45 films / 10 days: La Jollan is one of the many stars in 21st San Diego Jewish Film Festival
By Leigh Ann Dewey
At age 105, La Jolla resident Laura Simon savors each day. “I enjoy life every moment that I am here,” said Simon. “I find life fascinating.”
A visual artist, author and playwright, Simon is one of an extraordinary group of people in their 90s and 100s featured in “Over 90 and Loving It.” The documentary film, written and produced by Rancho Santa Fe resident and filmmaker Susan Polis Schutz, is part of the 21st Anniversary San Diego Jewish Film Festival, which will feature 45 films shown over 10 days.
The festival is sponsored by the Leichtag Family Foundation and presented by the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla. What began in 1989 as a small event in the center gym with a projector on a ladder has grown to be the third largest film festival in the United States, said festival producer Sandra Kraus. An estimated 16,000 people are expected to view this year’s films, to be screened Feb. 10-20 at five theaters in San Diego and North County.
“All of the films (reflect) a Jewish point of view,” said festival Chair Helen Fleming, “but you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy them. We are reaching out to the entire community. There is something for everyone.”
Special events will include a “Baby and Me” screening, with films designed for babies and mothers; a FlixMix for people in their 20s to 40s; and a Teen Screen with movies and pizza for teenagers. Talks by filmmakers and their subjects, including Schutz and Simon, also will be presented. “Over 90 and Loving It” will be the featured film at the Joyce Forum at 8 p.m. Feb. 14 at the Clairemont Reading Cinemas 14 theater, 4665 Clairemont Drive, San Diego.
Schutz turned her hobby of writing poetry into a commercial venture by founding Blue Mountain Greeting Cards with her husband Stephen in 1971. She has written 10 books and produced four documentary films. She said she was inspired to make “Over 90 and Loving It” while watching a 90-year-old band leader and saxophonist perform in New York City.
“I was so enthralled with him and his spirit,” she said, so she began seeking out other inspirational seniors throughout the country. Subjects include folk singer and activist Pete Seeger, 91; and “Granny D” Haddock, a political activist who walked more than 3,200 miles to advocate for campaign finance reform. She died last March at age 100.
“Each person has a different story,” said Schutz. “but they have common characteristics,” including keeping a positive attitude, never worrying, not thinking about their age, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and following their passion.
Simon said she is honored to be in the film. She previously appeared in a documentary film featuring senior writers. An avid learner, she has audited numerous classes at UCSD. “I’ve been going to school my entire life,” she said.
If you go
What: 21st Anniversary San Diego Jewish Film Festival
When: Feb. 10-20
Where: Reading Cinemas Town Square 14, 4665 Clairemont Drive, San Diego
UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas, 7510 Hazard Center Drive, San Diego
Edwards San Marcos 18 Theater, 1180 W. San Marcos Blvd., San Marcos
Carlsbad Village Theatre, 2822 State Street, Carlsbad
JCC’s Garfield Theatre, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla
Tickets: $11.25 for JCC members, $13.25 for non-members. Opening/closing night films $13.25-$15.25. Joyce Forum Shorts free. Festival passes, senior/student discounts available.
Schedules: (858) 362-1348 or sdjff.org
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