Tag Archives: ONE WEEK AND A DAY

Broad variety of films in annual Boston Jewish Film Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

On a day that honors Veterans, the Boston Jewish Film Festival will screen an inspirational documentary about fighters pursing peace.

“I often ask myself where are the peacemakers,” said Jaymie Saks, executive director of the film festival. “This film celebrates people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict who are able to overcome their differences to come together for peace.”

Featuring former Israeli soldiers and former Palestinian political prisoners, “Disturbing the Peace” is one of 38 documentary, feature and short films that will be shown through Nov. 21 at theatres in Boston, Cambridge and the suburbs.

In its 28th year, this year’s film festival has a strong focus on films about prejudice, anti-Semitism and justice, thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Cummings Foundation. Identified as part of the Cummings Social Justice Film Series, these films reveal personal, social and political change in a troubled world.

Films on these topics have always been a crucial piece of our festival, but this time we had our eye out specifically for films that touch on these subjects,” Saks said.

Selecting films from Israel, Argentina, Hungary, Poland, France, Germany and other counties, the festival gives audiences opportunities to hear directors and actors speak and answer questions at screenings. About 12,000 people are expected to attend.Many films have a lighter focus, such as “On the Map,” the story of the 1977 Israeli basketball team that beat the Soviets and won the European Cup. It’s appropriately shown just outside Gillette Stadium at Showcase Cinema in Patriot Place.

“It’s called the “Miracle on Hardwood,” Israel’s version of the “Miracle on Ice,” Saks said. “They were the underdog and it’s an exciting story not just about basketball but about Israel.”

Winning awards at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and the Jerusalem Film Festival, the comedy “One Week and A Day” is about a father who copes with the death of his son by smoking his medical marijuana.

And the film “The Last Laugh” features Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman and other comedians exploring the Jewish sense of humor and will be followed by a conversation with the director and Robert Edwards, author of “The Big Book of Jewish Humor.”

The festival also has series on family friendly films, Israeli television hits, and short works about innovative risk-takers.

A scene from Freedom to Marry

In the Cummings Social Justice Film Series, the documentary “Freedom to Marry” tells the story of the long fight for marriage equality, specifically in Massachusetts. In another film on inequality, “Sand Storm,” a young Bedouin woman in Israel struggles to define herself within her traditional family.

Many feature and documentary films offer a new look at the Holocaust. “Cloudy Sunday” tells the little-known story of what happened in Greece, through a fictionalized love story, and another, “A Grain of Truth” is a murder-mystery that reveals the history of Polish anti-Semitism.

“It’s important to keep talking about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism in new ways with a contemporary lens,” Saks said.

That is literally what happens in “Germans and Jews,” a documentary about the evolution of facing the truth about the Holocaust.

Other films reveal unexpected heroes and villains, as truths get revealed about the roles people played in the Holocaust.

In the feature “Origin of Violence,” a young French professor has his world turned upside down when he discovers a truth about his father while on a research trip to Buchenwald. In the documentary, “Keep Quiet,” an anti-Semitic Holocaust denier radically changes when he discovers his grandmother was an Auschwitz survivor. And in the documentary “Kozalchic Affair,” a Jewish collaborator turns out to be more complicated than he seems.

Revealing deep courage and conviction, the documentary “Karski and the Lords of Humanity” is the story of a Polish underground courier, who risked his life to visit the Warsaw Ghetto and a Nazi transit camp in order to deliver eyewitness accounts to the Allied powers. As described in the festival program guide, “His testimonies are some of the most important accounts we have today – and his efforts stand as an example of heroism in the face of atrocity.”


The AFI FEST Interview: ONE WEEK AND A DAY Director Asaph Polonsky (AFI Class of 2012)

For Eyal and Vicky, it is the end of Shiva, the seven-day Jewish mourning ritual when a bereaved family opens their home to visitors. Grieving the death of their 25-year-old son, the couple tries to return to their lives in different ways. Vicky is eager to get back to teaching her elementary school students, while Eyal tries to make use of his son’s remaining medical marijuana from hospice. Unable to roll a joint, Eyal enlists the help of their neighbor’s son, a stoner sushi deliverer named Zooler. Dentist appointments, kittens, annoying nymphomaniac neighbors, ping pong and air guitar are all fodder in Israeli-American filmmaker and AFI alum Asaph Polonsky’s (Class of 2012) feature debut. ONE WEEK AND A DAY is a dramedy about the unimaginable yet common grief of two surviving parents. Wry and moving but decidedly unsentimental, it finds absurdity in life after death.

AFI spoke to Asaph Polonsky about the film, screening in the New Auteurs section of AFI FEST 2016.

AFI: Why did you choose comedy as the genre to tell this story about grief?screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-8-01-44-am

Asaph Polonsky: The idea for the film first came to mind (and heart) when the girlfriend of a good friend of mine passed away. We were a bit younger and she was sick for a long time. It was a surprise when it happened, and he called to tell me that she had died just a few hours ago. With a few other friends I went over to his place. We were sitting there, with nothing to say until someone asked: “Do you still have any of her medicinal weed?” Into such a tragic moment came a really funny one. Just the question itself made us all feel uncomfortable, but also released some tension.

That was the first thought of it. Also, I love comedies and I thought that dealing with such a tragic story, it should be told in a humorous way; there are tons of absurd moments in this kind of situation and it makes the drama more powerful when you are allowed to laugh.

AFI: How did this idea come to you?

AP: When my aunt was sick and passed away I noticed how everyone [dealt] with it differently, there’s no right or wrong way and it is all very subtle; I wanted to investigate that. In the film, they are both dealing but not dealing. Vicky, the mom, on the surface is dealing, but inside she is broken and has no clue how to move forward, despite trying to show otherwise.


AFI: Your lead actor Shai Avivi is a professional comedian. What did he bring to the character of Eyal that surprised you?

AP: Many think that the role of Eyal was written for Shai, but that is completely the opposite. Once I met him for coffee and got to know him and not just his persona, I felt that he would not only be able to bring what was on the page, but also make it his own. Because Shai is naturally funny, we never had to play and push the humor but just had him in the moment. It’s amazing what he can do with a few crumbs on a table, a shoe and a bowl. You can’t write that stuff.

AFI: A great strength of the film is that there are a number of instances in which your characters — who are in denial to a certain extent, or at least trying to forget the pain of losing a son — say one thing while clearly feeling (or even doing) another. Can you discuss how you handled this as both the screenwriter and director?

AP: I tried to stay true to the idea that it’s about people in denial. They have been living in pain for a long time, so why do they need to talk about it and confront it if they don’t have to? The pain and loss is in every frame and moment, but they are just trying to keep head above water and live. So it was all about giving them clear actions to get through the scene. The script was sparse, without flashy descriptions, just actions and dialogue that were needed. The casting process was long so by the time the actors got the roles, they knew who they were. I only did one blocking rehearsal (on location) prior to the shoot, and had them spend as much time as possible together.

Free tickets to ONE WEEK AND A DAY will be available on AFI.com beginning November 1.


(Source: http://www.blog.afi.com)