California State University, Long Beach
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Jewish Studies Program Co-sponsors Two-Day Film Festival

CSULB’s Jewish Studies program will co-sponsor a two-day film festival on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 9 and 10, in the campus’ University Theater, presenting four features from all over the world dealing with various aspects of the Jewish experience.

The festival opens on Saturday, Feb. 9, at 7 p.m. with “Three Mothers,” a 2006 Israeli release that examines modern Israeli society through the perspective of three sisters from an Egyptian-Jewish family who begin new lives in Israel.

“All our films this year turn in some way on the question of family,” said festival organizer Jeffrey Blutinger, co-director of CSULB’s Jewish Studies program who joined the university in 2004. “Whether the relationship is father-to-son or mother to daughter, these are dynamic families. These films, with very little engagement with politics, are intimate personal dramas.”

The program continues on Sunday, Feb. 10, with “The Tribe,” directed by Tiffany Shlain, who co-wrote the script with Ken Goldberg. “Tribe” mixes old-school narration by actor Peter Coyote with a new school visual style as it explores what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century as seen through the history of the popular series of Barbie dolls. “This film explores what it means to be a member of any tribe through a mixture of archival footage, Barbie dioramas and slam poetry,” said Blutinger.

Director Paul Verhoeven (“Total Recall,” “Basic Instinct,” “Robocop”) returns on Sunday with “Black Book” a fast-paced thriller depicting a Jewish woman (Carice Van Houten) who joins the Dutch resistance after seeing her family murdered. As she seduces a Gestapo officer (Sebastian Koch), she comes closer and closer to discovering her family’s betrayer.  

“Souvenirs,” directed by Shahar Cohen and Halil Efrat, is an Israeli production that screens on Sunday with a tale of an Israeli documentarian in search of hinted-at half siblings conceived by his father in post-WWII Netherlands. The filmmaker tries to solve the mystery of his father’s “souvenirs” without jeopardizing a new-found, hard-earned closeness with his dad. 

“Sweet Mud” concludes Sunday’s screenings with its portrait of life on a kibbutz, written and directed by Dror Shaul. The intimate family drama follows a mentally unstable mother and her son who are determined to make a life for themselves on a collective farm. “It is a really powerful film about kibbutz life and how claustrophobic it can be,” said Blutinger. “What is supposed to be an egalitarian society is revealed as anything but.”

Blutinger praised the success of the film series. “Last year’s screenings surpassed our expectations,” he said. We doubled our attendance over the prior year. There was a terrific response from the audience who really seemed to enjoy themselves. This year’s festival is committed to showing the best films we could find of Jewish life.”

The series is proof of Jewish Studies' outreach to the community, Blutinger believes. “We see ourselves as a bridge between the campus and the community,” he said. “We want the community to feel comfortable about coming to campus, becoming more familiar with it and beginning to form connections to it. Our hope is that eventually some of these audiences will become university donors who will support Jewish Studies financially and we’ve had some success with that.”

Blutinger argues that the festival’s role is to satisfy a hunger for Jewish films. “This is an opportunity for Long Beach, South Bay and Orange County residents to see films they might miss otherwise,” he said. “We wanted to bring to Long Beach films that might otherwise only be screened in Los Angeles.”

Blutinger underlined the importance of this series to area filmgoers. “This is a chance to see terrific films,” he said. “This is a chance for community, faculty and students to see modern Jewish life in vibrant and exciting ways.”

Admission is $10 for each individual film. For more information, contact Blutinger at 562/985-2196.