San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 37, Week 1

At this intense moment for America, this film festival balances the political and the escapist.

In its big 37th year, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival again brings a baker’s-dozen-plus of delicious celluloid (well, mostly digital) noshes to the Castro Theatre for two weeks and change. Not to be confused with the 1925 film Body and Soul that played in the Silent Film Festival last month is Robert Philipson’s Body and Soul: An American Bridge. It’s a history of the Jewish-composed jazz standard of that name — a song rivaled only by “Stardust” both in terms of how many times it’s been recorded and for sheer lyrical melancholia — and how it helped to bridge the cultural gap between Jews and Blacks in 20th-century America.

Not especially loved when originally released in 1976 — Vincent Canby called it “clumsy, tasteless, and self-righteous” — Stuart Rosenberg’s Voyage of the Damned applies the all-star disaster-movie template to the true story of European Jews escaping Hitler who were turned away from Cuba, Canada, and (surprise, surprise) the United States. Meanwhile, Tzachi Schiff’s documentary More Alive than Dead looks at the e’er-so-problematic legacy of the founder of psychoanalysis and aficionado of cigars-that-totally-do-not-represent-big-juicy-cocks, honest. And in Job Gosschalk’s Moos, an adorkable young Jewish-Dutch woman faces the Jazz Singer-y dilemma of caring for her ailing father or pursuing her musical dreams.

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 37, Week 1
Opens Thursday at the Castro Theatre.

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