As if a number of interesting movies weren't already opening on Friday, this coming weekend will see one of my favorite Spokane film events of the year: the annual Spokane Jewish Cultural Film Festival. And judging from the three movies that the festival organizers have selected this year, the festival should be as good as ever.
The festival, which will be held at the Magic Lantern, begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday with a screening of "The Ballad of the Weeping Spring," written and directed by Israeli filmmaker Benny Toraty. It tells the story of a man, long estranged from friends and family, who is called to form a group of musicians to perform a song for a dying friend. The film is a road movie of sorts, with the protagonist — played by actor Uri Gavriel — experiencing a number of difficulties, both comic and emotion-wrought, trying to find the right musicians for his group. The music, which is played with traditional instruments, is particularly good.
On Saturday, the festival will feature a 7 p.m. screening of "Bethlehem," directed and co-written by Yuval Adler. More a police procedural with spy overtones, "Bethlehem" tells the story of Israeli intelligence services infiltrating various Palestinian militant groups and the often violent, and ultimately devastating, consequences. It centers on three figures: an operative for Israel's secret service, the teenage Palestinian boy he recruits and the head of a Palestinian rebel group, all of whose fates are intertwined and lead to the film's shattering climax. "Bethlehem" was Israel's official entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar and is a film you're not likely to forget.
Finally, at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, the festival will screen the documentary "Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy." Written and directed by Michael Kantor, the film — which has already been aired on Public Television — tells the story of Jewish composers and lyricists such as Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein and how their work helped shape the modern Broadway musical.
Tickets to the films can be purchased in advance or at the Lantern box office a half hour before each screening. For more information, click here.