When not passing cynical judgment and living out of his Mitsubishi as Ray on Lena Dunham’s “Girls,” Alex Karpovsky is an independent filmmaker with five films to his directorial credit. His latest, “Red Flag,” will screen on Wednesday as part of the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival, which will present 18 films from 14 countries in a number of local venues over the next two weeks.
Karpovsky filmed “Red Flag,” in which he stars as Alex Karpovsky, a director touring his film “Woodpecker” to southern theaters, while on a tour of southern theaters. But the filmmaker cautions against confusing his onscreen and offscreen incarnations. “I feel like it’s not that autobiographical,” Karpovsky (the real one) says. “Though I have plenty of insecurities and neuroses, those are not necessarily the ones that I put in this movie. I’ve never been on a tour before, I’ve never had a groupie follow me that’s turned into a really difficult, complicated love triangle, and I’ve never been engaged to a girl, so all that stuff is narrative creation.”
The romantic complications of the film were outlined in advance, but “Red Flag” was largely improvised by the cast as they drove from town to town during the two-week tour. It was inspired by Karpovsky’s apprehension over the prospect of a protracted solo road trip. “As the time drew near I began to get very anxious that it would be a really lonely experience,” he recalls. “You have to travel five or six hours by yourself in a car, stay in low-end motels, and the allure of the American highway has long since evaporated for me. I wasn't looking forward to it, to put it mildly.”
His appearance at PJFF should be less of an ordeal for the Brooklynite, who will also be on screens this fall in the Coen Brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis.” While “Red Flag” doesn’t have the overt Jewish themes of so many WWII dramas or thrillers about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Karpovsky says that it fits in with the festival’s mission.
“My character is quite neurotic,” he says. “He’s quite self-reflective and insecure, and I think some of those elements are woven into the fabric of Jewish comedy – the neurotic, over-analytical person who’s trying to figure out these crushing, overbearing existential issues that seem to paralyze his functionality. People like Woody Allen and Larry David come to mind, and I’m certainly a big fan of both of those Jewish guys.”
Other highlights of the fest:
This harrowing, controversial thriller concerns the secret past of a Polish village. Nov. 11, 7 p.m., International House
The festival’s opening night film is a gritty drama about a gang of religious fanatics who enforce Jewish law with baseball bats and street fights. Nov 2, 8 p.m., Gershman Y
‘One Day After Peace’
In this moving documentary, the mother of an Israeli man killed by a Palestinian sniper returns to her native South Africa to explore issues of forgiveness and reconciliation. Nov. 12, 7 p.m., Drexel’s Mitchell Auditorium
This romantic comedy about a young French woman’s obsession with Woody Allen is patterned on “Play It Again, Sam” and features a cameo from Woody himself. Nov. 7, 7 p.m., Gershman Y
If you go:
33rd Annual Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival
$12 and up, 215-545-4400