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Everything is Illuminated

EverythingisIlluminated1Jewish Film Fest offers an insider’s glimpse at life in Israel

These days, film festivals are aplenty. There’s one being hawked every few months (or so it seems). So how do you plow through the weeds to pluck a gem of a festival? In the case of this month’s latest offering, you won’t have to do much hemming and hawing. GT can fully endorse the following festival fare: On Sunday, March 11, audiences will be whisked overseas to the heart of Israel, which serves as the backdrop for five powerful films offered in the 7th Annual Temple Beth El Jewish Film Festival.

Hand-selected by a committee from Aptos’ Jewish temple, the films represent an array of stories (both fiction and non-fiction) that concern Jewish people. Although the festival obviously has a Jewish focus, organizers encourage all people to attend for the educational and entertainment values that the fest will yield.

EverythingisIlluminated2In a large room at Cabrillo College, each of the movies will have the capacity to play to an audience of 250. First on the lineup is Inner Tour, a documentary that begins at 11 a.m. While this film is slow, it’s also enlightening. The story follows a group of Palestinians who board a tour bus to visit Israel. (This is the only way that they’re allowed in, via a tour.) Each person is there for a different reason, and each comes from a different perspective and background. But all are there with one thing in common: This is the place that they’ve been told is their homeland, and for that reason alone, they come to see this strange land that they are forbidden from otherwise being a part of. We follow them as they drive past a kibbutz (a Jewish communal living area), by fields, as they splash in the ocean and as they become acquainted—as visitors—to this place they call “home.” One man says that he never imagined he’d walk among Jews—a Jew killed his father, he explains.

Second on the bill is Lost World of the Holyland, playing at 1 p.m. This film is an interesting take on the endangered species in Israel. Even with all the chaos in that part of the world, there are still those who are dedicated to this important subject.

EverythingisIlluminated3Next up is Live and Become, which plays at 2:30 p.m. Live and Become will surely tug at your heartstrings as the filmmaker follows Shlomo, a boy from a Sudanese refugee camp who is relocated to Israel. While the tale is fiction, it stirs up thoughts about identity and belonging.

Fourth on the play list is the movie, The Children’s House, which airs at 5 p.m. This documentary covers the fascinating journey of a handful of Jewish people who are erecting an emotionally charged art show at the Tel Aviv Museum.

Here, in this film, we step into the lives of these artists as they collaborate on a mind-bending project about their experiences growing up in the kibbutz movement, a strange sort of communal living where children see their instructors much more than they ever see their parents.

The filmmaker has spliced in footage from the 1950s, black and white film of young children being ushered around, almost like they are herded animals in a zoo, rather than youth who simply long to spend some time with their parents. These parent/child bonding sessions are very limited each week. Instead, the children live, shower and learn in communal settings.

The Children’s House dives into the mostly painful memories that these artists have from their childhoods. It’s fascinating to watch how nearly each person interviewed has some sort of “mommy issues,” to say the least. As newborns, they are immediately brought into the kibbutz nursery where their mothers nurse them for a month or so. From there, educators raise them. They are, for the most part, separated from their parents and siblings. The impact of this is seen as one man, who is now a father, explains how it is of the utmost importance for him to put his children to bed at night and wake them in the morning. The Children’s House is a fascinating look at the rare experience that these artists encountered as children.

Finally, the closing film is Nina’s Tragedies, which plays at 7 p.m. The full feature-length movie is a delicate story that indulges in many things: love, romance, death, lust, family and a gamut of life experiences. This is the type of movie that you might find in the Sundance Film Festival. It’s a small, simple, but also an emotionally complicated and endearing coming-of-age tale.

EverythingisIlluminated4In Nina’s Tragedies, 14-year-old Nadav serves as the narrator. The film begins on the day of his father’s funeral and then it flashes back to all the events leading up to this funeral. The flashback begins with a fight that Nadav’s aunt Nina (his mother’s sister) and her husband Haimon are having. It’s one of those blustery, painful, end-it-all fights. They storm off. A few weeks later they get married. The newlywed life suits them.

Meanwhile, Nadav and an older friend of his enjoy playing peeping Tom on his aunt. Until one day, when Nina finds out that her beloved husband, Haimon, has been killed. Nadav is sent to live with Nina and keep watch over her. Meanwhile, Nina has developed confusing feelings for the very man that notified her of her husband’s death. As Nina moves on from Haimon’s death, she is tortured with “seeing” him around town; and she’s also tortured by her own inner monologue that tromps on the joy she’s sharing with her new love. Nadav trudges through his heartache as if he’s walking through deadly quicksand, as he watches his aunt fall for a new man. The movie is punctuated with little laughs here, some tears there and some sweet surprises along the way. While all the films at the fest are sure-fire winners, Nina’s Tragedies gets our Oscar for Best Picture.

The 7th Annual Temple Beth El Jewish Film Festival is on Sunday, March 11 at Cabrillo College in Forum 450. Inner Tour plays at 11 a.m., Lost World of the Holyland runs at 1 p.m., Live and Become is at 2:30 p.m., The Children’s House is at 5 p.m. and Nina’s Tragedies is at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8/door, $7/advance, $25/for four films. For more information, visit TBEaptos.org or santacruzhillel.org.
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