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Originally published February 26, 2014 at 2:23 PM | Page modified February 27, 2014 at 12:07 PM

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Seattle Jewish Film Fest docket stars Amy Winehouse, Isabella Rossellini

The 2014 Seattle Jewish Film Festival includes movies featuring Amy Winehouse, Isabella Rossellini and a graffiti artist in Jerusalem.

Seattle Times theater critic


Seattle Jewish Film Festival

Saturday, March 1-Sunday, March 9, various venues in Seattle and Mercer Island; $9-$12 (206-324-9996 or

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This year’s Seattle Jewish Film Festival opens with a spirited family romp from the Netherlands and moves on to encompass music documentaries set in Ireland and Germany, a history of Borscht Belt comedians and a lot more.

Through 25 films from 15 countries, the 10-day fest (which premiered in 1995 and recently became a program of Mercer Island’s Stroum Jewish Community Center) explores Jewish identity and culture — both explicitly and implicitly — via world cinema. Panels and special screenings for senior citizens and youths are also part of the mix.

“The Zigzag Kid” kicks off the festival on Saturday at AMC Pacific Place in Seattle, with a lively adaptation of a coming-of-age novel for young people by popular Israeli author David Grossman.

Nono, in this adaptation a 13-year old Dutch boy, embarks on a bar mitzvah’s-eve adventure with a twinkly, James Bond-like guide who helps him unlock the secrets of his family’s past. Among the cast is Isabella Rossellini as a famous singer who becomes a key figure in Nono’s journey.

A 6:30 p.m. happy-hour event occurs before the film’s 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 1, screening, which is followed by a dessert reception catered by Tom Douglas Restaurants.

Documentaries focusing on a pair of noted Jewish pop stars are also on tap for the festival.

The singular vocal gifts of the late British singer Amy Winehouse are captured in the concert film “Amy Winehouse: The Day She Came to Dingle.”

Shot for Irish television in the outpost of Dingle, the film captures the then-23-year-old Winehouse in her prime, before substance abuse wrecked her career and hastened her 2011 death. She performs stripped-down versions of her jazz-inflected repertoire and shares her thoughts about music in a relaxed interview. (Monday, March 3, at SIFF Cinema Uptown.)

A Top 40 champ and proud Brooklyn native is profiled in “Neil Diamond: Solitary Man,” a musical documentary about the singer-songwriter of oldie-gold hits like “Sweet Caroline.” It will be shown in a special festival screening for patrons 65 and older, and their caregivers, 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 5, at Stroum Jewish Community Center.

In another musical vein, “Wagner’s Jews” sheds light on the provocative subject of the German “Ring” cycle composer Richard Wagner’s anti-Semitism, vis-à-vis his close relationships with musicians and supporters who were, indeed, Jewish. A Sunday, March 9, screening at Stroum Jewish Community Center will be followed by a panel discussion.

You can munch on brunch (by Matzoh Momma Catering, on Sunday, March 2 at AMC Pacific Place ) while watching “When Comedy Went to School,” which traces the roots of contemporary stand-up mavens to the “tummlers” and jokesters (Danny Kaye, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett) who honed their routines as entertainers at Jewish family resorts in the Catskill Mountains.

Also on the docket: “Make Hummus, Not War,” a lighthearted documentary about a tasty dish both Arabs and Jews lay claim to; “The Wonders,” a feature film about a contemporary graffiti artist in Jerusalem, from Israeli director Avi Nesher (“The Matchmaker”); and “Joe Papp in Five Acts,” a profile of the dynamic founder and impresario of the New York Shakespeare Festival and The Public Theater.

Misha Berson:

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