Women directors are a rarity in Hollywood, as the Oscars attest. Kathryn Bigelow was not even nominated for best director for her fine work on “Zero Dark Thirty” – the only one of 10 films nominated for best picture to be directed by a woman.
Things are quite different in the world of documentaries, foreign films and independent films.
Female filmmakers are very well represented in the Boulder Jewish Film Festival, Sponsored by the Millstone Evans Group of Raymond James, which is presenting five films directed by women – including our opening night and closing night selections.
Director Marcia Jarmel appears in person, along with her husband and co-director Ken Schneider, with a sneak preview of her new film, “Got Balz?,” on March 10 at 6:30 pm. A work in progress, the film follows their son as he prepares for his bar mitzvah, collects baseball gear for Cuban kids, and gives thanks to the island that sheltered his grandfather during World War II.
Israeli director Ela Their based “Foreign Letters” on her own experience. The bittersweet coming of age film is about two 12-year-old immigrant girls, from Israel and Vietnam, who rely on each other to learn about life in America. This enchanting film is about prejudice, shame, and the healing power of friendship.
Britta Wauer is an award winning Berlin-based filmmaker with a number of noteworthy documentaries to her credit. Her latest, “In Heaven, Underground,” a captivating and serene portrait of the Weissensee Jewish Cemetery, has been a hit of the festival circuit. Wauer follows a delightful array of characters from around the world: mourners, tourists, a young family residing at the cemetery, a third-generation gravedigger, and an ornithologist studying rare birds of prey.
Rose Bosch, an award-winning French director, also scored a huge hit in France with “La Rafle,” a feature film based on the “Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup” of July 1942, in which roughly 13,000 Jews living in Paris (4,501 of them children) were removed from their homes by French police and sent to detention camps in the countryside, before being deported to Auschwitz. The glorious French actress Mélanie Laurent (“Inglorious Basterds,” “Beginners”) and Jean Reno (“The Da Vinci Code”) star in this emotionally astute and sensitive exploration of a long taboo subject in France.
Roberta Grossman, who directed “Blessed is the Match,” is also an award-winning filmmaker with a passion for history and social justice who has written and produced more than 40 hours of documentary television. She has a huge hit on her hands with the improbable “Hava Nagila (The Movie),” a delirious and intriguing investigation into the history, mystery and meaning of the great Jewish standard that explains how this particular song became a Jewish imperative to dance. Featuring interviews with Harry Belafonte, Leonard Nimoy, Connie Francis, Glen Campbell, Regina Spektor and more, the film follows the ubiquitous party song on its fascinating journey from the shtetls of Eastern Europe to the kibbutzim of Palestine to the cul-de-sacs of America.
“Hava Nagila (The Movie)” is the festival’s closing night film, followed by a party featuring the Boulder Klezmer Consort and an old-style Bar Mitzvah buffet, on Sunday, March 17 at 6:30 pm.
The work of these women is varied: from large scale feature films to intimate documentaries; from hard-hitting dramas to charming dramedies; from historical (and hysterical) explorations to intimate personal reflections. All are testament to the sensitivities and sensibilities of the talented female filmmakers making their mark outside Hollywood.