March 1, 2010
By G. Michael Dobbs
Area film fans should mark their calendars in March for this year's Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival, which kicks off March 11 and concludes March 24.
Not only are the offerings of this year's festival very diverse, but the screenings will also take place in Amherst, Greenfield, Longmeadow, Northampton, Shelburne Falls, Springfield and West Springfield.
Among the films will be "Ajami," the highly acclaimed Israeli drama directed by two men -- one Jewish, one Arab. "Ajami" is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and will be presented at the Amherst Cinemas at 7 p.m. on March 24 to close the festival.
Thanks to festival coordinator Janet Kaplan Bucciarelli, I was able to preview several of the festival's films, including the following:
- "The Worst Company in the World," presented at Mills Theatre, Bay Path College, Longmeadow, at 7 p.m. on March 11. Free of charge. Also presented at the Amherst Cinemas on March 18 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8.50.
Regev Contes is a successful director of television commercials whose father runs "the worst company in the world," a small insurance agency in Israel. Determined to help his dad out, Contes joins the business to try to bring some professionalism to his father and his two incompetent employees: his father's beloved brother and his dad's best friend.
Contes made this documentary film of the experience and it's both funny and sad as he attempts to move his father's business to profitability. Fast moving, the film plays out like a real life "The Office."
- "Yoo-Hoo Mrs. Goldberg," at the Springfield Jewish Community Center, at 1 p.m. on March 16. Tickets are $9 general admission, $7 for students and seniors
Bucciarelli described Gertrude Berg, the creator of the long-running radio and television dramady "The Goldbergs," as the "most famous woman in America you've never heard of."
As a Jewish woman seeking to control a creative property in a male dominated business, Berg was more than just a success, she was a role model.
Being an old radio buff, I had heard of Berg, whose show was an institution in this country for decades. I had never seen any of her television shows, though, and this film was a revelation for me.
This well-rounded film has interviews with co-workers, family members and fans including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and should be of interest to both fans of "The Goldbergs" as well as people interested in show business history.
- "The Little Traitor," at Showcase Cinemas, West Springfield, with a reception at 6:30 p.m., film at 7:30 p.m., on March 17. Tickets are $9 general admission, $7 for students and seniors.
This film strongly reminded me of Fellini's "Amarcord" in the sense that it is a memory film about a boy growing up in historically intriguing times.
Based on the book "Panther in the Basement" by Amos Oz, the film tells the story of 11-year-old Proffy who lives with his parents in the British controlled Palestine of the late 1940s. Proffy (played by Ido Port) hates the British troops and fantasizes he is a freedom fighter until he accidentally meets a kindly sergeant played by Alfred Molina. Proffy's world view suddenly becomes quite complicated.
"The Little Traitor" is a richly detailed film that is bound to create conversations after viewing.
- "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg," at the Springfield Jewish Community Center, 1 p.m. on March 18. Tickets are $9 general admission, $7 for students and seniors. Also seen at the Pleasant Street Theater, Northampton, at 3 p.m. on March 21. Tickets are $7.50.
I'm not a baseball fan and I had only barely heard of Hank Greenberg, but that didn't dilute any of the dramatic interest inherent in the story of the first Jewish superstar in baseball.
Told through archival footage as well as interviews with Greenberg, his teammates, family members and fans, this film is a home run.
For information on all of the films and the screenings go to www.ValleyJewish Film.org.