If you recognized Justin Bartha, star of the Lenore Marwil Jewish Film Festival feature Holy Rollers, it may be from his role as Doug, the “misplaced” bridegroom in the hit movie The Hangover. Then again, you may remember passing him in the hallways of West Bloomfield High School, or sitting in the same row during services at Temple Israel.
After graduating high school in 1996, Bartha went on to study acting at New York University. His film, television, and stage credits include the National Treasure films with Nicolas Cage, the upcoming sequel The Hangover Part II, the 2006 NBC series Teachers, and a role in last year’s Broadway production of Lend Me a Tenor.
In Holy Rollers, Bartha and co-star Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) play Hasidic Jews from Brooklyn who become involved in an international drug smuggling operation. The film, which was an official selection of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, is based on actual people and events.
“It was intense, an unexpected story that was very well acted,” said Lora Vinande of Berkley, who saw the film on Saturday night, May 21, at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts.
Many of the attendees had never visited the recently opened facility before, and they were as impressed with the facility as with the film.
“This is our first time at the Berman Center, and we’re excited to see more events here,” said Rod Brown of Farmington Hills, who attended the screening with his wife, Vicki and their friends, Steven and Jill Dean of West Bloomfield.
“The film was excellent, and the facility is great,” said Steven Dean.
Bartha’s success is not surprising to at least two of his former high school teachers, James Corcoran and Rob Leider, who remember the exceptional talent and creativity the actor displayed in his teenage years.
“Justin was always bright, funny, and inventive. As an adult, he has clearly shown considerable acting skills, and I suspect that, before long, he will also demonstrate his considerable skills as a writer,” said Corcoran, who still teaches English at West Bloomfield High School. “As a student, as I recall, he singlehandedly took over the writing duties in a skit-dominated vaudeville show we used to put on every year. And his skits were a riot. He was a very talented kid.”
Leider, who directed the theater arts program at West Bloomfield High School, remembers Bartha’s outstanding accomplishments as an actor, writer, and director.
“(Bartha) was wildly inventive and stood out in comedy sketches, kids shows, dramatic and timely monologues, and could find a depth to his characters in major productions making his performances memorable,” said Leider, who now has his own creative business in Farmington Hills. “He was very respected for his abilities to act, write and direct in school shows and class projects. I'm very proud of how Justin has gone on with his career, especially such success on the Broadway stage. He's one of the good guys, and I certainly hope that he continues to flourish."
Film Festival Chair Eric Lumberg said he has been pleased with the attendance and the positive audience response to the films.
“We’ve had great crowds,” he said. “People are very enthusiastic and they love the theater.”
The Lenore Marwil Film Festival continues through Thursday. Holy Rollers will be shown again at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Bernath Auditorium of the David Adamy Undergraduate Library at Wayne State University, 5020 Anthony Wayne Dr. in Detroit. For a complete schedule, visit jccdet.org.