Sacramento Jewish Film Festival organizers Margi Park and Sid Garcia-Heberger know it's not just what you show, but when you show it.
In scheduling their 15-year-old festival, Park, 61, and Garcia-Heberger, 46, learned to work around calendars general, Jewish and NFL.
Running Saturday and Sunday at the Crest Theatre, this year's festival does not conflict with the Super Bowl, as it did the past two years, nor with Jewish holidays or beautiful summer days that discourage people from spending time indoors.
"We kind of boiled it down to this," Garcia- Heberger said. "This," after expanding and contracting and experimenting with different dates, is a weekend festival of four films that starts at 7 p.m. Saturday with the baseball documentary "Holy Land Hardball."
Competing with the Super Bowl helped determine the now permanent two-film-per-day lineup, Garcia- Heberger said. The festival once showed a film on Saturday night and three on Sunday, but "We truncated Sunday so people could get home to their chip and dip" and watch the Super Bowl, she said.
The new approach brought greater sales of all-festival passes, Garcia- Heberger said, since seeing two films at a shot is easier than seeing three.
Accommodating its audience helped the festival build and maintain a core group of 700 to 800 patrons. Among those patrons are Dan Gorfain and his wife, Joan, who attend every year unless they are out of town.
Gorfain, a retired environmental program manager for the state and a current Sacramento Metropolitan Arts commissioner, likes the "variety Israeli films, humorous films, historical films."
The festival gives Jewish viewers a wider perspective and "gives the larger Sacramento community who is interested a chance to come and see films with Jewish subject matter," he said.
Fifteen years in, core audience members will commit to attend the event months in advance, when they receive "save the date" notices, even though content has yet to be determined.
"They trust us," Park said during an interview with Garcia-Heberger at the Crest Theatre, where Garcia- Heberger is the general manager.
Park and Garcia-Heberger won that trust partly by responding to audience feedback. The audience sent a clear message a few years ago, Garcia-Heberger said, that it wanted "more humorous things, and not so many sad things."
Each year, she and Park ensure that their carefully chosen lineup includes lighthearted films.
Sunday's documentaries "Ahead of Her Time: The Ruth Gruber Story," which tells the remarkable story of a globe-trotting journalist, and "Inside Hana's Suitcase," which confronts the mystery of a suitcase lent to a Holocaust museum, stand in contrast to Saturday night's lineup: the baseball documentary "Hardball" and the wacky Israeli comedy "This Is Sodom."
"We are a little braver this year," Park said in regard to "Sodom." "We have never done a 'spicy' film, as I like to call it."
The hit Israeli film "reminds me of Mel Brooks infused with the 'Airplane' movies," Garcia-Heberger said.
Garcia-Heberger and volunteer Jewish Film Festival coordinator Park first tried out the idea of a Jewish festival in 1996, presenting a documentary about klezmer musicians called "A Tickle in the Heart" as part of the Festival of Cinema at the Crest. "Tickle" was the Festival of Cinema's most popular film that year.
"We recognized there was this whole genre that was passing over Sacramento," Garcia-Heberger said.
Park, a Department of Education employee, had the enthusiasm "it's a passion and a mission for her," Gorfain said but no previous festival experience. She found a crucial ally in Garcia-Heberger, whose theater already was a hub for Sacramento film festivals. They started the official Jewish festival the next year.
"I like to call Sid my 'cinema sister,' " Park said with a smile.
Park and Garcia-Heberger have shared a goal for the past 15 years: illuminating Jewish stories from around the world.
Jewish people "are a small cultural and religious group in the world, so there is a need to preserve the history and the message and the stories," Park said. "That is really the bottom line."
Call The Bee's Carla Meyer, (916) 321-1118.
SACRAMENTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
When: Saturday and Sunday
Where: Crest Theatre, 1013 K St., Sacramento
Cost: $10.50; $9.50 seniors, students and festival members. Day passes: $20; $18 seniors, students and members. Festival passes: $40; $36 seniors, students, members.
7 p.m. Saturday: "Holy Land Hardball." This documentary chronicles an attempt by an American businessman and a former Boston Red Sox general manager to form a professional baseball team in Israel.
9:15 p.m. Saturday: "This Is Sodom." From Israel, a gag-filled, highly irreverent comedy set in the bastion of sin. In Hebrew with English subtitles. For mature audiences.
1 p.m. Sunday: "Ahead of Her Time: The Ruth Gruber Story." Brooklyn-born journalist and author Gruber, now 100, earned a Ph.D at 20, traveled to the Soviet Arctic and took part in a secret government mission to bring 1,000 Jewish refugees to the United States.
3:15 p.m. "Inside Hana's Suitcase." This documentary, which explores the mystery behind a little girl's suitcase lent to the Tokyo Holocaust Museum, is appropriate for middle-school-age children and up.