21 May 2009

Film Festival at Philly 2009

Pamela Weisberger informed Tracing the Tribe about the Philly 2009 Film Festival. The schedule will soon be uploaded to the online program and we'll let you know when that happens.

There is always something to do at an international Jewish genealogy conference and Pam has organized a great line-up of films as well as many producers, writers and directors who will introduce their films and do Q&As following the screenings.

In the meantime, here's a peek at what will be screened. Remember to go to Philly 2009 for all conference details.

- The Jews of India: "In Search of the Bene Israel"
- Prague: "House of Life: The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague" with filmmaker Mark Podwal)
- Italy: "The Tree of Life" with filmmaker Hava Volterra
- Libya: "The Last Jews of Libya"
- Cuba: "Abraham & Eugenia"
- South America: "The Longing: The Forgotten Jews of South America" with filmmaker Gabriela Bohm)
- Austria: "Vienna's Lost Daughters"
- South Africa: "Lest We Forget"
- Lithuania: "The Partisans of Vilna"

New Films - Holocaust and Post-Holocaust Experience:

- "Against the Tide": narrated by Dustin Hoffman. The attitudes of President Roosevelt and his senior advisers, who used the pretext of winning the war against the Nazis to block any Jewish immigration to the U.S. and juxtaposes the events in America with heart-wrenching heroic stories of the doomed Jews of Europe and the leaders of Polish Jewry who had faith that their powerful brothers and sisters in the United States would somehow be able to save them.

- "Blessed is the Match": First documentary feature about Hannah Senesh, World War II-era poet and diarist who became a paratrooper, resistance fighter and modern-day Joan of Arc. Safe in Palestine in 1944, Senesh joined a mission to rescue Jews in her native Hungary. Shockingly, it was the only military rescue mission for Jews during the Holocaust.

- "We Were Exodus": Archival footage with contemporary interviews, recounting the voyage of Exodus, a ship that was haven and prison to thousands of Holocaust survivors. Meticulously researched and artfully composed, "We Were Exodus" invites viewers aboard one of the 20th century's most famous vessels to relive this milestone in the creation of Israel.

- "Captain László Ocskay, The Forgotten Hero": A Hungarian army officer whose heroic deeds saved the lives of hundreds of Jews in Budapest have all but been forgotten. Attending the screening to discuss it will be Miskolc native John Kovacs, who escaped deportation to Auschwitz and ended up in the Abonyi Street Jewish School featured in the film.

The Philadelphia Jewish Experience:

- "Echoes of a Ghost Minyan": A speaker will attend.
- "Philly Hoops: The SPAHS and Warriors": A speaker will attend.
- "From Philadelphia to the Front": One of the few few documentaries to explore the stories of Jewish-American World War II soldiers, focusing on six Philadelphia octogenerian veterans, their wartime experiences and a bittersweet reunion.
- "Tak for Alt": The life of Philadelphia educator and Survivor Judy Meisel, whose experiences in the Kovno ghetto and Stutthof Concentration Camp inspired a life-long campaign against racism.

Eastern Europe:

- "Horodok: A Shtetl's Story: 1920-1940" retells the vibrant life of an Eastern European Jewish village with rare 1930s archival silent movie footage with Israeli survivors' recollections.

- "Bashert": Two cousins return to their grandfathers' shtetl that they left in 1908A series of miraculous incidents lead to previously unknown family members who survived and returned to Linitz (Ilintsy, Ukraine).

- "No. 4 Street House of Our Lady": If your neighbors were being hunted down and came to your door begging for help, would you risk your life to save theirs? The remarkable, little-known, story of Polish-Catholic Francisca Halamajowa who rescued 16 Jewish neighbors while passing as a Nazi sympathizer. In Sokal (Galicia->Ukraine)more than6,000 Jews lived there pre-war; only 30 survived, half rescued by Halamajowa. Attending to discuss the film will be Lviv-based researcher Alexander Denisenko who assisted in researching the film.

