Jewish Film fest offers baseball, inspiration and more

Amnon's Journey

The only way to fathom the enormity and monstrosity of the Holocaust is to celebrate the frail fragments of beauty and humanity preserved by its victims.
No finer example of that is to be found than in "Amnon's Journey," a powerful little documentary (just 52 minutes long) chronicling the work of master violin maker Amnon Weinstein. His life's passion: to locate and restore the precious few instruments that -- unlike their players -- survived the Nazi camps, ghettos and killing grounds.
The miracle of Amnon's and director Jean-Marie Hosatte's journey, which takes them from Lithuania to Norway and beyond, is their resurrection of the human as well as musical souls hidden inside each stringed or strummed treasure -- from the common klezmer fiddle and banjo (with wood-inlaid Star of David) to the fine faux Stradivarius (slyly knocked off by a pre-war craftsman).
Violin virtuoso Schlomo Mintz lends his own towering talent and quiet dignity to the journey, and to its climactic finale in Jerusalem -- a concert on the occasion of Israel's 60th anniversary, in which 16 of Amnon's lovingly restored instruments were used by members of the international orchestra.
"There can't be an instrument more profoundly Jewish than the violin," he says.
And his wrenching but spellbinding journey makes for an unforgettably uplifting experience.

The Trotsky

And then there's "The Trotsky," Canadian director Jacob Tierney's fairly amusing yarn about a nerdy -- and I mean REALLY nerdy -- Jewish kid in Montreal who fancies himself the reincarnation of Lev Bronstein, aka Leon Trotsky, the charismatic Russian revolutionary.
This latter-day leftist Leon (Jay Baruchel, of "She's Out of My League") is revolting in more ways than one. First he organizes a hunger strike at his own father's factory -- to which his mom caters sandwiches. Soon he expands the rebellion to his high school, having misunderstood the meaning of "student union" and proclaimed the campus a "fascist-free zone."
It's that rare thing -- a revolution with nubile cheerleaders.
An over-the-hill lawyer (Michael Murphy) is reluctantly recruited to defend Leon against the evil principal (Colm Feore), who makes Tsar Nicholas look progressive. My personal late-1960s heartthrob Genevieve Bujold is wasted in a small part.
The film gets labored as it goes along, and requires at least a minimal knowledge of Russian history -- sorting out Bolsheviks from Mensheviks (real Trotsky was among the latter), for instance. That's one reason why JFilm has added something new this year -- a free-o'-charge "Film Schmooze" following "Trotsky" (and its companion feature "The Human Resources Manager"), to give the audience a chance to discuss and explore the subtler socio-historical implications.
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