Jewish Film Festival opens with first of five

March 05, 1996|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,SUN FILM CRITIC

The Eighth Annual Jewish Film Festival kicks off tonight at 7: 30 with the first of its five Jewish-interest films at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts.

The film, which will be repeated at 7: 30 p.m. March 14, is "All That Really Matters," directed by Robert Glinski. Yaphet Kotto, from "Homicide," will be at tonight's screening to meet viewers.

The film is part of what might be called the literature of ordeal, the account of a family's immense suffering between the years 1939 and 1945. Sound familiar? Well, it's not. Actually based on ++ the memoirs of the Polish-Jewish poet Aleksander Wat, it's about persecution not at the hands of Nazis, but of Communists.

Wat, his wife, Ola, and their son, sophisticated literary figures in pre-war Warsaw, took refuge behind the lines of demarcation when Hitler and Stalin divided Poland at the end of September of 1939, and the film discovers them living a life much like before, a life of hard work writing, but also party-going and ironic repartee with others of their kind. But Wat's unconventional mind and sarcastic personality couldn't brook totalitarians, regardless of stripe, and soon enough, he was on the NKVD's arrest list.

He was arrested by the Secret Police one bitter day and swallowed up by the security apparatus, lost somewhere in the Gulag Archipelago; a few months later, his wife and son were exiled to Kazakhstan, where they spent the war years among other Polish exiles (mostly Catholic aristocracy), eking out a subsistence living in a wretched dust bowl a thousand miles from the nearest city.

This is quite a sophisticated production, a huge, teeming work (it was nominated for a best foreign film Oscar in 1993) that effortlessly manages to re-creates the glittery, drunken, witty life of literary Poland and the meanest, most desperate outposts of the Soviet empire.

Other films in the series are:

"Der Purimspieler (The Jester)," Thursday, March 7, 2 p.m.

"Genghis Cohn," Monday, March 11, 7: 30 p.m.

"Song of the Siren," Tuesday, March 12, 7: 30 p.m.

"All That Really Matters," Thursday, March 14, 7: 30 p.m.

"Like a Bride," Saturday, March 16, 8 p.m.

All screenings are Baltimore premieres and take place at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts, 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave. in Owings Mills. Admission is $5 per showing. For more information, call (410) 323-1717.

Pub Date: 3/05/96

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