The best of the rest of the fest

Forlorn fans of “The Sopranos,” the Jewish Film Festival may have the cure for what ails ya. No, there are no mobsters. And no whacking. And certainly no one named Paulie Walnuts.

It’s just a riveting television show from Israel called “A Touch Away,” and this year you can see all of it.

Here, in a nutshell, is the series so far: A secular Russian family and their attractive son move into the same Tel Aviv building as a fervently religious clan with a beautiful young daughter … and, action!

“It’s a sharply written series where everyone wants to see what comes next,” said Peter Stein, the festival’s executive director. Program Director Nancy Fishman admits she has watched up to four episodes straight because she just couldn’t stop.

The festival will play the first four episodes Aug. 4 at the JCC of San Francisco’s Kanbar Hall. For those unable to make a Saturday showing, the first four shows will be repeated the next day at 12:30 p.m. The last four episodes will be shown immediately afterward, beginning at 4 p.m.

Asking Stein and Fishman their favorite films playing in this year’s festival is like asking a parent to choose a favorite child (or at least to do so on the record). Still, a number of flicks stand out for the duo:

• “My Mexican Shiva” from director Alejandro Springall is a combination of a telenovela and Yiddish melodrama that recounts the demise of a Mexican Jewish patriarch and his family’s reaction. Yes, a mariachi band is involved.

• “Praying with Lior” is a documentary that traces the road to the bar mitzvah of Lior Liebling, a boy with Down syndrome. The young man would be out here for the festival, Fishman noted, but he’s away at summer camp.

• A number of this year’s films feature great music, including the live jazz band playing during “His People.” Others are “Ladino — 500 Years Young,” which traces the story of Sephardi Israeli singer Yasmin Levy; “Three Mothers,” starring Israeli actress Gila Almagor as a famous singer; “Yiddish Soul”; “Knowledge is the Beginning: Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra”; and “The Chosen Ones,” which introduces us to the nation’s young Jewish musicians.

• The fest’s closing-night film, “Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women” features a live set from comedian Judy Gold at the Castro Theatre show on July 26.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.