Jewish Film Festival Debuts

The Andover Jewish Student Union showed the first in a series of movies as part of the Jewish Film Festival last Friday night. The picture of the night was the 1979 film “The Frisco Kid,” starring Gene Wilder and a young Harrison Ford. The Festival began with a brief Shabbat service, open to both Jewish and non-Jewish students. After the service, the movie began. “The Frisco Kid,” directed by Robert Aldrich, is a comedic Western drama with a Jewish twist. A Polish rabbi, Avram Belinski (Wilder) is sent to the United States to lead a synagogue in San Francisco. Once he arrives on the East Coast, the movie recounts his lively and humorous journey to the wild west The story also details his quest to win back his possessions after they are stolen from him by a band of thieves. He receives help and guidance from a n unlikely source – bank robber (Ford) who becomes his friend and sidekick. Wilder portrays Belinksi brilliantly, and is the standout feature of the film. He takes control of his role throughout, and his seeming naiveté and desire to become Ford’s sidekick is charming. By the end of the movie, he is transformed from a wet-behind-the-ears ignoramus with good intentions to a confident moral leader. Ford’s character is that of the likeable thief. Stymied by Wilder’s innocence, he is determined to become the rabbi’s friend and protector and to teach him how to survive in a foreign land. Like Wilder, Ford executes his role with ease, and the odd couple work well together by molding their diverse personalities into a friendship. Despite the frequent comedic interludes, serious issues of faith, friendship, identity, and destiny permeate the film. While it is certainly not necessary to be Jewish in order enjoy the film, some knowledge of Jewish culture enriches its comedy and meaning. This was the first of a series of films that JSU hopes to continue to show throughout winter and spring terms. They chose “The Frisco Kid” as the inaugural film because of its lightheartedness. “We wanted a movie that was light and Jewish-related, but that didn’t need any explanation or discussion afterwards,” said JSU Co-President Josh Schultz. He continued, “Overall I think it went pretty well…we had the largest turnout we’ve ever had.”