Jesus Christ Superstar
"When I was a little boy, I was scared to death of Jesus Christ." So begins King of the Jews, Jay Rosenblatt's latest found-footage excavation of childhood, myth, and memory. Divided into three distinctly beautiful chapters, the 18-minute film goes beyond one Jewish child's relationship with Jersey City (as the Rosenblatt family referred to J.C.) to eloquently suggest that the Holocaust (and perhaps World War II itself) was the direct result of the centuries-long propagation of the story that "the Jews killed Christ."
King of the Jews pushed a few people's buttons at its Sundance premiere -- in part because of its attempt to reappropriate Jesus as a Jew -- but that didn't faze Rosenblatt. "Because of the troubled relationship that many Jews have with Jesus, the film has the potential to be controversial," says the award-winning S.F. filmmaker, who scored a festival and TV hit with his previous short experimental documentary, Human Remains. "People who take the Bible and the New Testament literally might have some issue as well. As with all my work, there will be some people who tune in to my wavelength who will find this exciting and maybe provocative in a good way. And there'll be people who won't get it and might find it provocative in a bad way. I didn't make it to offend anyone, but I can't control that. It depends on what your baggage is."
King of the Jews aims to shift Jesus' legacy from guilt and retribution to healing. "I think there's been a lot of damage done in the name of Jesus, and this goes against the very teachings of Jesus himself," Rosenblatt says. "I hope the film cuts through a lot of the misperceptions and lies about Jesus and allows people to focus on what he really did stand for: forgiveness and love." Making the film was indeed cathartic for Rosenblatt, who learned that Jesus was Jewish while watching King of Kings at Radio City Music Hall at age 7. King of the Jews screens Thursday, Feb. 24, in a Cinematheque double bill at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts with a sneak preview of Erin Saks' Jerusalem Syndrome.
The Shooting Gallery, a 115-employee New York-based company better known as a producer than a distributor, stakes out a screen at the UA Galaxy for 12 weeks beginning Friday, Feb. 25, with a new indie film opening every other Friday. (The only precedent for this gambit I can recall is Merchant-Ivory's two-month Satyajit Ray retrospective at the Embarcadero Center Cinema a few years ago.) Although Polo and Heineken are picking up the prints-and-advertising tab, the "Shooting Gallery Film Series" is still a heckuva risky and ambitious project: The six-film package unspools in some 20 cities around the country at the same time. ... Speaking of indie film/lifestyle accessory marriages, the Dockers Classically Independent Film Festival will absolutely, positively not be returning for a third year. Dockers has also pulled the plug on its sponsorship of the S.F. International Film Festival. ... EXPN (ESPN's action, sports, and lifestyle Web site) has committed to a film fest in the evenings after the X Games events on Aug. 20 and 21. Shorts of all kinds will likely fill the bill, with screenings held at a raw space rather than a traditional theater. ... Raise a glass in awe and admiration to the immortal Luis Buñuel, who would have been 100 on Feb. 22.
Michael Fox is host ofIndependent View, which airs Fridays at 10:30 p.m. on KQED Channel 9.