Back Home Again (Not in Indiana)

In fact, I slept through Nebraska.

Santa Barbara is an idyllic locale, with that splendid but rare combination of ocean and mountains. It's a well-to-do community that takes its appearance pretty seriously and, as a result, is quite pretty (except for the oil rigs off the coast). Definitely a great setting for a film festival, albeit a smallish one. I spent two lovely days being told how smart I am, which is nice for any writer, even if I don't entirely believe it.

As for the films, a nice little selection, although few of them are new. The Israeli drama Out of Sight, by Russian emigre Daniel Syrkin, is definitely worth a look. And you can catch it (and me) at the Rockland County Jewish Film Festival this weekend.

Syrkin's previous directorial work has been for Israeli TV. Out of Sight, his first theatrical feature, is an adroitly crafted film, a sort of psychological thriller about a blind doctoral student who returns home to Tel Aviv from Princeton for the funeral of her cousin and best friend, an apparent suicide. Since the cousin left no note, it falls to Ya’ara to find out why an attractive and seemingly happy woman in her early 20s would kill herself. The answer will probably be apparent to most viewers before the film reaches its midpoint, but Syrkin is less interested in the plot twists (reminiscent of an episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”) than in issues of trust and betrayal. With this well-made, five-finger exercise out of the way, it will be interesting to see where Syrkin goes next.

At any rate, if you are in the Santa Barbara area -- lucky you! -- you should keep an eye on the SBJFF. I also spent a long time reading through the brochure for the Santa Barbara Film Festival, which takes place earlier in the winter; it's pretty impressive, a large-scale event that reminds me a bit of Tribeca.

As for the Rockland County Jewish Film Festival, I'll be introducing at least four, possibly five films and there are some really excellent movies on display here. You can find more information here.

Nice to be home.

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