The Seventeenth Annual Jewish Film Festival

Special Report By Andrea Chase

The 17th Annual Jewish Film Festival, starting this week, will be showcasing films as varied as the Jewish experience.

Opening night is the West Coast premiere of "The Truce," starring John Turturro. Based on Primo Levi's autobiographical "The Reawakening," it tells the story of his liberation from Aushwitz and adjustment to life in postwar Italy.

"The Abraham File" is an illuminating documentary about the mess in the Middle East. It goes to Hebron, site of Abraham's near sacrifice of Isaac, and as disputed a piece of real estate as you're likely to find, to record the traditional and sometimes contradictory accounts associated with the site by Jews, Christians, and Moslems. By doing so, it shows not only the underlying tensions of the entire region, but also how far back they reach historically.

As an independent woman, I was infinitely, if morbidly fascinated by "The Return of Sarah's Daughters," which follows two women, raised in secular Jewish homes who, nonetheless, feel the tug of the ultra-orthodox Hassidic life. Joining would mean sacrificing their individuality to the community, and all aspects of their lives, including all-but-arranged marriages, would be decided by the group's rebbe. The film starts by asking why they would do it. The answers are anything but simple.

"A Healthy Baby Girl" is made by a Jewish filmmaker, Judith Helfand, but the subject has nothing to do with religion. It chronicles her struggle with cancer resulting from her mother having taken the anti-miscarriage drug, DES, while pregnant with her. If you need to be reminded that drug companies are motivated by profits, here,s a wrenching example.

And the festival gives you another chance to see Argentina's "Autumn Sun." The radiant Norma Aleandro plays a middle-aged Jewish woman who advertises in the personals for companionship but finds true love instead. Will someone explain to me why this STILL doesn't have domestic distribution?

For more festival information, check out their website at:

© 1997 Andrea Chase Air Date: 7/16/97

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