The Chosen

The new director of the S.F. Jewish Film Festival, a new book on Hitchcock's S.F. filming days, and L.A.'s silent movie king comes to town

The S.F. Jewish Film Festival's new executive director, effective Jan. 1, is Seattle-based arts management consultant Don Adams. According to Dan Wohlfeiler, president of the SFJFF board, "He has two decades of experience with media arts organizations of all sizes around the country, and a real commitment to social change and to the role arts can play in that." In an e-mail interview, Adams told me, "I've worked with just about every leading independent media organization in the U.S. I would say my greatest strength is in building strong community cultural organizations. I've already met many people who've expressed a deep connection with the Festival, even seeing it as their primary communal affiliation. I'll do everything I can to deepen that sense of connection throughout the year."

While Adams knows how to maximize the effectiveness of media arts institutions, he's not an expert on Jewish cinema. (Of course, there aren't many people as steeped in the subject as outgoing Executive Director Janis Plotkin, who helmed the fest for 21 years, the first dozen with founder Deborah Kaufman.) Says Wohlfeiler, "Clearly, Don will get help in programming. But he definitely shares our vision for cutting-edge programming." For his part, Adams recognizes that he has a standard to uphold. "San Francisco's Jewish Film Festival is known and admired throughout the land as the premiere showcase for Jewish media, the one that's unafraid to present bold, challenging, thought-provoking programming. This will not change under my direction."

VertigoAaron Leventhal, co-author with fellow East Bay resident Jeff Kraft of Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock's San Francisco, discovered what many had before him: Hitch concocted myths with the same enthusiasm that he devised shots. According to the director, the owner of the Santa Rosa house chosen for Shadow of a Doubt was so proud that he painted it prior to production -- ruining the lived-in look. "So," Hitch told François Truffaut, "we had to go in and get his permission to paint it dirty again." Pure apocrypha, according to an eyewitness, Leventhal says. "We met a woman who lived in the house -- she was 8 at the time -- and 50 years later she's still smarting about it." The duo had such fun delving into Hitch's Bay Area-shot films that they're mulling another book relating geography and the movies. Explains Leventhal, "The treasure hunt, the detective work, walking the streets, watching the movies scene by scene -- that makes the research so engaging."

Hearts and MindsBerkeley in the Sixties, Mark Kitchell's riveting, revelatory, Oscar-nominated 1990 documentary -- just out on DVD -- would make an excellent gift. The DVD version includes a lengthy deleted sequence about black power and the rise of the Black Panthers. "Bobby Seale gave us a great interview, and this scene includes a Platonic dialogue about grains of sand and a rip-roaring story about a run-in with a racist Oakland cop," Kitchell explains. "It's bravura storytelling, and I hated to cut that material out. But it was necessary to be disciplined and not wander so far off topic. We came to realize that all our tangents -- the Panthers, the counterculture, the women's movement -- had to turn on their relationship to the student radical movement." The S.F. filmmaker is currently embarking on a six-hour history of the environmental movement.

Never Weaken"When's the last time you saw a ventriloquist live onstage before your movie?" Charlie Lustman asks. The fun-loving proprietor of L.A.'s Silent Movie Theatre has assembled a touring show of live entertainment and comic shorts that kicks off this weekend at the Castro (see Night & Day, Page 35, for details). The bill includes 90-year-old organist Bob Mitchell, who accompanied silent films back in the day. (San Franciscans are regularly treated to vintage flicks with music performed by the Club Foot Orchestra, the Alloy Orchestra, and Beth Custer, but live accompaniment is a big deal elsewhere.) The lineup also features Keaton, Lloyd, and Chaplin two-reelers, but no Fatty Arbuckle, who was charged with rape and manslaughter when an actress died in his S.F. hotel room in 1921. Arbuckle was exonerated after three trials, but his career was history. "I believe somebody else did it and he got the blame," Lustman says. "But it was his party, and anybody who runs the party is to blame if something happens." Keep that in mind this holiday season.

 
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