Apr’06 Spotlight

The internationally award-winning film The Syrian Bride opens at Chicago’s Music Box Theater on Southport on April 7. Shot in and around the city of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, Bride’s plotline hinges on a Druze woman’s imminent marriage to a man on the Syrian side of the border. Family members congregate to see her off, knowing that once she crosses over, she might never return.

The film is a collaborative effort between Israeli director Eran Riklis and Palestinian writer Suha Arraf, and features a diverse cast of actors speaking a mix of languages (Arabic, English, Hebrew, and Russian) appropriately keyed to each scene.

The heart of the film belongs to renowned Palestinian actress Hiam Abbas, who plays the bride’s sister “Amal.” A married woman with two teenage daughters, Amal has a clear-eyed view of the choices available to women in her culture. Last October, when Hiam was here for the Chicago International Film Festival, I asked her if Amal’s self-possessed dialogue was realistic. “It’s possible,” she said. “The price would be very heavy. Then it’s about you as a person to kind of calculate the price you have to pay for each step you’re doing in your life… I always create a back story to my character, even when I play a small role. I need to know, before I get to the set, where I come from. Eran has told me that for him, the first time we met, as soon as I walked into that room, I was a character for him.”

For more details, visit the official website: http://www.syrianbride.com.


Rosie Vargas Goldberg will show her new film, Bloom, at the 2006 Chicago Latino Film Festival on April 22 and May 4 at the Facets Cinematheque on Fullerton. This is the Chicago premiere of Bloom, although she also showed it last year as a “work in progress” at a screening sponsored by the Alliance of Latinos and Jews at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum.

Rosie is a passionate first-time filmmaker who wrote Bloom in an effort to work through intimate family problems that defied easy answers. She also produced it in collaboration with her husband, orthopedic surgeon Benjamin Goldberg, and her friend, Chicago playwright Diana Mucci-Beauchamp. Bloom, directed by Dominguez de los Santos, stars four local actresses: Greta DeBofsky, Mara Monserrat, Maritza Nazario, and Jessica Pérez.

DeBofsky plays a Holocaust survivor. When I asked Rosie why it was important to include this element, she told me “Ruth,” DeBofsky’s character, “has an appreciation of life which she imparts to her own daughter Sharon.” “Sharon” (Monserrat) is a therapist whose empathy has a life-altering effect on Bloom’s heroine, a troubled young woman named “Letty” (Pérez).

Rosie and all four actresses will be available for questions after each screening. For more information, visit the CLFF website: http://www.latinoculturalcenter.org.

Sharon Rosenzweig and Aaron Freeman have just released an adorable new book called How to Say I Love You in Thirty Languages, and they will be signing copies at numerous local venues in the next few months. Sharon received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she is now an instructor. She shows her work locally at Gallery 60035 in Highland Park and at Street Level Gallery in Highwood, and her paintings and prints have also been featured at galleries in Michigan and New York. Aaron is a popular Jewish stand-up comedian and go-to humorist for Chicago Public Radio, who performs frequently with Chicago’s famous Second City troupe.

Sharon also submitted four cartoons to the Israeli Jewish Anti-Semitic Cartoon Contest, a contest running concurrently with local Chicagoan Ed Margolis’ “Fight Hate with Humor” contest sponsored by the World Union of Jewish Students. (Both Jewish contests started in reaction to recent hate cartoons emanating from Iran.) Sharon told me she decided to enter the fray after she heard an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air in February. This is “a war of ink instead of blood,” she said, and she was eager to enlist.

To see samples of Sharon’s work, visit: http://www.sharonrosenzweig.com. For a list of Aaron’s latest gigs, visit: http://www.aaronfreeman.com.


The DePaul Theatre School did a weeklong run of Alfred Uhry’s wonderful play The Last Night of Ballyhoo in February, at the Merle Reskin Theatre on Balbo. I went to the Thursday-night performance on Feb. 16, but unfortunately the audience Q&A we’d been promised at the end was canceled due to bad weather. No matter, the hardy souls around me were treated to an excellent production directed by Trudie Kessler, with Jason Karasev particularly noteworthy in the role of “Joe Farkas.”

Like Uhry’s best-known play, Oscar-winner Driving Mrs. Daisy, Ballyhoo is set in mid-century Atlanta, where longtime Jewish residents with German roots find themselves delicately poised in a racist hierarchy between the Protestants “above” them and the African Americans “below” them. Joe is a newcomer from the North whose Yiddish-inflected accent provokes an identity crisis in the class-conscious Freitag family.


Paper Clips, one of the best documentary films of 2005, was released in a deluxe 2-DVD edition on March 7. Looking for a project that will teach her students about tolerance and diversity, the principal at Whitwell Middle School outside Chattanooga, Tenn., chooses to focus on the Holocaust. The designated teachers take courses, read books, and begin to tell their students about events that occurred before most of their parents were born, when one student asks the profoundly simple question: “What is ‘6 million’?” The students decide to make that abstract number concrete by collecting 6 million paper clips, and thereby initiate a worldwide mitzvah project.

What makes the Holocaust so unique in the history of man’s inhumanity to man? It’s not violence and destruction, which continue to erupt unabated around the world every day, but the cold transformation of people into numbers, their every step recorded on precisely typed-out lists specifying exact date and destination. By film’s end, Whitwell’s paper-clip collection has become the perfect complement to all the paperwork carefully preserved in Holocaust museums. Paper clips—mundane, practical little objects—now serve to connect the past with the future.

For more information, visit the official website: http://www.paperclipsmovie.com.

© Jan Lisa Huttner (4/1/06)

Tziviah bat Yisroel v’Hudah (Jan Lisa Huttner) is the managing editor of Films for Two: The Online Guide for Busy Couples (www.films42.com). Send comments and/or suggestions for future columns to Tzivi@msn.com.

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