Saturday, August 4, 2012

Jason goes to Jewfest North--Day 13

They actually had "closing night" last July 26th, but it turns out there was enough movies for (more than) eight extra days. It's a miracle! Let us celebrate!

Sorry, a little Jewish inside joke there. Anyway, I caught two more shows last Thursday

First up was a double feature of short-ish (about 45-50 minutes) documentaries, starting with Y-LOVE. Y-Love is the stage name of the premier Orthodox Jewish entity in hip hop. Or, if you prefer, the premier hip hop entity in Orthodox Judaism. A kid from Baltimore who at age six knew he wanted to become Jewish. He converted, excelled at Yeshiva, and married a Yiddish speaking girl. It was, however, an arranged marriage, and it didn't last because she didn't think he was religious enough...that, and he's gay. That's already enough drama, without losing a mother to cocaine abuse. But the whole time, he's all about the music...and answering the eternal question, "Why?" with his eternal answer, "Love."

The second half of the documentary double feature was THE MOON IS JEWISH, the story of Pawel, a soccer hooligan in Poland. And not just your random run-of-the-mill hooligan, soccer was his religion and getting into fights--in particular, beating up minorities (including, of course, Jews)--was a matter of faith. And then he discovers his family was Jewish, and he starts on a journey to return to his roots, becoming an Orthodox Jew. A pretty startling discovery, but a surprisingly poetic movie.

The next show was also a pair of documentaries, also about Jews and their connections to their past. But this program had a lighter, funnier tone. First up was the short WOODY BEFORE ALLEN, the story of two former Konigsbergs. The first is the city that was home to philosopher Immanual Kant and was annexed by the Soviet Union after WWII and became Kaliningrad. The second is Allan Stewart Konigsberg, who grew up, changed his name to Woody Allen, and became one of the most prolific and celebrated filmmakers ever. Now the city of Kaliningrad is commissioning a statue of Woody Allen to be placed in the lobby of their oldest cinema, and director Masha Vasyukova travels to New York to get Woody's opinion about which proposed design is best. Very funny.

And that led in to the feature, HOW TO RE-ESTABLISH A VODKA EMPIRE. British director Daniel Edelstyn discovers an old journal from his grandmother Marouissia Zorokovich. And it sends him on a multi-year journey that even he admits was a little crazy and all his friends tried to dissuade him from. He heads off to the Ukraine to find the sugar factory that his ancestors ran before they were chased off by the 1917 revolution. He actually finds it in a small, economically depressed village. By dropping the name Zorokovich he finds plenty of people willing to show him around town and have a drink with him. He also finds out that his great-grandparents ran two businesses that were really the economic heart of the town--the now closed sugar factory, and the still operating vodka distillery. And they welcome him so much like royalty that he feels a bit of a desire/duty to do something with the vodka, so he sets out on a quest to penetrate the UK market. His quixotic journey is mixed with vivid and clever recreations of his grandmother's life story. And the end result...well, you can find out more about it here (I haven't found where to buy it in America, yet.) 

Total Running Time: 185 minutes
My Total Minutes: 295,695

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