Jerusalem Jewish film fest offers chance to schmooze about food, art and more
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Jerusalem Jewish film fest offers chance to schmooze about food, art and more

Six days and 40 screenings bring into sharp focus such trailblazing characters as the first Haredi female judge in the US, a Nuremberg prosecutor, and an Israeli rock music pioneer

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

  • Sisters Oma and Bella of 'Oma and Bella," about two widowed Berlin sisters (Courtesy Jerusalem Cinematheque)
    Sisters Oma and Bella of 'Oma and Bella," about two widowed Berlin sisters (Courtesy Jerusalem Cinematheque)
  • From 'City of Joel,' about the Haredi New York town of Kiryas Yoel, being screened at the 2018 Jewish Film Festival (Courtesy Jerusalem Cinematheque)
    From 'City of Joel,' about the Haredi New York town of Kiryas Yoel, being screened at the 2018 Jewish Film Festival (Courtesy Jerusalem Cinematheque)
  • From '93Queens,' about ultra-Orthodox female judge Rachel Frier, being screened on December 1, 2018 at the Jewish Film Festival at the Jerusalem Cinematheque (Courtesy Jerusalem Cinematheque)
    From '93Queens,' about ultra-Orthodox female judge Rachel Frier, being screened on December 1, 2018 at the Jewish Film Festival at the Jerusalem Cinematheque (Courtesy Jerusalem Cinematheque)

December brings the 2018 Jewish Film Festival to the Jerusalem Cinematheque, with six days of film screenings, conversations, talks and workshops surrounding the event.

The festival, on December 1-6, leads with a screening of “A Standard Love Song,” a musical biography of song master Arik Einstein, who died in 2013 of an aortic aneurysm.

It also offers the Israeli premiere of “93Queen,” the story of Judge Rachel Frier, the first ultra-Orthodox female judge in the US, who also established the first all-women’s Hatzalah emergency service in Queens, New York. Frier will be at the festival along with filmmaker Paula Eiselt for the screenings on December 1 and 2.

The first screening on December 1 will include a conversation with Frier, Eiselt and Haredi filmmaker Rama Burstein, along with Neta Ariel from the Maale Film School.

In addition to an International Competition and Israeli Short competition, the festival boasts a Great Jewish Minds program and Culinary Cinema, and a new event, Signis, Ecumenical and Interfaith Awards, coordinated with the International Catholic Organization for Cinema and the Holy See.

One of the films being screened as part of Great Jewish Minds is “Who Will Write Our History,” produced by Nancy Spielberg about the Oneg Shabbat archive, a secret treasure trove of letters and documents created in the Warsaw Ghetto. Both filmmaker Roberta Grossman and Spielberg will be at the festival.

One standout culinary film — in Hebrew with English subtitles — is “Oma and Bella,” about two grandmothers in Berlin who live together after being widowed and cook all day. That screening on December 5 will be followed by a conversation with chef Shmil Holland and some local foodie grandmothers who will share secret recipes.

Another standout is the December 3 showing of an episode from an Israeli series, “Israeli Fusion,” this one focusing on gefilte fish, and why Ashkenazi cooking has never become popular in the restaurant world. Holland will have another conversation that evening with Jerusalem chef and food stylist Efrat Lichtenstadt.

The Classics and Restorations portion of the festival includes a December 3 screening of the film “City Without Jews,” a restored 1924 silent film from the Austrian Film Archives that eerily predicted the fate of Austrian Jewry in World War II.

Far lighter restoration fare is “Yentl,” from a newly digitized copy of the film starring Barbra Streisand. The December 5 screening will be preceded by a performance by Jerusalem’s drag queens in homage to Barbra.

There are also films about Holocaust art restitution, including “Chasing Portraits,” Elizabeth Rynecki’s film in search of her great-grandfather’s painting collection. Rynecki will be present for the December 5 and 6 screenings of the film.

Another film recommended by festival director Daniella Tourgeman is “City of Joel,” about the Haredi community of Kiryas Joel in New York State and its conflict with its neighbors in the town of Monroe. The film is part of the Signis interfaith competition, with screenings on December 1 and 5.

Two other documentaries recommended by Tourgeman relate to the Holocaust: “The Accountant of Auschwitz” and “Prosecuting Evil: the Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz.”

The former, at December 5, 8:30 p.m, is about former SS officer Oskar Gröning, who in his 90s was tried for complicity and murder of Jews. The film examines the issue of statutes of limitations for crimes against humanity, interviewing great legal minds on the matter. The screening will be followed by a conversation with film director Matthew Shoychet and producer/scriptwriter Ric Esther Gurwitz.

Ferencz, the subject of “Prosecuting Evil,” is a nearly 100-year-old lawyer who was at the Nuremberg Trials and helped establish the Hague Tribunal. The December 4 screening will be preceded by an introduction from a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Professor Gabriela Shalev.

Tickets and more information about screenings are available at the Jerusalem Cinematheque’s Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival website.

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