January 29, 1998
Love, Jewish-American Style
Despite the abundance of Jewish filmmakers in the entertainmentindustry, Jewish Americans fall somewhere ahead of Asian-Americansand well below Anglo- and African-Americans as a group represented oncelluloid. And no one is more aware of that than film historian andauthor Harry Medved, whose "Cinema Beshert: Meeting Your Mate at theMovies" film series at the University of Judaism focuses on love,Jewish-American style.
Medved, 36, got the idea for the program after a screening of"Crossing Delancey" two years ago attracted a high quotient ofsingles. "An impromptu social hour followed...and we realized, what aconcept," says Medved, who promptly created Cinema Beshert "to showsome great films about Jewish single life and invite filmmakers tospeak on Judaism and the dating scene, [followed by] informalmatchmaking after the screening."
The UJ has been delightfully surprised by Cinema Beshert'ssuccess. For a recent screening of Julie Davis' "I Love You! Don'tTouch Me!" -- the tale of a 28-year-old neurotic Jewish girl's searchfor a nice Jewish boy -- 110 students attended despite littlepublicity.
Since then, Medved's program, which appeals to the twenty- tothirtysomething set, has taken off. Upcoming films include "AmericanMatchmaker," a 1940 Yiddish-language romance; "Carpati," a compellingdocumentary produced by Emmy-winner David Notowitz, who retracesJewish heritage in the Ukraine; and the ever-popular "Diner," BarryLevinson's 1982 directing debut, which launched the careers of Jewishtalent (Steve Guttenberg, Paul Reiser and Ellen Barkin, amongothers).
A scene from"Carpati," screening Feb. 22. Producer David Notowitz is scheduled toappear.
"These films are not only about people looking for soul mates butlooking for soul...young Jews returning to tradition," says Medved.
Adding zing to these Sunday-evening screenings is the presence ofartists to discuss their involvement in the films. Past guests haveincluded director Paul Mazursky, composer Elmer Bernstein, and actorElliott Gould. Among the upcoming guests: Screenwriter Robert Avrechwill speak about "A Stranger Among Us."
"We also include some wonderful short subjects unavailableanywhere else," says Medved, "including Lewis Schoenbrun's 'TheGolem' and David Frankel's Oscar-winning short, 'Dear Diary.'"
In the future, Medved envisions bringing Cinema Beshert to othercities.
In the broader sense, he would also like to see Hollywood depictmore positive images of Jewish women.
"It's so rare when you stumble upon a sexy Jewish female in afeature film, like Alicia Silverstone in 'Clueless.' That wasdirected by a Jewish woman, but I'm looking forward to the day whenwe'll see [positive Jewish female characters] in a film directed by aJewish man."
For now, Medved is content to see the romance on screen at hisfilm series stimulating some real-life beshert off screen. "Severalcouples are dating as a result of this class. My only request is thatI get invited to their weddings."
Cinema Beshert: Meeting Your Mate at the Movies screens onSundays, from 6:45 to 9:45 p.m., Feb. 1 through March 15. For moreinformation, contact the University of Judaism at (310) 476-9777,ext. 246.