La Rafle (E One Entertainment)
The Winnipeg Jewish International Film Festival
May 12-21, Berney Theatre at the Rady Jewish Community Centre
This year's festival explores the Jewish experience in all its richness and diversity, with offerings from Poland, France, Germany, Argentina, the United States and Israel. Some stories are ripped from the headlines, others are steeped in history.
Genres range from human comedy to harrowing drama, from surreal coming-of-age story to documentary, with a little klezmer music thrown in for good measure.
Expect some good conversations in the lobby afterwards.
Here's a sampling:
La Rafle (The Round-Up) - Sunday May 15, 730 p.m.
This harrowing historical drama (in French, German and Yiddish, with subtitles) deals with a subject that until recently was taboo in France: The Vel d'Hiv roundup of over 13,000 French Jews in July, 1942. (De Gaulle's government later doctored photographs of the Beaune-la-Rolande transit camp, which was basically a way-station to Auschwitz, to hide the fact that French gendarmes, not German soldiers, were guarding the prisoners.)
Following several children and their families through the days before and after the roundup, this careful re-creation of events gets solid support from the work of Jean Reno (The Professional) and Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds). While the film examines the power-wrangling motives of high-ranking Nazis and officials of the Vichy government, writer-director Rose Bosch grounds her story in the small actions of ordinary people. This is where the real horror and true courage come out.
Roeyczka (Little Rose) - Wednesday May 18, 7:30 p.m.
Set in communist-ruled Poland in 1968, this erotic drama (in Polish with subtitles) follows Kamilla, a young woman whose brutish boyfriend, Rozek, is a colonel in the state security service. Pressured to expose a cultured professor of literature who is suspected of being a secret Zionist and Jew, Rozek uses Kamilla as bait, leading to a complicated triangulation of sexual and political power.
Little Rose is a revealing record of the virulence of communist anti-Semitism, and like the 2006 German film The Lives of Others, it perfectly captures the paranoia and suspicion that permeate every level of a totalitarian society, down to the most intimate relationships.
The Worst Company in the World - Tuesday May 17, 7:30 p.m.
No, it's not an exposé of corporate malfeasance. This is actually Israeli director Regev Contes's half-affectionate nickname for his father's failing Tel Aviv insurance company, which is overstaffed by sad-sack elderly bachelors and seriously in the red. Over the course of one tragicomic fiscal year, Contes - who has tried all his life to distance himself from his underachieving dad - throws himself into saving the company with modern marketing, streamlined operations and some nifty new business cards.
This endearing, gently comic doc isn't about business, though. It's about family, fathers and sons, and the real meaning of success.
Berlin 36 - Friday May 20, 5 p.m.
The Nazis viewed the 1936 Berlin Olympics as a brilliant propaganda exercise. Everybody knows about Jesse Owens' resounding rebuke to Hitler's racial theories, but not many know the story of Jewish-German high jumper Gretel Bergmann. Foreign pressure meant that the Nazis allowed her to train, but they certainly didn't want her competing, and they brought in a very interesting ringer.
This good-looking period drama, in which a wonderfully steely Karoline Herfurth plays Gretel, fictionalizes some of the events, changing names and circumstances. It's interesting to compare the movie's story with the historical facts, which are jaw-dropping enough.
More photos from featured films: