PJFM’s Lindy Springfest Brings Features, Shorts From Israel and Elsewhere to the Weitzman

Still from “The Boy” (Courtesy of Philadelphia Jewish Film and Media)

Stephen Silver

In recent years, Philadelphia Jewish Film and Media has taken various approaches to its annual spring festival.

For many years, including when it was still known as the Gershman Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival, the organization ran monthly screenings in the spring called CineMondays, which continued in virtual form during the pandemic years. However, it became a full-on in-person festival in 2023.

“It changed formats a little bit over the years. It used to be every Monday for six or seven weeks,” Matthew Bussy, PJFM’s program director, said. “We’ve started playing around … that’s why this year is a Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”

The Lindy Springfest is back with an eclectic series of shorts and feature films, which will screen between April 4-7 at the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History. While it wasn’t necessarily intentional, some of the chosen programming shows parallels to the attacks of Oct. 7 and the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, as well as other current events.

The festival opens on April 4 at 7 p.m. with “The Shadow of the Day,” an Italian feature film directed by Giuseppe Piccioni. The film is set in 1930s Italy and concerns a restaurant owner catering to fascist clientele and getting to know a young woman who goes to work at the restaurant against the backdrop of rising fascism.

Italy isn’t a traditional country that sources Jewish film festivals, but Bussy described the film as “a rare, amazing find.”

“It’s one of those films that’s really important because it’s about somebody who believes in these horrific ideologies, and they come to understand that these ideologies are ridiculous and awful and they don’t make any sense.” This, too, is resonant today.

Another feature film at the festival, director Zohar Wagner’s “Savoy” — showing April 7 at 4 p.m. at the Weitzman — is a film from Israel about real-life events in 1975 but with undeniable echoes of today. It concerns a woman (Dana Ivgy) who checks into a hotel with a man with whom she’s having an affair — only to find herself taken hostage when the PLO attacks the hotel. The Arabic-speaking woman ended up serving as a mediator and saving lives.

Featuring real-life footage of the events in question and re-enactments with actors, “Savoy” was nominated for five awards at the Ophir Awards, Israel’s answer to the Oscars. Its star, Ivgy, was also in Cinema Sabaya, the acclaimed Israeli film featured at a local PJFM screening last November.

While it may have a plot that echoes current events, Bussy said the film was on the festival’s radar long before Oct. 7.

“We’ve known about ‘Savoy’ for a year or a year and a half now,” he said, adding that he had hoped to include it in last year’s festival. “It obviously relates a little bit to the war going on in Israel, but it’s actually very different. It really is a female-empowering film, and it focuses more on the heroine of the story … and how she was basically treated as scum by the press after this event.”

The closing feature film is Stefan Sarazin and Peter Keller’s “No Name Restaurant,” a German movie about an American ultra-Orthodox Jew (Luzer Twersky) who travels to Egypt and forms an unlikely bond with a Bedouin man (Hitham Omari). That screens April 7 at 7:30, also at the Weitzman.

“Nothing Except 34 Paintings” (Courtesy of Philadelphia Jewish Film and Media)

Bussy called it “a very peculiar film … one of those delightfully absurd comedies.” He also likened it to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Of course, the part of the festival with the most resonance with current events in Israel is “Winner’s Shorts,” a special program of four short films directed by the Israeli filmmaker Yahav Winner, who was killed while defending his family in the Kfar Aza kibbutz on Oct. 7. The films are showing on April 7 at 1 p.m. at the Weitzman.

While “The Boy,” Winner’s final film, has been screened at numerous Jewish film festivals since October, Lindy Springfest is believed to be the first time all four of the shorts — “Deep Breathes,” ”Faith” and “Indian Grave,” as well as “The Boy” — have been shown together at a film festival in the United States as part of a dedicated program.

“The Boy” is about a father and son living on a kibbutz near Gaza who must deal with rocket attacks, as well as the son’s worsening mental health. Winner’s widow, Shaylee Atary, appears in “Deep Breathes.”

“Showing Yahav’s films was especially important right now,” Bussy said. “There’s so many people that are vilifying Israelis [and] anybody who’s Jewish in the world.”

Speaking of Israel, another of the short programs is “Four Films and a Museum,” a collection of four short films from four different teams of filmmakers about different aspects of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The films are “A Tale Beginning in Three Rooms,” “The Foyer,” “Nothing Except 34 Paintings” and “The Museum Plaza.” That shows on April 5 at the Weitzman and The Towers of Wyncote at 2 p.m.

“Films like ‘The Foyer’ and the “Museum Plaza” … are a little more artistically done,” Bussy said. “It makes you realize [that] any setting you step into has a huge, long history. Everything is so old, and we forget about that.”

The final shorts program is a “Jewish Shorts” series at the Weitzman on April 6 at 8:15 p.m. These include “The Peacock That Passed Over,” “The Chosen One,” “Half,” “Periphery” and “Kissing the Wall.”

The PJFM Lindy Springfest runs from April 4-7 at the Weitzman Museum of Jewish History, with one screening also taking place at the Towers of Wyncote.

Stephen Silver is a Broomall-based freelance writer.


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