"What we have is a hard core of revolutionaries that have infiltrated half the Hollywood guild.... Hollywood is everywhere. Every small town in the country has got a moviehouse. We're talking the hearts and the minds of a nation." Thus warns a zealous FBI agent in Welsh director Karl Francis's compelling movie, One of the Hollywood Ten. The so-called revolutionaries were writers, directors, and actors (many of them Jewish) who had joined the American Communist Party following World War II but were then considered the equivalent of Stalinists by the American government. One of the Ten was director Herbert Biberman, a Jew married to celebrated actress Gale Sondegaard. He was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee and refused to identify other party members. Found in contempt of Congress, Biberman and his colleagues served time in prison. His refusal and that of many others to sign an oath of allegiance and denounce other "subversives" led to their names being put on an unofficial black list in Hollywood, virtually ending their careers. Independently but not without incident, Biberman went on to direct the acclaimed motion picture Salt of the Earth. His story, told in Francis's feature starring Jeff Goldblum and Greta Scaachi, opens the nine-day-long Miami Jewish Film Festival this weekend.
Boasting 28 films from ten nations, the fifth annual festival offers a mix ranging from the French comedy Dad on the Run, a zany tale about the rituals surrounding Sephardic circumcision, to the Italian drama The Sky Is Falling, starring Isabella Rossellini as the matriarch of a happy family in 1944 whose tranquil lives are marred by the war. Documentaries and short films will be screened; a few panel discussions are planned, as are pre- and post-film talks with nine directors, including Francis, who will appear Saturday night. The vision of artistic director Florence Kaufman, the festival, presented by the Central Agency for Jewish Education, is not aimed solely at Jews but at South Floridians of every stripe grappling with the puzzling American experience that is assimilation.