Film festival set to open June 24

The 2007 Jewish Film Festival opens on Sunday, June 24 at Plaza Frontenac with a powerful drama, Steel Toes which is based on David Gow’s play Cherry Docs. Set in Montreal, it tells the story of Mike, a neo-Nazi skinhead played by Andrew Walker who is on trial for the racially motivated murder of a Pakistani man. Defending him is Danny, a liberal Jewish lawyer appointed by the court and portrayed by David Strathairn. The story delves into the intense and fiery relationship that develops between these two men.

Steel Toes will be shown twice on opening day of the Jewish Book Festival, at 4:15 p.m. and at 7:45 p.m. Celebrate Cinema, the premier party, will be held at 6 p.m. in Plaza Frontenac’s Center Court. According to Nancy Raskas, co-chair of the party with Margie Horowitz, “We’re planning a very delicious international buffet served at various stations. Our caterer has added some new and interesting items.” In response to my question about the return of the chocolate fountain, she told me that (sadly) it will be replaced with some other, more up-to-date luscious sweets. The cost of the party and film plus another Festival selection of your choice is $95 per person, while the opening film without the party is $15. For reservations send your check to Jewish Film Festival, Jewish Community Center, #2 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis MO 63146. For tickets to the films call the JFF hotline at 314-442-3179.

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Seventeen outstanding films will be shown during the four and a half day festival. Judy Schwartz Jaffe enthusiastically described some of them to me, and told me especially about the speakers who will illuminate the films. On Monday afternoon there will be two very different documentaries. The Longing: the Forgotten Jews of South America is to be shown at 2 p.m., a story set in Ecuador telling about descendents of European Jews forced to convert to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition. Feeling rejected by Jewish communities, they work arduously at converting to Judaism with the help of Brazilian-born Rabbi Jacques Cukiercom. Now a Kansas City resident, Rabbi Cukiercom will be at the Jewish Film Festival to lead the post-film discussion.

Also on Monday, June 25 at 5:30 p.m. you may see Blues on the Beach about the 2003 tragedy that strikes Mike’s Place, a popular beach-side night spot in Tel Aviv which featured live blues music. Bruce Mazer who appears in the film and who is a St. Louisan will lead the post-film discussion. This movie, like The Longing, is having its St. Louis premiere.

I have a feeling that the closing film on Thursday, June 28 at 8 p.m., The Rape of Europa, will be sold out very quickly. Also a documentary, it takes the audience on an epic journey through seven countries and into a violent whirlwind of fanaticism, greed and warfare that threatened to wipe out the artistic heritage of Europe. For twelve years the Nazis looted and destroyed art on an unprecidented scale.

But heroic young art historians and curators from America and across Europe fought back, mounting a tremendous campaign that would rescue and return millions of artworks. This award winning film includes amazing archival footage from France, Italy, Germany, Russia and other countries. Making a brief introduction to The Rape of Europa will be Rebbitzen Paula Rifkin who speaks from personal experience.

All films will be shown at the Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema.

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