Jewish Journal

‘Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg’ — Come See the Picture Shows

by Tom Tugend

Posted on Apr. 16, 2009 at 12:56 am

Patrick Swayze (right) as a Jewish defense attorney in "Jump"

Patrick Swayze (right) as a Jewish defense attorney in "Jump"

Some 30 feature and short movies will explore the Jewish experience, across time and space, at the fourth Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival, April 23-30, at Beverly Hills, Westside, Encino, Pasadena and West Hills theaters.

The eclectic menu includes celebrations of such past American Jewish icons as radio’s Molly Goldberg and publisher Hank Greenspun, a look at Israeli lifestyles, and an evening of “Kosher Films & Art.”

Festival director Hilary Helstein has also included films that touch on the Holocaust and European anti-Semitism. However, she has aimed for less-explored perspectives, such as the forerunner of the Shoah and the aftermath as seen by post-war generations.

One such film is “Jump,” the opening night event on April 23.

“Where I Stand: The Hank Greenspun
Story,” Hank Greenspun in a rare relaxed

Set against the background of virulent Austrian anti-Semitism in the late 1920s, director-writer Joshua Sinclair tells the actual story of Philippe Halsman, who was put on trial for the murder of his father, before immigrating to the United States and becoming a legendary LIFE magazine photographer.

Sinclair, who honed his writing skills on “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis” and “Cry, The Beloved Country,” draws intense performances from Ben Silverstone as Halsman and Patrick Swayze as his Jewish defense attorney.

Other noteworthy films include:

“At Home in Utopia” explores a time and place, now seemingly another world, when Jewish garment workers left their Lower East Side tenements to build a cooperative apartment complex in the wide-open spaces of the Bronx.

The Coops
“At Home in Utopia” traces the
history of the United Workers
Cooperative Colony - a.k.a.
“The Coops”

Most of the leaders were ardent — though later disillusioned — communists, who believed that they could build a more egalitarian, non-racist and just America, and they were ready to put their bodies and liberties on the line to realize their vision.

These so-called Coops were the first housing to welcome black families; each had a large library in the basement and produced a new generation of idealists and intellectuals.

“Utopia,” by Michal Goldman and Ellen Brodsky, will screen April 27 at the Laemmle Music Hall. On April 28, PBS station KCET will also air the documentary at 10 p.m.

“Not Idly By: Peter Bergson, America and the Holocaust” documents the agonizing efforts by Bergson, a militant Palestinian Jew, to arouse America in the early 1940s to the Nazi extermination of Europe’s Jews.

Not Idly By
“Not Idly By: Peter Bergson, America and
the Holocaust” documents the efforts of
Bergson, a militant Palestinian Jew

Based largely on televised interviews with Bergson decades later, the documentary chronicles his rare triumphs, but mainly his inability to break through the don’t-make-waves mentality of the Jewish establishment, hostility of the U.S. State Department and political caution of President Roosevelt.

Director Pierre Sauvage (“Weapons of the Spirit”), noting current threats facing the Jewish people, observed “How can we meet the challenges of the future, if we don’t examine the failures of the past?”

“Not Idly By” screens April 26, but the film is not the only entry in what seems to be a rediscovery of Bergson and of American inaction in the face of the Holocaust.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center will shortly release a film on the same topic, and Bernard Weinraub’s play “The Accomplices,” earlier seen at the Fountain Theatre, gets a new run at the Odyssey Theatre, April 25-June 14.

Sauvage will lead a discussion with the audience after the 2 p.m. matinee on May 3.

“Praying in Her Own Voice,” the
courageous struggle of the religious
group, “Women of the Wall”

“Where I Stand: The Hank Greenspun Story” celebrates the adventures of the larger-than-life crusading Las Vegas publisher, convicted arms runner to embattled Israeli in 1948 and nemesis of Sen. Joe McCarthy. The film by Scott Goldstein is narrated by Anthony Hopkins.

The festival, which will also include panel discussions, is presented by the Westside Jewish Community Center, with support by The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance.

For a list of all festival presentations, their dates, times and locations, visit this article at jewishjournal.com.


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