Sunday, August 4, 2013

Jason goes to SFJFF--Tuesday, July 30

I'm falling a little behind in this blog. Time to recover before I spend a week watching the films is Palo Alto.

Last Tuesday I was back at the Castro for the Centerpiece presentation of THE ATTACK by Ziad Doueiri. It's a story of Arab assimilation into Israel, being the "model Arab," and how things can fall apart so easily. Amin Jaafari is a Palestinian, an Israeli, and a widely respected and admired surgeon in Tel Aviv. In fact, as the movie opens he's getting a humanitarian award--the first Arab to receive this particular award ever. Then when a suicide bomber goes off in Tel Aviv he springs into action saving as many of the victims as he can (many women and children.) He's still a hero...until evidence appears linking his wife to the attack. He can't believe it. When her body is found with the lower half blown away--typical of suicide bombers--he still can't believe it. When the police take him away, torture him, show him evidence that she was involved...he still can't believe it. And without giving away too many spoilers, I'll just say his own investigation leads him to a very different perspective on his (previously) comfortable Tel Aviv lifestyle. It's a challenging movie--both with the unflinching scenes of violence and its aftermath, but in the societal questions it brings up. It doesn't give answers, it leaves that to the audience. But it does a great job of framing both sides of the issue.

And then I stuck around for AFTERMATH, a controversial film from Poland about anti-Semitism. Polish-American Józef Kalina returns home from Chicago after his dad passes away. He's back in his small Polish town for the first time in 20 years. Things have changed, and nothing more than how hated his brother Franciszek is. Seems Franciszek has been engaging in some behavior that has pissed off the town. He shrugs it off, and eventually we learn what he has done. He has dug up stones that were used to pave an old road. Specifically, he has dug up old gravestones. More specifically, he dug up old Jewish gravestones, that the Nazis dug up in the week that they occupied the town during the war. At first Józef doesn't understand why Franciszek is putting himself up for so much abuse just for those "Yids." And Franciszek can't really explain, other than he felt compelled to do it just out of human dignity. He's made a small memorial in his field out of the gravestones. As Józef starts to join in on the project he also starts digging up the history of the town. And in particular, their shameful history towards the Jews during WWII. Not to give too much away, but it quickly becomes apparent that the worst atrocities in town weren't committed by the Germans but by the locals. And the Kalina family was heavily involved. Another challenging movie, and one that's remarkable not just for its message about troubling history, but about the casual anti-Semitism that still persists. A friends pointed out that Poland is often characterized as "Anti-Semitism without any Jews." According to AFTERMATH, that's a pretty accurate description.

Total Running Time: 209 minutes
My Total Minutes: 335,574
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