The 25th Toronto Jewish Film Festival takes place May 4 to 14, 2017, and this year they honour Canadian literary giant Mordecai Richler, with Richler On-Screen. This series is the most comprehensive collection to date of film and TV works written by Richler, or based on his stories. The Festival will also feature the local Premieres of two Canadian docs, as well as Oy Canada, its Canadian short film programme.

Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival (TJFF) is thrilled to honour Canadian literary giant Mordecai Richler with the series Richler On-Screen. Archival classics and rarely-screened works will be part of the showcase, which is the most comprehensive collection to date of film and TV works written by the iconic author, or based on his stories.

Richard Dreyfuss, Micheline Lanctot

A total of 15 film and TV productions will be shown, including the two classics, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974), and Joshua Then and Now (1986) starring James Woods and Alan Arkin. Legendary Canadian producer Robert Lantos will be on hand to introduce the latter film.

Films where Richler’s participation as a screenwriter remains little-known will also be a central part of the series including: No Love for Johnnie (1960) starring Peter Finch and Donald Pleasence; as well as the recently-discovered 1957 shorts Dearth of a Salesman and Insomnia Is Good for You, both starring a young Peter Sellers. Biographer Charles Foran (author of the award-winning Mordecai: The Life and Times) will be introducing the short films.

Assignment: Oh Canada! Oh Quebec! (1992), a rare BBC documentary that sees Richler engage with the history of Quebec separatism will screen with Q for Quest: It’s Harder to be Anybody (1961), an episode of the CBC series in which the author reflects on his role as a provocateur within the Jewish community. This screening will be followed by a discussion moderated by CTV’s Evan Solomon, with filmmaker Charles Officer, Giller Prize founder Jack Rabinovitch, professor and writer Norman Ravvin, and professor Pierre Anctil.

Two rarely-screened CBC live TV adaptations of Richler’s work will also be screened: General Motors Presents: The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1960) as well as the production of Richler’s first novel, CBC Television Theatre: The Acrobats (1957). Also part of the tribute will be The Plays the Thing: The Bells of Hell (1974), a CBC production based on Richler’s original teleplay, which is set in Toronto’s Jewish community.

Three further adaptations of short stories by Richler will be included in the showcase: Carol Leaf’s award-winning short film, The Street, as well as the critically acclaimed 1984 shorts Bambinger, and Mortimer Griffin and Shalinsky, which will be introduced by screenwriter Gerald Wexler, who adapted the stories for these films.

Also part of Richler On-Screen are: family-friendly Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang, the 1978 classic based on Richler’s beloved children’s book, introduced by lead actor Stephen Rosenberg; and a documentary on the author’s life and work, Mordecai Richler: The Last of the Wild Jews (2010).

As a preview to this series, TJFF will be taking part in National Canadian Film Day on April 19th, presenting a free screening of Barney’s Version, based on Richler’s bestselling novel.  Producer Robert Lantos will be in attendance.

Other Canadian content at the Festival includes the Canadian short film programme “Oy Canada”, which will feature the World Premieres of Sheila McCarthy’s Russet Season, Naomi Wise’s Rhoda, and Michael Kissinger’s Hinda and Her Sisterrrz. Sheldon Cohen’s My Heart Attack is also part of the programme.

Rounding out the Festival’s Canadian lineup are two documentaries by female filmmakers: the Canadian Premiere of Danae Elon’s The Patriarch’s Room, a look at the role of the Greek Orthodox Church in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and the Toronto Premiere of Edith Jorisch’s The Heir (Lâ Heritier), which follows her grandfather’s efforts to recover their family’s stolen art collection.

Queer content includes the historical Hide and Seek, that follows the relationship between a British youth and Arab youth shortly before the foundation of Israel. The filmmaker, Dan Wolman, will be in attendance to present the film as well as his early film My Michael and his new film Israeli Love Story.

“Hide ansd Seek” is the first Israeli feature film to deal with homosexuality. Set in British Mandate Palestine (1948), “Hide and Seek” portrays the relationship between Uri, a twelve-year-old boy, and Balaban, his teacher. While Uri’s parents are away and involved in underground activities against the British occupation, there is a growing suspicion of an informer among the Jews. When Uri watches Balaban meeting and exchanging letters with an Arab, he reports Balaban as a spy. Only later does he discover that Balaban is not an agent of the British but the homosexual lover of the Arab. “Hide and Seek” thus becomes a remarkable study of the inability of a siege state to tolerate difference and a study of the private anguish of an individual with the external pressures and political events of the times.

