While some Jewish film festivals around the country often use older films or films playing at nearby theaters, the Ventura County Jewish Film Festival will show five new films never seen in Ventura County -- as well as host their stars.
The festival starts on March 10 at 7 p.m. with the opening night film, "The Aryan Couple." In the World War II thriller based on a true story, Oscar winner Martin Landau plays a Hungarian businessman who is forced to make a terrible pact with Himmler and Eichmann so he and his family can escape certain death. Landau and director-producer John Daly ("The Last Emperor") will have a Q & A after the screening.
On March 12, another kind of star will be at the 8 p.m. screening of "Watermarks," the documentary about the champion women swimmers of the legendary Jewish sports club, Hakoah Vienna, founded in 1909. The star of Israeli director Yaron Zilberman's first film, 87-year-old champion swimmer Annie Lampl, will be available afterward for questions.
Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Howard Rosenberg and Holocaust scholar Jim Lichti will host a panel discussion on March 13, following the 9:30 a.m. screening of "Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust," a film that examines Hollywood's complex responses to the horrors of Nazi Germany.
There's also a program for the younger set. On March 13 at noon, L.A. director Ari Sandel will introduce the minimusical spoof, "West Bank Story," (as discussed in the Feb. 4 Jewish Journal), followed by a showing of the animated Steven Spielberg movie-musical, "An American Tail."
The festival closes at 7 p.m. with Israeli director Eytan Fox's drama, "Walk on Water," (reviewed Feb. 25 in The Journal), in which a Mossad hitman assigned to kill a Nazi war criminal befriends his grandchildren.
All films will be shown at Meister Hall, Temple Beth Torah, 7620 Foothill Road, Ventura. For more information about the festival, call (805) 647-4181 or visit www.cipcug.org/minkin/TBT/FilmFest/filmfest2005.html.
Ivor Davis lives in Ventura and writes for The New York Times and Los Angeles Times syndicates.