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More Jewish perspectives in movies

by David Lamble

Scene from director Sam Pollard's "Sammy Davis, Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me." Photo: Courtesy SFJFF
Scene from director Sam Pollard's "Sammy Davis, Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me." Photo: Courtesy SFJFF  

The 38th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival's final four days at the Castro Theatre feature 20 programs, narratives and documentaries focusing on identity - sexual, ethnic and religious.

"The Fourth Estate" Award-winning doc-maker Liz Garbus embarks on an audacious mission: follow the writers and editors of The New York Times as they attempt to cover and make sense of the first 100 days of Donald Trump in the Oval Office. The Castro screening will be followed by Garbus' onstage conversation with filmmaker Bonni Cohen ("An Inconvenient Sequel"). (7/26)

"Sammy Davis, Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me" If you grew up in the 1950s, you'll remember AM radio formats and Hollywood buddy flicks that featured the slick comedy and vocal talents of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and company. Sammy Davis, Jr. was the sole black member of Sinatra's Rat Pack, but he was so much more. Seen dating "Vertigo" star Kim Novak, Davis aroused the ire of Columbia Pictures' Harry Cohn, who demanded that he stick to black women. Survivor of an auto crash in which he lost an eye, Davis converted to Judaism, supported Jack Kennedy's White House bid, and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1972 Davis supported Richard Nixon's scandal-plagued re-election, and appeared on Norman Lear's pioneering TV sitcom "All in the Family," kissing the show's resident bigot, Archie Bunker. (Castro closing night, 7/29, director Sam Pollard in person)

"The Mossad" Duki Dror explores the history of Israel's pioneering spy agency, created in 1949 to protect the Jewish state from its enemies in one of the world's most dangerous neighborhoods. Features interviews with former Mossad chiefs who reveal once-sensitive information about stuff spies do that governments usually disavow. (7/26)

"Scaffolding" Matan Yair directs this Israeli/Polish co-production on the coming of age of an Israeli teen whose high school education is shaped by his dad and high school literature teacher. In Hebrew with English subtitles. (7/26)

"Winter Hunt" German drama about a young girl who holds an old Nazi and his adult daughter hostage in the woods. The powerful climax involves lingering issues from a century of Holocaust history. In German with English subtitles. (7/26)

"The Devil We Know" Kristen Lazure and Stephanie Soechtig's documentary exposes the Dupont chemical corporation's production of Teflon, which keeps our pans from sticking but also has deadly side effects, at its plant in Parkersburg, W. Va. (7/27)

"The End of Meat" German docmaker Marc Pierschel finds future culinary alternatives for vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians. In German and English, with English subtitles. (7/27)

"Netizens" Cynthia Lowen explores emerging Internet civil rights issues through the experiences of three women whose lives have been upended by cyber-harassment. Lowen and one of her subjects, Anita Sarkeesian, answer questions following the screening. (7/27)

"Science Fair" Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster take us behind the scenes with kids attending a science & engineering fair as they interact with adult professionals and contemplate their own lives and careers. (7/27)

"The Sentence" Rudy Valdez tracks the consequences of mandatory minimum-sentence laws on his sister, a young mother whose boyfriend was a drug dealer. Cindy Valdez got a 15-year federal prison sentence. The film delves into the impact on her young family. (7/27)

"Roll Red Roll" Nancy Schwartzman examines "the culture of rape" in the case of a Steubenville, OH teen assaulted by members of the high school football team. Director Nancy Schwartzman appears in person for a post-film Q&A. (7/28)

"Crossroads" North Carolina high school lacrosse team gets a Jewish coach. (7/28)

"Satan & Adam" Director V. Scott Balcerek shows the unusual bonds that developed in 1986 when a blond Jewish kid happened upon an African American street musician. The story takes a series of unusual twists and turns. Director and one of the subjects appear in post-screening Q&A. (7/28)

"Promise at Dawn" Adaptation of Romain Gary novel by writer-director Eric Barbier stars Charlotte Gainsbourg as Gary's single mother. In French with English subtitles. (7/28)

"The Museum" Director Ran Tai tells the story of the Israel Museum, an institution that houses many artifacts relating to the nation's founding and struggles to survive. (7/29)

"Simon & Theodore" Director Mikael Buch takes us on a long night's journey in the company of a man and a teenage boy who share their problems and needs. (7/29)

"The Last Suit" Pablo Solarz tells the tale of an 88-year-old tailor who makes a suit for a friend who helped him survive the Holocaust. (7/29)

"Naila and the Uprising" Julia Bacha presents the story of a Palestinian women's movement. (7/29)

More info: www.sfjff.org.

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