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Double Chai Sundance 2019: What’s Jew-ish at the Fest

The 36th Annual Sundance 2019 started in Park City, Utah, today with founder Robert Redford standing before attendees and…

walking off the stage.

After over three decades of kicking off the modern @Sundancefest, he felt it was time that no introduction was needed. Plus Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam told him he didn’t have to take one of the five seats on stage… he could just leave.

And so he did.

This year, the festival, which is a non-profit production by the Sundance Institute, received 14,200 submissions. Their highest number ever. Their programmers’ missions are to find the boldest, independent, and most relevant productions.

On Friday, the Sundance Institute will release data on the diversity of the filmmakers and attendees. Also, this year, 63% of the press credentialed guests of the festival are from underrepresented groups. This change was made after the festival realized that most of it press critics in attendence were white and male, which might have an effect on distribution deals. This year, the festival received help from pro-bono attorneys to help many filmmakers get visas to attend the festivals. However, two filmmakers from Muslim countries were not able to overcome the U.S. ban on certain countries to attend the fest.

Officially, the festival will begin Thursday evening at the Eccles Theater in the local high school with the premiere screening of “After The Wedding,” starring Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore. It is adapted from – Efter brylluppet – Susanne Bier’s Oscar-nominated Danish film. The film opens with a view of a raggedy orphanage outside of Calcutta. Isabel (Williams) cares for the orphaned kids. Isabel travels to New York City to meet the a wealthy benefactor, Theresa Young (Moore), who runs a successful media company; she is a diva with privelege who has had to make serious decision to achieve her success. The mother of three, she is happly married to Oscar (Billy Crudup) and lives on an estate. Her family is preparing for the wedding of her 24 year old daughter. In the original Danish version, the orphanage leader returns to Copenhagen and thinks that his potential benefactor’s daughter is actually his own biological daughter, derived from an affair he had with his benefactor’s wife. In this version, William’s and Moore must deal with the decisions they made in their youth. In the original Danish form, it had a very anti-wealth message.

Also on the bill for Thursday evening are an updated retelling of Richard Wright’s 1940 novel “Native Son,” a story of race, class, and wealth, as well as bike messenger turned driver Bigger (“Big,” a stunted form of Bigger) Thomas; a film about Ridley Scott’s film, Alien, titled “Memory: The Origins of Alien;” and a doc on space exploration, “Apollo 11,” which features foortage that has never been publicly released by NASA. A documentary about fraud, capitalism, and who investors and the press tend to believe will also premiere: “The Inventor: Out For Blood in Silicon Valley” is by Alex Gibney, and will tell the story of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, and the collapse of the firm after the public figured out that the science and blood testing that she marketed were not wholly true.

SHABBAT LOUNGE will host its annual Sundance Shabbat Lounge This year will feature guest speaker Dr. Ruth Westheimer. A film about Dr. Ruth, produced by Hulu, will be premiering at Sundance 2019. In addition to her film’s premiere, Westheimer will be revising her famed book on Sex in 2019, and add a new section on loneliness. Please note that the LOUNGE is not affiliated with or endorsed by The Sundance Film Festival® — Nor was the old SchmoozeDance Film Festival, 2000-2009, at Temple Har Shalom.

SPEAKING OF Temple Har Shalom of Park City Utah, the synagogue will be hosting several Sundance films as well as some religious services, and a Muslim, Mormon, Jewish trialogue this weekend and next.

Also the JEWISH FILM INSTITUTE’S LIGHT LUNCH AND NOT-SO-LIGHT CONVERSATION will be Friday, January 25, noon–2:00 p.m. at the Kimball Art Center, 1401 Kearns Blvd. Come for an intimate conversation between Where’s My Roy Cohn? director Matt Tyrnauer and Festival senior programmer Caroline Libresco. The Jewish Film Institute (JFI) takes its mission—of inspiring communities to expand their understanding of Jewish experience through film, media, and dialogue—to the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Join for a nosh and a thought-provoking exchange of ideas about one of the most relevant and timely films in the documentary competition, Where’s My Roy Cohn?

Some filmes that I term Jew-ish
——————————–

BEDLAM. Directed by Kenneth Paul Rosenberg, MD. This US documentary – produced by Peter Miller, the producer of “Jews and Baseball” follows a psychiatrist and specialist in addiction medicine as he travels to hospitals, homeless encampments and other places and explores mental illnees in America.

MIKE WALLACE IS HERE. Directed by Avi Belkin. For a time in America, the film’s title were among the most frightening words you could here. Wallace of CBS NEWS’ SIXTY MINUTES would show up and confront a subject and ask them tough questions. This documentary tells the story of Wallace’s career, depression, and personal troubles.

UNTITLED AMAZING JOHNATHAN DOCUMENTARY. Directed by Ben Berman. Berman, director of I’M A MITZVAH, and son of Allentown, PA, has created a doc about stand-up comedian/illusionist Amazing Johnathan (Jonathan Szeles) who was supposed to die a few years ago… but didn’t What is real? What is illusion?

MS PURPLE. Justin Chon returns to Sundance (and Kickstarter) for the second time. Two Korean-American estranged siblings in Los Angeles come together to care for their father in his last days. From a sister’s point of view, Casey must come home, confront her father and brother, and deal with the memories of being abandoned by her mother and growing up with her father as a singer parent. For those who do not follow his youtube postings, Writer/Director Chon is married to Ms. Sasha Egorova.

WHERE’S MY ROY COHN? A documentary by Matt Tyrnauer. A expose edited to be a thriller on Roy Cohn, a much hated NYC attorney and fixer, a former DC Congressional staffer and friend of McCarthy, a mentor to a young Donald J. Trump, who died of complications from AIDS.

ADVOCATE. a documentary of Israel/Canada/Switzerland, in Arabic with English subtitles, directed by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche. Lea Tsemel defends Palestinians: from feminists to fundamentalists, from nonviolent demonstrators to armed militants. As a Jewish Israeli lawyer who has represented political prisoners for nearly 50 years, Tsemel, in her tireless quest for justice, pushes the praxis of a human-rights defender to its limits.

GAZA. A documentary from Ireland/Canada, in Arabic with English subtitles. Directed by Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell. Gaza brings us into a unique place beyond the reach of television news reports to reveal a world of eloquent and resilient characters, offering a cinematic and enriching portrait of a some people trying to lead lives in a geography of conflict.

ASK DR. RUTH. Directed by Ryan White. A documentary portrait chronicling the incredible life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a Holocaust survivor, a member of the Haganah, and America’s most famous sex therapist. As her 90th birthday approaches, Dr.
Ruth revisits her painful past in Frankfurt and Switzerland, and her career at the forefront of the sexual revolution.

UNTOUCHABLE A documentary by Ursula Macfarlane featuring interviews with Rosanna Arquette, Paz de la Huerta, and Ronan Farrow. This doc focuses on film distributor and king if Indie Films and Sundances past, Harvey Weinstein. The expose on him a year and a half ago launched the #METOO movement. The doc asks whether things have changed… you already know the answer if Rosanna Arquette, who exposed Weinstein’s gross behavior, no longer has an agent in Hollywood. The boys club lives on.
.

ABE, In English and Arabic/Portuguese with English subtitles, Directed by Fernando Grostein Andrade. The Israeli Jewish side of his family calls him Avram. The Palestinian Muslim side Ibrahim. His first-generation American agnostic lawyer parents call him Abraham. But the 12-year-old kid from Brooklyn who loves food and cooking prefers, well, Abe. Just Abe.

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