by Cathy P. Ross
Apr 5, 2013
12:22 PMCulture Cat
Jewish Film Festival Opens This Weekend
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg understands how films resonate with audiences. “They [the audiences] are the custodians of these visual memories, these stories,” he says. “Films are kind of like signposts or markers throughout people’s lives.”
The Jewish community counts on the power of films to foster a cultural understanding of the Jewish experience. And it is achieving its goal through Jewish film festivals, the first of which took place in San Francisco in 1980. Today, there are over 200 Jewish film festivals worldwide, with 150 in the U.S. alone. Last year, more than 1,000 different independent films with Jewish themes were screened collectively at these events.
Mandell JCC in Hartford presents the Hartford Jewish Film Festival, which is well-established in the state, attracting some 4,000 viewers annually.“It takes a global digital village to put on the festival each year, and this is our 17th,” says film-festival director Harriet Dobin. “Our very loyal filmgoers plan their vacations around it.” The screenings take place April 4-15 at selected venues.
The program includes 21 award-winning features, documentaries and short films from Argentina, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the United States, covering everything from the Holocaust to love and marriage to politics—along the way with a little Jewish kitsch.
Here are just a few of the highlights:
A Bottle in the Gaza Sea (above), a drama based on the true story of a secret online relationship between an Israeli girl and Gaza boy.
Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald, the story of the Kinderblock 66 orphans who were saved from death by the Communist prisoner underground. Abby Weiner, 82, of West Hartford, one of the boys saved, will be reunited with fellow survivor Alex Moskovic (his son is the father of the film’s executive producer) after the film; both will also participate in a talk with the audience.
From Silence to Recognition. Dobin notes: “This film might not have won any Golden Globes, but for about 40 Jewish dentists in Hartford the documentary about overt discrimination against Jewish dental students who were expelled from Emory University in the 1950s and ’60s for no reason, was important to include.” Dr. Perry Brickman, who helped to uncover the scandal, speaks after the screening along with filmmaker John Duke.
Closing night is devoted to Hava Nagila (The Movie), a lighthearted history of the great Jewish standard played at weddings and celebrations. It is preceded by the short B-Boy, the story of E-Break, aka Eli Furman of Fairfield, a 13-year-old break-dancer who comes of age while competing across the country with United Outkast dance troupe from Bridgeport. Furman and United Outkast perform after the showing.
Visit hjff.org for a complete schedule of films, speakers, tickets and venues.