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Jewish Films Take On Sundance

The January 2010 Sundance Film Festival, the hypercompetitive showcase of indie cinema held annually in Utah, has announced a lineup that includes films inspired by Brooklyn Hasidism and the Holocaust.

“Holy Rollers,” a drama about a naive Brooklyn Hasid who becomes a mule in the international ecstasy trade, was chosen as one of 16 films — from 1,058 submissions — to compete in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. Based on a true story, the film stars Jesse Eisenberg (of “The Squid and the Whale” and “Adventureland” fame) as a conflicted drug carrier, and features such characters as a rabbi and an Ethiopian Israeli.

Screening in the festival’s foreign documentary competition will be “A Film Unfinished,” Israeli director Yael Hersonski’s look at life in the Warsaw Ghetto. The documentary, a co-production between Israeli and German film companies, uses archival footage captured by the Nazis as its explores the history of the ghetto and how that history has shaped wider understandings of World War II and the Holocaust.

The foreign documentary category comprises 12 films, chosen from more than 780 submissions. “A Film Unfinished” will compete against such documentaries as the French-Palestinian-Swiss co-production “Fix Me,” about a filmmaker in Ramallah, and “Kick in Iran,” a German-produced documentary about a female tae kwon do fighter attempting to become the first Iranian woman to compete in the Olympics.

Scheduled to run January 21–31, the Sundance Film Festival often provides an early indicator of commercial and critical success. The drama “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” which won three top Sundance prizes last January, is now considered a frontrunner for the March 2010 Academy Awards.

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