Jewish HistoryJewish Culture & IdeasFilm & VideoContemporary Art
Oct 27, 2002–Feb 16, 2003
Sharing the Screen was a compilation of film and video excerpts selected by outgoing Jewish Film Festival director, Janis Plotkin, because together they formed a kaleidoscope of cinematic responses to Israeli-Arab relationships over the festival's lifespan.
Founded in 1981, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival is the oldest and largest Jewish film festival in the world. At its inception, the festival's founder, Deborah Kaufman, sought to fill a cultural void. Independent film, she felt, could be the catalyst for airing diverse viewpoints about Jewish identity and politics that were underrepresented in most Jewish institutions and in mainstream media.
For twenty-two years, Kaufman and her successor Janis Plotkin have shown a special commitment to presenting the voices and views of independent Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers, as they turned their cameras onto the volatile and poignant relationships that embody the struggle for peace in the Middle East. The festival has screened not only social documentaries, but also intimate features, theatrical shorts and television programs, presenting characters and images to which American Jewish audiences often had no other access. In retrospect, these films, whose viewpoints were sometimes controversial and whose presentation at the festival was often criticized, have the aura of prophecy. The preoccupations of artists, directors and journalists not only reflect but often anticipate the social and political climate in the region as it heats, thaws, and all too frequently boils over.
The excerpts on view for Sharing the Screen were selected by Plotkin because together they form a kaleidoscope of cinematic responses to Israeli-Arab relationships over the festival's lifespan. Beginning with Hamsin (1983), the first Israeli feature to focus on Palestinian-Israeli conflict over land, the films span the first Intifada (uprising) of the late 1980s, the hopeful period of the Oslo accords (post-1993), their breakdown, and now a second Intifada. These clips are a testimony to both the forceful spirit of independent filmmaking and the vital role of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival in consistently providing a diversity of voices amid a growing din of intolerance.
The Museum presented a full-length screening of Hamsin at 2pm on Christmas Day.
The Contemporary Jewish Museum and Janis Plotkin are especially grateful to Philo Television for providing all post-production services on this project. We also warmly thank Deborah Kaufman, the staff of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, and the filmmakers and distributors of the above films for their assistance.