THERE ARE many interesting films at the ongoing Jewish Film Festival, which offers 41 feature films, documentaries and shorts from 21 countries, through Dec. 12.
But here are at least two you shouldn't miss: Paul Morrison's "Solomon and Gaenor," adelicate, coal-grimy spin on "Romeo and Juliet," which screens Saturday at 6 (and Dec. 11 at 9) at the Cineplex Odeon Foundry (1055 Thomas Jefferson St. NW); and "Jacob the Liar," the 1974 German film, which has added a second screening, due to popular demand. "Jacob" will now be shown at 2:30 and 5, next Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Goethe-Institut (814 Seventh St. NW). Admission is free.
Set in Wales in 1911, "Solomon & Gaenor" is about Solomon (Ioan Gruffudd), a Jew who sells fabric door to door and falls in love with Gaenor (Nia Roberts), the daughter of a hard-working, coal-mining Welsh family. Their fast-growing romance is beset on all sides. Solomon's family is as intolerant of cross-religious marriage as Gaenor's; and the romance seems doomed from the beginning. But it's going to take more than pub beatings, pit strikes, paternal admonitions and illness to keep these two apart. The movie's strongest element: a palpable sense of the passion between Solomon and Gaenor, thanks to heartfelt performances from Roberts and Gruffudd. Filmmaker Morrison will attend the screening. Admission for this film: $7.50.
It's an unusual treat to see "Jacob the Liar," made 25 years before Robin Williams puckered up for the camera. (It also features a young, disheveled Armin Mueller-Stahl who has an even more significant role in the later film.) This German Democratic Republic production, presents a story similar to the Hollywood version: Jacob (Vlastimil Brodsky), a resident of a Jewish ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland, overhears a radio broadcast telling of Soviet triumphs.
When he tells his fellow prisoners of the allied advance, the news spreads like wildfire. So rabid is their hunger, Jacob feels compelled to invent more good news, which he falsely claims to be receiving from a stolen radio.
The 1974 movie is presented as a realistic fairy tale, much of it seen through the eyes of a young girl that Jacob secretly looks after. But there are few moments of sentimentality. Suffering is always implied. The trains and the death camps they lead to, seem almost parenthetical. As Jacob, Brodsky has a deadpan, almost Bogart presence, which further conveys that sense of overall restraint. And the final scene has a chillingly innocent perspective that sends shivers up your spine.
Admission for weekday (before 6 p.m.) performances is $5.50, and $7.50 for evening shows. To order tickets, call 800/494-8497 (no service charge). And for festival information, call 202/777-3248 or visit www.wjff.org. The films are shown at three locations: the Foundry, the Goethe-Institut and the Cecile Goldman Theater at the DC Jewish Community Center (16th and Q streets, NW).