How can you organize a Jewish-themed film festival without movies directly or indirectly related to the Holocaust? And how much Holocaust is too much Holocaust? Is there such a thing?
Those are some of the questions dealt with by the selection committee of the Jewish Film Festival, which runs February 12-16 at the Bijou. Whatever the tone of those initial discussions, the committee pulled off their selections beautifully. There are only 10 movies, but each one is dynamite.
“We do want people to never forget `the Holocaust`, but we also want a balance,” said Carol Sugarman, the festival’s co-chair. “Some people don’t want to see only movies related to the Holocaust, and some think it’s an issue that has to be touched on. If you don’t show it, people will forget and think, ‘It’ll never happen here.’ The truth is: it can.”
After a successful run at the San Antonio Museum of Art, the festival celebrates its first decade with more screens and guests — and bigger theaters.
“We outgrew the space so quickly, and it was clear that we needed the space of a full theater, and the Bijou was the natural choice,” said Sugarman, who has been with the festival since 2003. “But the biggest change is that we have become more well-known and our reputation has grown. We have a lot of people coming because they’ve enjoyed previous festivals, and they know they will watch quality films.”
This year, the festival opens with Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story (2010), a highly entertaining documentary directed by Peter Miller (a long-time associate of Ken Burns), narrated by Dustin Hoffman, and centered on baseball legends Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax. After the movie, producer Caroline Berler will be present to discuss the film and answer questions from the audience.
“It will be a really fun night,” Sugarman said. “We’ll be serving baseball food, and we encourage people to wear their favorite baseball jerseys.”
There’s only one problem, though: the opening night sold out a week prior to the event. But there is hope if you call (210) 302-6828 and ask to be placed on a waiting list, in case a new screening is scheduled.
“But we encourage people to come watch all the films, because they’re all good,” said Sugarman, and she’s not just pulling a PR line here: with all due respect to the other film festivals in the city, all of which have their share of good, and even great, films, it is hard to match the Jewish Film Festival in terms of percentage of quality films. There is not a single bad movie here. Each one is likely to stay with you forever, no matter where your last name comes from.