Jewish Film Festival: Distills Vodka, The IDF, And More

Five Philadelphia Premiere Screenings will highlight the best of independent Jewish Documentary Cinema today. The Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival continues its 32nd Season with its acclaimed Documentaries & Dialogue Series, screening documentary films from the UK, Israel, Austria, Germany, and the United States.


About the Series:

In the true Jewish and humanist spirit, the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival’s Documentaries & Dialogue Series encourages honest, pluralistic discourse across borders, religions, and political affiliations. Audience members look forward to dialogue and sharing challenging ideas and viewpoints with each other and the special guest speaker at each screening. This season, audiences can look forward to additional event features like pre-film shorts, a vodka tasting, and a performance by The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre.

How To Re-Establish A Vodka Empire

The Prince Music Theater
Monday, January 7th, 7:30 PM
Director: Dan Edelstyn,
United Kingdom, 2010, 75 minutes

London filmmaker Dan Edelstyn takes us on a whimsical journey through his Jewish family’s Ukrainian past and his efforts to be part of the Ukrainian future. While attempting to connect with his Jewish roots, Edelstyn retraces the extraordinary history of his charismatic grandmother, only to discover the struggling vodka distillery to which he is heir. In a burst of foolish optimism, he resolves to revive the distillery and revitalize the fortunes of his family’s Ukrainian town. With adventurous style and artistic flair, Vodka Empire interweaves present day documentary, rare archival footage, animation, and performance art to bring this alcohol-soaked story to life.
Preceded by short film Woody Before Allen.

Post-Screening Vodka Tasting with Directors Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell

Soldier/Citizen

The Gershman Y on Monday, January 14th, 7:30 PM
Director: Silvina Landsman
Israel, 2012, 68 minutes

A dingy classroom, a looming deadline, skeptical students, and an exasperated instructor: how will Jewish democracy play itself out? Soldier/Citizen is a gritty, bare bones documentary that follows a group of soldiers studying for their civics test to attain their high school diplomas. Israeli civics in the classroom, however, is as volatile as it is in the region. Discussion of the meaning of Israeli democracy instigates old wounds, lingering stereotypes, and soul-searching arguments among these colorful young Israelis. This fascinating fly-on-the-wall documentary is an eye-opening primer on the mélange of ambivalence, reaction, and resilience of current Israeli opinion. Director Silvina Landsmann immerses her audience in the classroom as the students reveal a rarely examined facet of Israeli society. Special mention at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival.
Guest Speakers: Director Silvina Landsmann and Ira Brenner, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Jefferson Medical College

Six Million and One

The Gershman Y on Monday, January 21st, 7:30 PMDirector: David Fisher
Israel, Austria, Germany, USA, 2011, 93 minutes
In Hebrew, German, and English w/ English subtitles

When four siblings discover their late father’s memoir, they uncover a past defined by the Holocaust and marred by sacrifice, struggle, and guilt. When confronted by such a haunting legacy, three siblings walk away, appalled by the idea of dabbling with demons from their past. Yet director David Fisher refuses to afford his brothers and sister the privilege of complacency. Instead, he faces his father’s legacy head-on, interviewing American soldiers, Holocaust tour and museum curators, European citizens, and his own family. He takes his strong-willed siblings on a trip of a lifetime in hopes of bringing his family back together after tragedy. Six Million and One documents the Fisher family’s journey towards seeking and finding meaning in the history that shaped their existence.

Guest Speaker: Bea Hollander-Goldfein, PhD, Director of Transcending Trauma Project, The Council for Relationships

Joe Papp in Five Acts

The Gershman Y on Monday, January 28th, 7:30 PM Director: Tracie Holder, Karen Thorsen
USA, 2010, 82 minutes

From Hair to A Chorus Line, Joe Papp’s Public Theater influenced several revolutions in modern American theater. Born Joseph Papirofsky to Russian immigrant parents, Papp abandoned the blue-collar world of his upbringing for the burgeoning bohemian theater scene of NYC. He founded the Public Theater, dedicated to bringing quality plays to all people. Staging free, outdoor, and sometimes mobile productions of Shakespeare without a permit, Papp was a true pioneer. Best remembered for challenging the likes of Robert Moses, Papp doggedly took on the establishment, determined to defy convention and overturn societal stereotypes. Papp’s unique take on Shakespeare and other classic plays also helped to launch the careers of
A-list actors including Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Christopher Walken. Punctuated by vintage footage of legendary performances, this fascinating doc is a must-see.

Preceded by short film Not Your Time and a performance
by The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre
Guest Speakers: Directors Tracie Holder and Karen Thorsen

Mendelsohn’s Incessant Visions

The Gershman Y on Monday, February 4th, 7:30 PM
Director: Dukie Dror
Israel, 2011, 72 minutes

Even from the trenches of WWI, Erich Mendelsohn never gave up on his dreams. Drawing architectural renderings and sending his abstract sketches to Louise, a young cellist who he hoped would someday become his wife, Mendelsohn was determined to become Germany’s most accomplished architect. After the war, alongside contemporaries Albert Einstein and Frank Lloyd Wright, Erich and Louise seek refuge in each other’s hearts, with Louise determined to help launch Erich’s career. Their marriage, both creative and familial, blossoms and evolves until Nazism takes hold and the Mendelsohn’s, like many other German Jewish intellectuals, are swept up in the frenzy of the mass Jewish exodus. Through Erich’s 1,500 letters and Louise’s deeply personal memoir, Duki Dror breathes life into some of the most beautiful works and captivating characters in the development of modern art.

Guest Speaker: Witold Rybczynski, Author and Emeritus Professor of Urbanism, University of Pennsylvania

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