A Compassionate Spy. Photo: SF Jewish Film Festival

Running from Thursday, July 20, through Sunday, Aug. 6, this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival also comes to the East Bay, where Oakland’s Piedmont Theatre will host over a dozen events and screenings. Whether you choose to travel across the bridge or decide to stay closer to home, there’s lots to see.

Documentaries are — as always — well represented at the festival, but should you only have time for one, A Compassionate Spy (the latest from two-time Academy Award nominee and Hoop Dreams director Steve James) is my top pick. Screening at 3:15 p.m. on Friday, July 21, at the Castro Theatre, the film tells the amazing story of Ted Hall, the youngest scientist hired to work on the Manhattan Project.

Overwhelmed by the enormity and horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the teenage Hall decided his knowledge needed to be shared with the Soviets — not out of devotion to Stalin or communism, but in the belief that only by sharing it could nuclear annihilation be averted. Though he was arrested by the FBI in 1951, Hall avoided the fate of the Rosenbergs, was never charged with anything, and lived until 1999.

James’ film makes the case that Hall’s information had already reached Moscow via physicist Klaus Fuchs, and that it merely provided the Kremlin with confirmation of Fuchs’ veracity. Perhaps Hall made a bad decision, but A Compassionate Spy suggests the ethical dilemma he faced left him with little choice.

Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy. Photo: SF Jewish Film Festival

Two terrific cinema-related documentaries will screen back-to-back on Tuesday, July 25, at San Francisco’s Vogue Theater. Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy takes a deep dive into the production, release, reception, and lasting legacy of director John Schlesinger’s 1969 classic, which has long resided in your humble scribe’s all-time top 10 list. Star Jon Voight holds forth on the film’s popularity (don’t worry, he doesn’t talk politics), and director Nancy Buirski suggests Cowboy was a unique product of its time and place that couldn’t have been made before or after the late ’60s.

Queen of the Deuce. Photo: SF Jewish Film Festival

A quirkier look at film in the Big Apple is provided by Valerie Kontakos’ Queen of the Deuce, the story of a Holocaust survivor who built a mini-empire of adult movie theaters in and around Times Square in the 1960s and ’70s. The film, an endearing tribute to Greek refugee Chelly Wilson, features interviews with her clearly awestruck descendants.

My Neighbor Adolf. Photo: SF Jewish Film Festival

If you prefer narrative cinema, there are a couple of worthwhile comedy-dramas for your consideration. Following in the footsteps of other recent Third Reich-related laughers such as How About Adolf? and Jo Jo Rabbit, My Neighbor Adolf (6 p.m. on Saturday, July 22, at the Castro and 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5, at the Piedmont) takes place in Argentina shortly after Israel kidnapped Adolf Eichmann in 1960. Jewish emigre Polsky (David Hayman) convinces himself that an even bigger fish has just moved into the long empty property next door; the neighbor — whoever he may be — is played by living legend Udo Kier. Kier is currently scheduled to be in attendance at the Castro screening.

A Gaza Weekend. Credit: SF Jewish Film Festival

A Gaza Weekend (8:15 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5, at the Piedmont) is more comedy than drama, and revolves around a British-Israeli couple trying to flee a pandemic-stricken Israel for the relative safety of the world’s largest open-air prison. There’s a lot going on in this cleverly constructed satire from writer-director Basil Khalil — maybe a bit too much for a 90-minute film — but it’s lots of fun, and I was especially impressed by Maria Zreik’s performance as a Gazan assisting the escapees.

Freelancer John Seal is Berkeleyside’s film critic. A movie connoisseur with a penchant for natty hats who lives in Oakland, John writes a weekly film recommendation column at Box Office Prophets, as...