bridget A. Taylor, a board-certified behavior analyst and a licensed psychologist, who has been influential in the development of autism treatment programs in Italy, Canada, France, Australia, and Kosovo. It will also include a solo performance by Jodi DiPiazza, an 11-year-old pianist who performed with Katy Perry at “Night of Too Many Stars” and wrote a song, “Heroes of Autism,” for a Toys R Us campaign for Autism Speaks that raised more than $3,000,000.
The schedule for film screenings includes “Sons of the Stars and “Sensory Overload” on Wednesday, March 13, at 7 p.m.; “The Importance of Tying Your Own Shoes,” “Autism in Love,” and “Be My Brother” on Thursday, March 14, at 7:30 p.m.; and “Wampler’s Ascent,” “Dancing Outside the Box,” and “Jazz Hand” on Sunday, March 17, at 7 p.m. All films are captioned, and other accommodations, such as CART, ASL interpretation, and audio description, are available upon request.
Call Shelley Levy at (201) 408-1489 or go to www.reelabilities.org/NewJersey.