Mini Fest, Big Movies

The consequence of free will ties these films together

The Darien Dilemma (Israel, 2006; in Hebrew and German with English subtitles; August 6 at 3:00 p.m.): There's a good movie hiding here — potentially another Exodus, with much the same plot. But the filmmakers' self-conscious, even precious approach gets in the way of the tale's undeniable emotional impact: We not only get a combination of newsreel footage and History Channel-like dramatizations, but also lots of film of the writer and director (the Israeli father-and-son team of Erez Laufer and Nahum Laufer) making the movie and talking about making the movie. Too much of The Darien Dilemma feels like the wrong disc of DVD extras for a movie that never quite got made.

The Tollbooth (U.S., 2004; August 6 at 1:00 p.m.): Anything featuring Tovah Feldshuh is worth checking out, and her turn here as a Jewish mother is at once touching and knowing, a solidly entertaining performance. There's also a splendid cast of New York actors, plus hottie Rob McElhenney, lately of television's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, as the lead's Catholic goyfriend. The script is sweet, somewhere between WB teen fare and Lifetime: Television for Women. At the heart of the story is Marla Sokoloff (an actress whose voice is innocent of any training) as an aspiring artist, fresh out of school, making her way personally and professionally in the long voyage from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Sokoloff, remembered as the irritating secretary in The Practice, is difficult to take. If you can take her, The Tollbooth is all right.

Until Tomorrow Comes (Israel, 2005; in Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles; August 6 at 5:30 p.m.): Highlighting a week in the lives of a Moroccan family that owns a beauty salon in a small southern Israeli town, this film stars real-life mother and daughter Remond Abebkiss and Yael Abebkiss. It recently won the top prizes — including Best TV Drama — at the Israel Film and Television Academy Awards.

Hitmakers: The Teens Who Stole Pop Music
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Details

Summer Minifest at the Miami Jewish Film Festival. Presented August 5 and 6 by the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Studies.
Bill Cosford Cinema, off Campo Sano Avenue on the UM campus, Coral Gables; 305-573-7304

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Live and Become (France and Israel, 2004; in French, Hebrew, and Arabic with English subtitles; August 6 at 7:30 p.m.): This epic resounds with basic questions of cultural and religious identity, beginning with one boy's heartbreaking story of survival during the Ethiopian famine and following him throughout adolescence as an adoptive son in Israel and as a young man in search of a good life as a converted Ethiopian Jew.

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