After years as a “shorts day” in the San Diego International Jewish Film Festival, the Joyce Forum last year became a festival of its own. Now, on Sept 21-22, 2019 in the Garfield Theatre at Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, you can see five different programs of short films, and participate in post-screening Q&As with filmmakers and other guest speakers.
The 32 films include documentaries, dramas, comedies and animation, chosen from over 130 submissions from 21 countries. As often happens, there’s an abundance of Holocaust-related subjects and not much in the way of stylistic invention, but there are more than a few pieces well worth watching.
Here are some of the notable ones:
• “Beneath The Ink” (Documentary, USA) Program 1, Sept. 21, 8 p.m.
In a region full of poor, under-educated people in southeast Ohio, tattoo artist Billy Joe White takes a stand against hate and racism by offering makeovers of hateful tattoos. He transforms swastikas and KKK tats into flowers and other friendly images — for free. “People are wanting to kill for hate,” he says in this doc, which features folks who come to him ready to change. “I couldn’t stand by anymore and say: What can I do?” The film is nominated for a 2019 Emmy for Outstanding Short Documentary. Post-screening Q&A with filmmaker Cy Dodson.
• “Division Avenue” (Drama, USA) Program 4, Sept. 22, 4:30 p.m.
When an orthodox Jewish housewife in Brooklyn finds out that her newly-hired Mexican housekeeper is not being paid by the cleaning agency that sent her, the two women begin to find common ground and collaborate in seeking justice.
• “Kippah” (Drama, Germany) Program 5, Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m.
A teen-age boy, initially popular at his new, multicultural school, suddenly finds his situation very different — and dangerous — once the students learn he is Jewish. Subjected to taunting and beatings, he manages to overcome the bullies with his own brand of courageous action.
• Three Documentaries from the Jerusalem Film Workshop; Program 3, Sept. 22, 1:30 p.m.
The six short documentaries created by international film students at this summer’s JFW were assembled into a full-length feature, “On the Hill,” which premiered at the Jerusalem Film Festival Aug. 1.
The docs screened here are those the three San Diegan participants worked on:
• “Queen of Ein Kerem,” about a woman in the neighborhood where this year’s JFW took place, who formed her own local tour company, promoting her community as a future World Heritage site (Andrew Norbeck, director);
• “Eager Hands,” about an old-world young mother who keeps tradition alive by teaching women’s workshops in crafts like basket-weaving the way they were done in the Bible (Brett Goldstein, editor);
• “Alex and Saleh,” about the friendship between 88-year-old Alexander Tamir, who came to Israel from a Lithuanian ghetto and became a celebrated pianist, and his gardener/cook/caretaker Saleh El Arage, a Palestinian family man. The film is dedicated to Tamir, who died Aug. 15 (Colby Smith, editor). All three filmmakers will be present at the post-screening Q&A.
• IF YOU GO: Find the full festival schedule and tickets at sdcjc.org/sdijff/joyce_forum.aspx
About the Jerusalem Film Workshop
• Founded in 2014, the Jerusalem Film Workshop (JFW) is a five-week summer program that offers aspiring filmmakers from around the world a chance to gather together in Jerusalem, receive mentoring from some of Israel’s top professionals, and create their own short documentaries featuring local characters.
• This year, there were 24 film students from 11 countries — Israel, USA, Brazil, Australia, South Africa, France, China, Canada, Poland, Uzbekistan and Nepal. Among them were San Diegans Andrew Norbeck, a grad student at San Diego State University who teaches filmmaking at Canyon Crest Academy in Carmel Valley; Colby Smith, a senior at SDSU; and Brett Goldstein, who just graduated from Cal State, San Marcus. All three received full scholarships to the JFW from the Murray Galinson San Diego-Israel Initiative, named for the philanthropist, civic leader and La Jollan, a proponent of social justice and education, who died in 2013.
• This year’s workshop took place in Ein Kerem, a attractive hillside village with Jewish and Christian history. Referenced in the Old Testament, it was also the birthplace of John the Baptist, and has become a magnet for tourists.