The 34th annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival opens today, with 70 films from 18 countries on the slate. As in previous years, diversity and Bay Area sensibilities distinguish the event. Subjects range from Jewish comedians to life in Gaza to the first female rabbi to Susan Sontag. The festival continues through Aug. 10 throughout the Bay Area. Detailed below are a few selections reflecting the scope of the 2014 lineup.
Run Boy Run
Dipping into the well of Holocaust survival stories that can’t help but impress, this festival centerpiece focuses on an 8-year-old Jewish boy who flees from the Warsaw ghetto. He hides in the forest, forages for food, learns how to pass for a Christian, escapes from Nazi capture, and finds work on farms where even the kindest people reject him when his presence threatens to prompt Nazi repercussions. Pepe Danquart directed the fact-based film. (6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Castro; 6 p.m. July 30, CineArts; 6:30 p.m. Aug. 7, California)
This fact-based thriller and procedural dramatizes the horrific case of a young man who was lured to a Parisian suburb and kidnapped because he was Jewish. Director Alexandre Arcady presents the story from the points of view of family members, kidnappers and police, the latter of whom fail to address the ordeal’s hate-crime aspect, in this intricate drama about anti-Semitism and ethnic tensions in modern France. (8:55 p.m. July 27, CineArts; 9:05 p.m. July 29, Castro; 6:20 p.m. Aug. 6, California; 8:45 p.m. Aug. 8, Rafael)
Titled after Hans Krasa’s children’s opera, this documentary centers on a Berlin-based youth-theater project’s recent production of the opera and also revisits a 1940s version, performed by Jewish children at a Nazi camp. Director Douglas Wolfsperger introduces young-adult actors who feel that their teachers and parents haven’t adequately talked to them about the Holocaust. Most movingly, they spend time with, and learn bundles from, an octogenarian who appeared in the wartime show. (2 p.m. Tuesday, CineArts, 2:25 p.m. Aug. 10, Grand Lake)
In the Image
This documentary spotlights the Camera Project of the Jerusalem-based watchdog group B’Tselem, which gives young Palestinian women in the West Bank video cameras so they can film human-rights abuses committed by soldiers and settlers. The results have screened on YouTube and served as courtroom evidence. Directed by Judith Montell and Emmy Scharlatt, the film demonstrates how peace and justice projects in strife-plagued areas can truly make a difference. (1:50 p.m. July 30, Castro; 4:45 p.m. Aug. 3, California)
Little White Lie
Filmmaker Lacey Schwartz explores how race, culture and family shape a person’s sense of identity in this documentary and personal detective story. As a child in Woodstock, N.Y., Schwartz was told by her Jewish parents that her Sicilian great-grandfather was the source of her puzzlingly dark complexion. As she pressures them for the truth, amid secrets and denials, details about her biracial makeup emerge. The film is the closing-night feature of the festival’s San Francisco segment. (7 p.m. Aug. 3, Castro; 6:40 p.m. Aug. 4, California; 7 p.m. Aug. 7, Parkway; 3 p.m. Aug. 9, Rafael)
Directed by five Italian filmmakers, this documentary captures the everyday lives and humanity of Palestinians in the headline-making Gaza Strip. Fishermen flock to a beach where dozens of manta rays have washed ashore. A photographer who lost his legs while covering an Israeli bombing takes pictures from his wheelchair. A parkour team provides a real-life action element. A former soccer star, a reporter, a sheepherder and some Gaza Zoo denizens also figure into the mosaic. (Noon Saturday, Castro; 3:15 p.m. Aug. 1, California)
Additional programs include an opening-night screening of the award-winning “The Green Prince” an assortment of comedies, an award presentation to actor-folksinger Theodore Bikel, and dozens more.
IF YOU GO
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., S.F.
When: Today through Aug. 3
Tickets: $14 most screenings, more for special events
Contact: (415) 621-0523; www.sfjff.org
Note: The festival continues at CineArts, Palo Alto, Saturday-July 31; at RayKo Photo Center, S.F., Aug. 1; California Theatre, Berkeley, Aug. 1-7; Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Aug. 2; New Parkway Theater, Oakland, Aug. 7; Grand Lake Theater, Oakland, Aug. 8-10; and Rafael Film Center, San Rafael, Aug. 8-10.