Movie Information

In Brief: The opening-night film for this year's Fine Arts Asheville Jewish Film Festival is Aviva Kempner's Rosenwald (2015), an appealing film about the Jewish philanthropist Julius Rosenwald. The film is very much of a piece with Kempner's Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg (2009), which had the advertising tagline, "The Most Famous Woman You Never Heard Of." That's exactly the case here, with Rosenwald as an unsung hero of the civil rights movement — and the man who turned Sears and Roebuck into a commercial giant. Why is this man, who partnered with Booker T. Washington (and local communities) to help build 5,300 black schools, unknown? Well, he died in 1931, meaning he's ancient history to a lot people. But it has as much to do with the fact that Rosenwald — who also helped build public housing and supported African-American art — chose to remain, if not anonymous, then at least in the background. The resulting film provides reasonably compelling — if fairly straightforward — viewing. The biggest drawback is that it leans toward hagiography, since in the film Rosenwald is never less than a mensch, and that's hard to completely believe about such a titan of business. At the same time, there's no denying that Rosenwald would not have been welcomed with open arms by the stars of TV's Shark Tank.
Genre: Documentary
Director: Aviva Kempner
Starring: Peter Ascoli, Julian Bond, Stephanie Deutsch, Richard J. Powell, Maya Angelou
Rated: NR

The Fine Arts Theatre will show Rosenwald Thursday, April 28, at 7 p.m., with an encore showing Friday, April 29, at 1 p.m.

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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