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Jewish films galore this month at Segal Centre

Tags: Arts
The late Sid Caesar, seen in this archival photo with his future wife Florence at the Avon Lodge in the Catskills, appears in the film When Comedy Went to School.

A variety of films of Jewish interest is on offer this month in Montreal at a new film series at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, and during the 32nd annual International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA).

The New Jewish Scene series, held in association with the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, offers five mostly recent films between March 23 and 25 – four of them Montreal premieres. Foreign-language films are English subtitled.

The Zigzag Kid (2012, Netherlands and four other countries), directed by Vincent Bal and featuring Isabella Rossellini, is based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Israeli author David Grossman.

A motherless 13-year-old boy, the son of a famous police inspector, who has a knack for getting in trouble, is the hero of this humorous movie.

When Comedy Went to School (2013, United States), directed by Ron Frank and Mevlut Akkaya, is a documentary about the golden era of American comedians and their training ground, the Catskills’ Borscht Belt. It features interviews with icons like Mel Brooks, Sid Caesar and Jerry Stiller, as well as clips of early performances by such greats as Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld and Billy Crystal.

Jewish Mum of the Year (2012, United Kingdom), originally aired as a four-episode series on British television. This reality show was a search for the perfect Jewish mother. Eight women vied for the title, and the job of “agony aunt” columnist for a Jewish newspaper.

All In (2012, Argentina/Spain), directed by Daniel Burman, is a romantic comedy set in Buenos Aires and centring on a recently divorced professional poker player who gets an unexpected second chance at love with an ex-girlfriend.

Gloomy Sunday (1999, Germany/Hungary), directed by Rold Schuebel, set in Budapest, is about the love triangle between a Hungarian beauty, her dapper Jewish boyfriend, the owner of the city’s finest restaurant, and a pianist who becomes her lover.  The ill-starred affair moves him to write his only composition, the melancholy Gloomy Sunday, which, in real life, triggered suicides in the 1930s.

Toronto Jewish Film Festival artistic director Helen Zuckerman said this older movie is included because it has been extremely popular at that festival.

“People just can’t get enough of Gloomy Sunday,” she said. “We’ve shown it four times and it sold out each time. Perhaps it is because of the incredible beauty of its leading actress, and the music.”

A former Montrealer, Zuckerman will attend the first screening, The Zigzag Kid, on March 23 at 2 p.m.

For more information or to purchase tickets for the series, call the Segal box office, 514-739-7944 or go online at www.segalcentre.org.

At FIFA, which runs from March 20 to 30, Il était une fois…La Règle du jeu is a French 2010 made-for-television documentary, which looks at the making and influence of Jean Renoir’s masterpiece.

The movie La Règle du jeu, which came out in 1939, exposed the anti-Semitism among France’s elite and its indifference to the gathering storm of Nazism.

La Règle du jeu, which many critics regard as one of the best cinematic works ever made, drew an unsparing portrait of a decadent class whose frivolousness, the director suggested, led to the fall of France to the Germans and the establishment of the puppet Vichy regime.

In competition at the festival are: Beat Generation (2013, France), about the friendship among Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac; Lucian Freud: Painted Life (2012, United Kingdom), a rare portrait of the eminent, but reclusive, British artist who died in 2011; and Lucien Hervé: Photographe malgré lui (2012, Belgium), the story of the great French photographer, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant, born Laszlo Elkan (1910-2007).

FIFA commemorates American photographer Saul Leiter who died last year, with a showing of the new British documentary In No Great Hurry – 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter, an intimate portrait of a self-effacing man whose talent was recognized late in his career. A fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar, he was also an artist who pioneered the use of colour photography.

Herb & Dorothy 50x50 (2012, United States) is a sequel to Megumi Sasaki’s 2008 documentary about Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, a New York couple of modest means but with incredible eyes for the potential of emerging artists, who accumulated a massive, valuable collection starting in the 1960s.

In this followup, after bequeathing most of their 5,000 works to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the now-widowed Dorothy decides to donate 50 works to one museum in each of the 50 states.

FIFA, which takes place at 11 centrally located venues, bills itself as the largest festival of its kind in the world. This year, 270 films from 34 countries are scheduled. For details and tickets, visit www.artfifa.com.

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