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What to see at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival in Palo Alto (July 26-31)

SFJFFcolorlogo-01By Winni Cherukuri, Katrina Man and Langa Tran

From July 24 to August 10, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival will be screening a variety of films and television shows, from personal and poignant documentaries to unconventional and barrier-breaking films, all around the Bay Area. From July 26 to July 31, the festival will come to CineArts Palo Alto Square. Tickets are $13 for students and seniors and $14 for general admission, and can be purchased at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival’s website.

Here is The Daily’s look at what to see in Palo Alto.

“Comedy Warriors”

This charming and uplifting documentary is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring films featured and is sure to be a big hit with audiences. “Comedy Warriors” details the story of five seriously injured Iraq/Afghanistan veterans who find solace through the power of comedy. With the help of four hugely successful comedians — Zach Galifianakis, Bob Saget, B.J. Novak and Lewis Black — these wounded soldiers brace themselves for a whole new kind of mission: stand-up comedy. Although significantly less difficult than the experiences these veterans are used to, stand-up comedy proves to be a battle in its own right and is yet another obstacle they work to overcome. This brilliant and hilarious film is sure to bring about both tears and laughter as it depicts just how significant of a role comedy play in the healing process. – WC

Screens Thursday, July 31 at 7 p.m.

“Shtisel”

One of the most realistic and well-scripted shows in Israeli television,”Shtisel” lays on the drama and sophistication with every new episode, while still maintaining the ability to resonate with the everyday Haredi family. The series’ detailed portrayal of the most authentic aspects of an Orthodox home is entirely unique and poignant. “Shtisel” has quickly become a big success for the YES cable channel and is sure to captivate and intrigue viewers of all backgrounds. – WC

Screens Wednesday, July 30 at 1:05 p.m.

“For a Woman”

French director Diane Kurys’ riveting movie, “For a Woman,” features an impassioned love affair as well as serious political turmoil. The movie tells the dramatic tale of a young writer, Anne, who begins to uncover important family secrets pertaining to her Jewish history shortly after her mother’s death. The more that is revealed, the more deeply you will be pulled into Anne’s pursuit to discover the truth about her parents’ life in post-war France. With an inviting feel of mystery as well as an undeniable sense of love and passion, this movie, full of suspenseful intrigue, is nothing short of thrilling for its entire two-hour length. – WC

Screens Saturday, July 26 at 8:45 p.m.

“10%: What Makes a Hero”

This compelling documentary examines how we define heroes around the world. For this mission, Director Yoav Shamir travels all around the world, from San Francisco to New York, South Africa and Israel to talk with a wide array of people and even animals. “10%: What Makes a Hero” challenges viewers to empower themselves and find ways they can positively impact entire communities. – WC

Screens Sunday, July 27 at noon

“Village of Peace”

“Village of Peace” is an eye-opening documentary that you won’t want to miss. Through a series of interviews, this documentary explores the history and the culture of  a black Hebrew community flourishing in Dimona, Israel, who fled the brutal conditions of the US in the 1960s to establish a more meaningful lifestyle in Israel. In their pursuit of a closer connection with their creator and their culture, those featured in this documentary created a society centered on embracing the arts and enhancing quality of life. With the help of feel-good music, passionate dance moves, savory food, and most of all, a strong belief in morals, such as faith and selflessness, they built a village devoid of poverty, prostitution and hunger. In essence, this documentary reveals how a group of people used faith to a create village of peace.- LT

Screens Wednesday, July 30 at 8:50 p.m.

“The Secret Life of Uri Geller”

This documentary delves into the life of a man with almost supernatural abilities. In the 1970s, Uri Geller captivated the hearts of millions all over the world through his uncanny ability to read minds and bend spoons with the touch of his fingers. While his main passion in life may have been to entertain the masses and embrace his fame, Geller also led another, more secretive life. From his early beginnings in the Mossad, an elite Israeli spy group, he soon became a salient worker for not only the Israeli and Mexican governments, but also the American CIA. In a thrilling series of interviews, this documentary explores the ins and outs of how Geller led a double life as an entertainer and a spy. One more bit of information: Geller was first sent to the United States to study at the Stanford Research Institute, right here in Palo Alto! -LT

Screens Monday, July 28th at 8:35 p.m.

“A Place In Heaven”

Directed by Yossi Madmony, “A Place in Heaven” is a film that will touch hearts as it beautifully portrays the obstacles of a man whose nature hinders his ability to carry out one of his most important duties: being a good father. A force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, Bambi, played by Alon Aboutboul, fosters a belligerent and selfish attitude towards life. As a result, he becomes increasingly dissatisfied with the way his family life unfolds. However, hope is not lost because while Bambi seems to be at an impasse, his virtuous son, Nimrod, decides to pursue a more ascetic lifestyle and endeavors to ensure that his father receives a place in heaven.- LT

Screens Wednesday, July 30 at 8:50 p.m.

“24 Days”

Based on true events, “24 Days” captures the gruesome story of the Jewish salesman, Ilan Halimi, and his ordeal with the anti-Semitic group, the Gang of the Barbarians. Director Alexandre Arcardy does a wonderful job of capturing the story through multiple points of view, from his torn family to the determined police force to Halimi himself and his captors. Although the plot alone is rather powerful, Arcardy forces viewers to look at Halimi’s story from an interconnected web of perspectives rather than one perspective alone. The film not only does a terrific job of keeping viewers on the edge of their seats, but it also raises various questions on the nature of anti-Semitism and how it is being dealt with in the modern-day world. “24 Days” is not simply the story of Ilan Halimi; rather, it is also the story of us as humans and how we choose to react to crimes against humanity. -KM

Screens Sunday, July 27 at 8:55 p.m.

“112 Weddings”

Directed by Doug Block, this raw documentary tackles the ideas of marriage, love and the preconceived notions of happily ever after. Following several couples’ marriages, Block does not shy away from capturing both the high and low points of those pairings. Block does a fantastic job of offering a more grounded view of marriage, which is too often idealized. However, what really sets this documentary apart is the way Block approaches each subject. He lets the subjects speak for themselves, offering little commentary and letting the viewers find their own answers in the midst of such complicated topics. -KM

Screens Sunday, July 27 at 4:25 p.m.

“Havana Curveball”

This documentary follows 13-year-old Mica as he embarks on a Bar Mitzvah project with the hopes of finally entering manhood: Mica has decided to travel to Cuba in hopes of helping supply baseball equipment to youth baseball teams. “Havana Curveball” does an exceptional job of capturing the complications that arise on his journey: the political relationship between America and Cuba, the language and cultural barriers, and the other harsher realities of Mica’s project. What initially seems like a romantic, feel-good documentary becomes a lesson in the difficulties faced when taking action and the determination and perseverance that are needed to make a change. -KM

Screens Thursday, July 31 at 12:30 p.m.

“The Last Mentsch”

Beautifully directed and written by Pierre-Henry Salfati, “The Last Mentsch” follows an elderly Marcus Schwartz as he uncovers his Jewish past in order to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Crossing paths with a young German woman, Gül, the two embark on a journey to validate Marcus’ life as Mena’hem Teitelbaum, a survivor of the Holocaust. “The Last Mentsch” deals with the difficulties of recognizing and validating the past. What starts off as a mission for others to recognize his Jewish heritage ends as Schwartz’s internal mission to accept himself as Mena’hem Teitelbaum. “The Last Mentsch” is a poignant film, which reminds us that the best story is not always the one we prefer to hear, but the truth. – KM

Screens Sunday, July 27 at 6:55 p.m.

Visit the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival’s website for tickets and more information.