Jewish Cinema South begins Nov. 4

The show must go on, and the fifth annual installment of Jewish Cinema South is gearing up for Jewish film festivals in four cities in early November.

There are two films that will be shown in three of the four cities. The list of screenings includes the poignant, such as a tribute to Israel’s first astronaut, who was killed in the Space Shuttle disaster in 2003, and the unexpectedly-poignant, with New Orleans filmmaker Brian Bain’s “Shalom Y’all,” a look at Southern Jewish identity centered in New Orleans. Bain is currently in Dallas, according to the film’s website.

A project of the Jackson-based Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, the film festival was designed to be a shared resource for smaller Jewish communities that could likely not do their own film festivals. Participating communities share expenses in booking, publicity and promotion — and the festival program booklet won an ADDY Award.

This year, Montgomery, Mobile, Jackson and Blacksburg, Va., will be part of Jewish Cinema South. Macy Hart, director of the Institute, said he hopes more communities will participate in next year’s festival. Interested communities send a representative to Jackson in the spring to screen films and make selections.

Four communities that now have independent film festivals — Austin, Houston, Nashville and Shreveport — began their festivals under Jewish Cinema South.

One goal of the festivals is to provide an opportunity to strengthen and enhance Jewish life, while also promoting multi-cultural dialogue in an entertaining venue.

Jackson kicks off the festival on Nov. 4 with “Marion’s Triumph: Surviving History’s Nightmare,” which will be a school screening at St. Andrews North Campus. That film will also be screened in school showings at UMS/Wright, Mobile, on Nov. 7 at 10 a.m., and at the Capri Theater in Montgomery on Nov. 8 at 10 a.m.

Marion Blumenthal Lazan will speak at all three venues. Narrated by Debra Messing, the film is about the Blumenthal’s attempted escape from Nazi Germany in 1938, only to be captured in Holland. When she was liberated at the end of the war, she was 10 years old and weighed 35 pounds.

Her memoirs, “Four Perfect Pebbles,” is used in schools worldwide.

Another Holocaust film, “Monsieur: Batignole” is a light-hearted look at what it meant to hide a Jew during the war. It will be the opening night film in Jackson, on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. at Millsaps College Recital Hall. It will also be screened on opening night in Mobile, on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. at Hollywood Theatres. Donald Berry of the Alabama Holocaust Commission will speak. In Montgomery, it will be screened on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Capri, with Birmingham Holocaust survivor Max Herzel as speaker.

The mood shifts with “Hitmakers: The Teens who Stole Pop Music,” about the Jewish songwriting talent in Brooklyn in the early 1960s. John Turtorro narrates the film, which includes about 40 songs from that era, as well as archival footage of groups like The Drifters, The Shirelles and The Righteous Brothers. Composer Mike Stoller has been invited to speak at both screenings, Nov. 6 at 4 p.m. in Montgomery, and Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. in Jackson. The Jackson screening will also include opening music by Lisa Palmer, Nina Mabry and Josh Wiener.

Mobile’s festival will start with a gala reception at the Hank Aaron Stadium clubhouse on Nov. 6 at 5 p.m., including a screening of “West Bank Story,” a 22-minute film about an Israeli soldier and Palestinian fast-food cashier who fall in love despite the conflict — between their two families’ neighboring falafel stands.

The film will also be part of an evening of short films on Nov. 7 in Blacksburg, at the Squires Center Colonial Hall. There will be a falafel and hummus reception at the 7 p.m. screening.

The short films night also includes “Backseat Bingo,” an animated romance about senior citizens; “Gossip (Lashon Harah),” about an elderly mother who starts a hateful rumor about the bride at a wedding; and the animated “The Nuclear Physicist Gives His Son a Haircut.”

The Blacksburg festival, which will be on campus at Virginia Tech, starts on Nov. 6 at 1 p.m. with “Shalom Y’all.” Bain, a third-generation New Orleans resident, is scheduled to speak. There will be a bagels and grits brunch at 11:30 a.m. in the Commonwealth Ballroom.

“Shalom Y’all” traces his exploration of Southern Jewish identity, tracing some of the routes his grandfather took as a traveling salesman through the region and finding Jewish life where he did not expect it.

The Virginia Tech festival will end on Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. with the Israeli documentary “Columbia: The Tragic Loss.” It will also be screened that night in Montgomery.

“Columbia” is a tribute to Ilan Ramon, an Israeli Air Force colonel who was one of seven astronauts on that fateful flight. The Blacksburg screening will also include the short film “Skylab,” about a 12-year-old who was convinced that Skylab, falling out of orbit in 1979, was headed directly for his house. A panel discussion of aerospace professionals will follow the screenings, along with a closing reception featuring aerospace treats.

At the Montgomery festival, a representative from the Marshall Space Flight Center is scheduled to speak.

“Go For Zucker” will be the opening film for Montgomery, on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m., and in Jackson on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. A 2004 black comedy, it is the first Jewish comedy made in Germany in recent years, and won the German Film Award for best film, best leading actor, best director and other awards.

Jacky Zuckermann is a middle-aged reprobate whose wife kicks him out. When his mother dies, his estranged Orthodox brother comes to town and they have to sit shiva together and reconcile in order to receive their inheritance.

“Watermarks,” a film about seven Jewish female athletes, will be screened in Mobile on Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. The legendary Hakoah Vienna swim club was begun in 1909 after an Austria edict barring Jews from sports clubs. In the 1930s, Hakoah Vienna dominated Autrian swimming competitions, only to be shut down in 1938 as members fled the Nazis. The film includes their first reunion in 60 years.

Israeli thriller “Walk on Water” will be screened on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. in Mobile. It saw wide distribution in mainstream theaters nationally earlier this year.

Eytan Fox directed the drama, about an Israeli secret service agent who is given the assignment of tracking down a Nazi war criminal through his grandchildren. As he gets to know the grandchildren, his perceptions change and he wonders if he can complete his assignment.

“All I’ve Got” will be in Jackson on Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. The Israeli film features 72-year-old Tamara, who just died. Heading across the river to the afterlife, she meets her first love, Uri, who died at age 22. She is given a choice — to remain as she is, with all the memories of her life, or begin life again with Uri, as a 22-year-old, but without the memory of her subsequent existence.

Tickets to the Jackson festival are $10 for adults, $5 for students. Festival passes are $35 and $20, and there is a $125 Patrons Pass. Tickets are available at Beth Israel, Jackson. Screenings will all be at Millsaps College Recital Hall, except for the St. Andrew’s screening.

Mobile tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for seniors and students. Except for the opening reception and school screening, all shows are at the Hollywood Theater.

Montgomery’s tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for students. There is a $25 series pass and a $25 party package, or a $45 deluxe series pass. Tickets are available from the Jewish Federation of Central Alabama. All shows are at the Capri.

The Virginia Tech films are $4 for general admission, free to students with ID. The brunch is $4. There is a $10 series pass and a $36 Patrons Pass. Tickets are available from the UUSA ticket office in the Squires Student Center.