PARK CITY, Utah — Picture it: a small, ski town on the top of a mountain in Utah. It isn’t very big, there aren’t many public facilities, and the sidewalks are always icy. Yes, Park City, Utah, is surely the best place to hold an internationally renowned film festival.
I gripe because I love. 2020 was my 11th straight year attending the Sundance Film Festival, and while this wasn’t one of its breakout years, it’s still a marvelous place to come. (But please don’t come, it’s crowded enough.)
This year saw 118 feature-length films, representing 27 countries and 44 first-time feature filmmakers, most of them world premiers. Rather than report back on everything I’ll let the rule of three help out (it worked for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it’ll work here) and tell you about three really good non-documentaries with a Jewish bent.
I can hardly recommend “Worth” as a fun night out at the pictures, but it is a very strong and considerate story about a difficult subject. It is also extremely Jewish, and not just because two of the main characters are members of the Tribe. The film’s central conceit — whether or not one could ever place a numeric value on a human life — has roots in tales of King Solomon and leads to grand philosophic debate. It is Jewish in its very bones.
Michael Keaton submerges himself in the role of Ken Feinberg, a lawyer and professor who, as a “Special Master,” oversaw the 9/11 Victims Fund. Feinberg, feeling the need to “do something,” offered his very specific legal experience to the Bush administration, who were justifiably terrified that the terrorist attacks might bring lawsuits to airline companies, thus crippling the economy. Feinberg (a “Jew lawyer” according to one angry albeit grieving litigant) knows he can only achieve his goals by being dispassionate, but when widower Charles Wolf (Stanley Tucci) challenges him, they come to a more humane understanding.
Tucci, in his supporting role, breezes in as if from the pages of an Isaac Bashevis Singer story. He is a decent, dignified man, looking only to make things just. He does not raise his voice, but he does not hide his displeasure. He is the very picture of a righteous man.