Contact: Margot Gerber

213.466.3456, ext. 115











HOLLYWOOD -- The American Cinematheque’s THE ALTERNATIVE SCREEN: A FORUM FOR INDEPENDENT FILM EXHIBITION & BEYOND... presents the Los Angeles debut of the new independent feature film THE RETURN OF SARAH’S DAUGHTERS (1997, 56 min.) on Thursday, October 16th at 7:30 pm. Filmmaker Marcia Jarmel’s documentary focuses on the new generation of Orthodox Jewish women and explores issues of feminism and lesbianism within this highly regimented, closed community where male-oriented rituals dominate. This film is screening as part of Rediscovering America, an on-going series of new documentaries presented by the Alternative Screen that examine pockets of contemporary America and its citizens. Also screening is Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein’s award-winning short film "Fairfax Fandango," (1997, 25 min.), the adventures of a "Melrose" gal who falls in love with her Orthodox Jewish neighbor. Filmmakers will appear for post-screening discussions subject to their availability. All screenings are at the Raleigh Studios Charlie Chaplin Theater, 5300 Melrose Ave. in Hollywood (between Bronson & Van Ness). Parking is free on the studio lot.

Is it possible to be an Orthodox Jewish woman and still be a feminist, or a lesbian? Marcia Jarmel explores this provocative question as well as her own connection to Judaism, in her portrayal of two strong, thoughtful, educated women in their 30’s who found themselves drawn to Jewish Orthodoxy during adulthood. Rus is a no non-sense social worker who gives us a guided tour of Chasiddic daily life, from the 613 Torah-given laws of living, to the intricacies of a Kosher kitchen, the peace of the Sabbath, weekly visits to the salon to have her wig styled ("observant" Jewish women must wear wigs or hats when appearing in public), the "mikveh" or ritual bath where Orthodox women cleanse themselves when they finish menstruating each month, arranged marriages and the synagogue, where the women worship behind a barrier which separates the sexes. Spiritually-oriented Myriam had also found solace in Orthodox Judaism, but when she came out as a lesbian, she found that there was no place for her in her community. Their stories raise questions about the trade-offs between assimilation and tradition, individual freedom and belonging to a tight community.

Jarmel first became interested in the growing number of people of her generation who were returning to Orthodox communities, after attending the "joyous," "life-affirming" and "moving" wedding of a college friend who had become "observant" as an adult. The bride’s friends told her that their "return" to this traditional lifestyle gave them a sense of belonging to a community (even in the middle of New York City) with shared values: a focus on family and living for something larger than personal gain. They also cited a comfort in feeling a strong connection to their past. Thus, the film opens universal discussions about the complexity of life for modern women, as well as men, regardless of faith.

SF Weekly commented, "This consistently involving doc gives us neither stereotypes or mushheaded proselytizing; the result is far more compelling and relevant exploration of the overstated conflict between secularism and God (spirituality, if you prefer) than you’ll get in a dozen viewings of CONTACT."

THE RETURN OF SARAH’S DAUGHTERS was selected to screen as part of Doctober, the International Documentary Association’s Film Festival (which qualifies docs for Academy consideration) in late October and at the Laemmle Theaters’ Jewish Film Festival in December, both in Los Angeles. The film took First Place at the 1997 Judah Magnes Jewish Film & Video Competition and has been featured at the San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, San Francisco, Denver and St. Louis Jewish Film Festivals. For further information about the film, please contact Patchwork Films at 415.626.9902 or by e-mail:

Advance press screenings are available on tape at the offices of the American Cinematheque. Call extension 115 to schedule. Press kits and black & white still photos are available upon request. Marcia Jarmel is available for interview.

Admission for the general public is $7 and $4 for American Cinematheque Members. Tickets to our programs can be purchased through SHOTIXX (818) 789-8499. Our number, (213) 466-FILM should be listed for further information only !

Our website has complete schedule information as well as updated changes to our schedule, announcements about special guests and information about the Egyptian Theater project. This press release is also available on the website. To log on:

The Alternative Screen: A Forum For Independent Film Exhibition And Beyond..., the American Cinematheque’s on-going series focusing on independent and new forms of cinema was created to serve the public as well as the independent film community in Los Angeles by providing a year-round venue for independent feature films that have not yet secured wide commercial distribution, experimental work, music videos and work in new media. Whatever the ALTERNATIVE SCREEN offers from month to month, it promises to be provocative, innovative and fiercely independent.

Established in 1984, the American Cinematheque, is a non-profit, viewer-supported film exhibition and cultural organization dedicated to the celebration of the Moving Picture in all its forms. The Cinematheque presents weekly film and video programming which range from the classics and world cinemas to the outer frontiers of the art form at Raleigh Studios Charlie Chaplin Theater and other Los Angeles venues. Exhibition of rare works and special prints within our series are a Cinematheque tradition that keep the avid film lover coming back for once-in-a-lifetime cinema experiences. We also treat our audiences to fascinating post-screening discussions with the filmmakers who created the work.

The American Cinematheque is currently working with the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City Los Angeles to develop the historic Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard as the site of the American Cinematheque's permanent home where daily, year-round programming will be offered.

The Alternative Screen takes on-going submissions for consideration of fiercely independent work in all genres. Please send a 1/2" tape to: Margot Gerber, The Alternative Screen, c/o the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., 3rd Floor, Hollywood, CA., 90028. Include a SASE if you would like your tape returned. Phone inquiries should be directed to 213.466.3456, ext. 115. Please note that we are not currently accepting music video submissions, but are actively seeking animated shorts.

For information regarding the Alternative Screen or any other American Cinematheque event, please call (213) 466-FILM. THE PROGRAM IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE.

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