A feast for the eyes

The Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival has taken dinner and a movie to a whole new level with this year’s culinary cinema installment.

ACTOR JONATHAN PRYCE in a scene from the movie ‘Dough. (photo credit: Courtesy)
ACTOR JONATHAN PRYCE in a scene from the movie ‘Dough.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The 17th Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival will take place at the Jerusalem Cinematheque from December 7-12.
Among the dozens of films with Jewish themes will be the Culinary Cinema section, which is a popular festival tradition.
There are six films in this category this year, three on foreign cuisine and three with an Israeli angle. One element is common to all of them: seeing them will make you hungry.
As people become more and more health conscious, deli food, once so central to US Jewish life, has become an endangered species.
Eric Greenberg Anjou’s Deli Man is a documentary that focuses on the purveyors of this fatty and delicious cuisine, looking at delis all over America. It is the third work in the director’s trilogy about Jewish culture, the previous films of which were A Cantor’s Tale and The Klezmatics – On Holy Ground. The principal guide in Deli Man is Ziggy Gruber, a third-generation deli owner. Gruber, a French-trained, Yiddish-speaking chef, operates Kenny and Ziggy’s deli in Houston.
Although Texas might seem like an unlikely location for a thriving deli, Gruber demonstrates how he keeps the tradition alive there, and takes viewers on a tour of some of the most celebrated delis in the world.
Deli lovers such as Jerry Stiller, Fyvush Finkel, Larry King and Alan Dershowitz are interviewed, as well as foodies who put it all in context.
Just as Deli Man portrays an element of US Jewish culture that is struggling to hang on, Streit’s: Matzo and the American Dream tells the story of the famed Lower East side matzo factory, located in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. The movie, directed by Michael Levine, shows how founder Aron Streit opened the factory in 1925, at the heart of the nation’s largest Jewish immigrant community. Today, in its fifth generation of family ownership, it is the last family-owned matzo business in the United States, where 60 workers spend their days producing 40 percent of the nation’s matzo.
It will be screened along with 70 Hester Street, a short film.
Dough is a feature film, directed by John Goldschmidt, and starring Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil) as Nat Dayan, proprietor of a Jewish bakery in London that has been in his family for over a hundred years. But Dayan is getting older and his son is a successful lawyer with no interest in the family business. When Dayan’s young protegé is hired by a wealthy entrepreneur, he finds a possible successor in the son of a Muslim worker from Africa. But in spite of the young man’s talent for baking, he deals drugs and Dayan has to convince him that life of a baker is better than a life on the streets.
The Israeli films will all be preceded by discussion panels moderated by Ronit Vered. Shemi Zarhin’s popular feature, The Kind Words, tells the story of three adult siblings who lose their mother, an Algerian immigrant and enthusiastic cook. Much of the movie revolves around family meals, both in Israel and in Paris, where the characters go to search for their biological father. Zarhin will participate in a conversation about the movie.
The Kosher Kibbutz, directed by Hagit Liron, tells the story of Kibbutz Beit Alfa, Israel’s first socialist-Zionist kibbutz, which is currently coping with an economic crisis and facing a dilemma: should the dining room become kosher? The director and some of the participants in the film will attend the screening and take part in a discussion.
Hummus!, directed by Oren Rosenfeld, focuses on the Middle Eastern dip that Jews, Muslims and Christians all over the world enjoy.
The movie looks at the men and women who make and enjoy hummus around the world. The director will be present at the screening.
Other special programs and events will include Jerusalem on the Screen, screenings of movies set in Jerusalem, to celebrate 50 years of the Jerusalem Fund, as well as a celebration of a new digital print of Kuni Lemel in Tel Aviv, the first of the classic Kuni Lemel comedies.
A musical tribute will celebrate Roman Polanski’s 60th film.
Festival guests will include Dr.
Ruth Westheimer, the famous sex therapist, television star and author; Karin Albou, the director of Little Jerusalem; and Herve de Luze, a Cesar-award winning film editor who has worked with Polanski.
For more information, go the festival website at jjff.org.il