Muse & Schmooze: Top Picks from the Boston Jewish Film Festival

It’s been a big week for film in Boston, with the Boston Jewish Film Festival running until Nov. 17. I’ve heard good reviews of many films and wanted to share my festival picks with you:

Zero Motivation
This movie shows the less glamorous side of the army that most Americans never imagine—a side that Israelis totally get. Did you know there could even be a role in the army for paper shredding? This film portrays boring office jobs and the antics that come along with them. Described as “MASH” meets “Orange is the New Black,” it’s no wonder I was into this one! Israeli cookbook author Janna Gur said, “Great film, and a look at real Israeli army office life.” With genuine and strong female characters, this film was apparently so popular in Israel that one in 10 Israelis have already seen it! IMDB gives it a rating of 8.3 out of 10, and it won awards at the Tribeca Film Festival. It’s opening in New York theaters on Dec. 3, so check it out if you happen to be there.

Watchers of the Sky
I personally wasn’t able to see this one, but given its positive reviews, I’m sorry I missed it! Here’s what local arts maven Lara Freishtat told me: “[It’s] a very powerful movie, that while tough to watch, is important for everyone to see. It’s a call to action for countries to put aside their own national interests in the interest of humanity, and truly act to end genocide from recurring.” It’s not surprising then that this won awards at the Sundance Film Festival and the Jerusalem Film Festival.

Deli Man
I love a good corned beef sandwich and knish, so I had to check this out. What I didn’t expect was that it would be such a moving film with incredibly passionate and articulate people, including deli maven Ziggy Gruber, who attended this worldwide premiere. I won’t give anything away, but there were tears and cheering that you wouldn’t anticipate in a film about delis! It’s a worthwhile documentary on the whole, and the end credits—written on sandwich boards in true deli fashion—were especially clever. I’m proud to live in the city that premiered this awesome documentary!

Little White Lie
While I haven’t seen this one yet, the trailer has me hooked. This is a long-time-in-the-making documentary of and by Lacey Schwartz, a young woman who identified as a white Jewish kid from the ‘burbs, until she was accepted to college as a black student. Need I say more? Here’s what the New York Times had to say. (FYI, you’ll be able to catch this film on PBS next spring.)

Short Film Competition
This lineup included four short films, including “The Funeral” by British filmmaker Yehuda Jez Freedman, “Poison” by Israeli filmmaker Roni Rainhartz, “Shadow Puppets” by Israeli filmmaker Adam Bizanski, and “Siren,” directed by Israeli and Brooklyn-based filmmaker Jonah Bleicher. Black comedy won the crowd over, awarding first prize to “The Funeral”—a funny and religiously poignant film. Author Etgar Keret’s cameo in “Siren” was noted, and this short based on his short story of the same name came in second. The buzz in the crowd was that it was a great lineup with deep content that made you think, though a bit dark overall. The after-party with the filmmakers was a big hit too. Missed this evening? You can catch a few of these shorts at Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights on Wednesday, Dec. 17.

As you can see, the 26th annual Boston Jewish Film Festival had a really great lineup. I hope this list inspires you to check out some quality indie films. Let me know what you find!

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