Is Jewish Film Festival an oxymoron?

Columnist Lois Caplan

By Lois Caplan

Is Jewish Film Festival an oxymoron?  It seems to me that movies are to Jews what Rogers and Hammerstein were to American musical theater.  Take, for example, early movie producers like Louis B. Mayer and Carl Laemmle as well as numerous stars like Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers. Also we Jews are notorious moviegoers, so now we have the great good fortune to have our own St. Louis Jewish Film Festival presented by the Jewish Community Center from June 12 to June 16 at the Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema in Plaza Frontenac.

This year’s Jewish Film Festival opens June 12 with “Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story,” in what is billed as “a double header of your favorite baseball players along with your favorite baseball treats.” The film will be shown at 4:15 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. In between at 6 p.m., everyone’s favorite baseball treats – hot dogs, peanuts and popcorn, soda and maybe even beer – are to be served. 

No prior knowledge or love of the game is required. The story transcends sports for lessons in immigration and assimilation, prejudice and adulation, and cultural transformation. Besides featuring Jewish baseball greats such as Sandy Koufak and Hank Greenberg, the camera focuses on St. Louisans Ken Holtzman and Art Shamksy. The film’s lively score includes klezmer melodies as well as ones by Benny Goodman and Yo-Yo Ma.

Tickets for the film and the baseball gala are $50 ($15 for the film only). Call 314-442-3179 to reserve yours or go to www.brownpapertickets.com.

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The festival will feature some poignant films about women and several fine documentaries, including the highly praised “Winston Churchill: Walking with Destiny” at 8 p.m. Monday, June 13. Narrated by Academy Award winner Sir Ben Kingsley, it is a tribute to the former prime minister whose early stance was against the Nazi menace and in support of European Jewry.

“Vidal Sassoon: the Movie” offers an intimate look at the life of the iconic hairstylist and design guru who changed the look of American women.   When Sassoon was 5-years-old, his impoverished mother deposited him in a Jewish orphanage in London where he stayed for seven years.  Sassoon did a stint in the Israeli army, married four times, opened his first salon on London’s Bond Street where he created his geometric bob, and in 1973 he introduced the product line that bears his name. “Vidal Sasoon: the Movie” will have its St. Louis premiere at 2 p.m. Thursday, June 16. A lucky member of the audience will win a cut and style the Sassoon way from the salon at Saks Fifth Avenue with make-up courtesy of Dior and a new look from the WEAR collection. According to the festival’s Zelda Sparks, “Everyone is a winner because Saks is giving a $10 gift certificate towards services in its salon and spa.”

For more details about the festival, call 314-442-3179 or visit www.stljewsihfilmfestival.org.

SUNNY GLASSBERG makes the world sunnier by her gifts to the St. Louis Zoo, various parks and the Missouri Botanical Garden, just to name a few of her philanthropies.  Within the past couple weeks she has made possible through the Sunny and Myron Glassberg Family Fund,  two beautiful picnic pavilions at the Shaw Nature Reserve in Gray Summit, a division of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Just this week the Myron Glassberg Family Maintenance Center at the St. Louis Zoo was dedicated.  Sunny told me, “It’s all about meeting needs.  I told the zoo that I wanted to give something for their maintenance people who work so hard and diligently behind the scenes, so now for the first time they have a functional and convenient operations center.  The maintenance staff was so thrilled that they gave me a barbeque where they were the cooks.” 

Of her many gifts in the area, Turtle Park is probably one of the most appreciated, and since Sunny is a turtle collector (not live ones), this must be her favorite gift to the community.

BLACK PEARL SINGS, the Black Rep’s current offering at the Grandel Theatre in Grand Center, is a fascinating play about the relationship between two women, one a convicted black murderer in a Texas prison, brilliantly played by Denise Thimes, and the other a white writer-activist portrayed by Shanara Gabrielle. It takes place in the prison and later in New York City in 1935 and reminds us of the awful prejudice of that era.  “Black Pearl Sings” is a not-to-be-missed theatrical happening, and since it closes May 15, I would urge you to get tickets by calling the Black Rep’s box office at 314-534-3810 or by going to www.theblackrep.org.