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[whitespace] Audrey Tautou
Amélie No Longer: Audrey Tautou takes on a different role in 'God Is Great and I'm Not.'

There's Still Hope

The SFJFF explores all sides

By Richard von Busack

It's obvious that the 22nd annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival hosts films about Jewish life and lore. Yet this festival--the first, the most successful, and the most imitated Jewish film festival in the world--always avoids a limited parochial focus. Israel and Israeli films are represented here, including a documentary on the history of the young nation. But two of the most applauded (and yet undistributed) films to come out of France and Italy recently are also part of the bill. The local "best of" selection at the Rafael invites the faithful and the skeptical alike.

Qui Vive (6:30pm, Saturday, Aug. 10) The sequel to the 1989 film Polonaise, about the next generation of a Jewish family hidden by Dutch Christians during World War II. All's not well for them as they deal with pregnancy and a bad case of the seven-year itch.

God Is Great and I'm Not (8:30pm, Saturday, Aug. 10) Under Pascale Bailly's direction, Audrey Tautou--the Parisian pixie who had the title role in Amélie--plays a gentile but not gentle supermodel who lands a rarely practicing Jewish veterinarian. When the two plan to marry, she decides to convert. Billed with Not Another Jewish Movie, which follows 11 Bay Area Jewish kids mulling over on camera what the traditions mean to them.

In Search of Peace (Part One: 1948-1967) (noon, Sunday, Aug. 11) An ambitious documentary on the history of Israel, narrated by Michael Douglas and containing interviews with seven prime ministers of the embattled nation.

Blue Vinyl (2:30pm, Sunday, Aug. 11) A classic example of the SFJFF's eclecticism. In this documentary, Judith Helfand (director of A Healthy Baby Girl) explores the dangerous side of household vinyl siding and the persistent polyvinyl chlorides the stuff is derived from.

Unfair Competition (5:30pm, Sunday, Aug. 11) Ettore Scola's comedy/drama about Mussolini's enactment of the racial laws of 1938, viewed through the lens of a plot of two competitive tailors in Rome: one gentile (Diego Abatantuono), one Jewish (Sergio Castellito). The two have a temporary truce going due to a liaison between their son and daughter. When the country's anti-Semitic laws are enacted, the gentile's brother-in-law (Gerard Depardieu) pitches in to help.

Esther Kahn (8pm, Sunday, Aug. 11) Jack the Ripper's neighborhood, Whitechapel, London, is the location for Arnaud Desplechin's Victorian romance of a Jewish girl (Summer Phoenix) determined to risk everything to become an actress. Ian Holm co-stars as her hard-nosed teacher.

Foreign Sister (6:30pm, Monday, Aug. 12) Director Dan Wolman's story of a regret-wracked middle-class Israeli woman, Naomi, who meets an Ethopian Copt, or Christian. This illegal immigrant leads Naomi to question the comforts of her home.

Desperado Square (8:30pm, Monday, August 12) Benny Torati's spin on The Last Picture Show. Desperado Square is a study of Greek Jews living in the backward outskirts of Tel Aviv, where a now closed movie theater stands as the symbol of forgotten dreams and hopes for romance. A movie about movies, and thus the ending note of this year's festival.


Tickets and more information are available at www.sfjff.org.

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From the August 8-14, 2002 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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