Tony Curtis documentary to open the L.A. Jewish Film Festival


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‘Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom,’ a new documentary on the late actor born Bernie Schwartz in the Bronx, opens the 7th annual Jewish Film Festival on Thursday evening at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills.

Several participants in the documentary, including actresses Theresa Russell, Mamie Van Doren and Sally Kellerman, and Curtis’ widow, Jill Vandenberg Curtis, will participate in a discussion at the screening.


The festival, which attracts some 4,000 people, will screen 26 features, documentaries and shorts through May 10 at various locations.

‘There is something for everyone and in every area,’ said Hilary Helstein, executive director of the festival.

She admitted that people often confuse the L.A. Jewish Film Festival and the Israel Film Festival, which took place in L.A. in March.

‘The Israel Film Festival showcases works from Israel. Our mission is to showcase works that deal with Jewish subjects, Jewish issues, Jewish culture, Jewish matters,’ she said. ‘They can come from anywhere.’

But she said her goal is to program films that will be of interest not only to a Jewish audience but also to a broad group of filmgoers.

One of the anticipated films in the festival -- at least for cineastes -- is Michael Curtiz’s 1924 silent Austrian epic on the exodus of Jews from Egypt, ‘The Moon of Israel.’ The director came to Hollywood shortly after making the film and went on to make such classics as ‘Casablanca,’ for which he won the Oscar. Penelope Ann Miller of ‘The Artist’ will introduce the film Sunday evening at the Saban in Beverly Hills.


Other films of note are ‘Shoah: The Unseen Interview,’ which features interviews and outtakes not featured in Claude Lanzmann’s nine-hour epic documentary ‘Shoah’; the documentaries ‘The Price of Kings: Shimon Peres’ and ‘Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story’; and the drama ‘Wunderkinder,’ about gifted young musicians during World War II.

There will also be comedies, including 2009’s ‘OSS-117: Lost in Rio,’ (from ‘The Artist’s’ Oscar-winning team of director Michel Hazanavicius and actor Jean Dujardin), and ‘Dorfman’ with Sara Rue and Elliott Gould, which closes the festival.

For more information on screenings and venues go to


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-- Susan King