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Fourth Annual Jewish Film Fest

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Twelve foreign and American films on Jewish themes, presented at four different locations in Chicago, Skokie, and Park Forest by the Marvin N. Stone Centre for Jewish Arts & Letters. Admission varies, from $3 to $5, depending on the location, for information, call 761-9100.

ANGRY HARVEST Working in Germany, Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland (Provincial Actors) has fashioned a strong psychological drama about a shy Polish peasant who saves a middle-class Jewish woman from the Nazis by hiding her in his cellar; what begins as a humanitarian gesture turns cruel as the peasant's inbred resentments--toward money and the female sex--get the better of him and he turns his guest into his prisoner. Well constructed and superbly performed by two Fassbinder veterans, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Elisabeth Trissenaar, the film falters slightly by insisting too much on the metaphorical significance of the material, which lessens the impact of the unfolding, immediate drama. With Margit Carstensen and Kurt Raab. (DK) (Freedom Hall, 410 Lakewood, Park Forest, Saturday, January 17, 8:00; Florence G. Heller JCC, 524 W. Melrose, Monday, January 19, 8:00; and Old Orchard, Wednesday, January 21, 9:00)

THE CAFETERIA Short feature about the transformation of a Jewish cafeteria from exclusive ethnic haven to minority melting pot. The film is based on an Isaac Bashevis Singer short story and was shot at the legendary Dubrow's cafeteria in New York. Amram Nowak directed. (PG) (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, January 17, 8:00, shown with Isaac in America; Old Orchard, Tuesday, January 20, 9:00; and Freedom Hall, 410 Lakewood, Park Forest, Thursday, January 22, 9:00)

EVERY TIME WE SAY GOOD-BYE Tom Hanks plays a young American pilot who falls in love with a traditionally brought up Jewish woman (Christina Marsillach) amid the strife and social ferment of World War II. (PG) (Old Orchard, Saturday, January 17, 9:15)

THE GOODBYE PEOPLE An odd lot of New York small timers decide to reopen a long-shuttered Coney Island hot dog stand. Judd Hirsch is featured. (PG) (Old Orchard, Thursday, January 22, 8:30)

HOT BAGELS and EUGENE'S VALET Two short films on lighter aspects of Jewish culture. Hot Bagels explores the mystical mysteries of bagelmania, while Eugene's Valet offers a slight, eccentric study of a New York dry-cleaning establishment. (PG) (Old Orchard, Tuesday, January 20, 7:00)

ISAAC IN AMERICA Amram Nowak's hour-long documentary tribute to Yiddish author Isaac Bashevis Singer, who considers himself a permanent exile from his native shtetl culture. The film knits together interview footage of Singer with voice-over readings from his novels and stories. (PG) (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, January 17, 8:00, shown with The Cafeteria; Old Orchard, Tuesday, January 20, 7:00; and Freedom Hall, 410 Lakewood, Park Forest, Thursday, January 22, 8:00)

THE JOLLY PAUPERS Frequently described as "the all-time great Yiddish screen comedy," this 1937 Polish feature follows the fortunes of two petty artisans (the comedy team of Dzigen and Schumacher) whose mistaken belief that they've discovered oil in a local field sets their village neighbors to venal scheming. Zygmund Turkow directed. (PG) (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, January 18, 2:00; Florence G. Heller JCC, 524 W. Melrose, Wednesday, January 21, 8:00; and Old Orchard, Thursday, January 22, 7:00)

THE PACKAGE TOUR Gyorgy Szomjas's Hungarian documentary follows a group of concentration camp survivors on a bus tour that takes them back to Auschwitz. With his emphasis on the passing of time and the transformation of the camp into a tourist attraction, Szomjas seems to be after something other than the usual Holocaust documentary, yet the tales of horror told by the survivors overwhelm his abstract, philosophical perspective, and the end result is a serious, moving, but not particularly distinguished film. (DK) (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Sunday, January 18, 6:15; also Old Orchard, Wednesday, January 21, 7:00)

PARTISANS OF VILNA A band of Lithuanian Jews resists the Nazis during World War II. It's the first Chicago-area screening for Josh Waletzky's critically acclaimed film, which commemorates the struggle of the Vilna partisans--men, women, and children of Vilna's Jewish ghetto--who refused to submit quietly to the Nazi extermination camps but instead chose to combat the fascists directly. (PG) (Old Orchard, Saturday, January 17, 7:00)

SHOAH Claude Lanzmann's extraordinary nine-and-a-half-hour documentary is constructed as a series of approaches--through language, memory, and landscape--to a subject that can't be depicted: the Holocaust. Speaking with witnesses to the events, interpreting the apparent trivia of German train schedules, or (most powerfully) allowing his camera to roam the now-peaceful fields and forests of Poland where the exterminations took place, Lanzmann does not build his film chronologically but through patterns of repeated images. There is no historical footage in the film; the past emerges wholly through the present. In searching for the most vivid possible presentation of his subject, Lanzmann has been led to reinvent many of the principles of modernist and structuralist filmmaking, which here acquire a new kind of nonacademic urgency and justness. More than a treatment of a great subject, the film itself is a great achievement in form. (DK) (Old Orchard; shown in two parts: part one, Sunday, January 18, noon, part two, Monday, January 19, 7:00)

THE SMILE OF THE LAMB Tale of two best friends, a benign Sephardic doctor and a survivor of the Holocaust, who attempt to reach out to an aged Palestinian, only to have their efforts shattered when the old man's PLO son is killed by Israeli soldiers. Winner of Israel's best film award for 1986, with a cast that includes Israeli Arab actor Makhram Khouri in the role of the Holocaust survivor; Shimon Dotan directed. (PG) (Old Orchard, Sunday, January 18, 7:00; also Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Wednesday, January 21, 6:00 and 8:00)

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