For its sixth installment, the Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival is pulling out all the stops and packing more than 10 films—and numerous discussions, parties, and events—into its four-day run, which begins this Thursday, April 7, and concludes on Sunday, April 10. Cinematically speaking, the offerings are as diverse as they are enjoyable. Big-screen fodder ranges from documentaries to shorts, award-winning features to student-made snippets, all in languages and from viewpoints that truly span the globe. All films screen downtown at Metropolitan Theatres’ Paseo Nuevo Cinemas location. For more info about the fest, including tickets and scheduling, visit sbjff.org. For a short rundown of the highlights, read on below.
1. The Matchmaker: Avi Nesher writes and directs this heartwarming and resonating Israeli film about a young boy who goes to work for a Holocaust survivor-cum-matchmaker in the summer of 1968. In between the boy’s own burgeoning love and his employer’s on-the-side wheeling and dealing, the two form a bond that is, by film’s end, put to the ultimate test. The story is part coming-of-age story, part mystery/drama, and it’s held up by a slew of spot-on supporting acts. (Neta Porat as Tamara and Bat-El Papura as Sylvia are both fantastic.) The Matchmaker screens Thursday, April 7, at 7:45 p.m.
2. Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg: Aviva Kempner’s 2009 documentary delves deep into the personal and professional lives of actress, writer, and one-woman empire Gertrude Berg. In the early 20th century, Berg took her active imagination and morphed it, first into a wildly successful radio program (The Rise of the Goldbergs) and then the first true American sitcom (The Goldbergs). Family, friends, and prominent figures weigh in on Berg’s importance, as well as how her portrayal of a Jewish mother forever changed the way Americans look at the culture. Mrs. Goldberg screens Saturday, April 9, at 1:30 p.m.
3. Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story: Dustin Hoffman narrates this extensive and heartfelt look back at the role Jewish Americans have played in professional baseball throughout history, as well as the impact the game has had on the Jewish community. Interviews with players and fans are interspersed with striking footage dating back as far as the 1920s. Legends like Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg play large roles, while players who paved the way (Andy Cohen, Mose Solomon, Sid Gordon) are all paid proper respects. Jews and Baseball screens Friday, April 8, at 2:30 p.m.