Friday, November 20, 2009

Jason goes to Jewfest South--Sunday, Nov. 15

Back at the Camera 12 for two more shows in the Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival last Sunday.

First up was the historical drama ALTALENA, exposing a slice of Israeli history I never knew. In 1948, after Israel declared independence, most of the paramilitary groups were absorbed into the IDF. Among them were the Irgun, headed by Menachim Begin (who I only knew was Prime Minister of Israel when I was a kid). The integration was less than smooth, and tensions simmered, culminating in the Altalena incident. The Altalena was a cargo ship smuggling weapons into Israel, organized by the Irgun and Begin. New Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion insisted Begin hand over the weapons to the government, who would distribute them to the IDF. Begin insisted on priority for the former Irgun soldiers, who he thought were being undersupplied. Rather than negotiating, Gurion sent in the IDF to take the weapons by force, leading to the death of 20 Jews. Begin, for his part, held firm but consistently ordered his forces not to fire at the IDF (at least, that's how this movie portrayed it). Not that his orders were always followed.

The movie attempts to take a very objective, almost verite view of the events. And it's a pretty low budget affair--it's hard not to think of how a big-budget Hollywood production would jazz up the story, but I'm happy with this version. It definitely captures the complexity and confusion of the whole incident. And as I said, this was a story I'd never heard before, and I'm glad to know about it now.

And then we followed that up with the next 5 episodes of S'RUGIM. While episodes 1-4 did a good job introducing our main characters, episodes 5-9 really take off. Natti tries to set up Amir with online dating, but ends up stealing his dates. Yifat and Natti finally admit their attraction, but Natti suddenly becomes a jerk and starts avoiding her. Hodaya's on-again, off-again relationship with her non-religious boyfriend comes to a head with her flipping out and desecrating the sabbath in view of everyone. Reut and Amir still don't get together, although he does date her sister until she finds out he's divorced. I really feel sorry for Amir, and some of the scenes with his ex-wife--with whom there's still a spark?--are quite good. Meanwhile Reut wants to learn to read the Torah to lead her all-women prayer group (chanting the Torah is against the most orthodox traditions) and convinces a teacher to train her. That leads to a romance, which is complicated when the girls set her up with another man, leading to her living the cliche sitcom experience of having two dates on the same night (worse yet, inviting two men to the same sabbath dinner).

And then it ends. Problem is, it's something like 17 episodes (and running) and we stopped halfway through. Hopefully SVJFF will finish the series (or at least the first season) in later events.

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