Jewish film fest features dramas and documentaries

Mar. 16, 2012 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition
The documentary "Nicky's Family" tells of the efforts of Sir Nicholas Winton to organize the rescue of 669 children from Czechoslovakia just before World War II broke out. --Courtesy photo

The documentary "Nicky's Family" tells of the efforts of Sir Nicholas Winton to organize the rescue of 669 children from Czechoslovakia just before World War II broke out. --Courtesy photo

This year’s Jewish Film Festival opens on Saturday with seven engaging Hawaii premieres that span the globe and numerous eras.

Gina Caruso, film curator at the Honolulu Museum of Art (formerly Honolulu Academy of Arts), was a member of this year’s festival selections committee. Whether by accident or design, Caruso said, in this year’s selections, family relations stand at the center. As the family dramas unfold, engaging history lessons emerge.


Where: Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Museum of Art (formerly Honolulu Academy of Arts), 900 S. Beretania St.

When: Saturday through March 28

Cost: $8-$10

Info: 532-8700,

Also: Opening night reception Saturday, 6-7:30 p.m., dishes from Da Spot, wine and beer are available for purchase in the courtyard; $12-$15 from

The festival lineup includes the following films:

» “Eli and Ben,” 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Tuesday and March 28: The festival opens with this Israeli film, which won the Grand Prix award at the 2010 Moscow Children’s Film Festival. In this family drama, Ben (Lior Ashkenazi), a city architect, has been arrested, ostensibly for accepting bribes. His 12-year-old son, Eli (Yval Shevah), on a quest for justice, seeks to learn whether his father is innocent.

» “Nicky’s Family,” 1 p.m. Sunday and Thursday, and 7:30 p.m. March 25: The documentary (with dramatic re-enactments) tells of the heroic efforts of Sir Nicholas Winton, dubbed “the British Schindler” for organizing the rescue of 669 children from German-occupied Czechoslovakia just before the outbreak of World War II.

In 1938 he learned about the situation of Jewish refugees in Czechoslovakia. Upon witnessing the situation firsthand, Winton set up an organization to bring Jewish refugees to Britain by organizing their transport, housing and adoption.

Winton never spoke of these actions. Fifty years later his wife found a suitcase containing documents organizing the children’s transport and brought the events to light. Winton, who is of German-Jewish heritage, is still alive today.

» “The Matchmaker,” 4 p.m. Sunday, 1 p.m. Wednesday and 7:30 p.m. March 27: This 2010 film from Israel — set in Haifa of the summer of 1968 — tells the story of an adolescent boy, Arik Burstein (Tuval Shafir), who lands a summer job working for a matchmaker, Yankele Bride (Adir Miller), a Holocaust survivor. Arik has a penchant for crime novels, and his detective work for the matchmaker suits this inclination perfectly.

The arrival of a precocious and unruly teenager, Clara Epstein (Maya Dagan), to visit her family also suits his burgeoning male adolescence, as she instigates numerous free-spirited shenanigans.

» “Berlin ’36,” 7:30 p.m. Sunday and March 29, and 1 p.m. March 27: Based on true events, the film shares the story of high-jumper Gretel Bergmann. The Jewish Bergmann (Karoline Hefurth) had been banned from training in Germany due to Nazi policies and thus immigrated to the U.K. Facing pressure from the International Olympic Committee and the U.S., the Nazis bring Bergmann back to Germany to train. But they also bring Marie Ketteler (in reality a man and played by Sebastian Urzendowsky) on board to secure a gold medal.

» “Little Rose,” 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and March 24, and 4 p.m. March 25: This Polish drama tells the story of Roman Rozek (Robert Wieckiewicz), who works for the Polish secret state security and pressures his girlfriend, Kamila Sakowicz (Magdalena Boczarska), to spy on writer Adam Warczewski (Andrzej Seweryn), to reveal him as a Zionist revolutionary. As Kamila spends more time with Adam, her feelings and alliances start to shift. The film is set in 1967-68, during anti-Semitic upsurges that led thousands of Jewish Poles to emigrate.

» “Where I Stand: The Hank Greenspun Story,” 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and 1 p.m. March 25 and 29: The documentary narrated by Anthony Hopkins tells the story of Hank Greenspun, who, during his lifetime, was a gun runner for the Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah, a Las Vegas real estate developer, Middle East peace broker and publisher of the Las Vegas Sun.

The film draws on archival footage, photographs and sealed government documents; Greenspun’s columns, autobiography and diary; and on-camera interviews with Greenspun’s contemporaries and family.

» “Restoration,” 7:30 p.m. Thursday and March 28, and 1 p.m. March 23: In this Israeli drama, Yaakov Fidelman (Sasson Gabal) learns that his furniture restoration shop is about to go under after his business partner dies. While Fidelman and his son Noah (Nevo Kimhi) explode in tension throughout the film, Anton (Henry David) appears one day to work in the shop.

Anton discovers an 1882 Steinway piano hidden in the workshop. Its restoration could not only save the shop financially, but also secure Anton’s position as business partner and heir. As the film unfolds, Fidelman is left with a decision to make about who will be his heir and son: Noah or Anton.

Christina Gerhardt is assistant professor of German at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Her writings about film have been published or are forthcoming in Cinema Journal, Film Quarterly and Senses of Cinema.

–Christina Gerhardt / Special to the Star-Advertiser

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