Dear JFI Friends and Family,
We’re excited to introduce The Cinegogue Sessions!
This is the first of many specially curated online programs to come, perfect for your social distancing viewing pleasure. JFI has always been more than a Festival. Now is the time to dive into our online resources to enjoy your own living room Festivals!
Utilizing our film streaming archive JFI On Demand, we’re sending you thematic double features paired with a short film from our Monthly Online Short series each week. In this way, we will support the artists who provide such meaningful work for us year after year. We’ll be adding exclusive bonus material, including new filmmaker intros, behind the scenes material, and Q&A’s from the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and WinterFest.
For Volume 1 of The Cinegogue Sessions, our theme is Baseball! With what was supposed to be the start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season, some of us will be missing the old ball game terribly. But fear not, we have you covered with a specially curated program we’re calling Take Me In to the Ball Game.
While we know it’s not quite the same as being at the ballpark, we can bet your living room couch is probably more comfy than the outfield bleachers. So grab some peanuts and Cracker Jacks (if you got em’) and cozy up to this week’s special baseball themed program. We think you will love these films even if you’re not a baseball fan.
So sit back, relax and enjoy Cinegogue Sessions Vol. 1.
Jay Rosenblatt, Program Director
Joshua Moore, Programmer
Margherita Ghetti, Next Wave Programmer
Start Your Session with Sophie Milman’s jazzy rendition of Take Me Out To The Ballgame to set the tone!
Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story
The essential Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story (SFJFF 30) celebrates the contributions of Jewish major leaguers and the special meaning that baseball has had in the lives of American Jews. More than a film about sports, it is a story of immigration, assimilation, bigotry and the shattering of stereotypes. During our 2010 festival we were blessed to have baseball legend Al Rosen, aka “The Hebrew Hammer” live onstage for an unforgettable Q&A reliving his greatest hits.
Gail Evenari’s reminiscence about the SFJFF Castro screening of JEWS AND BASEBALL: AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY in 2010 and the Q&A with Al Rosen (aka The Hebrew Hammer):
I didn’t realize how much the screening would mean to my step-dad Flip (Al Rosen). I don’t know if he realized it either, until he was up on the stage answering questions. If you watch the film or followed baseball in the 1940s and 50s, you’d know that he was an amazing player, who went on to have a successful career as a baseball executive — with the Yankees, Astros and Giants — bringing all three teams to championships, two to the World Series and the ’78 Yankees to a series victory against the Dodgers. But the image I will never get out of my head is from moments after the Giants lost the fourth game in the 1989 World Series. He’s sitting in his box at Candlestick — head in hands; alone; devastated.
My heart ached for him, and I knew he was thinking back to the 1954 World Series. His team, the Cleveland Indians, which still holds the all-time record for winning percentage by an American League team, lost four straight games to the New York Giants. No matter how many successes he had in his life, I know those losses haunted him. But I believe his biggest regret was having his playing career cut short. Not just because he had overcome injuries and felt near the top of his game, or because stopping meant he wouldn’t have enough active seasons to qualify for the Hall of Fame. What frustrated him most was that the fateful stroke was delivered by his manager, mentor and fellow Jewish ball player — Hank Greenberg.
Honorable and professional to his last breath, Flip never talked about it, but his close friends and family knew. And someone in the audience that day must have known, because he asked the question. It was an indirect question, if I recall, that queried the nature of their relationship. And Flip, probably somewhat raw from just watching the film and seeing his career play out on the screen, opened his heart and spoke his truth publicly for the first time. He was gracious and politic, but he was also candid and vulnerable in ways I’d never seen before. He talked about the complexity of their relationship, and he confessed the magnitude of his disappointment. Something heavy lifted from him in those moments that he spoke– and I am forever grateful to Jay Rosenblatt and SFJFF for making that possible.
Gail Evenari is a Bay Area filmmaker and SFJFF pre-screener
Part travelogue and part coming-of-age story, Havana Curveball (SFJFF 34) is a marvelously crafted tale that provides insights into the bizarre state of relations between the US and Cuba as well as the idealism of youth. Bay Area filmmakers Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider’s 13-year-old son Mica embarks on a quest to deliver baseball gear to kids in Cuba as part of his bar mitzvah service project and his gratitude to the country that welcomed his grandfather during the Holocaust.
The King of Jewish Baseball
Finally in the wonderfully wacky JFI Online Short The King of Jewish Baseball, (directed by Danny Dwyer) a baseball superhero with nothing more than a bat, a ball, a crown, some bagels, and a mensch-like attitude, roams the streets of New York doling out life advice and happiness to neighborhood children and protecting his fellow New Yorkers in distress.