David & Layla

From Feb ’08 Spotlight: The Gene Siskel Film Center on Michigan Avenue has two Chicago premieres coming up that both deal with interfaith marriage. The first one, David & Layla, is a broad comedy about a Jewish guy who falls in love with a Muslim woman. Despite Layla’s horrific stories about Kurdish life under Saddam Hussein, this Brooklyn-based RomCom is mostly played for laughs. I tried to enjoy myself, but the stereotypical treatment of Jewish women in this film made me queasy.

David & Layla’s director Jay Jonroy should have spent some quality time with Leah Welbel, the protagonist of Out of Faith. After almost three years in Auschwitz, Welbel survived, married, moved to Skokie, and raised a family. Stubborn and feisty well into her 80’s, Welbel stands up to her husband and her sons, voicing great distress when her grandchildren begin to date and then marry non-Jewish partners. Past and future collide, but by treating all points of view with respect, director Lisa Leeman gives her eloquent documentary universal resonance. Young people need to appreciate that the options they have today were often painfully secured for them by their parents and grandparents. Old people need to understand that their children and grandchildren have new battles to fight.

After touring all around the world with her film (including trips to Argentina and Israel), Leeman will be at the Siskel Center for an audience Q&A on Sunday March 2. For complete schedule details, visit www.siskelfilmcenter.org or call the box office: (312) 846-2600.

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