In this coming-of-age film set in the Russian immigrant community in Ashdod, Israel, young Chen takes up ballroom dancing to get close to the girl he loves—to the horror of his Israeli father, Rami. Hopelessly in love with his own Russian wife (Evgenya Dodina), with whom he has a difficult relationship, Rami has concluded that Russians and Israelis represent two parallel lines that will never meet. Happily, this film by Eitan Anner proves him wrong. Bleiberg Entertainment (www.bleibergent.com). —Judith Gelman Myers
Elderly Esther terrorizes her caregivers, but when Halima, a young Algerian Muslim nurse, arrives, Algerian-born Esther finds common ground with her. Despite potential hazards to the relationship—anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim sentiment are vividly present in contemporary France, where this film is set—the two women as well as Halima’s mother, Sélima, form a warm though sometimes uneasy bond. Related against the background of Israel’s 2006 war with Lebanon, this French film, directed by Philippe Faucon, takes an optimistic stance. Istiqlal Films/Pyramide International (www.pyramidefilms.com). —Renata Polt
What can we make of an American Jewish doctor who gives up his practice to follow the waves—and takes his wife and nine children, packed into a small camper, along with him? Doug Pray tells the fascinating story of Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz (who introduced surfing to Israel), his wife, Julliette, and how they raised a tribe of creative and self-reliant individuals, even if they do not all appreciate the unconventional upbringing that deprived them of the educational opportunities they needed to advance. HDNet Films and Magnolia Pictures (www.surfwisefilm.com). —Zelda Shluker
This comedy about a scattered French family gathering to hear a will read delights at every turn. The stellar cast is led by Gérard Lanvin, Catherine Deneuve and Emmanuelle Béart and directed by Thierry Klifa. A good part of the action (and the object of the will) is set in the Blue Parrot, a cabaret with nearly naked dancing girls; if nudity offends you, don’t watch. But if you can take the French view of love and life, this film is a charming night out. Coproduced by SBS Films and France 2 Cinema (www.france2cinema.visualnet.com). —J.G.M.
Children of the Sun
“He may be your son, but he belongs to the kibbutz,” argues one kibbutz member as the group decides what to name a new baby. The remark is typical of Ran Tal’s unconventional documentary that examines early kibbutz life with clips from over 80 home movies. Focusing primarily on how children were raised apart from their parents, the engrossing film includes both positive and negative assessments, ranging from the nostalgia of belonging to something larger to the bitter: “At the age of 11, I was already brainwashed,” says one former kibbutz baby. Ruth Diskin Films (www.ruthfilms.com). —R.P.
Written and directed by husband-and-wife team Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, this award-winning Israeli film tells three disparate Tel Aviv stories. In one, Batya, a shlimazel, is dumped by her boyfriend; she turns up at work disheveled and is soon fired. Another looks at newlyweds Michael, and his whiny bride, Keren; the third revolves around Joy, a homesick Philippina caretaker. The most interesting event is Batya’s finding an apparently abandoned little girl at the beach. The film’s wit and realism morph into murky symbolism: Is the little girl real? And what about those jellyfish or the surreal ocean imagery? Misery isn’t enough glue to hold these stories together or keep our interest. Zeitgeist Films (www.zeitgeistfilm.com). —Renata Polt
Orson Welles was only 25 when he epitomized a man’s longing for mother and home in Citizen Kane. Azazel Jacobs is 35, but Momma’s Man, his version of the impossibility of leaving home behind, soars with a mature grace far beyond its maker’s years. Perhaps Jacobs learned from his father—avant-garde filmmaker Ken Jacobs (who stars in the film, along with Flo, Azazel’s mother)—that great films come from small stories. But it’s clear the younger Jacobs intuits how to use universally recognizable details to draw a compassionate portrait of a man (and the disappearing New York of the Jewish intelligentsia he comes from) we can neither fully comprehend nor comfortably reject. Kino International (www.kino.com). —Judith Gelman Myers
Got No Jeep and My Camel Died
Yair Dalal, heir to the ancient musical heritage of Babylonia, travels around the world representing Israel at world music concerts but can’t get his music played in Israel because it sounds “too Arab.” His mission becomes twofold: to preserve his Iraqi-Jewish musical heritage and to channel it as a conduit for peace. The documentary captures this extraordinary man and his art (www.magyx.tv). —J.G.M.
If you haven’t heard Michael Winograd yet, his latest CD is a good beginning (the first track is actually called “The Beginning”). He not only plays a wistful and joyous clarinet, he also composed 8 of the 10 melodies on the CD. So whether you enjoy subtlety or “tantz-ablity”—as in “Zhok in G minor” or the jiggy “Freylakh for Gwen Stefani”—there is diversity to spare. Produced by Winograd (www.michaelwinograd.com). —Z.S.
Klezmer is both old and new, and this Rough Guide presents songs from some recent recordings of each. There is “MoldavianFreylakhs” by German Goldenshteyn; Israeli Chava Alberstein’s soulful interpretation of “Ovnt Lid”; the avante- garde Brave Old World mash-up of “Makh Tsi Di Eygelekh” (which sounds like a Yiddish hoedown). Also included are the inimitable Giora Feidman, Yale Strom, Andy Statman and Frank London, among others. This is a good sampling of the glorious varieties of klezmer. World Music Network (www.worldmusic.net). —Susan Adler
From Dream to Reality: Zionism and the Birth of Israel
This important exhibit organized by YIVO for Israel’s 60th anniversary surveys events affecting the state’s creation, from the early Hibbat Zion movement to the First Zionist Congress and post-Holocaust immigration. On view are Theodor Herzl’s diary and a signed copy of Der Judenstaat as well as photographs (right, Zionist leader Nahum Sokolow and his family), documents, posters, objects, newspaper clippings, letters and books. Through December 31 at the Center for Jewish History, New York (www.yivo.org). —Sara Trappler Spielman
The Boston Jewish Experience: Reconnect to the Tapestry
Boston’s only remaining immigrant synagogue, the Vilna Shul, is exhibiting an old Vilna Talmud, photographs and artifacts to tell the story of 100 years of Jewish life in Vilna, 1850-1950. The thorough, eight-part exhibit also looks at how Boston Jews defined their identity, how they contributed to Boston’s arts, education and philanthropies and their move to the suburbs. Ongoing at Boston’s Center for Jewish Culture (www.www.vilnashul.com). —Shirley Moskow
God on Trial
A group of Auschwitz prisoners, most destined for the gas chamber the next day, convene a court and jury to charge God with murder, collaboration with the enemy and breach of contract with His chosen people. A cast of excellent British actors serves as God’s judge, prosecutor and defense attorney, who call witnesses and examine His relationship to the Jews from the Babylonian exile to the Holocaust, citing Torah, theology, history and science. The PBS Masterpiece Contemporary presentation makes for a fascinating intellectual and emotional 90 minutes—and a wrenching ending. November 9 at 9 P.M. (www.pbs.org/masterpiece). Check local PBS stations for listing. —Tom Tugend
Consoling the bereaved is one of Judaism’s most meaningfulmitzvot, one increasingly difficult to fulfill as the Jewish community becomes more farflung. A new Web site, www.till120.com, is helping Jews across the United States and beyond satisfy that imperative. Till 120 posts obituaries gathered from shuls, funeral homes and individuals—enabling family and friends to quickly find information about a funeral or shiva. Subscribers can also request obituaries via e-mail, based on a Zip Code. The site provides a host of mourning services, such as online memorials and yortzeit reminders. —Leah F. Finkelshteyn
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