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Restoration

Restoration

The Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema continues Thursday, October 27, through Sunday, November 6, with screenings at Columbia College Film Row Cinema; Northbrook Court, 1525 Lake Cook Rd., Northbrook; and 600 N. Michigan. Tickets for most programs are $11; for advance sales call 847-946-6026 or visit chicagofestivalofisraelicinema.org. Following are reviews of selected programs screening in Chicago; for a complete schedule of suburban shows see the festival website.

[Recommended] The Human Resources Manager Israeli actor Mark Ivanir (Schindler's List) breaks out in his first leading role, playing a workaholic businessman from Jerusalem whose years on the road have estranged him from his wife and child. In order to finalize a divorce, he returns home and accepts a demotion to his firm's human resources division, but his woes only increase after one of the company's guest workers dies in a suicide bombing and a tabloid newspaper latches onto the tragedy. Hoping to defuse this public relations mess, the protagonist accompanies the victim's body back to Romania, only to be confounded by her bewildered family and the entrenched bureaucracy of the former Soviet republic. Eran Riklis (The Syrian Bride, Lemon Tree) directed this dark but poignant comedy, adapting A.B. Yehoshua's novel A Woman in Jerusalem. In English and subtitled Hebrew and Romanian. —Andrea Gronvall 103 min. Sat 10/29, 10 PM, 600 N. Michigan.

[Recommended]Restoration Chief among the virtues of this Israeli drama is a genuine curiosity about real adult lives: among the characters are a furniture restorer, a seamstress, and a lawyer, and their work is so vividly depicted that it shapes our understanding of them. Iraqi actor Sasson Gabai (The Band's Visit) gives a quiet, nuanced performance as the elderly restorer, a stubborn craftsman struggling to avoid bankruptcy after his business-savvy partner dies. On impulse he hires a charismatic young man to work in his shop, but the stranger ends up exaggerating the tension between the old man and his nouveau riche son and daughter-in-law. The material could have been played as melodrama, but director Joseph Madmony gives each development the same careful attention he accords the scenes of work. This is the kind of novelistic filmmaking whose simple wisdom stays with you. In Hebrew with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 105 min. Sat 10/29, 7:30 PM, 600 N. Michigan.

[Recommended] 77 Steps Though oddly reminiscent of the Sydney Pollack sudser The Way We Were, this disarming documentary is more notable for its tactful overview of Israel's diverse political currents. Ibtisam Mara'ana, an outspoken and idealistic Palestinian filmmaker, moves into a youthful section of Tel Aviv and soon catches the eye of her neighbor Jonathan, a handsome, easygoing Canadian Jewish immigrant. Their romance blooms amid their shared interests and hopes for peace, but it's tested when Mara'ana scraps a campaign for the Knesset, protesting her left-wing party's support of the 2009 intervention in Gaza, and Jonathan receives a visit from his grandfather, who inadvertently reminds him of his parents' expectation that he'll marry inside their faith. Provocative, touching, and brave, the movie considers the challenges of reintegrating Arab Israelis into the Jewish majority. In English and subtitled Hebrew and Arabic. —Andrea Gronvall 56 min. Mara'ana will attend the screening. Thu 10/27, 7 PM, Columbia College Film Row Cinema.

This Is Sodom The popular Israeli TV series Eretz Nehederet ("Wonderful Country"), which uses commentary and sketches to satirize current events, has been compared to Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. But this 2010 movie spin-off, a parody of biblical epics that's set during the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah, has more in common with the crass vaudeville of Mel Brooks. As that comparison might suggest, it's wildly uneven: for every jaw-dropping gag about police brutality in Tel Aviv there are at least two groaners about ugly toupees. But like Brooks at his most entertaining, the players here are so energetic that one can overlook the frequent lapses in quality. Adam Sanderson and Muli Segev directed. In Hebrew with subtitles. —Ben Sachs 87 min. Thu 10/27, 9 PM, Columbia College Film Row Cinema.

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Agenda Teaser

Music
September 23
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Monger: The Awakening of J.B. Benton Greenhouse Theater Center
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