I saw the original production of Harold Pinter’s dark, multi-award-winning comedy as a precocious, theatre-mad teenager. I wouldn’t have been allowed near it if it had been a film, it would have been x-rated in those days for sure! The homecoming of the title is the return to the flinty bosom of his East End family of Teddy, a college lecturer Stateside with a murky past in this all-male household ruled over by retired butcher Max. Teddy brings home the, er, “bacon” in the alluring shape of Ruth, his wife of five years. The power play between the brothers, their father and above all between Ruth and her in-laws is the meat of the play. I particularly remember Ian Holm, sinister and dangerous as Lenny the pimp; and Vivien Merchant, Pinter’s first wife, who created the role of Ruth, and the way she crossed her legs causing shock waves to ripple through the theatre – and I don’t mean because of the static in her nylons…
Larry Mollin talks to JR’s arts editor Judi Herman about his new play, The Screenwriter’s Daughter, charting the tempestuous relationship between Hollywood screenwriter Ben Hecht and his free-spirited daughter Jenny, who joins the radical New York Living Theatre in the 1960s against Hecht’s will. This rich and powerful Jewish writer was blacklisted in the UK in the 1940s and ’50s for his political activism, but he has also been recognised for his human rights efforts in creating public awareness of the Holocaust and furthering the cause of Jews around the world. His 120 screenplays include Gone with the Wind and Scarface, which won the first Oscar for Original Screenplay in 1927, and for Alfred Hitchcock he wrote a number of his best psycho-dramas, receiving his final Academy Award nomination for Notorious. His stage writing includes The Front Page, the sharp and witty comedy set in a newspaper office he co-wrote with Charles MacArthur (also filmed several times, including with Jack Lemmon and Walther Matthau).
The Screenwriter’s Daughter runs until Sunday 29 November. 7pm & 2pm, £15-£19.50, Leicester Square Theatre, 6 Leicester Place, WC2H 7BX; 020 7734 2222. www.leicestersquaretheatre.com
The Paz brothers (Doron and Yoav) bring zombies to Jerusalem in an original film that may well scare you – if you don’t feel too nauseous viewing a wildly wobbling Old City of Jerusalem through the Google Glass Jewish American Princess heroine Sarah wears, a gift from her Dad to take on her first trip to Israel.
This may be a zombie frightfest complete with Biblical quotes, but if you’re familiar with Dracula and other vampire movies, you’ll recognise elements here – the handsome young man who falls in with the two female buddies, the fatal decision to stay in a spooked Holy City (think ‘let’s take the shortcut through the graveyard at nightfall – what harm can it do?’) the flightier of the two falling victim first and scenes in an asylum designed to scare the viewer witless too, if you’re not already thoroughly spooked by winged zombies and violent exorcisms.
The girls are as fun-loving and careless as you could wish, so it never really looks as if it will end well for either of them, but don’t let that put anyone off visiting the Holy City – and seeking out the extraordinary alleys, tunnels and walkways where the film is so lovingly shot.
By Judi Herman
JeruZalem screens Wednesday 18 November, 9.15pm, Odeon Swiss Cottage, 96 Finchley Rd, NW3 5EL; 0333 006 7777. www.odeon.co.uk
From humble origins in Whitechapel, the eccentric and ambitious 19th-century lawyer Herbert Bentwich set out to establish an aristocratic Jewish dynasty, having a profound impact on British Jewish life and on the new state of Israel. In this wry and witty documentary, The Bentwich Syndrome, brilliantly enhanced by Monty Pythonesque animation, Bentwich’s great-grandson Gur sets out to discover the truth about this much-maligned and enigmatic family. Along the way, from Herbert’s daughter, who did not just become Christian but also a nun – and a lesbian – to the 20th-century scion, ‘Quick Quick’ Norman Bentwich, a whirlwind who advised Hailie Selassie of Ethiopia, helped set up the Kindertransport in Europe and, became attorney general in the British Mandate in Palestine, the filmmaker and his wife and partner Maya Kenig uncover a remarkable story, funny and sometimes tragic, of fervent Zionists, inspired artists, and outrageously determined rebels.
See The Bentwich Syndrome with Gur Bentwich in conversation at the following places:
Monday 16 November, 4pm, JW3, 341-351 Finchley Rd, NW3 6ET; 020 7433 8988. www.jw3.org.uk
Wednesday 18 November, 6.30pm, Odeon Swiss Cottage, 96 Finchley Rd, NW3 5EL; 0333 006 7777. www.odeon.co.uk
Thursday 19 November, 7.30pm, Seven Arts Leeds, 31A Harrogate Rd, LS7 3PD; 0113 262 6777. www.sevenleeds.co.uk
Lior Raz is the co-writer and plays a vital leading role in Fauda, currently the biggest hit TV series in Israel. Surprisingly, this thriller about an Israeli combat unit (or Mista’arvim) working undercover disguised as Arabs, is a hit with the Arab community. This is because it is even-handed in its portrayal of the hopes and fears and the good and the bad in both communities. It is a phenomenon then, particularly right now, as violence escalates again on the streets of Israel. Judi Herman spoke to Lior Raz ahead of his visit to the UK Jewish Film Festival for a Q&A session following the second of three cinema screenings of all 12 episodes of Fauda at JW3.
The First Day. Addis Ababa.
We made it to the hotel just to dump our bags and then headed out straight away to meet with the ‘Secret Jews’ of Kechene. Of course, they’re not so secret now. Their synagogue in a slum on the outskirts of Addis has a wall emblazoned with a menorah and other Jewish symbols. This is their story. In a period of intense persecution in Gondar some centuries before, a third of the community decided to leave for the centre of the country. They acted outwardly as Christians meeting in caves for Jewish worship. For 400 years they have only married each other, and kept their identity a secret till about 10 years ago when a group of young men defied their elders and ‘came out’ as Jews. They now have a synagogue in Addis.
With the 19th UK Jewish Film Festival in full swing – with more than 80 films from over 15 countries, an impressive 50 of which are UK premieres, showing in five cities – Judi Herman speaks to a couple of names involved.
While attending the opening night gala Judi met with actor Allan Corduner and spoke to him about his role in the film chosen to open the Festival, Closer to the Moon (listen above). This dark comedy directed by Nae Caranfil is based on a true story and is set in post-war communist Romania, where a group of Jewish intellectuals stage a bank robbery and find themselves paying the price for the bravado of their extraordinary gesture – a price that bizarrely also includes a forced reconstruction of the robbery for a propaganda film, directed by Corduner’s alcoholic Flaviu. Allan talked to Judi about the film and his role in it – and also about his current role in TV’s Homeland, in which he plays a high-ranking Israeli in Berlin.
Judi also spoke to playwright and actress Sarah Solemani, who is known for her role as prim Miss Gulliver in Bad Education, and served as one of the judges of the UKJFF’s inaugural Best Debut Feature Award this year. The two discussed the festival in general and Israel’s film industry. Listen below.
Closer to the Moon screens on Friday 13 November, Glasgow Film Institute, G3 6RB; 0141 332 6535. www.glasgowfilm.org
UK Jewish Film Festival runs until Sunday 22 November. See their website for full details: ukjewishfilm.org