In “A Tramway in Jerusalem,” people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds come together on a tram. (Photo/Courtesy Mill Valley Film Festival)
In “A Tramway in Jerusalem,” people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds come together on a tram. (Photo/Courtesy Mill Valley Film Festival)

Nine films to pique Jewish interest at Mill Valley Film Fest

This year’s Mill Valley Film Festival, running Oct. 3-13, brings 12 world premieres and 17 U.S. premieres to North Bay audiences. Among all of the offerings, we’ve singled out nine films of particular Jewish interest.

First, the documentaries:

1. “Brewed in Palestine” is Emma Schwartz’s debut film about the resourcefulness of the Palestinian family that owns the first craft brewery in the West Bank. It will be screened in a program of documentary shorts from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. (Oct. 9 at the Century Larkspur at Larkspur Landing and Oct. 13 at the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael)

2. “Autonomy” is an 80-minute documentary by Alex Horwitz about the evolution of self-driving cars. Featuring, and produced by, author Malcolm Gladwell of the New Yorker, it offers a clear-sighted analysis of the technology and the ethical issues it presents. (Oct. 4 at the Century Larkspur and Oct. 5 at the Rafael)

3. “The Story of Plastic” is Bay Area director Deia Schlosberg’s exposé of the existential threats posed by petrochemical-based products. The film, in its world premiere at the festival, could not be more timely. In just under 90 minutes it traces the history of plastic as a material and presents dramatic images of plastic’s overwhelming presence around the globe. (Oct. 6 at the CinéArts Sequoia Theater in Mill Valley and Oct. 8 at the Rafael)

4. Seventeen years ago, director Sarah Feinbloom interviewed six teenagers of different faiths. Her documentary “What Do You Believe?” screened at the MVFF in 2002. Now she’s back with the world premiere of “What Do You Believe Now?” in which the same subjects — a Jew, Catholic, Pagan, Muslim, Lakota and Buddhist — reflect on how their spiritual views have changed in young adulthood. Now an L.A. resident, Feinbloom lived and worked in the Bay Area for 20 years. “As a Jew, this is my own little tikkun olam, doing this interfaith work, championing marginalized people with my film work,” she told J. (Oct. 6 at the Sequoia, followed by an interfaith dialogue and reception with the filmmaker, and Oct. 9 at the Rafael)

5. “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” is a new 97-minute documentary by Matt Tyrnauer that portrays the famously closeted gay lawyer who in the 1950s counseled the anti-Communist politician Joseph McCarthy, prosecuted the government’s case against Julius and Ethel Rosenberg — and in the 1970s was a personal lawyer to Donald Trump. (Oct. 5 and 8 at the Sequoia)

Among the festival’s feature films are four works by both new and experienced directors.

6. “A Hidden Life” is directed by Terence Malick, who wrote “Days of Heaven,” “The Thin Red Line” and “The Tree of Life.” A German-American co-production, it tells the true story of an Austrian conscientious objector, Franz Jägerstätter (played by August Diehl), a Christian farmer who chose prison over fighting for the Third Reich and paid the price for his defiance. Malick’s exquisite cinematography sets this compelling drama on fire. (Oct. 12 at the Sequoia and Oct. 13 at the Lark)

7. “Jojo Rabbit” is the much-anticipated new film by Taika Waititi, the New Zealand-born son of a Jewish mother and Maori father, who became widely known as the writer of the New Zealand feature film “The Hunt for the Wilderpeople” in 2016 and director of “Thor Ragnarok,” part of the Marvel juggernaut, the following year. “Jojo Rabbit” is the nickname of the film’s central character, an imaginative, often-bullied boy who fantasizes about being a star member of the Hitler Youth to please his imaginary best friend Adolf Hitler, played to hilarious satirical effect by director Waititi. Scarlet Johansson and Sam Rockwell fill out the cast of this comedy about the absurdity of fascism. (Oct. 6 and 10 at the Rafael)

8. In “Synonyms,” a French-Israeli-German co-production by the 44-year-old Israeli writer-director Nadav Lapid, a former Israeli soldier travels to Paris seeking to shed his language, heritage and personal identity. The drama, which recently won a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, is described as “a tragi-comedic social critique that spits in the face of nationalism.” (Oct. 5 at the Rafael and Oct. 6 at the Sequoia)

9. “A Tramway in Jerusalem,” directed by veteran Israeli director Amos Gitai, is a lighthearted drama that takes place on a tramway connecting several Jerusalem neighborhoods from East to West, bringing together people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds. In Gitai’s words, “The film describes an ironic, almost utopian situation in which most of the conflicts are contained and this beautiful city of Jerusalem charged with thousands of years of history facilitates people’s way of living side by side.” (Oct. 5 at the Lark and Oct. 6 at the Century Larkspur)

Tickets and full schedule at mvff.com.

Laura Pall
Laura Paull

Laura Paull is J.'s Culture Editor, and was a longtime J. freelance writer before that.