Local filmmaker Molly Stuart’s character-driven feature debut, Objector, like most documentaries, is an act of commitment, optimism and resistance. Stuart’s doggedness and sacrifice, though, pale next to that of her subject. Objector, screening Sunday afternoon, March 1 in the Jewish Film Institute’s annual weekend WinterFest (Feb. 29–March 1 at the Vogue), traces the personal journey and public criticism of Israeli teenager Atalya Ben-Abba, who challenges her family’s expectations and her society’s norms by declining mandatory military service.
The JFI, whose primary event is the summer San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, is one of a handful of Bay Area film titans who you might have noticed present out-of-season mini-bashes. The Silent Film Festival is another, and the Mill Valley Film Festival initiated an annual springtime documentary fest a few years ago. SFFILM, in addition to the SFFILM Festival, has for many years presented contemporary surveys of national cinemas in the fall.
Good movies are released year-round, of course, and the best justification for off-season expansion is that some films demand to be seen now rather than later. Objector is Exhibit A—if, that is, one believes Netanyahu (and Trump) have an iota of interest in peace. If you don’t, Objector may seem less urgent, and Atalya’s high-stakes act of conscience more quixotic than inspiring.