Food & Basketball Highlight Israeli Film Celebration

When you go see a film, you want more than just a night out in a theater; you want an experience. This week’s “Celebration of Israeli Film” offers moviegoers just that.

The two-night showcase – Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Sabes JCC in St. Louis Park and Saturday, Oct. 22, at the St. Paul JCC, is being presented by the Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival (which will still hold its much larger festival in March). The event is part of the JCCs’ commitment to collaborating on arts programming.

Thursday night’s film is “On The Map,” a documentary of a basketball upset that pre-dates the “Miracle on Ice,” and will have the film’s director speaking after the film. Saturday’s “In Search of Israeli Cuisine” will offer an Israeli dinner prior to the films.

“When we (St. Paul JCC and Sabes JCC) created our partnership, we agreed that the Festival would be not only about great films, but include beyond-the-screen programming that keeps the conversation going,” said Soni Cohen, the assistant executive director of the Sabes JCC. “It’s about bringing the entire community together for more than an experience of viewing the film. This is what has made the partnership and the Festival so positive.”

“On The Map,” while a “sports movie,” is more in the spirit of “Rocky,” “Rudy,” or “Miracle.” It captures the patriotic spirit of an underdog Israeli basketball team in the 1977 European Champions Cup tournament. The film is produced by Nancy Spielberg’s company, Katahdin, and directed by the award-winning Dani Menkin.

“Everyone knows about the ‘Miracle on Ice‘ because of the movie, and it was a good one,” Menkin said. “But we had to do justice to the ‘Miracle on the Hardwood.’ You wouldn’t expect a little team from Israel that never got past the first round to do what it did.”

(ON THE MAP – Trailer from Katahdin Productions on Vimeo.)

“While ‘On The Map’ was relatively new when we signed it, it showed great promise and we decided to take a chance. Our instincts have proven to be right,” said Todd Bruse, Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival Co-Director. “‘On The Map’ is receiving rave reviews as it is being shown at Jewish Film Festivals around the country. Plus, Dani Menkin is an exciting and interesting guest. It makes (the evening) a wonderful community experience.”

Menkin said that the film marked a turning point for Israel and Israelis.

“For Israel, the day that (team captain) Tal Brody said ‘We are on the map,’ it’s like when Neil Armstrong said ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’ That’s what it meant to us,” Menkin said. “There’s so much more to the story that had never been told so we decided to make the film.”

The upset of CSKA Moscow, better known as the Soviet Red Army team, wasn’t important just for basketball. Menkin talks about the importance of the team’s success to lift the mood of the country just four years after the Yom Kippur War.

“At the time, Israel is struggling for existence,” Menkin said. “There is political revolution taking place because the Likud was taking over. (Prime Minister Yitzhak) Rabin was resigning the day of the game. He was waiting for the game to finish. It lifted the spirits of the country that needed something.

“They were the first to break the wall of Israel losing with dignity. It was the first time we can say ‘we aren’t losing; we are winning with honor.'”

“In Search of Israeli Cuisine” is a beautifully done food/travelogue that is true to the title. Sumptuous and inviting, James Beard Award-winning chef Mike Solomonov weaves childhood stories about the culture of food into a personal experience with the “dozens of distinct cuisines” in the melting pot of the Fertile Crescent.

(“In Search of Israeli Cuisine” Documentary Trailer from Roger Sherman, Florentine Films on Vimeo.)

Director Roger Sherman has a ton of experience shooting food for “Town & Country,” “Saveur,” “Budget Travel,” “Garden Design,” “MetHome,” and “Newsweek.” He also photographed “The Brisket Book” by Stephanie Pierson and freelance cinematographer for “The Gates” for Maysles Films, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino for The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Mayan pyramids for the National Gallery of Art and many others.

“What could better – an Israeli inspired dinner followed by a great movie,” said Marley Richman, Film Festival Co-Director. “‘In Search of Israeli Cuisine’ is one the best foodie films out there!”

Tickets for each show are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. All advance tickets are picked up at will call the evening of each show. For more information, go the to the event’s website.