Skip to main content

Preview: 26th Annual San Diego Jewish Film Festival

February 4, 2016 3:22 a.m.

KPBS film Critic Beth Accomando previews the 26th Annual San Diego Jewish Film Festival.

Related Story: San Diego Jewish Film Festival Launches 26th Year With South African Drama


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

The 26th Annual San Diego Jewish Film Festival opened last night (Thursday) with the US premiere of the South African drama The Price of Sugar. KPBS film critic Beth Accomando highlights some of films.

The San Diego Jewish Film Festival, more than most festivals in town, is a place to find films that are conversation starters and that challenge audiences to think about ideas.

CLIP You have to be quite a bad ass to get locked up for your ideas…

Timothy Leary’s ideas often got him in trouble so it’s fitting that in his final days he would challenge taboos about death.

CLIP We’re all gonna die, why not learn how to do it with class, and style, and friendship and as a climatic expression of a life.

The documentary Dying to Know focuses on the last months of Leary’s life as he and fellow counter culture icon Ram Dass contemplate death and dying. It’s an emotional process but one free of the usual teary-eyed sentimentality. An unexpected tone can also be found in The Singing Abortionist.

CLIP I used to sing to my patients while operating…

This documentary explores the life of Canadian pro-life activist Henry Morgentaler.

CLIP If I have to die from an assassin’s bullet so be it.

The film took seven years to make and conveys a complicated man behind the public persona. Famous women prove fascinating in documentaries such as Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict.

CLIP: I was in search of an occupation… and opened this gallery… she’s mulling over starting an art gallery or a publishing house and her friend said an art gallery it’s cheaper.

Art became Peggy Guggenheim’s passion but for Flory Jagoda it was music.

CLIP Music

Flory’s Flame looks to the 90-year-old singer, musician, and composer whose roots and music stretch back hundreds of years to Spain before the Jewish expulsion during the Inquisition in 1492.

Women are also the focus of narrative films such as the beautifully crafted Mountain, in which a woman lives with her family in the Jewish cemetery on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives.

CLIP door slamming

There’s a reason the door to her home sounds like a prison door slamming shut, it’s because she feels trapped in a mind numbing routine from which she seeks to escape. A young girl proves to be a catalyst for a teenage boy’s coming of age in Natasha.

CLIP She doesn’t want to see you any more I thought she was going to Florida… com’on she barely speaks English.

But young boys coming of age are at the center of two powerfully acted and well-scripted features, Encirclements and Valley…

CLIP Class bell

Three high school students become unlikely friends in Valley, which explores, among many things, the cycle of violence within an abusive family. The festival also programs crowd-pleasing films like Dough starring Jonathon Pryce.

CLIP Do you have baking experience?... I made toast this morning.

Here an Old Jewish baker and a young Muslim boy can come together to redefine their community. But perhaps the festival is best summed up by Atom Egoyan’s film Remember. Egoyan’s recent work has been obsessed with a sense of history and memory. Remember casts Christopher Plummer as an eldery Jew with dementia who has been sent on a mission of revenge.

CLIP Evidence was found that an Auschwitz block captain had emigrated and was most likely living under alias of Rudy…

The film serves up a twist that makes us rethink all that came before and that’s what the San Diego Jewish Film Festival excels at, making us re-examine things we thought we knew and to look at things with new eyes.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.

The San Diego Jewish Film Festival continues through Feb. 14th at multiple venues including Reading Towne Square and Arclight La Jolla.