Family affair: S.F. Jewish Film Festival features falafel, freedom, Archie Bunker

Organizers of this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival are keeping things all in the family.

Norman Lear, creator of the groundbreaking sitcom “All in the Family” and many other 1970s television hits, will be presented with the festival’s 2016 Freedom of Expression Award on July 24 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco.

Lear, 94, is also the subject of a new documentary, “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You,” which will be among the films shown at the 36th annual festival, slated for July 21 to Aug. 7 at five Bay Area theaters.

The full festival lineup was announced on June 21 and can be viewed in detail at Tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday, June 24.

The 67 films from 15 countries will explore “the full spectrum of Jewish identity, life and thought,” according to Lexi Leban, executive director of the festival’s parent organization, the Jewish Film Institute.

Scene from opening night film “The Tenth Man” photo/jewish film institute

The July 21 opening night offering, “The Tenth Man,” is an Argentinian comedy about the travails of an Orthodox family in Buenos Aires. Director Daniel Burman is scheduled to attend the screening, and one of the film’s stars, Julieta Zylberberg, has been invited. The 6:30 p.m. screening at the Castro Theatre will be followed by a 9 p.m. opening night party at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.


“The Tenth Man” will also screen July 24 at the CineArts at Palo Alto Square, Aug. 2 at the Roda Theatre in Berkeley and Aug. 7 at the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael. The only festival venue it will miss is the Piedmont Theatre in Oakland.

The film that will close the festival’s July 21-31 run at the Castro Theatre will be “For the Love of Spock,” a documentary tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy from his filmmaker son, Adam Nimoy.

The festival always includes what organizers call “Centerpiece” films, and this year there are two: “Natasha” is the narrative film in this category and “Robert Klein Still Can’t Stop His Leg” is the documentary.

“Natasha” is a dark, coming-of-age story from Canadian director David Bezmozgis based on his short story. Bezmozgis is scheduled to be in person for screenings on July 26 in San Francisco, July 27 in Palo Alto and and July 29 in Berkeley. The film will also screen Aug. 6 in San Rafael.

“Robert Klein Still Can’t Stop His Leg” analyzes the impact Klein had on a generation of comics and provides a rare up-close-and-personal look at the comedian who appeared on “The Tonight Show” and Letterman more than 100 times. The film will screen only once, July 25 at the Castro, with Klein and movie critic-turned-director Marshall Fine scheduled to be in attendance.

Other films in this year’s “double chai” lineup include “The Last Laugh,” a documentary examining whether it is acceptable to use humor in dealing with the Holocaust; the world premiere of “Wrestling Jerusalem,” an examination of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from Bay Area actor-director Aaron Davidman; and “A German Life,” a Holocaust documentary that considers ethical and moral questions (“what would you have done?”) by examining the life of Brunhilde Pomsel, now 105, who served as Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels’ secretary.

There will also be many films on lighter topics, such as food, including “In Search of Israeli Cuisine,” exploring the fine restaurants, home kitchens and open-air markets that have made Israel one of the world’s hottest food scenes; “Hummus: The Movie,” a documentary about the food sweeping across America and its dynamism in the Middle East; and “Streits: Matzo and the American Dream,” a documentary on the largest family-owned matzah factory in the United States.

Organizers have also cooked up a festival theme called “Televisionairies,” which will pay homage to creative geniuses of the small screen, such as Lear and Sayed Kashua, creator of the hit Arab Israeli sitcom “Arab Labor.” A documentary about Kashua, “The Writer,” is part of the festival lineup.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.