Monday, April 27, 2015

Comedies brighten this year's Windsor Jewish fest

The Windsor Jewish Film Festival (WJFF) has heard the complaints and is responding in kind, or with humour, as the case may be. The venerable festival, now in its 13th year, kicks off tonight and runs until Thursday featuring 10 films. Not that there were a lot of complaints per se, but there were a few mentions last year of the fact the festival’s lineup was a tad on the dark side as, well, naturally befits many of the films depicting the Holocaust and Jewish-Palestinian experience. So the festival’s search committee turned to find some lighter fare. “We’re conscious that it’s a pretty dark program so we really looked for comedies but they’re not that easy to come by,” spokesman Stuart Selby says. Aren’t some of the world’s greatest comedians Jewish? True, says Selby, a retired University of Windsor prof. “There’s some documentaries about Jewish comedians but we didn’t select those because after seeing them they weren’t that funny,” he notes ironically…….. Still, the committee came up with two comedies and they both look like a hoot. One is Hunting Elephants (Rashef Levy, 2013) starring Patrick Stewart (picture above). It’s about a group of old timers in a retirement home. They’re veterans of the Israeli underground, a group whose activities date to the 1940s and helped forge the modern Israeli state. Using their old combat skills they set up a heist to avenge a wrongdoing against a 12-year-old’s father. “I found it really funny despite the fact that it really employs a lot of old folks’ stereotypical stuff,” Selby says noting he himself is around, ahem, said age. But, he adds, “it’s just not stupid stuff, there’s a family story in it.” Another comedy is Serial (Bad) Weddings (Philippe de Chauveron, 2014) a French box office hit. The movie plays on racial stereotypes and the fitting comeuppance for said misdeeds, showing that no one race has a monopoly on prejudice…….. The opening night film (tonight at 8) is 24 Days (Alexandre Arcady, 2014), poignant in light of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. It’s a thriller based on a true story of a kidnapping of a young Jewish man in a Parisian suburb. “It’s partly a police procedural and it’s partly a family story,” Selby says. The kidnappers targeted Ilan Halimi because he was Jewish and “if he’s Jewish he must be rich” …….Other films at the festival include Defiant Requiem (Doug Shultz, 2012), about an upcoming Czech composer during World War II, himself a prisoner, who led a death camp classical chorus performing Verdi’s Requiem. There’s also the charming 1975 Hester Street (Joan Micklin Silver), staring Carol Kane, about the New York Lower East Side Jewish immigrant experience. Following opening night, films will be screened at 2, 5 and 8 PM on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at Devonshire Mall’s Cineplex Odeon. For more information go to the Jewish Community Centre’s website Tickets are $10 cash only. 

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