Shabbat Surfing: Big Weekend For Jewish Films

The most exciting thing going on this weekend? The Cherry Blossom Festival? Nah, only inflames my allergies. The National Marathon? I’m more of a treadmill guy. Opening of the Nats new Stadium? Couldn’t score tickets (and we tried). NCAA tournament? My bracket’s already gone to gehena (thanks for nothing Georgetown).  

No, the most exciting thing about this weekend is the explosion of Jewish film on the local cinema screens, and most exciting is the double bill taking place at the Avalon.  We are honored that they are doing a special engagement featuring both of the audience award winners from the 2007 Washington Jewish Film Festival.

Praying With Lior is Ilana Trachtman’s transformative documentary about Lior Liebling, a young man with Down Syndrome preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. But to describe it like that is to do it a severe injustice. It is a film about transcendant spirituality, about family and loss and faith that will leave you amazed. Don’t mistake this for an “illness of the week” weepy–any time the film begins to veer too towards unearned sentimentality, Trachtman wisely steers it back to a practical plane (usually with humor), and allows the truly powerful moments to speak for themselves. You cannot miss this film.

Arranged is a triumph on so many levels: quality independent filmmaking, an orthodox Jewish narrative told without condescension, an authentic display of womens’ voices connecting across a faith divide. Structurally, the film plays like a romantic comedy, but its content is refreshingly unique, about the friendship between and an Orthodox Jewish and a Muslim woman who are both facing arranged marriages. It is based on a true story and that authenticity shines through.

Also opening this weekend at three area theaters is the Opening Night film from the 2007 WJFF, The Year My Parents Went on Vacation. If you missed our sold-out Opening Night or last week’s sold out sneak preview, be sure to check out the film that made the short list for Foreign Language Oscar. You can read more about the film at its website.

Mark Jenkins (formerly of The City Paper) has reviews of all the films at his new site

More Shabbat Surfing after the jump

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