Begging your indulgence, this briefest of critical dispatches on the annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival will begin and end with talk of a movie about a movie critic. Outwardly the most Jewish thing about El Critico, from Argentina, might be a single mezuzah, glimpsed only briefly, in one apartment-building doorway. But then there's also the rather resonant question of who gets to call that apartment home. And broader questions of survival, of assimilation, of the cultural dialectic between analysis and creative participation — including that age-old one about how to reconcile cerebral Godardian detachment with the heart-swelling wish fulfillment of romantic comedies. These queries plague the mind of the eponymous sourpuss intellectual in El Critico, a fairly light movie which nonetheless heavily wonders what difference if any movies can make in the world. Maybe the only way to find out is to see a lot of them. This year's SFJFF, which runs from July 24 to Aug. 10 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, as well as other venues in Berkeley, Oakland, San Rafael, and Palo Alto, contains 70 films from 18 countries, touches on every tone and topic you'd imagine might be relevant to a Jewish film festival, and can't help but advance a broad-ranging cultural conversation. It opens with The Green Prince, a thriller about a Palestinian informant and his Israeli handler — the third such film to be made in as many years, but the only one that's a documentary — and also puts up portraits of such diversely famous figures as Sholem Aleichem, Susan Sontag, and Uri Geller. Of course, just as Jewishness ultimately isn't reducible, this festival can't be boiled down to a single film. But the one that first caught your correspondent's eye, naturally enough, was the movie about the critic. The hero of El Critico only starts out as a snob, and the movie he's in becomes a cultural affirmation. Like the festival, it's an answer to cynicism. sfjff.org.