Austin Jewish Film Festival Starts Tomorrow Night


The Other Son

The always-popular Austin Jewish Film Festival is back with a selection of stimulating films. The fest starts tomorrow night (Saturday, April 13) and runs through Friday, April 19 at Regal Arbor. Tickets and festival badges are still available, and some noon screenings are free.

Austin Film Society is co-sponsoring two of the fest's movies this year:

  • The Other Son (pictured above) (Lorraine Levy, France/Israel, 2012) is a powerful, yet hopeful, portrait of two young men -- one Palestinian, one Israeli -- switched at birth. They learn to transcend cultural, national and religious boundaries after they meet. [screening info]
  • Out in the Dark (Michael Mayer, Israel, 2012) joins the growing list of well-made Israeli films exploring gay life in Israel. In this film, we see the difficulties of love between a young Palestinian student and a slightly older Israeli lawyer. In a well-acted but tough role as a homophobic cop, new Austin resident Alon Pdut proves his ability to inhabit unflattering roles, just as he did in The Long Journey, which AFS and AJFF screened a few weeks ago. [screening info]

    Watch the Out in the Dark trailer below:

I'm excited about seeing a number of other narrative films and documentaries in this year's AJFF lineup:

  • A Bottle in the Gaza Sea (Thierry Binisti, 2011) is another French-Israeli film featuring a Palestinian and an Israeli. A note in a bottle starts an email relationship between Naim and Tai with the ongoing border conflicts in the background. 
  • Berlin 36 (Kaspar Heidelbach, Germany, 2011) tells the story of a star German gold medal contender destined for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin until the Nazi government discovers she is also Jewish.
  • Glickman (James Freedman, US/Israel, 2012) is another 1936 Olympics film, this one a documentary. It tells the story of an outstanding Jewish-American track star, barred from participation by the Nazis, but who goes on to become a pioneer sportscaster.
  • Brothers (Igall Niddam, Israel, 2008) explores the divide between two brothers, one an ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn attorney, the other a secular shepherd living peacefully on a kibbutz, who reunite after 25 years and see how far apart they have grown.
  • Hava Nagila: The Movie (Roberta Grossman, US, 2012) delightfully chronicles the century-old song, known by Jew and Gentile alike, but with a much richer history than its stereotypical use in films and TV would imply.
  • Invisible (Michal Aviad, Israel, 2012) pushes two long-separated friends to confront and process painful memories of being raped.
  • Kaddish for a Friend (Leo Khasin, Israel, 2011) is a powerful statement about transcending age, ethnicity and class, as a young Palestinian refugee in Germany has to pay for his vandalism by helping an elderly Russian Jewish neighbor put his home back in order.
  • Melting Away (Doron Eron, Israel, 2011) is a feature narrative about gender identity, as a son exploring transvestism is thrown out of his parents' home, only to return years later as the transgendered Anna, tenderly caring for her dying father.
  • Simon and the Oaks (Lisa Ohlin, Sweden, 2011), based on a popular Swedish novel, chronicles a wartime friendship between two boys, one working-class, the other a son of a Jewish German refugee.
  • The Ballad of the Weeping Spring (Benny Toraty, Israel, 2012) sounds like a fascinating postmodern mosaic of film styles and genres, all focused on a son's struggle to reunite his father's legendary band.
  • Yossi (Eytan Fox, Israel, 2012) is a sequel to Fox's own groundbreaking gay Israeli film Yossi & Jagger (2002). Here, Yossi, now a successful cardiologist, still mourns for his dead lover but finds possibilities of happiness on a vacation in Eilat.

In addition, AJFF is also screening wonderful short docs dealing with the New York City garment industry, the rescue of an essential Israeli photo archive, the testimony of concentration camp survivors with the telltale tattooed numbers, efforts to overcome hunger in America, the embroidery art of Ester Nisenthal Krinitz and other subjects.

Chale Nafus is the Director of Programming and a Founder's Circle member at the Austin Film Society.