What do French films have to do with a Jewish film festival? They provide a unique perspective on the French-Jewish experience. The Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival explores this perspective in THE JEWISH EXPERIENCE IN FRENCH CINEMA, a mini French film festival that runs from March 6 to March 20 at the Center for Contemporary Arts.
Setting the stage is the documentary, JEWISH IDENTITY IN FRANCE with a companion talk, JEWISH IDENTITY IN FRANCE AND THE NEW ANTISEMITSIM by Dr. Gunther Jikeli. The festival continues with NATAN, the story of Bernard Natan, one of the fathers of French cinema whose name has largely been forgotten. Merging his own film company in 1929 to form Pathé-Natan, he experimented with early color, sound and widescreen processes and produced some of the greatest French masterpieces of the era. Foreign born, Natan eventually became a French citizen, but his status as Jew and ‘foreigner’ along with a dubious early association with pornography became the fodder for his downfalI. Natan made its North American bow at Telluride and makes its regional premier at the Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival. The directors will fill in more of the intriguing back-story in a post-film Skype interview.
In LE CHANT DES MARIEES (“The Wedding Song”) writer/director Karin Albou explores the close relationship between two young girls, one Muslim and the other Jewish, living in Nazi occupied Tunisia in 1942. Albou’s exploration of their sexuality, impending marriages and shifting loyalties against the backdrop of war weave a textured coming of age story and a unique glimpse into two cultures. Her prior film, “La Petite Jerusalem”, won best screenplay at Cannes, and Le Chant des Mariees has received accolades at film festivals around the world.
Louis Malle’s classic AU REVOIR LES ENFANTS (“Goodbye, Children”) is the festival’s fourth film. It is a story of the friendship of two boys living in Nazi-occupied France. At a provincial Catholic boarding school, the precocious youths enjoy true camaraderie—until a secret is revealed. Based on events from writer-director Malle’s own childhood, the film is a subtle, precisely observed tale of courage, cowardice, and tragic awakening. Au Revoir les Enfants won the 1988 César for Best Picture and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Its power and poignancy remain undiminished.
Based on a true story, Les Héritiers (“Once in a Lifetime”) takes us inside a high school in a tough Paris suburb. Determined to motivate her disaffected students, many of whom are Muslim, Madam Gueguen decides to enter the class into France’s annual contest about World War II and the Shoah. While the class initially resists the idea and sees no connection between their lives and the Shoah, Madame Gueguen creates a bridge and teaches her students about racism and resilience in the process. This César nominated film for best actor is an inspirational one that has consistently garnered four and five star reviews.THE JEWISH EXPERIENCE IN FRENCH CINEMA has been generously supported by Festival Archangels Bonnie Ellinger and Paul Golding