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We Have A Dream: Ismael (Roschdy Zem) and Clara (Cecile De France) consider the future in 'Mauvaise Foi,' screening this Saturday at the Jewish Film Festival.

Jewish Film Festival

The 8th annual fest, in Aptos and Santa Cruz this weekend, explores themes of Jewish religious and secular identity.

By Traci Hukill

If there's a theme to Mauvaise Foi (2006), the feature that kicks off the Jewish Film Festival this weekend, it's that no matter how cosmopolitan the players consider themselves, when Jews and Palestinians get together the old dramas show their surprising staying power. Modern humans are duty-bound, and mightily challenged, to create a new ending.The English translation, Bad Faith, says it all. Parisians Ismael (Roschdy Zem, in his directorial debut) and Clara (Cecile De France) are happy, gorgeous, nonpracticing and pregnant. But as they contemplate raising the next generation, their harmonious union is pocked by bickering that's all the more distressing for having come out of the blue. Ismael, a Palestinian, assumes the baby (is a boy and) will take his father's name. The Jewish Clara hangs a mezuzah on the door of their new apartment. The fireworks begin, each illuminating explosion fraught with disturbing self-discovery. When Clara's mother demands to know whether the baby will be Jewish or Muslim, Clara replies, in true Gallic secular fashion, "It will be French"—but her declaration sounds more wishful than assured. With parents who think "not like us" means Sephardim, the deck is stacked against Clara more than she can possibly know.

Humor keeps this film essentially lighthearted. That is less the case with the more complex The Bubble (2007), a modern gay Romeo-and-Juliet tale complete with a suicide-bombing Tybalt and Mercutio element. Noam (Ohad Knoller) and Ashraf (Yousef Sweid) meet at a checkpoint where the peacenik Noam is on reserve duty. In a crisis moment, deep looks are exchanged, a connection is forged and Ashraf turns up on Noam's Tel Aviv apartment landing a few days later on the pretense of returning an ID card. He's now an illegal alien and must pass for Jewish or be booted back to Nablus. One of the ironies of the film is that while Noam and Ashraf get to nuzzle each other in public as bona fide members of Tel Aviv's vibrant queer scene, the possibility of being outed as a Palestinian puts Ashraf's health in serious danger.

This film, directed by Eytan Fox, contains one of the most convincing portrayals of modern global youth cultural this skeptical moviegoer has ever seen, and some smoking sex scenes besides; it makes Brokeback Mountain look like something out of the 1950s. Its central message—that identity in Israel is destiny—isn't cheery, but it does feel honest. And that seems like a good place to start when you're trying to change the ending to a very old play.

Eighth Annual Jewish Film Festival Schedule

SATURDAY, JAN. 26 , Temple Beth El |(3055 Porter Gulch Road, Aptos): 6:30pm reception; 7pm
Bad Faith; 8:30pm
The Bubble, followed by
A Trip to Prague (five-minute short)

SUNDAY, JAN. 27, Temple Beth El: 2pm
The Two of Us (tale of an intergenerational friendship); 3:45pm
Knowledge Is the Beginning (documentary on Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian scholar Edward Said's peace orchestra)

TUESDAY, JAN. 29, SC Hillel (222 Cardiff Place, Santa Cruz): free admission; 7pm
Caravan (Ethiopian child befriended by a rabbi and a jazz musician); 8pm
Encounter Point (bereaved Israelis and Palestinians seek end to violence)

SATURDAY, FEB. 2, Temple Beth El: 7pm
Steel Toes (a skinhead and his Jewish lawyer); 9pm
Naf: A Street Kid (brutal documentary about troubled, enterprising street kid kicked out at 13 by Orthodox parents; bad parenting comes in all sects and sizes)

SUNDAY, FEB. 3, Temple Beth El: 2pm
The Ritchie Boys (documentary on those who interrogated German prisoners in World War II); 3:45pm
Private (Israeli army occupies Palestinian home); 5:45pm
Six Days (recalling the 1967 war)

Tickets are $8 door/$7 advance, four for $25. For information call 831.423.2505 or 831.426.9432.

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