Another French film, Disparus, is one of those paranoid, plot-heavy Eurothrillers that is of particular interest to people who can't get enough of the Stalinist-Trotskyist squabbling that made Paris so much fun in the 1930s. Another disappointment, the Buenos Aires-set Waiting for the Messiah, has the interlinked stories and urban cacophony of Amores Perros but without its energy and direction. The central character is a slacker with a vague interest in camcorders, but the film's biggest selling point is its glimpse into Argentina's Jewish community. Israeli veteran Amos Gitai (the subject of a current PFA retrospective) achieves a similarly meandering quality in his war memoir, Kippur. Gitai replicates the overriding taste of war -- bone-deep fatigue -- but adds almost no historical or political reflection.
Documentary connoisseurs are blessed with an appearance by New Yorker Alan Berliner in conjunction with a retrospective of his brilliantly sound-designed, deeply personal films (Intimate Stranger, Nobody's Business). Trembling Before G-d, the incendiary documentary about lesbian and gay Orthodox Jews, closes the festival with a pointed commentary on the failure of Judaism to reconcile the past and the present. That, in a phrase, is the Jewish challenge -- and the Jewish Film Festival's raison d'être.