ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 140

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Jerusalem’s Jewish Film Week going ahead, adjusted for war

The Jerusalem Cinematheque’s annual Hannukah-period film festival marks its 25th year; free admission for evacuees from southern and northern communities

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Singer Tzvika Pick, who died in August 2022, is remembered in 'Days of Pick,' a documentary being screened during Jewish Film Week, December 9-14, 2023 (Courtesy)
Singer Tzvika Pick, who died in August 2022, is remembered in 'Days of Pick,' a documentary being screened during Jewish Film Week, December 9-14, 2023 (Courtesy)

The Jerusalem Cinematheque’s Jewish Film Week, now in its 25th year, will take place December 9-14, during Hanukkah, but had to be adjusted for the ongoing war and time period.

“Some films are harder to view right now,” said Daniella Tourgeman, who directs the Jewish Film Festival. “We are not including ‘trigger warnings’ on films because we’d end up placing them everywhere.”

Instead, said Tourgeman, they changed the program considerably since October 7, making it smaller and removing films with unnecessary violence.

This year, the focus is on Jewish identity and antisemitism, said Tourgeman. Resilience was another subject that kept coming up in the film selection process, specifically, artistic, cultural and intellectual resilience.

“At times like these, it’s important to look to figures in Jewish history who were able to produce works of art or literature in the most trying of circumstances,” she said.

The nearly week-long event will feature more than 30 films from 15 countries, along with events, panel discussions with guests, creators and actors.

The films are about questions of Jewish identity, belief and lifestyles, with movies about antisemitism, Jewish culture and literature, the Holocaust,  documentaries and feature films, along with movies from the Cinematheque’s archives and premieres as well.

The opening event, Saturday night, December 9, will include a screening of
“One Life,” starring Antony Hopkins as British humanitarian Nicholas Winton, a British stockbroker who helped to rescue Jewish children during the Holocaust.

The first night of the festival will also include a screening of “Days of Pick” about singer and performer Zvika Pick, who died in August 2022.

There’s a focus on films dealing with antisemitism, from the Middle Ages through the present day, said Tourgeman, who pointed out the screening of “Who is Afraid in Hitler’s Town,” about how an Austrian town chose to preserve the home where Hitler was born, which will be screened with filmmaker Gunter Schwaiger in the theater.

She also noted “Willem and Frieda – Defying the Nazis,” by director Stephen Fry, who goes to Amsterdam to discover the story of Willem Androeus, a painter, and Frieda Bellinfante, a cellist, who used their artistic skills to save thousands of Jews during  World War Two.

The festival includes films about Jewish resilience in all its forms, and for something different, a look at two female Jewish comic icons, Barbra Streisand in a restored digital print of “Hello, Dolly!” and Molly Picon in “East and West,” with live musical accompaniment.

From ‘Hello, Dolly!, with a new, digitally restored version screened at the December 2023 Jewish Film Week (Copyright 1969 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/courtesy Jerusalem Cinematheque)

Evacuees from the southern and northern communities are welcome to the festival for free.

“I really recommend viewers read up on the film and watch trailers in advance,” added Tourgeman.

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