The 37th Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival kicks off Saturday and runs through Nov. 19, with 28 features, documentaries, and short films screening that span topics of the Jewish diaspora. Unlike many film festivals that concentrate their screenings in one place, the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival spreads its screenings out in the city — many are at the Gershman Y (401 S. Broad St.) — and in the suburbs, like the drama Cloudy Sunday, about two people who fall in love in German-occupied Greece, which is playing at the Reel Cinemas Narberth 2 (129 N. Narberth Ave.) next Sunday, and the comedy Holy Air, about a soon-to-be-father who decides to bottle the air in Nazareth and sell it to tourists, which plays at the Ambler Theater (108 E. Butler Ave.) on Sunday.
The festival begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Gershman Y with the international festival hit The Cakemaker, the debut feature of Israeli writer-director Ofir Raul Graizer. The film examines the friendship that forms between a gay German baker and a Jerusalem widow and was described by Variety as "a moving, broadly accessible blend of old-school melodrama, contemporary identity politics, and buttery gastroporn." Tomas (Tim Kalhof), a solitary baker, begins a romantic relationship with Oren, an Israeli businessman who frequents his shop. But when Oren is killed in a car crash, Tomas can't process the loss, and he travels to Israel, where he becomes a part of the life Oren's widow and young son.
If documentaries are more your thing, check out Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, screening at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Gershman Y. Alexandra Dean's documentary draws from treasure troves of audio and visual sources — including recently discovered telephone interview tapes — to form a picture of the eccentric actress and her remarkable life. Lamarr was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna in 1914 and early on showed a keen mind and an interest in science — disassembling and reassembling her radio at age 5. Her beauty and acting ability took her to Hollywood, where she became the A-list star of movies like Samson and Delilah, and she inspired the looks of Catwoman and Snow White. She never lost her interest in science, though. During WWII, she submitted to the U.S. Navy an idea for frequency-hopping torpedo guidance to evade enemy interference — a technology later used as part of the basis for Bluetooth and WiFi. This documentary delves into Lamarr's life as an inventor, through Lamarr's own words, like never before.
If you're into the classics, author Noah Isenberg will talk about his book We'll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood's Most Beloved Movie on Wednesday at the National Museum of American Jewish History.
The closing-night movie is Harmonia, playing at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Kimmel Center. This is a modernized version of the Old Testament tale of Abraham and Sarah that transfers the story to the Jerusalem Philharmonic Orchestra. Harpist Sarah (Tali Sharon) is married to conductor Abraham (Alon Aboutboul). The childless couple's lives change when a musician of French Arab descent from East Jerusalem offers to carry their baby, giving birth to rival prodigies — one Jewish, one Arab — a conflict addressed through the power of music.