With a cyber sex business, an ecstasy pill, a spiritual awakening, and a ridiculous Passover Seder, proof that Jewish films can be lighthearted and funny has arrived.
The film, “When Do We Eat,” directed by Salvatore Litvak, will kick off the Sixth Annual International Jewish Film Festival, presented by the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia.
“This is a real festival with 35 millimeter film prints,” said Max Alvarez, a film historian and frequent film lecturer at the Smithsonian. “It’s not someone wheeling in a television set; it’s the real deal.”
This particular festival will be the first for Litvak. He’ll be present for the film’s first two showings at the Cinema Arts Theatre, Fair City Mall, in Fairfax. He wrote “When Do We Eat” with his wife, Nina Davidovich, and said the idea simply made the couple laugh, and they weren’t the only ones laughing. Since its first run on the big screen in 2005, the movie has earned four film festival awards. It picked up Best Comedy at the San Francisco World Film Festival, Best Director at the Tahoe/Reno International Film Festival, Best Screenplay at the San Diego Film Festival and Best Feature at the DeadCenter Film Festival in Oklahoma City.
“It’s a metaphor for freeing yourself from slavery into the destructive pattern that keeps us from being what we want to be,” said Litvak. “The Passover theme inherits 3,000 years of wisdom of how to free yourself from slavery.”
Naomi Sweet, JCCNV’s Film Festival chairperson, has already seen “When Do We Eat.” She said the movie is just the beginning of a really great festival that has been growing over the last six years.
“It’s a phenomenal film,” said Sweet. “And it’s a fantastic festival. It’s the best we’ve ever done.”
Rosalind Engels, director of the film festival, said this year is the JCCNV’s largest festival yet, with 44 screenings, all but three taking place at the Fair City Mall. She already expects the opening showing of “When Do We Eat” to sell out.
“We’ve already sold 100 advanced tickets,” said Engels. “The theater only holds about 200 people.”
THE FESTIVAL includes 13 films from Israel, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Spain, Argentina and the United States. All of the films have Jewish themes, and most of the foreign films will be presented with subtitles. Engels said the films are about contemporary issues and modern life.
“It’s a very upbeat festival,” she said. “People are very enthused.”
The American film, “39 Pounds of Love,” is a documentary film about a survivor testing his limits. The film has won three awards already for best documentary, and it has won critical acclaim in the film industry. It’s the story of an Israeli man, Ami Amkilewitz, whose parents were told he would not live past the age of six. Now, the 34-year-old goes on a journey to find the doctor who wrongly diagnosed his death by at least 28 years. Ami Amkilewitz’s best friend and producer of the film, Asaf Sahul, will be at the May 4 showing to provide commentary and insight into the film’s story and its production.
The closing film and reception takes place Thursday, May 11, at 7 p.m., at the JCCNV, 8900 Little River Turnpike, in Fairfax. Max Alvarez will be there to present the film with a brief introduction and a post-viewing discussion. He said he will introduce the film by providing a background of both the film and its director, and he will also talk about the controversy the film has created in Germany and elsewhere.
“This [film] is important because it’s taking Jewish subject matter with a comedic approach,” said Alvarez. “It’s kind of a watershed film.”