- "Terpe Kind Mains, Terpe Persevere, My Child, Persevere": To discuss the film will be New Jersey-born composer Jeffrey Hamburg of Amsterdam. He returns to Ukraine to discover his ancestors' world and demonstrates how an individual search leads to a universal composition on searching, commemorating and coming home.


- "The Beetle": The heartwarming, hilarious genealogy of an old Volkswagen owned by an Israeli. Torn between the responsibility of fatherhood and an irrational passion
for his sputtering car, Yishai track down the past owners to understand the car's rich history.

- "His Wife's Lover" (Zayn Vaybs Lubovnik): In 1931, this Yiddish film was billed as "the first Jewish musical comedy talking picture," starring popular Yiddish theater comedian Ludwig Satz in his only film. Fast-paced, song-filled comedy shot on the Lower East Side, includes role reversals and love triangles and explores gender issues.

- "My Mexican Shiva": Entertaining, wacky comedy set in a Mexico City Jewish neighborhood, focusing on the death of a man and the celebration of his life. The seven-day shiva reunites family, friends and former lovers; sidesplitting stories, conflicts and rivalries are cataloged over the mourning period.

- "The Rise and Fall of the Borscht Belt": For all of us Catskill kids who spent hotel and bungalow vacations, where Jewish-American
iconoclastic humor was born.

Back by Popular Demand:

- "Genealogy Goes to the Movies" with Jordan Auslander, who updates last year's hilarious experience recreating the excitement, drama, adventure, glamour and - yes - romance of family history research in kitschy, classic clips from popular films and TV shows.

The True Bielski Boys Experience:

- "Defiance": Hollywood feature starring Daniel Craig, about the partisans who created a thriving shtetl deep in the Western Belarus forests while conducting sabotage missions against the Nazis. Introduced by Tuvia Bielski's granddaughter Sharon Rennart.

- "The Bielski Partisans: A Granddaughter's Story": Award-winning filmmaker Sharon Rennart will also present her own program detailing her 11-year journey around the world from Brooklyn to Belarus, Israel and Lithuania. She will discuss her family's history and screen excerpts from a work-in-progress documentary, "In Our Hands: A Personal Portrait of the Bielski Partisans". Excerpts include exclusive family movies, photos and oral histories for a glimpse at the real characters behind "Defiance."

- "On Moral Grounds": The story of WWII restitutions and those who have sought justice for 50 years from insurance companies who perpetrated wrongs on survivors.

- "Saved by Deportation": Filmmaker Robert Podgursky will speak about his film which is based in 1940, a year before the Nazis began deporting Jews to death camps. Stalin orders the deportation of some 200,000 Polish Jews from Russian-occupied Eastern Poland to forced labor settlements in Central Asia. Asher and Shyfra Scharf are followed as they return to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and are warmly welcomed by locals who recall the refugees.

Short Films:

- "The Holocaust Tourist": A whistle-stop tour from Auschwitz hot-dogs to Krakow's kitsch Judaica that asks how dark tourism is changing history.

- "Toyland (Spielzeugland)" This year's Oscar winner for best live-action short film. In 1942 Nazi Germany, a young boy's mother answers her son's question about the whereabouts of his best friend whose family has been deported. She tells him the boy has been sent to Toyland, and he sneaks off to join him.

- "OBCY" (Alien VI): New Polish short. A young Jewish man appears in a tranquil Polish village years after shameful local memories of WWII have faded. The villagers react in surprisingly diverse ways, reflecting ambivalent attitudes toward their past.

Who Do You Think You Are?

Two conference regulars will introduce episodes with which they were personally involved. "The Esther Rantzan story": Hadassah Lipsius researched Warszawa microfilms for vital record information on the well-known UK newscaster's family. "The Zoe Wanamaker Story": Gayle Riley will introduce the story of her actor relative with a plot moving from Minsk to reading a father's FBI files.

Films will be screened beginning Sunday afternoon August 2 through Friday, August 7, including during lunch and dinner breaks and with evening screenings.

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