Tovah Feldshuh (right) and Israeli American actress Chen Drachman, who penned the screenplay for “The Book of Ruth.”
Tovah Feldshuh (right) and Israeli American actress Chen Drachman, who penned the screenplay for “The Book of Ruth.”

Short film starring Tovah Feldshuh comes to San Jose film fest

Just in time for Passover, a dramatic short starring beloved Jewish actor Tovah Feldshuh is being shown by a San Jose–based film festival.

“The Book of Ruth,” a family drama written and created by Israeli American actress Chen Drachman, will stream in the Cinequest Online Film Festival from March 20 to 30. Released last year, the 14-minute film already has screened in a number of film festivals around the globe, and now comes Cinequest, which is touted as a qualifying festival for the Academy Awards. “Our little film is competing for a chance to qualify for the Oscars. NBD,” the film’s producers wrote on Facebook, using text speak for “no big deal.”

The film is an imaginative exploration of the unlikely possibility that Anne Frank might actually have survived the Holocaust — conjecture that arose because her body was never found, though the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and most authorities say she died of typhus in early 1945 in Bergen-Belsen. Drachman says she was inspired by a 2015 study on that subject by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

Drachman, a third-generation Holocaust survivor,  plays Lizzy, who visits the home of her grandmother on Passover. After the seder, a long-hidden secret is revealed, one that “has deep historical impact,” according to the film’s website. In dealing with the revelation, grandmother and granddaughter discuss themes of “memory, heritage, intolerance, the greater good and society’s tendency to claim ownership over certain things.”

The grandmother, Ruth, is played by Feldshuh, a Broadway star and film actor (“Golda’s Balcony”) who is probably better known to younger generations from her roles as the mom on “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and Deanna the leader of Alexandria in “The Walking Dead.” But the 68-year-old has been an actor for some four decades and is a Tony and Emmy Award nominee.

“The Book of Ruth” was directed by Becca Roth, who has nabbed a couple of festival awards for an LGBT short (“Lucky Penny”) and a documentary feature (“One: A Story of Love and Equality”), and made by an almost entirely female crew.

It’s important that “the story is told by women, both in front and behind the camera,” said Noam Sharir, director of culture for the S.F.-based Israeli consulate. Moreover, “it is very exciting that a prominent festival from our area is showcasing a film about Passover and the Holocaust at the perfect time — just before Passover and Yom HaShoah.” Pesach this year begins on March 27 and Holocaust Remembrance Day is on April 7-8.

For more information about streaming “The Book of Ruth” and the 31st annual Cinequest, which will be virtual for a second straight year, visit cinequest.org.

Laura Pall
Laura Paull

Laura Paull is J.'s Culture Editor, and was a longtime J. freelance writer before that.