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    Shalom Wonderful San Francisco Jewish Film Festival!

    By Jan Wahl–

    From our remarkable Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to questioning agnostics to firm atheists and everyone in between, we all look inside for our beliefs. In part because of this, the Jewish culture, religion, or whatever you call it is multi-layered, diverse, textured, and colored in every hue of human existence. Even through overt and covert antisemitism, hate threats, and idiots of all kinds, it survives. It’s a culture of strong women, who learn early to handle family finances and speak truth to power. The humor is witty and wry, from Fiddler on the Roof to Mel Brooks to Adam Sandler. Sandler’s latest movie is titled You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah. The ability to find laughs in gloom is shared by the Irish and others, but we’ve perfected it in numbers like “Springtime for Hitler” and “The Inquisition.” Thank you for those, Mr. Brooks!

    Remembering Gene Wilder

    Brooks brings us to Gene Wilder. Remembering Gene Wilder is a terrific documentary chronicling the life of this gifted artist.  Director Ron Frank uses archival films, interviews with Brooks and many others, as well as Wilder’s heartbreaking battle with dementia. We learn how such an unusual character actor made the transition to leading man and writer/director. His personal life is examined in his deep love for his wives. There is also a fascinating look at his relationship with Richard Pryor, as well as Wilder’s quirky and volatile personality. Remembering Gene Wilder is the Opening Night film for this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

    My Neighbor Adolf

    Jay Rosenblatt is the Festival’s Director of Programming. He has curated 67 films this year including world premieres, tributes, panels, and documentaries. Sharing a building with Frameline and CAAM, this Jewish Festival draws LBGTQ and Asian stories, as well as those that are international, romantic, controversial, and humorous. Jay loved telling me about Queen of the Deuce, a Greek woman’s tale of becoming a porn impresario. 

    There is also Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy, giving us the backstory on that brilliant classic film, and Bella! about groundbreaking and gutsy Bella Abzug. Fractured Lens: Divergent Perspectives on Israel and Palestine highlights stories of Israelis, Palestinians, and American Jews grappling with their relationship with the Jewish state. My Neighbor Adolf is about a cranky, suspicious Holocaust survivor in South America who is convinced his neighbor is Hitler.

    Get ready to laugh during a nostalgic journey to The Catskills, a celebration of vacation resorts in the Borscht Belt that paints a vibrant picture of Jewish recreational life in 20th century America. Academy Award nominated filmmaker (Hoop Dreams) Steve James directs A Compassionate Spy about the youngest physicist on the Manhattan Project and his race against Germany to create the first atomic bomb. 

    Those are just a few of this year’s offerings at the 43rd annual Jewish Film Festival, which takes place from July 20 to August 6. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to:

    There are many Jewish-themed films that I return to in my life: Hester Street, A Majority of One, The Diary of Anne Frank, Judgement at Nuremberg, Crossing Delancey, the aforementioned Fiddler on the Roof, Woman in Gold, An American Tail, Schindler’s List, Exodus, Defiance, Funny Girl … oy, it never stops!

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian, film critic on various broadcast outlets, and has her own YouTube channel series, “Jan Wahl Showbiz.” She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at

    Off the Wahl
    Published on July 13, 2023