The Miami Jewish Film Festival is in full swing once again. It runs through January 25 and is showcasing over a 100 feature length and short films. You can get the full schedule at their website. I had the opportunity to catch some of their films early and thought I’d share my thoughts on a few I recommend.
The Goldman Case
Playing Wednesday, January 24 at 7:30 pm at Michael-Ann Russell JCC is this French language courtroom drama. It is unlike any other courtroom drama I had ever seen in that pretty much the whole movie, save the opening scene, takes place in the courtroom. It is almost like a stage play in that sense, even more so in that there is no music to manipulate your emotions. Rather it leans on the strong dialogue and acting to depict the true story of Pierre Goldman’s murder trial. There is still plenty of drama as French judges apparently permit lawyers, defendants and witnesses to get far more emotional than the judges in My Cousin Vinny or Judge Judy would allow. But it keeps you riveted as Goldman and his lawyer try to prove his innocence.
The filmmakers are obviously on Goldman’s side, but they leave just enough ambiguity to wonder if you just watched a man get away with murder.
Playing Sunday, January 21 at 8 pm and Tuesday, January 23 at 8:30 pm at Miami Theater Center is an Italian language historical tragedy set in the 1800’s that is stranger than fiction. A young boy is abducted from his Jewish family by the Pope because a woman testified that she baptized him as a baby.
This is a movie heavy on outrage, but it never gets too overwrought. Pope Pius IX is depicted as villainous, the wronged Jewish family as martyrs, but it never seems cartoonish, mostly because the child actor does such a natural job as Edgardo Mortara. Most child actors overact, but this kid is subtle and makes you believe all these strange events from 1858 are actually happening in real time.
Playing Sunday, January 21 at 5:30 pm at Miami Theater Center is another historical movie, though this time an action heavy thriller. Shoshana is probably the shakiest of these three movies. It is uncertain whose story it is trying to tell. Is it about the title character who is a Zionist settler or her lover who is a British policeman in 1930’s and ’40’s Palestine?
But it still has a lot going for it showing us a unique setting and a history lesson I’d never been taught. Who knew there was a Zionist terrorist organization in the 1930’s led by Avraham Stern who bombed, shot, and robbed indiscriminately in the name of forming Israel? While this film is more competent than a masterpiece, I think with the current state of affairs in Israel, it’s a commendably brave and open-minded decision for a Jewish film festival to screen a movie depicting Jews in Israel as the bad guys.