The 38th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival opens and closes with profiles of show biz giants Gilda Radner and Sammy Davis Jr. In between, it showcases perhaps some lesser known people and places, in nearly 70 films from 22 countries, with screenings over three weeks across the Bay Area as well as The City.
Describing its programming dedicated to diverse viewpoints, Lexi Leban, executive director of the presenting Jewish Film Institute, says, “The joy of collectively challenging our assumptions and discussing cinema together is what makes SFJFF a thought-provoking and transformative experience for Bay Area film aficionados.”
On July 24, director Ruth Beckermann speaks at a 6:10 p.m. screening at the Castro of “The Waldheim Waltz,” the festival’s centerpiece documentary. Primarily containing footage from Kurt Waldheim’s bid for Austria’s presidency in 1986 (he won), the movie re-examines the country’s collective guilt related to the candidate’s refusal to discuss his military connection to a 1942 Nazi deportation of Jews from Greece to extermination camps or acknowledge Austria’s complicity in Nazi war crimes.
The festival’s centerpiece narrative feature “To Dust,” screening at 8:30 p.m. July 25 at the Castro, stars Matthew Broderick as an upstate New York community college biology professor who forms an odd alliance with a Hasidic cantor (Géza Röhrig of “Son of Saul”) distraught by the untimely death of his wife and secretly obsessing over how her body will decay. Director Shawn Snyder and Röhrig are slated to attend.
The program’s Freedom of Expression Award goes to documentarian Liz Garbus, who will appear in conversation with Bonni Cohen (“An Inconvenient Sequel) at a 5:30 p.m. July 26 screening at the Castro of “The Fourth Estate.” The newest film by the Oscar nominee and Emmy winner (for “The Farm: Angola, USA,” about the largest American maximum-security prison in Louisiana) offers a fly-on-the-wall look at how the New York Times covered Donald Trump’s first 100 days as president.
A mini “Anatomy of a Feminist Film Movement” program offers “Netizens,” which looks at three women who survived cyber harassment and became advocates to change laws around online privacy, at 4 p.m. July 27 at the Castro; Nancy Schwartzman’s “Roll Red Roll,” which examines attitudes of perpetrators and bystanders surrounding an Ohio rape case involving an unconscious 16-year-old girl and high school football players, at 12:30 p.m. July 28 at the Castro; and 1933’s “Baby Face,” starring Barbara Stanwyck as a victim-turned-survivor, at 11:30 a.m. July 26 at the Castro.
Director Lisa D’Apolito and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Laraine Newman will attend festival opener “Love, Gilda,” a portrait of the late beloved, fearless comedian, at 6:30 p.m. July 19 at the Castro; while director Sam Pollard speaks at a 7:45 p.m. July 29 Castro screening of “Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me,” his film examining the life of the groundbreaking, and conflicted, entertainer.
IF YOU GO
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., S.F.
When: July 19 through Aug. 5
Tickets: $13 to $75
Contact: (415) 621-0523, www.sfjff.org
Note: Screenings also are at Albany Twin in Albany, Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, Cinearts in Palo Alto and Piedmont in Oakland.