By Pamela Price
The Palm Springs International ShortFest Short Film Festival and Film Market, held at the Camelot Theatre in Palm Springs June 21-27, illuminated the Jewish experience in many ways.
The Consulate General of Israel submitted eight films, plus 11 more in the “Jewish Interest” category. Film fans fascinated by the gamut of Jewish experiences resulted in the recognition of three films at the conclusion of the festival, an impressive win for the Israeli filmmakers.
“Negative,” directed by Yoav Hornung, takes a wry look at an unexpected romantic triangle involving a photographer and her granddaughter who share something in common with a young man the grandmother encountered in a park. This clever film was awarded second place as the Best Student Live Action Short in the Over 15 Minutes category.
“Wajeh,” directed by Murad Nassar, looks at human trafficking in the West Bank. It was awarded second place in the Best Student Documentary Short category.
Coming in second in the Best Student Live Action Short category was “The Promised Land,” directed by Vanessa Knutsen. This was a deeply moving drama delving into the relationship between an Israeli woman, her housekeeper, an illegal Nigerian emigree and her son.
Other films shown included “Touch,” directed by Tahel Sofer, explores the trauma of a mother bonding with her premature baby.
Bringing laughs rather than tears was “Ladies and Gentleman Biddie Schitzerman,” directed by Francine Zuckerman. This 8-minute Canadian short asks the question “Is that all there is?” It all happens when Biddie and her sidekick Sheckie hang up their hats after 65 years on the Borsht Belt circuit.
And for a touch of Muslim-kosher humor, “Scheherazade and the Kosher Delight,” a French submission directed by Agnes Caffin, tells the unlikely story of a young woman wearing a T-shirt that says “I’m Muslim, Don’t Panic” when she applies for the job as a cook at a Kosher café in the Jewish section of Paris.
And speaking of food, “Empty Stomach” directed by Julien Guetta, makes a statement during the family’s Yom Kipper observance when a man brings his young son to the event. It becomes obvious there is an ulterior motive for this staged visit.
Harold Matzner, chairman of the 17th annual ShortFest, reminded the audience on opening night that the festival was dedicated to the filmmakers of tomorrow. He also stated that the 331 submitted films from 50 countries were selected from 3,000 entries, making this the largest showcase for short films in North America.