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My Father and the Man in Black
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Putzel PosterThe 8th Annual Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival is set for June 1-6, 2013, and features a very cool assortment of films.

“The Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival is one week of fine filmmakers, fabulous subjects and important premieres,” says film fest founder and executive director Hilary Helstein.

“The festival’s goal is to present films that preserve and celebrate the rich tapestry of Jewish heritage, and this year, that goal has been realized with an amazing group of films.”

The festival will screen more than 20 “chosen” — not selected, but “chosen” — films from around the world. The star-studded line-up of films touch on subjects that include many of America’s most influential and controversial celebrities, including Roman Polanski, Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash, Arthur Hiller, Carl Reiner, Sid Cesar, Hal Kanter, Jerry Lewis, Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce, Jackie Mason, Jerry Stiller and civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

The Red Carpet Opening Night Gala, held at the Writer’s Guild Theater, will feature the Los Angeles premiere of the award-winning romantic comedy “Putzel.” The heartwarming comedy stars Jack Carpenter (“The Good Wife”) as Walter Himmelstein, a.k.a. Putzel, whose life literally doesn’t go beyond his family’s fish store and his community on the upper west side of Manhattan.

Walter’s aspirations of taking over his uncle’s smoked fish emporium are disrupted by the arrival of Sally (Melanie Lynskey, “Two and a Half Men”), who becomes romantically involved with his about-to-retire and very-married uncle. While Walter tries to thwart their romance in order to ensure his place as heir of the business, he finds his circumscribed life thrown off kilter. After years of being undermined by his family and friends, he finally starts to realize his full potential.

Directed by Jason Chaet, “Putzel” also stars Susie Essman (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), John Pankow, (“Episodes,” “Mad About You” [he played Ira]), and Fran Kranz (“Cabin in the Woods,” Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing”).

The Opening Night Gala will feature a dessert reception and Q&A with “Putzel” writer/producer Rick Moore, director Jason Chaet, actress/producer Allegra Cohen, and actor Fran Kranz. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, don’t miss it!

For tickets for all the films and more info, visit the festival’s official site, lajfilmfest.org.

Other films at the 8th Annual Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival:

My Father and the Man in Black

My Father and the Man In Black – This is the Los Angeles premiere for a revealing documentary about Johnny Cash’s up and down relationship with his Jewish manager, Saul Holiff.

Jonathan Holiff, Saul’s son, worked on the film for six years, driven by newly discovered audio diaries and telephone calls recorded by Holiff and Cash in the 1960s and 70s, showing another side to the Man in Black. This is not your typical “talking heads” documentary.

LAJFF will screen this film twice. Mon., 7 p.m., June 3 at the Muvico Theater in Thousand Oaks, and Wed., June 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Laemmle’s Music Hall Theater in Beverly Hills. Both screenings will feature a Q&A with filmmaker Jonathan Holiff.

“Neil Diamond: Solitary Man” – Directed by Mark Cooper and produced by Samantha Peters
, this 60-minute BBC documentary makes its U.S. premiere at the LAJFF. It includes interviews and exclusive location filming with Neil Diamond in New York and Los Angeles, as well as interviews with Robbie Robertson, Neil Sedaka, Jeff Barry, Mickey Dolenz and other contributors.

The singer’s life is chronicled from his childhood in Brooklyn to his early days in the Brill Building to his nascent solo career, superstardom in the early 70s, lean years of the 80s, career reboot via Rick Rubin, and Glastonbury, England success. Screening only one time on Sun., June 2, 5 p.m. at Laemmle’s Music Hall, Beverly Hills with community partner MorningStar Commission.

Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir“Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir” – Director Laurent Bouzereau
 addresses every aspect of the celebrated, tragic and scandalous life of filmmaker Roman Polanski. Interviewed by a long-time friend, Polanski sets the record straight on the 1968 murder of his pregnant wife Sharon Tate by the Manson cult, his 1977 sexual encounter with a 13-year-old girl that led to his exile and, 30 years later, his arrest in Switzerland.

Clips from such Polanski classics as “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Chinatown,” and “The Pianist” connect the Oscar-winner’s anguished past with his artistic achievements, making for the definitive picture of this complex artist. Sponsored by LAMOTH, Randol and Pamela Schoenberg, and the Goldrich Family Foundation

The Last White Knight – This is the Los Angeles premiere of the film with a special Q&A session with director Paul Saltzman
. The special program of the LAJFF is being held in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the murder of Medgar Evers.

The film details 21-year-old Torontonian Paul Saltzman in 1965 and his trip to Mississippi as a civil rights volunteer with a Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Saltzman was arrested and spent ten days in jail. The story picks up after leaving jail and his resulting interaction with a young Klansman who assaulted him.

In 2007, Saltzman returned to find that KKK member to explore if individual reconciliation was possible. Once found, a five-year dialogue ensued. The assailant? Byron de la Beckwith Jr., whose father, Byron de la Beckwith Sr. murdered NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers.

This film screens Tues., June 4, 7:30 p.m. at Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills, and Wed., June 5, 7:30 p.m. at Laemmle’s Town Center, Encino. Includes a Q&A with director Paul Saltzman. Community Partner: Anti-Defamation League and the Urban League.

“Lunch” – Directed by Donna Kanter
, this film tells the story of a group of legendary writers and directors who’ve been meeting for lunch every other Wednesday for the past 40 years. Yes, 40! This documentary stars Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Monty Hall, Arthur Hiller, Rocky Kalish, Hal Kanter, Arthur Marx, Gary Owens, John Rappaport, Matty Simmons and Ben Starr.

One screening at LAJFF: Sunday, June 2, 3 p.m. at 
Laemmle’s Music Hall, Beverly Hills with a Q&A including Donna Kanter,  Arthur Hiller, Ben Starr, and Rocky Kalish.

When Comedy Went to School (World Premiere at LAJFF) – Directed by Ron Frank, this film focuses on the birth of modern stand-up comedy as it began in the Catskill mountains ( a boot camp for the greatest generation of Jewish-American comedians).

Narrated by Robert Klein,the documentary stars Sid Caesar, Larry King, Jerry Lewis, Jerry Stiller, Mort Sahl and others. A Q&A follows with director Ron Frank, stand-up comedienne Judy Carter and special guests.

Screening will be Thurs., June 6, 7:30 p.m. at the Laemmle’s Town Center Theater in Encino.

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