Film Reviews

Meet me in Berlin ’36.

When it begins later this week, the 10th annual Temple Emanu-El Kirk Cashmere Jewish Film Festival, with films from seven countries, examines the history of anti-semitism in a wide range of material, including the Olympics and recent American political scene.

These films will not have played at commercial theaters here.

Berlin ’36

As this film opens, the Olympics, to be held in Berlin, are in the offing, with competitions being held to select the finalists. Controversy rages since Germany wishes to ban all Jewish competitors.

The US, however, threatens to boycott the Olympics if Jews are denied participation, and finally has its way. However, the Nazi power structure, headed by Hitler, has a secret plan to ensure that Aryan competitors best Jewish athletes–and nearly succeeds, in this case in the high jump competition finals.

This true story, kept under wraps for years, relates the travails of Gretel Bergmann, a high jump champion and a Jew, whose chief competitor for Olympic status is one Marie Ketteler, who proves to be a l7-year-old male. How the Nazis manipulate the tryouts is the fascinating story here, only foiled when Bergmann and “Marie” become friends. At the very beginning, the Nazis deny Bergmann, who then moves to London. The Germans issue threats so she will return and be “defeated” by Marie.

What happens and how does it happen? At the start, this German film seems stiff and wooden but soon develops into an absorbing, fascinating story. (At the end, the real-life Bergmann, aged and living in New York, delivers the film’s epilogue.) This is an eye-opening story, showing in chapter and verse the sophisticated machinations of Nazi policy, and how, in this case, the truth was later discovered.

Screens Sun., 3/18 and Mon., 3/19 at 7:30pm, Tue., 3/27 at 1pm

Where I Stand: The Hank Greenspun Story

A fascinating documentary about the amazing Herman “Hank” Milton Greenspun, a seminal figure in American politics and journalism, supporting Israel, opposing Sen. Joseph McCarthy and fighting integration.

It’s 1946, and Maj. Greenspun leaves the army, gets a law degree but gravitates from New York to the earliest days of Las Vegas evolution. He becomes part-owner of one of the first gambling emporia, then founds a much-needed Las Vegas newspaper, radio and TV stations, champions anti-mob activity and provides hands-on participation in procuring materiel for fledgling Israel for defense. When Las Vegas becomes mob-heavy and begins to falter, Greenspun persuades Howard Hughes to move to, and aggressively invest in, Las Vegas, buying up properties from mob-figures. Greenspun’s paper, Las VegasSun, becomes a (mostly) positive force in Las Vegas proper, and not only the gambling culture.

A friend of world figures, an outspoken columnist and editor, and an opponent of black-and-white segregation, supporting the first black-owned businesses in Las Vegas, and investing in developing land outside the city, which he rightly envisioned would one day be part of the city empire.

A fabulous figure, not without controversy, Greenspun, whose newspaper office was ransacked by the same thugs who robbed, at the same time, the Watergate hotel, reared a large family, defied death threats and hit men.

This documentary reveals never-before-told facts about Greenspun, whose death seems to be linked with the unprotected atomic bomb testing outside his city.

Featured in this story are interviews with world figures who knew him well, and comments by his widow and children.

Screens Wed., 3/21 at 7:30pm, Sun., 3/25 and Thu., 3/29 at 1pm