It's the last bar mitzvah class of term on Monday, and we're supposed to be watching a film. It's part of their curriculum to watch a couple of Jewish films and discuss them, and it seems a nice way to celebrate the end of term.
However, my mind is absolutely blanking on what we should watch. So can anyone think of a good Jewish-themed film? I would really prefer it not to be about the Holocaust, because there should be more to Jewish education than trying to guilt kids because lots of people died. Also I'd rather avoid rose-tinted nostalgia about pre-emancipation Europe (such as Fiddler on the Roof and Yentl), if possible.
It also needs to be suitable for 12-year-olds, bright, mature 12yos, but still 12. I'm more worried about themes that are too complex for them to connect to their experience, than about the odd naughty word or reference to sexuality (Swedish people seem to be a lot less prudish about kids discussing that sort of thing than Americans anyway). Generally, I want something that is not only about a Jewish theme, but at least somewhat in line with the values that I am trying to teach.
I also have to find said film in a rental shop or in the synagogue library between now and Monday, which might be a challenge. So I need as many suggestions as possible in case I can't find the right one!
This might be totally not the kind of thing you're looking for, but how about Disney's The Prince of Egypt which tells the story of Exodus? It might provide room for discussion on interpretations of the Exodus story from different religious/cultural traditions...
And I know you said you don't want Holocaust films, but I'd like to recommend Everything Is Illuminated anyway. Yes, the Holocaust is the reason for the book/film, but I think it's ultimately about a young Jew reconnecting with his heritage and peoplehood. It's rather gently funny in parts as well.
Frisco Kid is not exactly Jewish themed, but the kids might have fun spotting the accurate and inaccurate parts of the movie. Examples - Gene Wilder is plainly face east while davening shacharit, but he mentions coming from near Czechoslovakia which was not created until after WW1.
It might fail on the complex themes criteria, but I thought that The Believer was a really interesting film. It deals with the story of a Jewish teenager who joins up with anti-Semitic/neo-Nazi elements, partially out of rebellion against a deity that would inflict on his chosen people what the Jewish people have suffered.
Does contain sexual themes and violence, so maybe 12 is a bit young.
If they can cope with sub-titles (or Hebrew without subtitles) show them Ushpizin. It's a comedy written by an Israeli baal teshuvah about a childless poor Charedi couple over Sukkot whose celebration is sent into chaos by the arrival of two convicts from the husband's past. It's very entertaining and it's nice to see a film made from a Charedi perspective if the children don't have much direct contact with Charedi. I raises lots of topics around Sukkot, charity and hospitality. Last Limmudfest there were lots sessions where at least one participant said "It's just like that bit in Ushpizin where..."
I saw a book at the Rabbi's house. It also plays during the Holocaust time. It is called "Walking with wolves". I could imagine there is a film to it. A child escapes from the Nazis and hides in the forest where he or she is looked after by the wolves.