Heavy issues at Edmonton Jewish Film Festival: Lest we forget

This town sure has a lot of film festivals. Hot on the heels of the Global Visions Docs and the Oscar shorts series from the Edmonton International Film Fest folks, noted local filmmaker Josh Miller is once again leading the charge as the Edmonton Jewish Film Festival kicks off Sunday at the Citadel Theatre’s Ziedler Hall.

Here’s what’s on screen:

THE LITTLE TRAITOR (Sunday, March 11, 1:30 p.m.) Alfred Molina stars as a British Army officer in the waning days of British Palestine who befriends a 12-year-old Hebrew boy who, in yearning for statehood and freedom, has also been taught to hate. The pair are pressured and torn between their two sides and each’s massive distrust of the other, with 12-year-old Proffy falling afoul of the fears and bias in his own community. Molina could walk his way through most roles and come off impressively, as could stage and screen veteran Theodore Bikel. But young Ido Port struggles on occasion in the film – carrying lead role of Proffy Liebowitz – and the black-and-white caricatures of some of those most offended on either side underplay the important narrative of co-existence.

DOLPHIN BOY (Sunday, March 11, 3:30 p.m.). Challenging preconceptions of community, this documentary recounts the story of an Arab-Israeli boy who, after being socially ostracized by his peers and then viciously beaten, becomes dissociative. His father, in an act of desperation, takes him as from their village – and the pressures his son Morad faces – as possible. While swimming with dolphins, Morad starts to slowly regain his sense of trust in communal security, to the point where he can start trusting people again. But a relationship and continued disconnection from his past threaten everything he’s regained. Powerful stuff.

THE CONCERT (Sunday, March 11, 7;30 p.m.) Melanie Laurent is beginning to make a habit of playing powerful heroines. The co-star of the Nazi snuff fantasy “Inglorious Basterds” takes a comedic turn in playing the lead virtuoso violinist in a rag-tag “Bolshoi Orchestra” – not the official version, the one Leonid Brezhnev banned years earlier for being too Jewish. Lead director Andrey Flilipov (Aleksei Guskov), long since demoted to a custodian, proceeds to round up his musicians for one last triumphant show. The film was Golden Globe nominated and critically lauded, but given its basic slapstick “Seven Samurai” plot and the number of conveniences written into it, it’s hard to understand why. A fun but frivolous and lightweight film, one suspects the acclaim had more to do with the fact that it’s in French, and art critics tend to be as pretentious a community as any other.

THE ROUND-UP (Sunday, March 11, 9 p.m.) As lightweight as The Concert was, Laurent’s second film at the festival is heavy hitting and profoundly sad – as heartbreaking as you’d expect, telling the story of the round-up of 13,000 Parisian Jews in 1942 at the behest of the Nazis, focussing on the bleak, inhumane politics of the Vichy puppet government, and the disbelief of French parents as they realize the Nazis are taking women and children as well – and that they’re not coming back. Absolutely nothing will surprise you in the film as every sentiment with respect to the evils of the Nazis has been expressed before. But the fact that it can still shock and horrify is testament both to the film’s strength and the importance of its history lesson.


In Mary and Max (Monday, March 12, 9 p.m.) Toni Collette and Philip Seymour Hoffman are the voices of the main characters in a tale of the innocent correspondence between an eight year-old girl from the suburbs of Melbourne and a middle-aged Jewish New Yorker with Asperger’s Syndrome.

100 Voices: A Journey Home (Tuesday, March 13, 7 p.m) This film studies a group of Cantors who visited the home of Cantorial music and use their knowledge to illuminate the history of Jewish culture in Poland.

In the Infidel (Tuesday, March 13, 9 p.m.) The ever-hilarious Omid Djalili (The Mummy) is a middle-age, middle-of-the-road Muslim guy who finds out he was born Jewish in this very British comedy .

Torn (Monday, March 12, 7.p.m) The same premise is examined seriously via a documentary look at a Catholic priest who discovers he was born a Jew.

All of the films screen at Ziedler Hall in the Citadel Theatre. Tickets to each film are $10 through Tix on The Square or you can also pick up tickets from the Edmonton Jewish Community Centre, 7200 156 Street.