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On the Map: Seattle Jewish Film Festival

— by BEV QUESTAD —

Laugh, cry, love, gather and celebrate are the words for the 2017 annual Seattle Jewish Film Festival (SJFF), held March 25 – April 2, 2017. On its final-day, an exceptionally well-made documentary, “On the Map” with legendary Bill Walton narrating, will entertain audiences with a gripping account of the Israeli basketball team that took Israel’s honor to the court.

This fast-paced suspenseful documentary, featuring Tal Brody, Israel’s great American-Israeli player, is about Israel’s attempt to triumph in the 1977 European Basketball League Championship.

But the true climax of the documentary is when the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team must first face off against the unrelenting Russian Red Army team. Their first hurdle, outside of the Russians’ brawn, height and formidable reputation, was that Russia was boycotting Israel. This meant Russia could not invite the Israelis to Russia for a game and their team could not go to Israel to play.

Siding with Middle Eastern countries, the USSR (now known as the Russian Federation) regarded the formation of Israel, per United Nations vote, illegal. So how could it honor a game against a country they contended should not be in existence?

Dani Mankin, filmmaker and two-time Israeli Academy Award winner, collaborated with Nancy Speilberg (Steven Speilberg’s sister) to document this story of Israeli fortitude in a David and Goliath contest fought on the courts rather than the battlefield.

Needing a distraction from wars and random bombing attacks throughout the 1960s and ’70s, the Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketvall Team, provided Israelis some alternative news coverage. Documented with archival footage of the players and their games, Mankin and Speilberg have produced a film that shows how much one national team can affect a spirit and unite a country.

Israel’s citizens were transfixed, watching all the games on tv or in the stadium. Government leaders, including Moshe Dyan, Israel’s Minister of Defense and then Minister of Foreign Affairs, regularly came to the games in person. The documentary is full of impossible 3-pointers, surprise assists and super-human teamwork. Israel’s favorite player, Tal Brody, presciently calls out in 1977, “We are on the map! And we are staying on the map – not only in sports, but in everything.”

“On the Map” sets the stage for this year’s SJFF in presenting not only what it means to be Jewish but what it means to be a united as a community.

The film festival also includes four separate food events: a traditional Jewish soulfood brunch, two separate dessert nights and an Italian tratori. Paired with each culinary event is a corresponding film.

A happy hour and dessert party will open the SJFF with the showing of “Harmonia,” a riff on the Biblical story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar with the contemporary influence of the Jerusalem Philharmonic. It will end, after a showing of “On the Map,” with wine/beer, food and dessert and a final film called “Big Sonia,” featuring Holocaust survivor, Sonia Warshawski.


“On the Map” Credits:
Director, Producer and Writer: Dani Mankin
Producer: Jon Weinback
Executive Producers: Ori Eisen, Roberta Grossman and Nancy Spielberg
Associate Producer: July Hodara
Featuring: Tal Brody, David Stern, Bill Walton and Aulcie Perry
Runtime: 85 minutes
Languages: Hebrew and English
Screenings (click on Screenings in top menu): http://www.onthemapfilm.com/
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSIgCLmf9ac
Website: http://www.onthemapfilm.com/
Rankings: Rotten Tomatoes (8.2) and IMDb (7.6)

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