Sit Back With December Film Fests

Posted December 2, 2009 at 2:56pm

As just about everyone in Washington eagerly anticipates closing out 2009, two upcoming festivals will make the final stretch of the legislative year a little more bearable.

The 20th annual Washington Jewish Film Festival kicks off today, with 62 films from 20 countries being shown from now to Dec. 13. The festival anniversary is being marked with the presentation of the Visionary Award to director Michael Verhoeven. His Oscar-nominated feature “The Nasty Girl— was shown at the first Washington Jewish Film Festival, and he has focused his career on post-World War II Germany. At this year’s festival, Verhoeven will present his new documentary, “Human Failure,— which is about the German bureaucratic system’s plan to confiscate Jewish properties even before the Holocaust began.

Festival director Susan Barocas named the Argentinian films “Camera Obscura— and “Anita,— as well as “Cycles— and “The Girl on the Train— from France, as being among the standout works at this year’s event. Another notable item is one of the last movies in which Patrick Swayze appeared, “Jump!— The film is about an Austrian photographer who was accused of murdering his father before coming to the United States in 1928. Swayze plays his defense attorney.

Barocas said many of this year’s works deal with themes of displacement and home, “what the journeys mean and what home means.—

For schedules, tickets and venue information, visit washingtondcjcc.org.

Questions about identity and home will also be raised at the Capital Irish Film Festival, which kicks off Dec. 10. Artistic director Linda Murray said questions about Ireland’s changing culture are prevalent in the film industry there.

Filmmakers are “looking at how we’re shifting as a country and as ourselves,— she said.

For much of its history, Ireland was made up of rural, small communities, but in recent years it has become a more urban-centric society.

“There’s a sense of alienation that happens— during that process, Murray said.

Sixty films will be shown at this year’s festival, which is in its fifth year. Those offerings include 15 feature films and four programs of shorter works.

Director Lenny Abrahamson’s film “Garage— is among Murray’s top picks at this year’s festival. Irish comedian Pat Shortt stars in the film, which Murray said might seem an odd choice for a film that addresses deep themes such as alienation and identity. However, his comedic skill provides needed balance, she said, and Short is “really beautiful in it.—

“It’s quite sad on many levels, but it’s also laugh-out-loud funny,— Murray said. “It’s very existential, I suppose.—

The Capital Irish Film Festival is produced by Solas Nua, a contemporary Irish arts organization in the United States. Murray said the event is an opportunity to bring the work of Irish artists to America and showcase the “great creative output that is happening— in the Irish film industry right now.

The festival will run through Dec. 20. For screening schedules, tickets and venue information, visit irishfilmdc.org.