Big Screen Roundup, From Israel, America and Germany
Sosúa: Make a Better World
Bits of West Side Story, strangers in a strange land and a civic lesson on American diversity are rolled into one sweet film. Broadway director Liz Swados uses a 1938 historical footnote—in which the Dominican Republic was the only country offering refuge to 100,000 Jews fleeing the Nazis—to bring Dominican Latino and Jewish teenagers in New York’s Washington Heights together in a joint musical production. Willow Pond Films. —Tom Tugend
When Avigal, a young Hasidic widow and mother of six, meets Fioravante (John Turturro, below with Woody Allen), part-time gigolo, she is stirred by a new set of emotions. But Dovi (Liev Schreiber), a member of the Jewish civil patrol in her Brooklyn neighborhood, is wary of her new suitor, and the rabbinical council questions his claim to be Jewish. Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara play Fioravante’s clients. Woody Allen has a major role as his pal—and pimp—Murray in this rollicking comedy written by Turturro. Antidote Films. —Renata Polt
Israeli filmmaker Eytan Fox has made a light-hearted musical confection (in contrast to his usual gay dramas). At its center are five women and one man who are chosen to represent Israel in an international song competition. Cupcakes harkens back to the music and social mores of Israel in the 1970s, when life seemed simpler and more cohesive. United King Films and Chic Films. —T.T.
Yael, an Israeli newswoman, interviews a group of Jews and Arabs stubbornly living together in a Jaffa shantytown. Director Amos Gitai was inspired to create this mesmerizing meditation on peaceful coexistence after reading a news clip depicting the enduring love of a Jewish woman—married to an Arab. Cinephil (www.amosgitai.com). —Judith Gelman Myers
The Garden of Eden
Ran Tal creates a national portrait of Israel by juxtaposing interviews with Jews, Muslims, Christians and Russians, all conducted at Gan HaShlosha National Park, a popular vacation spot in the lower Galilee. Shot and edited like a narrative feature, the film reflects a kaleidoscope of experiences and is as funny as it is sad, honest and true. Lama Films (www.gardenofedenfilm.com). —J.G.M.
This fictionalized history depicts the personal and political machinations of the men and women who developed Israel’s nuclear capabilities, from the unhappy physicists to a calculating Mossad, impelled by a Holocaust-obsessed David Ben-Gurion. Oddly, director Avraham Kushnir’s film begins with the proviso that “there is no connection between the events that appear in the movie and actual events,” but the director also produced the first Mossad-approved work about its nuclear program. Israeli Films. —J.G.M.
Walking With the Enemy
In the final year of World War II, Germany occupies Hungary, its former ally, and with the enthusiastic help of local Fascists starts rounding up and killing Jews. To try and save some of his people, Elek Cohen, the son of a rabbi, dons the uniform of a dead SS officer and thus manages to save hundreds from execution and deportation. The plot is inspired by actual events. Ben Kingsley appears in a minor role as Hungary’s Regent Miklós Horthy. Liberty Studios (www.walkingwiththeenemy.com). —T.T.
Ballad for the Weeping Spring
The mission of the film’s nine musicians is to assemble an orchestra to play a ballad for a dying composer. The humor in this feature is so deadpan it’s hard to discern, but Mark Eliyahu’s music captivatingly carries the film through occasional clichés. Available only for public forums. Israeli Films. —J.G.M.