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:
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
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 on the JR Blog.
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
In the October issue of Jewish Renaissance, Arthur Smith gave Judi Herman the not-so-sweet lowdown on his show, Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen, with which the gravel-voiced wit makes his debut at JW3 in December. Here you can hear an extended version of his conversation with Judi. The two share a love of Leonard Cohen and they compare notes on their mothers, both of whom are living with dementia – indeed Arthur’s mother Hazel has become a vital part of his show .
Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen – The Extended Remix is on Thursday 3 December. 7.30pm. £16-£20. JW3, 341-351 Finchley Rd, NW3 6ET; 020 7433 8988. jw3.org.uk
To read Smith's poem about his mother and listen to him reading it, head to the JR blog.