"It's smart, sassy, very Jewish, and rings true in a lot of ways," says Florence Kaufman, not about the Miami Jewish Film Festival, which she founded six years ago under the umbrella of the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education, but about Amy's Orgasm, one of the 30 movies from around the world screening. The tale of a self-help author who advocates celibacy for women while grappling with her own inability to connect with others romantically, this quirky comedy was written, directed, and produced by Miami native Julie Davis, who also stars. Her fourth film (others include I Love You, Don't Touch Me! in 1998 and All Over the Guy in 2001) has its Miami premiere on the festival's second day.
An art exhibition, panel discussions, and a gala will fill many of the other days. But it's the movies that are key. And an array of features, shorts, and documentaries will unspool at Regal Cinemas South Beach, Sunny Isles Intracoastal Cinema, and University of Miami's Cosford Cinema in Coral Gables.
Among the documentary highlights: Joel Katz's Strange Fruit (2001), which delves into the history of the popular Billie Holiday song about lynchings, penned by a Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx; Keep on Walking (2000), about gospel singer Joshua Nelson, an African-American Jew and Talmud teacher; and Mamadrama: The Jewish Mother in Cinema (2001), director Monique Schwarz's exploration of Hollywood's portrayal of the domineering Jewish matriarch.
Feature films -- new and old -- get their due. The French comedy God Is Great, I'm Not (2001) showcases Amélie star Audrey Tatou. And oddly enough, the festival kicks off with Paul Wegener's 1920 silent classic The Golem. Derived from Jewish mysticism, the dark tale centers on a rabbi whose Frankenstein-like creation made to protect Jews instead spirals out of control. The film will be accompanied by live music and shown in -- of all places -- a synagogue, Temple Emanu-El.