Jewish film fest enters the ring

Where can you find a documentary about the 27 Jewish world-champion boxers active in the first four decades of the last century? An ethnically appropriate film festival may be just the ticket. And so it will be later this week for “Jewish Boxers: Shtarkers and the Sweet Science,” in the Castro, and then around the Bay. It’s all part of a festival with some strange twists and turns.

The 27th annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival is the country’s oldest and biggest such event, never mind that you’d expect that from New York City, with its Jewish population of 1.5 million versus this city’s 210,000.

SFJFF is big, and it is regional: 54 films from 13 countries play at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre Thursday through July 26; in Berkeley, July 28 through Aug. 4; Palo Alto, July 28 through Aug. 2; San Rafael, Aug. 4-6 and return to San Francisco, to the Jewish Community Center, from Aug. 4-6.

Films screening under the festival’s special “Jewish Boxers” program point to how the sport has been dominated by a succession of various ethnic groups through theyears.

“His People,” a silent-film boxing classic, presented with live jazz accompaniment by Paul Shapiro, screens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The 7 p.m. Sunday screening of “Orthodox Stance,” about a young Orthodox boxer from Odessa living in Brooklyn, will be followed by a panel discussion with boxing historian Mike Silver, “Orthodox Stance” director Jason Hutt and the film’s subject, Dmitriy Salita.

Besides boxing, people in the know call attention to the following films: “Hot House,” Shimon Dotan’s film about some 10,000 Palestinians incarcerated in Israel; Ilana Trachtman’s “Praying with Lior,” a coming-of-age story of a young man with Down’s Syndrome; and Rachel Talbots’ “Making Trouble,” about three generations of legendary Jewish comics.

Surrounded by controversy comes Berlin-based Jewish filmmaker Dani Levy’s “My Fuehrer,” described as “broaching the taboos of contemporary German-Jewish relations” with this satire set during the Third Reich. A Jewish acting teacher, played by Ulrich Mühe (of the wonderful “The Lives of Others”) is released from a concentration camp to help a depressed Adolf Hitler regain his charisma.

There’s also a screening of Levy’s “The Giraffe,” from a script Levy co-wrote with actress Maria Schrader, and starring himself and Schrader in a political crime story, shot primarily in New York but moving between America and Germany.

Tickets to most screenings are $11. Call the box office at (925) 275-9490 or visit www.sfjff.org for the full schedule.

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