My Michae is a 1976 Israeli drama fil directed by Dan Wolman based on the novel by Amos Oz. It was selected as the Israeli entry for the Best Foreign Film at the 48th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee

Hide and Seek Dan Wolman, Israel (1980) *ARCHIVAL*

Twelve year-old Uri reports his teacher Balaban as a suspected spy when he observes him meeting with a young arab man. Only later does he discover that Balaban’s interest in the young arab is romantic rather than political.

Sunday 14 May, 12:30 PM- Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk 6

My Michael Dan Wolman, Israel (1974) *ARCHIVAL*

Based on a novel by Amos Oz. A couple in Jerusalem before the six day war in 1967, fall in love, get married, have a child and drift apart. With Michael away at war, his wife starts fantasizing about twin Arabs she used to play with as a child.

Friday 12 May, 3:00 PM – Cineplex Cinemas Empress Walk 6

Israeli Love Story Dan Wolman, Israel (2016)

An Israeli Love Story is based on the true story of the love affair between Pnina Gary, from Nahalal, and Eli Ben-Zvi, the son of Rachel Yanait and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi the Second President of the State of Israel. The film is set during the turbulent period of pre-state Israel between 1947 -1948. Margalit (Pnina Gary), meets Eli by chance on a bus and falls in love with him instantly. She tries to become close to him, hoping he’ll fall for her, but Eli is too busy with the Palmach and with smuggling Holocaust survivors into Palestine. Finally, the barriers come down and a compelling relationship develops between the two. Margalit moves in with Eli to his kibbutz in Beit-Keshet, they set a date for their wedding, but Israel’s harsh reality intervenes.

Thursday 11 May, 6:15 PM – Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema

Saturday 13 May, 9:00 PM – Famous Players Canada Square 2

Dan Wolman – 40 Years of Filmmaking

Dan Wolman (born October 28, 1941) is a veteran Israeli filmmaker who’s films have been presented in Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Shanghai, Goa, Moscow and many other film festivals, winning awards and prizes the world over. Dan received a “Life time achievement award” at Jerusalem International film festival and “The Silver Hugo” award at the Chicago International Film Festival for “Unique vision and innovative work”. In January 2015 he was awarded the “Arik Einstein prize” for his achievements and contribution to Israeli cinema and culture[dan wolman] . In 2016 Dan won “The Ophir Life Time Achievement Award” by the Israeli film Academy. His films cover a big range from the very commercial youth comedy “Lemon Popsical” to the very personal “The Distance” and “Foreign Sister” both of which won the Volgin Award for “Best film” at the Jerusalem International Film Festival

His first film “The dreamer” (shot in 1968), broke new ground in Israeli cinema. Not only was it a departure of courageous and defiant proportions from stereotypical local comedy and formula film, but it contravened the aura of the 1967 Six days’ War and it’s aftermath, when the country was preoccupied with it’s victory over the enemy. “The Dreamer” is a sensitive and complex film that can be characterized as Israel’s first “personal” film, one that probes deeply into an individual’s psyche and explores his conflict with society. The individual who dares to break with the norm and struggles valiantly with society for self – definition is a theme that carries through Wolman’s  work and gives him a unique niche among Israel’s film – makers.In his first two features, “The Dreamer” and “Floch”, he deals with the plight of the elderly. In “My Michael” a screen adaptation of Amos Oz’s novel, Wolman highlights the dreariness and loneliness in the lives of women. In “Hide and Seek” and later in “Tied Hands” he examines homosexuality.

Wolman’s empathy with and compassion for the pain of the weak and the suffering find expression in his “Foreign Sister and “Ben’s Biography”.Wolman is noted for films that take strong independent positions. The dilemmas of his characters are revealed with integrity and seriousness of purpose, reflecting the ongoing struggle between the individual and the society in which he lives.

Wolman’s often – controversial views made it difficult for him to find monetary backing; nevertheless, his films are finely made, with great attention to detail and décor. His style is classical; he is a master of mise en scene. He creates subtle, poetic effects: he has an eye for a world in a face and a wasteland in a landscape. Through his investigation of mysterious and uncommon, Wolman’s films uncover universal truths. http://www.wolmandan.com

The Toronto Jewish Film Festival’s 2017 lineup, schedule and ticket pricing can be found here.

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.