Michael Moore is coming to the JCC

On Nov. 17, the Oscar-winning documentarian will participate in a discussion with Shosh Shlam, one of the directors (with Ada Ushpiz) of the documentary “Good Garbage,” at the Other Israel Film Festival at the JCC in Manhattan. The film, which screened over the summer at Moore’s own festival, the Traverse City Film Festival, in Michigan, focuses on Palestinians who scavenge in a trash heap near Hebron to provide for their families.

I asked the festival director, Isaac Zablocki, how he had managed to snag a filmmaker of Moore’s reputation. “He came to me saying I’m a big fan of the festival,” Zablocki said. “He came here for an event last year. He lives in the neighborhood. He’s very aware of the film festival.”

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Now in its seventh year, the Other Israel Film Festival focuses on minority populations in Israel. It has also been skewered by critics who see it as providing a Jewish platform, and perhaps a hechsher, for virulent Israel haters. Over the summer, Commentary basically called for Zablocki’s ouster over a piece he had written that was seen as calling for a boycott of Israel, a charge no less an authority than JTA’s Ami Eden found more than a bit wanting.

In any case, Zablocki said he doubted Moore’s appearance would give the festival any credibility with its critics, whom he dismissed as voices from the “extreme right.” But along with “Homeland” star Mandy Patinkin, who participated last year, Moore’s appearance does offer the festival a bit of star power to compete with the much larger Israel Film Festival, which has attracted a bevy of megawatt Hollywood stars over the years, including Michael Douglas, Jonah Hill, Dustin Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen and more.

“I don’t think this festival is about the glamorous stars,” Zablocki said. “I think this is about the thinking stars who have something to say and something to add to the conversation.”

Ben Harris is JTA’s news editor. In his seven years with JTA, he has reported from more than 15 countries. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, New York magazine, among other publications.