Local documentarians shine in S.F. Jewish film fest

In 2010, brothers Ben and Sam Schuder of Berkeley traveled on a Birthright trip to Israel and took a side trip to Dimona to visit the family of an old friend. The family was one of a group of African Americans who’d emigrated from Chicago in 1967, determined to build a new life inspired by ancient Scripture. The Schuder brothers left impressed by the unique African–Hebrew Israelite community — and determined to return.

From “The Village of Peace”

A year later, they did — bringing along a crew of young fellow filmmakers. The result is “The Village of Peace,” co-directed by Ben Schuder and Niko Philipides of Oakland, and co-produced by Sam Schuder.

“The Village of Peace” is one of several documentaries by Bay Area filmmakers in this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, which opened July 24 and runs through Aug. 10.

Also turning to Israel, Berkeley co-directors Judith Montell and Emmy Scharlatt focus their attention on Palestinians in the disputed territories. “In the Image” includes footage taken by Palestinian women who were given cameras by the Jerusalem-based human rights watchdog group B’Tselem to record alleged abuses (see story on page 2).

Berkeley filmmaker Abby Ginzburg’s powerful “Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa” chronicles the freedom fighter’s lifelong pursuit for justice in the apartheid regime. Sachs, who survived a 1988 car-bombing attack that took his right arm and left him blind in one eye, went on to help write South Africa’s new constitution and was appointed to its new constitutional court.

Nancy Kates’ “Regarding Susan Sontag” explores the life of the late great writer, filmmaker and political activist. Kates, of Berkeley, weaves together stories from Sontag’s friends, family, colleagues and lovers to create a vivid portrait of the secular Jewish New Yorker.

In “Havana Curveball,” San Francisco filmmakers Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider (also the editor of “Soft Vengeance”) turn the camera on their son Mica and his desire to collect baseball equipment for kids in Cuba. Mica’s bar mitzvah community service project snowballed into a years-long endeavor that culminated in a trip to the island when he was 15.

Local offerings also include two documentary shorts by Berkeley filmmakers:  Sarah Berkovich’s “Bulletproof Stockings,” which follows two members of a Hassidic rock band that plays only for women, and Jason Cohen’s “Facing Fear,” about the unlikely alliance of a former neo-Nazi skinhead and a man he’d brutally attacked years earlier.

Some of the filmmakers will give talks following screenings; see details at www.sfjff.org.