The word “Greater” in Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival isn’t there for nothing. The event, which runs from February 10 through February 24, is spread out all over the greater Phoenix area—although, ironically, not in Phoenix proper. Shows are slated at Harkins Camelview 5 in Scottsdale, in the wilds of the West Valley at Harkins Arrowhead 18 in Peoria, and at Harkins Crossroads 12 in Chandler.
The 17th annual event features movies from the US and Canada, Germany, Austria, Poland and Israel, in genres ranging from comedy to drama to documentary. Many of the screenings are accompanied by guest speakers.
Among the more intriguing selections is the sardonic comedy-thriller My Best Enemy, from Austria. It concerns a swap of identities between a Jew and a Nazi, former best friends, during World War II. A switcheroo is also the basis of the drama The Other Son. This time it’s the well-worn device of babies accidently switched at birth, this time one Palestinian and one Jewish, and of the impact on both families when the truth comes out.
Documentaries are well represented at this year’s festival, as well, two of them concerned with songs: Ever wonder about the origin of “Hava Nagila?” You can learn all about the tune’s history and the evolution of its religious, political and cultural meanings in Hava Nagila (The Movie). I hope it includes Allan Sherman's alternate-lyric version, "Harvey and Sheila."
There’s also AKA Doc Pomus, a documentary portrait of the songwriting great (aka Jerome Felder) who gave us “This Magic Moment” and “Save the Last Dance For Me.” It plays at 3 p.m. Sunday, February 17, at Chandler Crossroads. The speaker for this screening is Rabbi Darren Kleinberg, Executive Director of Valley Beit Midrash, who, according to the Festival’s website, “plays lead guitar in the band Twice Baked in his free time.”
Also on the schedule are the dramas Kaddish for a Friend and Mabul (The Flood), and the comedy The Day I Saw Your Heart. Another comedy, Dorfman, starring Sara Rue and Elliot Gould, screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, February 14, in honor of Valentine’s Day, at Harkins Camelview. Screenwriter Wendy Kout will be guest speaker at this screening.
The festival’s most unusual selection, however, might be Melting Away, from director Doron Eran and screenwriter Billy Ben-Moshe. The story of the rift between parents and a transgendered child, it’s thought to be one of the first Israeli films to explore such a subject.
Check here for a full schedule and details.