The documentaries are a fascinating, rueful bunch. In BON-PAPA, A MAN UNDER GERMAN OCCUPATION[Bon-papa, un homme sous l’Occupation] (2007; ICA: November 9 at 1 pm), Leila Férault plumbs her own family history and uncovers a nest of Vichy-collaborationist secrets on her paternal, non-Jewish side of the family, in stubborn tribute to her maternal grandparents, who died in the Holocaust. It’s a thorny, tense, uneasy experience. Brett Rapkin & Erik Kesten’s HOLY LAND HARDBALL (2007; Coolidge Corner: November 11 at 7 pm + November 12 at 2 pm) is a record of the first professional-league baseball season in Israel; Andrew Jacobs’s FOUR SEASONS LODGE (2007; Coolidge Corner: November 10 at 6:15 pm) is a poignant portrait of a Jewish summer community in the Catskills (one of a few where once there’d been hundreds) peopled almost entirely by elderly camp survivors. Jacobs folds in aging snapshots and listens to the gray lions’ stories and ends up mourning not only the losses of the Nazi rampage but those of the post-war communal era, which is fading away into a second history as time presses on. Here’s a full-bore “Jewish” cinematic feast, evoking in these old-timers’ tales, inflections, and habits an entire century’s worth of disappearing ethnic reality.
Israeli film may be enjoying a kind of international-distribution renaissance, but the fest’s most telling and pungent example of Israeli culture might be the sit-com ARAB LABOR (2007; MFA: November 8-9 in four installments), which is still pulling in high Israeli ratings. The first Israeli TV show to be even partly spoken in Arabic, it centers on the travails of an Israeli-Arab journalist for a Jewish newspaper, and through his efforts to do his job within the constraints Israeli Arabs routinely suffer, the entire contradictory dynamic facing both factions of that society is limned and mocked. It’s still a sit-com, but the nervy nature of its dialogues and implications makes it unlike anything we’ve seen on American TV since All in the Family.
Vincente Amorim’s GOOD (2007; ICA: November 9 at 3 pm; Arlington Capitol: November 15 at 9:15 pm) is based on a play about a guileless German writer and professor (portrayed warily by Viggo Mortensen) who’s sucked into the Third Reich’s rise; it’s a deft and refreshingly literate think piece. We’ll never see the end of the Holocaust inquiries, and they may even come in the shape of Dennis Gansel’s German-made pipe bomb THE WAVE[Die Welle] (2008; West Newton: November 13 at 6:30 pm), a hyperbolic and violent reimagining of a famous 1967 Palo Alto high-school experiment wherein social-studies teacher William Ron Jones reformulated his class along fascist guidelines and found everyone alarmingly agreeable and even enthusiastic. Gansel’s movie transplants the paradigm to contemporary skinhead-plagued Germany and notches up the dread. Like 2001’s The Experiment, which was also based on an American academic experiment that tested students’ propensity toward abuse and torture, The Wave is pedagogic in the extreme, and queasily effective.
, Meg Ryan, William H. Macy, Etgar Keret, More