Much like the Oscar telecast, the 20th JFilm Festival in Pittsburgh will celebrate movies and music this year.
In this case, that doesn't mean "Les Miz" but the survival story of a 1713 Stradivarius, a romp through the history, mystery and meaning of "Hava Nagila," an account of musical defiance in the face of Nazi torment, and a documentary about a childhood polio survivor who reinvented and renamed himself before writing such hits as "Save the Last Dance for Me."
The April 11-21 festival, which has grown in stature, number of films and venues in the past two decades, also will screen "Bert Stern: Original Mad Man," "Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir" and "Jerusalem on a Plate," the latter to be followed by a chance to sample treats from local caterers.
On a far more serious note, the event will close with the Pittsburgh premiere of "Numbered," an emotional journey guided by testimonies and portraits of Auschwitz prisoners tattooed with numbers, first on their chests and then their left arms. It documents the dark origins of the tattoos, along with the meaning they took on in the years after World War II.
The festival, previously known as the Pittsburgh Jewish Israeli Film Festival, will use the Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill as its main venue with one event each at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Shadyside, Hollywood Theater in Dormont, Carnegie Mellon University and Seton Hill University in Greensburg.
As previously announced, the event will open at 7 p.m. April 11 at the Manor with the romantic comedy "Paris-Manhattan," about a young woman whose choices in life and love are shaped by her favorite filmmaker, Woody Allen.
The film stars Alice Taglioni as an idealistic pharmacist obsessed with Woody's films. Her increasingly concerned Jewish parents set her up with a handsome Frenchman, played by Patrick Bruel, in the 78-minute movie directed by Sophie Lellouche.
Opening night tickets, $50 per person by noon April 5 and $75 after, go on sale today at www.JFilmPgh.org or 412-992-5203 weekdays 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The price includes a reception at the nearby Jewish Community Center's Katz Theater, with entertainment by Douglas Levine on piano and John Marcinizyn, guitar. Catering will be by Tallulah's.
"Jerusalem on a Plate" admission is $20 and all other films will be $10 for general admission; $8 for groups of 12 or more, purchased in advance; and $5 for patrons 18 years old and younger.
Organizers strongly suggest buying tickets ahead (all tickets are available today) and arriving at least 10 minutes before showtime. For movies not sold out, tickets (cash only) will be available at the venue 30 minutes before the movie starts.
JFILM FESTIVAL LINEUP
• "Paris-Manhattan" -- See above. In French with English subtitles. In addition to opening night, repeats at 5:45 p.m. April 18, Manor.
• "The Return of the Violin" -- A 1713 Stradivarius was given to a young Polish Jewish prodigy, Bronislaw Huberman, who later founded what is now the Israeli Philharmonic. It was twice stolen and later sold as a museum piece before being purchased by Joshua Bell, who will appear at a Q&A moderated by Sally Kalson, JFilm chair and Post-Gazette columnist. Movie is in English, Polish, Hebrew with English subtitles. 11 a.m. April 12, Rodef Shalom Congregation.
• "A.K.A. Doc Pomus" -- Brooklyn-born Jerome Felder, whose childhood polio left him dependent on crutches and then a wheelchair, renamed himself Doc Pomus and forged a life in music, writing such songs as "Save the Last Dance for Me" and "This Magic Moment." Includes interviews with B.B. King, Lou Reed, Dr. John and others. 7 p.m. April 13, Manor.
• "Out in the Dark" -- Falling in love is the easy part for a gay Palestinian student and Israeli lawyer who meet at a Tel Aviv nightclub; staying together amid political and personal struggles is the difficult part. Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles. 9 p.m. April 13, Manor; repeats 7:30 p.m. April 18, Manor, when director Michael Mayer will talk.
• "My Australia" -- When brothers, 10 and 14, join a neo-Nazi gang in Poland, their mother decides to tell the truth. She is Jewish and a Holocaust survivor and instead of continuing to raise the boys as Catholics, she tells them they're moving to Australia but opts for a different destination. Polish and Hebrew with subtitles. 1 p.m. April 14, Manor.
• "Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir" -- Andrew Braunsberg, a producer and close friend of the Oscar-winning filmmaker since 1964, leads him through an extended conversation about his harrowing childhood, the murder of his pregnant wife, statutory rape conviction and exile, and house arrest in Switzerland. 3:15 p.m. April 14, Manor.
• "Ameer Got His Gun" -- Documentary about an 18-year-old who wants to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by volunteering in the Israeli military, even though he is a Muslim Arab. Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles. 6 p.m. April 14, Manor. Followed by free light dinner at theater and Yom Hazikaron service at JCC.
• "Wunderkinder" -- Friendship of musical prodigies, two Jewish and one German, in a small Ukrainian town is tested when Nazis invade. German with subtitles, recommended for ages 13 and older. 7 p.m. April 15 at Hollywood, discussion to follow.
• "Fill the Void" -- An 18-year-old Orthodox Hasidic woman from Tel Aviv must choose between her heart's desire and family duty when a death postpones her wedding. Hebrew with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. April 15, Manor.
• "Sonny Boy" -- Love story, based on true events, between a Dutch divorced mother of four and a much younger Afro-Caribbean student who encounter prejudice, opposition and the devastation of World War II. Dutch with subtitles. 7 p.m. April 16, Seton Hill's Reeves Auditorium.
• "Ballad of the Weeping Spring" -- Twenty years after disappearing, a legendary lute player is coaxed out of self-imposed exile for a deathbed concert for a former bandmate. Shot in Israel, it's part spaghetti Western, part "Seven Samurai." Hebrew with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. April 16, Manor.
• "Defiant Requiem" -- Bebe Neuwirth narrates a documentary about a Czech opera-choral conductor sent to the Terezin concentration camp in 1941. He recruited 150 prisoners and taught them Verdi's Requiem in a dank cellar, sustaining courage and hope and enriching their souls through great music. 7 p.m. April 17, Manor.
• "A Bottle in the Gaza Sea" -- A plea for peace, written by a French teen in Jerusalem, is slipped into a bottle and tossed into the sea. She gets an email response from a young Palestinian in an adaptation of Valerie Zenatti's novel. French, Hebrew and Arabic, with subtitles. 8 p.m. April 17, CMU's McConomy Auditorium.
• "Jerusalem on a Plate" -- Chef Yotam Ottolenghi takes a culinary journey though his native Jerusalem. Will be followed by a "Taste of Jewish Pittsburgh" with samples from local caterers. 11 a.m. April 18, Manor.
• "The Day I Saw Your Heart" -- Lighthearted take on a dysfunctional Jewish family in Paris. As Eli, on the verge of 60, is about to have a baby with his second wife, he befriends the exes of his adult daughter in an effort to get to know her. French with English subtitles. 7 p.m. April 20, Manor; repeats 4 p.m. April 21, Manor.
• "Bert Stern: The Original Mad Man" -- A look at a great American photographer (he took some of the iconic photos of Marilyn Monroe) who became an original "mad man" on Madison Avenue. 9 p.m. April 20, Manor.
• "Hava Nagila (The Movie)" -- Director Roberta Grossman charts how the song evolved from the shtetls of Ukraine to Israel, the Catskills, Greenwich Village, Hollywood and beyond. 1 p.m. April 21, Manor.
• "Numbered" -- Documentary that gives voice to Auschwitz survivors who provide Holocaust testimony and discuss, with surprising wit and humor, the meaning their numbers took on after the war. Hebrew and English with subtitles. Panel discussion and dessert reception to follow. 7 p.m. April 21, Manor.