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Turturro to appear at Washington Jewish Film Fest Mar. 8 for 'Fading Gigolo'

Writer-director-actor John Turturro and his newest film "Fading Gigolo", co-starring Woody Allen, are the March 8 centerpiece of the popular Washington Jewish Film Festival, Feb. 27-Mar. 9.
Writer-director-actor John Turturro and his newest film "Fading Gigolo", co-starring Woody Allen, are the March 8 centerpiece of the popular Washington Jewish Film Festival, Feb. 27-Mar. 9.
Writer-director-actor John Turturro and his newest film "Fading Gigolo" highlight Washington Jewish Film Festival on March 8

Writer-director-actor John Turturro and a sneak peek of his newest film "Fading Gigolo" Mar. 8 are the centerpiece of the popular Washington Jewish Film Festival Feb. 27-Mar. 9.

After Saturday's screening of "Fading Gigolo", Turturro will be interviewed by WJLA-TV/ABC7 film reviewer Arch Campbell.

The movie stars Woody Allen, who's newly controversial due to old allegations of sexual impropriety, repeated by Dylan Farrow, one of Mia Farrow's adopted daughters, after Allen was awarded the Golden Globes' Cecil B. DeMille® Award for lifetime achievement in film.

In "Fading Gigolo", Allen plays a failed NYC bookstore owner who pimps out his florist pal Turturro. The florist-turned prostitute beds Sofia Vergara, Sharon Stone, others, and massages Vanessa Paradis.

The Washington Jewish Film Festival's (WJFF) events, in addition to showing 64 films from 18 countries, include an Oscars®-watching pajama party, "Snuggle with the Stars" -- viewing the Mar. 2 ceremony on a two-story-high HD screen. Proceeds support WJFF as well as DC Shorts.

Most of the 80 screenings are followed by discussions with guest filmmakers and subject experts. Other talks by them will be held, free, at the Library of Congress Mar. 3-7.

The WJFF opens Feb. 27 with two screenings of "The Wonders" (click on film titles for trailer and details), a modern film-noir by Israeli filmmaking pioneer Avi Nesher. It's about a bartender who doubles as a graffiti artist in Jerusalem. The music is by Israeli superstars Hadag Nahash.

The opening night party with Nesher and composer Avner Dorman begins at 8:45 P.M., between the two screenings.

Nesher, an accomplished producer-director-screenwriter-actor, will receive the annual WJFF Visionary Award March 2 after a retrospective screening of his "Turn Left at the End of the World". He'll also attend that night's 11 P.M. showing of his "Taxman", about an unlikely police hero.

This year's Spotlight is on Polish cinema, supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland. Among the seven films:

  • A newly restored version of Molly Picon's 1938 "Mamale" (Little Mother) on March 2 and 9. The "Queen of the Yiddish Musical", Picon's career spanned more than 70 years. After World War II, she traveled to a concentration camp in Poland to entertain about 3,000 Jewish children. A Picon-related event is "An Evening of Jewish Song" with a sing-along March 4.
  • "Auschwitz on my Mind", March 4, is about a young Israeli teenager who goes on a school trip to Poland, and is torn between his society’s obsession with its past and his friends' obsession with sex.
  • "Ida", March 1, concerns an 18-year-old Polish orphan who prepares to become a nun, but meets her only living relative, and discovers that they are Jewish.
  • "The Jewish Cardinal", March 1, is based on the startling true story of Jean-Marie Lustiger. The son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, Lustiger maintained his Jewish identity even after converting to Catholicism at a young age, and later joining the priesthood.

And here are a just few of the fest's other fascinating, wide-ranging offerings:

  • "Dancing in Jaffa", Mar. 4, shows a unique peace technique by champion ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine -- teaming Jewish and Palestinian Israeli children as ballroom partners, using dance for social good. Dulaine's "Mad Hot Ballroom" 2005 film followed New York school children in a city-wide competition.
  • The documentary "Dove's Cry", Mar. 6 and 9, follows a young charismatic Arab Israeli, who teaches Arabic to Jewish primary students. The resulting cross-cultural dialogue is juxtaposed against her daily struggles with being an Arab citizen of Israel and being a single Muslim woman in her late twenties.
  • "Shadow in Baghdad", Mar. 9 sneak peek, is an investigative documentary tracing the 2,000-year-old story of Iraqi Jews. They had played a major role in Iraqi society, until a brutal campaign eventually drove them out.

The film is especially timely, with the Iraqi Jewish Archive on display for the first time ever at the National Archives. The treasures are to be returned to Iraq this summer -- an enormous controversy. The Iraqi Jewish Archive had been discovered by a U.S. Army team in the flooded basement of Saddam Hussein's intelligence headquarters, and then painstakingly restored for ten years by the National Archives.

On a far lighter note Mar. 9, closing night, "Cupcakes" is about friends whose song is accidentally chosen as Israel's entry for a Eurovision Song Contest-esque competition.

The movie is followed by a reception with much more than just cupcakes. The Audience Award Winners for WJFF’s Best Feature, Documentary and Short will be announced.

For more info and tickets: Washington Jewish Film Festival,, Feb. 27-Mar. 9, Washington D.C. Jewish Community Center,, 1529 16th Street at Q Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. The events are at various locations in addition to the DCJCC. Related events also include March 5 "Speakeasy DC's Mavericks And Outliers: Stories about Defying Convention and Challenging the Status Quo", a common theme in these WJFF films. (Disclosure: I am one of the mavericks and outliers, telling my true story.)

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