IF THE JEWS RUN HOLLYWOOD, isn't it redundant to have a Jewish Film Festival? That is just one of the implications of Simcha Jacobovici and Stuart Samuels' dazzling documentary, Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies & The American Dream, which argues that the aesthetics, morals, and concerns of movies in Hollywood's Golden Age -- from the '20s till the mid '50s, a period pretty close to the Platonic ideal of what movies are all about -- were Jewish in origin. It presents the case that these movies contained the worldview of first- and second-generation Eastern European immigrants, people who built Hollywood in their own image out of bits and pieces of the American Dream. Like Neal Gabler's Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood (the excellent book which it's based upon), Hollywoodism is stuffed to bursting with brilliant insights, stunning connections, and sweeping generalizations. By the end, one wishes for a long and vigorous debate with its creators.

The idea that there is something about movies that specifically speaks to the Jewish condition is also the contention of two of the finer fiction films in the festival, both of which feature young protagonists enthralled by cinema. Léa Pool's lovely Emporte-Moi is the semi-autobiographical tale of a French-Canadian teenager trapped in a prickly household, who finally finds her role model and her release in the persona of French actress Anna Karina (so luminous in Godard's Vivre sa vie). Arik Kaplun's Yana's Friends is a humorous look at Russian immigrants in Israel, and the video director who befriends the most needy and lost among them. The movie is ultimately too whimsical for my taste, but it features the best love scene in years: a groping couple in gas masks waiting out an air raid.

The dreams of assimilation by the studio heads is one of the central arguments in Hollywoodism, and that concern is also foremost in two documentaries about Ethiopian Jews in Israel: Daniel Wachsmann's Menelik: Black Jewish Prince, and Pamela Love's The Color of Jewish. The former is the more poetic and unapologetic about staging scenes; the latter, straightforward and informative. I suspect they play better paired-up than they would apart. The fears of anti-Semitism that ignite assimilationist dreams are the subject of many other documentaries in the festival, most of which are perfectly earnest and well-made efforts that, unfortunately, fall a little on the dull side.

There is plenty more to choose from -- everything from an animated version of Anne Frank's diary to the fun, but ultimately grating mockumentary Who's the Caboose, about actors trying to score a TV pilot. You can decide for yourself what looks promising and what must be avoided. After all, your favorite movies probably have nothing in common with mine -- beyond, of course, their roots in Jewish culture.