So many film festivals are starting up right now. The Arab American Film Festival started last night. Docfest starts tonight. And the Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival (aka Jewfest South. Who, BTW, have just entered the world of blogging) starts tomorrow. Just to let you know my loyalties, I'll be spending most of my time at Docfest. Hope the other festivals aren't too jealous.
But this post is about SVJFF, because this is the first year I became a patron of the festival (as opposed to just a fan). So I got to go to the pre-festival patron event last night. There was good food (really good food), and it was cool to hang out with my festival friends there, and the highlight was a secret film not playing in the festival. Incidentally, this was my 365th movie of 2009 (not the earliest in the year I've reached 365, but only because Docfest used to start earlier).
That film was EL BRINDIS (literally, THE TOAST but translated as TO LIFE. Jews get that.) It's a Chilean movie, about a tight-knit Jewish community in Valparaiso. Isidoro is a kind, beloved old man, who decides to go through his Bar Mitzvah at the age of 80 (not too strange, my grandpa has actually said he'll have a second Bar Mitzvah at 113). His not-really-Jewish daughter (the result of an affair in his past) comes to visit, and is immediately a fish out of water. She knows nothing of the prayer over the wine on sabbath, so when the glass is passed to her, she simply raises it and says "Salud!" (the traditional Spanish toast, literally meaning "Health!"). The one who treats her the nicest is David the rabbi who is way too cool for the town (and so he's planning on moving away). In fact, he treats her a little too nice. That whole affair should've either been removed or gone somewhere. David's behavior has already riled the community leader, and there's some pretty obvious tension (that also didn't go anywhere).
The camerawork is beautiful, the acting is good, and there are quite a lot of individual notes that I liked (without giving anything away, I did like the ending, although the big twist was completely predictable). But there's a lot of tangents in the story that could either be fleshed out or dropped entirely. Not bad, not perfect.
As I said, I'll miss most of the first two weeks of the festival, but should be around for most of the rest. As for films I've already seen and can vouch for, check out THE WEDDING SONG (my review), FOR MY FATHER (CQ audience award winner. My review), and LOST ISLANDS (my review)