The Arty Semite

Up Close and Personal With Israeli Prime Ministers

By Curt Schleier

Moriah Films is a division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and is responsible for a dozen documentaries of Jewish interest. Filmmaker Richard Trank has been with Moriah from the beginning, a journey that included an Academy Award in 1997 for “The Long Way Home,” about Holocaust Survivors rebuilding their lives and the State of Israel.

Of all his productions, his latest, “The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers,” was probably the easiest. It seems all he had to do was point a couple of cameras and say “Action.”

Courtesy Moriah Films

Those cameras were pointed at Yehuda Avner, author of the book on which the film is based and a long-time Israeli government official. He is also a heck of a raconteur.

Avner was born in Manchester, England, immigrated to Israel in 1947, and eventually took on a number of public relations and English speech writing roles for five Prime Ministers. He also served as an ambassador to England, Ireland and Australia.

“The Prime Ministers” is the first of two films based on his 715-page book of the same name. “Pioneers” covers Avner’s work with Levi Eshkol and Gold Meir, and with Yitzhak Rabin when Rabin was Israel’s U.S. Ambassador.

The second, “Soldiers and Peacemakers,” is scheduled for release in the spring; it covers Avner’s work with Rabin as prime minister as well as with Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres.

The documentary is less biographical than anecdotal. The average viewer will learn a lot; students of Israeli history, already familiar with much of what “The Pioneers” contains, will still pick up a nugget or two and find the documentary a worthwhile and pleasant experience.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yehuda Avner, The Prime Ministers, Films, Richard Trank, Documentaries

Paradise in Del Ray Beach

By Curt Schleier

When Kings Point in Delray Beach, Fla., opened in 1972, it wasn’t the Promised Land, though many thought it was close. For a $1,500 down payment, refugees from New York exchanged cold winters, drugs and crime for a gated community filled with their peers.

Courtesy Summers Henderson/HBO

First-time director Sari Gilman’s late grandmother was a resident for a while, sparking a five-year long project. The result is “Kings Point,” a documentary short that was nominated for an Oscar and that premieres March 11 on HBO (with subsequent play dates throughout the month).

I should confess that like Sari, I have a familial relationship with the facility. My in-laws moved there in the mid-1970s and lived first in Saxony J (a one bedroom unit) and then Monaco C (two bedrooms). My family spent many overcrowded vacations there.

But the facility was great. There were indoor and outdoor pools, activities, card games and mah-jongg. There weren’t enough hours in the day for residents to do everything. Or so it seemed. But then time happened. Spouses and friends died, and loneliness set in.

“Kings Point” focuses on several seniors who ruminate about aging. They don’t come across as happy or sad, but resigned to their fate in a Peggy Lee “Is This All There Is?” kind of way.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sari Gilman, Kings Point, Films, Documentaries, Curt Schleier

Lunching With New Yorker Cartoonists

By Eitan Kensky

Courtesy BJFF

Every frame in Rachel Loube’s “Every Tuesday: A Portrait of the New Yorker Cartoonists,” now screening at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, together with “The Art of Spiegelman,” threatens to dissolve into cliché. There is the premise itself: Every Tuesday, New Yorker cartoonists, young and old, submit their work, and then go for lunch. It is a beautiful, invisible New York tradition, the kind that Gay Talese would have celebrated in luxurious prose, the kind that the media is intent on reminding us no longer exist. The restaurant is appropriately shabby. The food scenes are all set to jazz.

There is no question that if “Every Tuesday” were any longer it would become unbearably familiar and impossible to watch. But at 20 minutes, it’s perfect. The cartoonists come alive in short bursts. Zachary Kanin, a Harvard Lampoon alumnus, is legitimately hilarious. Their very different apartments and workspaces quickly tell us about their different styles and approach to the craft. We watch some cartoonists revise and edit their work on imposing Apple Monitors, and others retrace their cartoons on top of a light box. Some aim for perfection, while others have started to embrace artistic imperfection. Wouldn’t it be better if a rectangle weren’t so rectangular?

“Every Tuesday” is everything you want in a short film: It brings you into a unique world, gives you enough information to make you feel like you understand the key issues, and leaves you absolutely wanting more.

Watch a teaser for ‘Every Tuesday’:

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The New Yorker, Rachel Loube, Films, Every Tuesday, Eitan Kensky, Documentaries, Comics, Cartoons, Boston Jewish Film Festival




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