The 2011 Asheville Jewish Film Festival

The Asheville Jewish Film Festival is back with a new slate of six movies that will be shown at Fine Arts Theatre, starting Saturday, March 26, and concluding Friday, April 1. All films—except for the opening and closing night shows with receptions—are $8.

The festival opens with an opening night reception Saturday, March 26, at 6 p.m. at Blue Spiral 1 (next to Fine Arts), followed by a screening of The Gefilte Fish Chronicles at 7:30 p.m. at the theatre. (Special $18 price for the reception and the film.) The film recounts the history Abe and Minnie Dubroff and the 100-plus-year-old family tradition of preparing the food for the Passover Seder. The film screens again (no reception) on Sunday, March 27, at 1 p.m. There’s a Q&A with David and Iris Burnett after both screenings.

Rob Epstein (The Times of Harvey Milk) and Jerry Friedman’s (The Celluloid Closet) ambitious film on Allen Ginsberg (played by James Franco), Howl is up next. This striking and complex film had no local release, so this marks its Asheville premiere. The film intercuts four sections: Ginsberg being interviewed, the 1957 obscenity trial over the publication of Howl, the young Ginsberg reading the poems in a coffee house, and animations that attempt to depict the poem. It doesn’t completely work (the animations are its weakest point), but when it does, it’s pretty glorious. Unlikely as it may sound, James Franco nails Ginsberg. And the trial scenes take on an added impact in these anti-intellectual times. The film shows at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 27, and again at 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 31. Poet Sebastian Matthews will be at the March 31 screening.

Julia Bacha’s highly regarded documentary Budrus examines a growning non-violent movement in one West Bank village where the struggle is to push back the Israeli security in order to spare the village’s cemetery and olive trees—and to prevent the town from being isolated from the rest of the occupied territories. Presenting both sides of the argument, the film strikes a balance—and one that makes peace actually seem a possibility. The film shows at 1 p.m. on Monday, March 28, and at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30. There’s a panel discussion after both screenings.

Jonathan Gruber’s Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray is a documentary about the little-known subject of Jews on both sides of the Civil War. Created with a large selection of historical photos, letter readings and historical speeches (including Sam Waterston as the voice of Abraham Lincoln), and interviews with notable scholars. The film screens at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 28, and 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 29. Co-producer Robert Marcus will do a Q&A after both screenings.

A Matter of Size from Erez Tadmor and Sharon Mayman is a charming and touching comedy about a group overweight Israelis who gain self-acceptance through the improbable idea of becoming sumo wrestlers. What could be a one-joke—and not a very funny one—premise turns into an audience-pleasing movie that works, because it respects its characters. The film shows Tuesday, March 29, at 7 p.m. and Wednesday, March 30, at 1 p.m.

Michael Kleiman and Michael Pertnoy’s The Last Survivor is the festival’s closing night film, a powerful documentary about the survivors of four genocides—The Holocaust, Rwanda, Darfur, Congo—and how they try to come to terms with what happened and how to carry on. The closing night screening (special $18 ticket) starts with a reception at Blue Spiral 1 at 6 p.m., followed by the film and a Q&A with Michael Kleiman at the Fine Arts at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 31. The film plays again at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 1.

 

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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