Travel around the world with 16 Jewish-theme films

‘In Search of Israeli Cuisine’

By Cate Marquis, Special to the Jewish Light

The St. Louis Jewish Film Festival marks its 21st year by going on a “world tour” with 16 Jewish-theme films from, or set, in 10 countries. 

The festival begins Sunday, June 5, and runs through Thursday, June 9, at Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema.

“We’re calling it ‘A Reel World Tour’ because we have films from so many different countries,” said Zelda Sparks, director of arts and culture at the Jewish Community Center. 

The festival often includes films from the United States, Israel, Canada, Germany and France. 

“But Morocco, that’s a first for us,” Sparks said.

Films also are set in Poland, the Netherlands, Argentina, China and India. The festival offers a range of films, from comedies and dramas, to documentaries, historical films and biographies.

“I think it is a great lineup of films,” Sparks said.  

But Sparks has one warning for festivalgoers: “I encourage them to buy their tickets early, because the films do sell out.”

The festival kicks off with an opening night double feature. 

“Like last year, we’re opening up with a film about food,” Sparks said. 

“In Search of Israeli Cuisine,” shown at 4 p.m. June 5, features Israeli-American celebrity chef Michael Solomonov exploring Israel’s hot food scene. From exclusive Tel Aviv restaurants to home kitchens, he examines how its roots in various cultures reflects the nation of Israel.

“Michael Solomonov talks about ‘What is Israeli cuisine?’ It kind of draws on the 100 cultures of today’s Israeli society,” Sparks said.

After the screening, A Taste of Jerusalem, a local, Israeli-owned catering company, will offer tastings of some of the food featured in the film. 

“It is not a meal, it is just like a little sampling between the films,” Sparks said. 

At 7 p.m., “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You,” will debut. 

“This film is extraordinary,” Sparks said. “Everybody is aware of his career, with ‘All in the Family,’ ‘Sanford and Son’ [etc.] … but I don’t know that people are aware of his personal story. … It is really a lovely, great film, and … a very winning guy.”

Sparks said the festival will be screening a couple of interesting mysteries. 

“Firebirds,” she said, “is an Israeli film about a [con] man who goes to events trying to pick up women who are [Shoah] survivors, and he himself claims to be a survivor. He turns up dead, and the question is, who killed him? 

“And another mystery is this Argentinian film, ‘How to Win Enemies,’ about two brothers, one of whom gets ripped off [of] money he saved to buy a new place to live. And he is trying to figure out … who conned him.”

Actor Bryan Greenberg, one of the special guests at the festival, will introduce “Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong,” a film shot in Hong Kong in which he and his wife, Jamie Chang, star. It will be shown at 8 p.m. Monday, June 6.

“His family lives here, and he went to school at Parkway Central,” Sparks said.

For the closing night film, the festival will screen Atom Egoyan’s thriller “Remember” at 8 p.m. June 9.       

“This is an unbelievable movie,” Sparks said. “Starring Martin Landau and Christopher Plummer, ‘Remember’ has the most shocking ending. When we saw this, we knew we had to get this film.”

The festival has until May 29 to book a second theater for films selling out. “I really want to emphasize that people really need to buy their tickets early,” Sparks said. “I don’t want them to miss out because if we only have one theater, we are limited.” 

Once the festival starts, staff will be at the theater to sell any remaining tickets one hour before each showtime.

“They can buy tickets at the theater, but they are taking a chance,” Sparks said. 

Sparks credited Jewish Film Festival co-chairs Marilyn Brown and Jeffery Korn and their committee, for their hard work in planning the festival.