Inventor Eddy Goldfarb is the subject of "Eddy's World," a documentary  in the 2023 Legacy Film Festival on Aging.
Inventor Eddy Goldfarb is the subject of "Eddy's World," a documentary in the 2023 Legacy Film Festival on Aging.

Legacy Film Festival spotlights ups and downs of elderly Jews

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A 98-year-old toymaker takes you into his studio to discuss the joys of his craft. A San Francisco filmmaker turns the lens on his grandparents as they navigate their senior years. An Israeli artist refuses to let a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease quash his creativity.

These and other films highlighting the joys and struggles of the elderly will be shown at the 11th annual Legacy Film Festival on Aging, which runs from Jan. 6 to 15.

For the second consecutive year, the festival will be entirely virtual due to ongoing Covid-19 concerns.

“We just pivoted at the last minute” in 2021, said 84-year-old Sheila Malkind, founder and executive director of the San Francisco-based, volunteer-run nonprofit. “We decided, we’ve just got to do it, and I had to learn Zoom, which is good.”

The team’s efforts paid off: Nearly 500 people viewed 30 films, she said. This year, Malkind aims to build on that success, with 40 shorts and feature-length movies. Nearly a dozen spotlight Jews or have Jewish content.

There was a plethora of options from which to choose. Arlene Reiff, a film curator and board member of the festival, kept finding more and more Jewish films, Malkind said. A few selections are by local filmmakers, including “Tsipa and Volf,” for which director Daniel Gamburg filmed his grandparents over a period of six years, and “Prognosis: Notes on Living,” a film memoir about the late Debra Chasnoff, an Academy Award-winning documentarian.

Beyond those Bay Area entries, the films cover a wide spectrum of themes and subjects from across the U.S. and around the world, including Israel.

“The Israeli distributors are very good,” noted Malkind. “They send us films. They are very ambitious.”

One of the longer entries in the lineup, the 90-minute “A Lullaby for the Valley,” follows Israeli artist Eli Shamir. Though diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Shamir continues to create lush oil paintings that capture his love for the Jezreel Valley.

Another selection, “Eddy’s World,” is a lighthearted look at inventor Eddy Goldfarb, now 100 years old and perhaps best known for his Yakity Yak chattering-teeth toy. A Q&A with director Lyn Goldfarb will be held via Zoom.

And then there’s “The Cantor’s Last Cantata,” a 13-minute romp with choir members of a Reform synagogue in Brooklyn, New York. “I’m from Brooklyn,” Malkind explained, adding that she still remembers attending High Holy Day services with her family at a neighborhood shul. (The short will be paired with “Brighton 4th,” a 2021 drama about a former Olympic wrestler from Tbilisi who travels to Brighton Beach to help his adult son out of a jam.)

Malkind has long worked in the field of aging “in one way or another,” and before moving to San Francisco in 2003, she served as director of the Silver Images Film Festival and the Legacy Film Series in Chicago. Looking back, however, she realized that most of the films in the series “were glossing over some of the problems” facing older adults.

The Legacy Film Festival on Aging, which launched in 2011, takes a more holistic approach, screening films on the challenges, triumphs and simple pleasures of life for the elderly. “After we did the festival the first year, everyone loved it,” Malkind said. “But we weren’t getting that many people” to come see the films. Malkind consulted a public relations pro, who advised that she remove the word “aging” from the festival name.

That was a no-go. “Aging is something not to be disappeared in one’s life,” Malkind said. “We are all going to age — if we are lucky.”

The festival is the only one of its kind in the U.S., according to Malkind. A survey of last year’s audience found the majority of those who responded were between 60 and 70 years old, with some younger than 60 and at least one as old as 90.

Legacy Film Festival on Aging

Jan. 6-15. $12 for individual screenings, $65 for a pass.

Liz Harris

Liz Harris is a J. contributor. She was J.'s culture editor from 2012-2018.