Series/Festivals

Week of June 5, 2002

 Cinema in the City. Webster University sponsors once-a-month Wednesday screenings in Beatnik Bob's Cafe. This month features features Joseph P. Newman's The Big Circus, a film set in a shady circus on the brink of bankruptcy and starring Peter Lorre, Vincent Price and Victor Mature. Also playing is Tex Avery's classic "Flea Circus," an animated short about fleas in a circus who run away to join a dog. Plays at 7:30 p.m. June 5 at Beatnik Bob's Cafe, City Museum, 15th and Lucas streets. NR

Jewish Film Festival of St. Louis. The seventh annual Jewish Film Festival runs June 9-13 at Landmark's Plaza Frontenac Cinema. Tickets for films (except opening night) are $7.50 in advance and $8.50 at the door; cost for the opening-night film is $10. For tickets or more information, call the Jewish Community Center at 432-5700, ext. 3299.

God is Great, I'm Not. Pacale Bailly. Audrey Tautou, who lit up the screen in Amélie, stars in this French comedy about a woman's quest for spirituality. Having investigated different belief systems, her search becomes entangled with her love life when she falls for a Jewish veterinarian. This United States premiere plays at 4 and 7:30 p.m. June 9. NR

The Power of Good and Uncle Chatzel. Two short-subject documentaries trace the lives of individuals directly affected by the Holocaust. In the first, director Matej Minac examines the life of Nicholas Winton, who single-handedly rescued hundreds of women and children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Uncle Chatzel traces the story of a man who survived the seemingly impossible: the Russian revolution, two world wars, Nazi persecution and a Communist regime. The two films are part of a single program that plays at 2 p.m. June 10. NR

Strange Fruit. Joel Katz. The song "Strange Fruit" carries as much visceral impact today as when Billie Holiday released her wrenching version in 1939. "Southern trees bear strange fruit/ Blood on the leaves and blood at the root/ Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze/ Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees," she sings, and in less than three minutes she burrows into the horrors of lynchings with an eerie, otherworldly tone. Few know, however, that the writer of the song wasn't black; he was a Bronx Jew named Abel Meeropol. Strange Fruit examines the history of the song, makes connections between Holiday, Meeropol, convicted spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and W.E.B. DuBois and provides insight into the context that created the song. The documentary, constructed as a straight-ahead PBS-style production -- interviews with scholars, artists, musicians, writers; fantastic historical clips and voice-over narration -- is a fascinating glimpse of one of the great twentieth-century works of art. Plays at 5:30 p.m. June 10. -- Randall Roberts

The Discovery of Heaven. Jeroen Krabbe. Director Krabbe is perhaps best known as an actor; he appeared in King of the Hill, The Prince of Tides and An Ideal Husband, among others. Here, as a director, Krabbe adapts Harry Mulisch's novel of the same name. The film tackles the big stuff: God, disappointed with his creation, wants his stone tablets back and assigns a few humans to the task. But it's not that simple, even with God calling the shots. Plays at 8 p.m. June 10. NR

The Locket, The Garden's Stones and Keep on Walking. This program consists of three video shorts, two of which are by new St. Louis filmmakers. Margaret Bilinsky's The Locket traces one family's history of the Holocaust; Dan Powell and Tom Kim's The Garden's Stones is an animated short. In Tana Ross's Keep on Walking, a man prays in tefillin and tallis, teaches at a New Jersey Hebrew school and celebrates Succot with his family. Why is this Jew different from all others? He's Joshua Nelson, an African-American gospel singer who straddles two worlds. The heavenly voiced singer and organist teaches the black Christians at his church (where he wears a yarmulke) to sing Hebrew songs such as "Adon Olam" and "Aveinu Malkenu." At the Passover Seder, he leads his family in singing Deyenu in the Baptist style. Nelson that explains he grew up in a tiny temple for black Jews in Brooklyn, but that he was chiefly inspired by Mahalia Jackson. Good Lord! Shot partially in St. Louis. Plays at 2 p.m. June 11. -- Byron Kerman

To Live With Terror. Ton Vriens. In 1992, the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires was attacked by a car bomb. Two years later, a similar bomb destroyed a Jewish community center, killing 86 people. The images of shattered buildings and shell-shocked victims and bystanders are -- perhaps almost predictably -- relevant reminders of how our perception of terrorism has changed in the last year. But this short documentary loses some of its impact when strays into a muddle of conspiracy theories: Were the bombings the work of a corrupt police force? Iran-funded terrorists? The remnants of previous military governments? Second-and-third-generation Nazi sympathizers? To Live With Terror raises some powerful issues, but ultimately offers a weak "all of the above." Plays at 5:30 p.m. June 11. (RH)

A Trumpet in the Wadi. Lina and Slava Chaplin. True love obeys no borders, as this love story illustrates. An Christian Arab woman falls in love with a Jewish immigrant from Russia, and the challenges facing the two are examined in detail as they attempt to overcome seemingly impenetrable obstacles. Plays at 8 p.m. June 11. NR

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