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See A Fake Guru and Genuine Hero This Weekend

The Boulder International Film Festival, which has been growing by leaps and bounds, kicks off Thursday, bringing dozens of films and workshops and a bevy of actors and filmmakers to town for a four-day cinema orgy.

I have two films to recommend that have special appeal to Jewish audiences.

This first is “Kumare,” winner of the South by Southwest audience award, which shows Saturday at 9:30 pm. My daughter Shayna and I saw this brilliantly funny documentary about a fake guru at the Denver International Film Festival in the fall and loved it.

Part film, part social experiment, “Kumare” is both a hilarious spoof of spirituality and an insightful examination of the nature of faith. Why does any religion “work?” Because we believe it does? With some resemblance to “Borat,” the film features an actor playing a character to trick unsuspecting people into revealing themselves. Like Sasha Baron Cohen in “Borat,” Vikram Ghandi’s performance is pitch perfect and over the top at the same time. Sometimes uncomfortable but never mean spirited, “Kumare” is, in the end, both wise and wicked.

In the small world department, Shayna ran into the film’s director and star, Vikram Ghandi, at Sundance. In the same department, it turns out that Vikram is a good friend of Audrey and Andy Franklin’s son Sam, and the filmmakers spent a summer in Boulder two years ago finishing the film.

I recommend this film for its sheer entertainment value and for providing a provocative look at religion, ritual and the spirituality movement.

Nicky’s Family,” which screens Sunday at 10:00 am, tells the story of Nicholas Winton, who rescued more than 600 children from Czechoslovakia in 1939.

The Kindertransport, which relocated nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Nazi Germany to England, is a well-documented and oft told chapter of Holocaust history, and there are already several terrific films that deal with the subject.

My Knees Were Jumping: Remembering the Kindertransports  (1998) was directed by the daughter of a Kindertransport child and narrated by Joanne Woodward.

Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport,” narrated by Judi Dench, won the Academy Award in 2001 for best documentary feature. There is also a companion book by the same name. The film’s producer is also the daughter of a Kindertransport survivor. Local audiences may remember the film’s director, Mark Jonathan Harris (a three-time Oscar winner), who spoke at the Boulder JCC a few years ago.

There also a British documentary film, “The Children Who Cheated the Nazis,” narrated by Richard Attenborough, whose parents were among those who responded to the appeal for British families to foster the refugee children.

Although the story of Nicholas Winton’s role went untold for 50 years, during which time he never even mentioned it to his wife, “Nicky’s Family” is the third film about the unsung hero – all directed by the same person.

Slovak filmmaker Matej Mináč first told the story in 1999 as a feature film, “All My Loved Ones,” starring Rupert Graves as Winton in this well-made biographical drama. Next came his 2002 Emmy Award-winning documentary “The Power of Good: Nicholas Winton,” which we showed at the Boulder JCC.

Nicky’s Family” covers the same territory, and while it does not add much to the story, it is a very moving tribute to a modest man of great courage and tenacity.

Born in a family of German-Jewish ancestry that converted to Christianity, Winton was a 29-year-old stock broker who abandoned plans for a ski trip to join a friend involved in Jewish relief work in Prague. Determined to help move children to safety in England, he embarked on a heroic effort that has earned him a reputation as “The British Schindler.”

Thousands of people are alive today thanks to his dramatic daring. Winton’s late-life recognition is much deserved, and this film allows us to share that touching moment.

About Kathryn Bernheimer

Kathryn Bernheimer
Director of Menorah: Arts, Culture and Education at the Boulder JCC. The former film and theater critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, Kathryn is the author of "The Fifty Greatest Jewish Movies" and "The Fifty Funniest Films of All Time."

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