Jules Verne invited you to go around the world in 80 days but the Jewish Film festival is encouraging you to make the global trip in only 10 days. For the twentieth incredible year, you can stamp your movie going passport in eight exotic countries without having to pack one suitcase or endure one painful inoculation.
Be an adventurer like Verne’s Phileas Fogg and travel to exotic lands all over Hartford and West Hartford from Thursday, March 31 to Sunday, April 10, thanks to the organizational and visionary skills of the Mandell Jewish Community Center, with Harriet Dobin, Director of the Festival at the helm. Twenty-two films from countries like Israel, Hungary, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, France and the United States will be yours for the taking starting opening night at West Hartford’s Herbert Gilman Theater, at the Mandell Jewish Community Center, 335 Bloomfield Avenue at 7 p.m. with “East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem.”
Termed a rockumentary, this movie proves the power of music to build bridges of understanding where enmity previously existed. For a marathon recording session that was days longer than it took God to create the world, Israeli singer songwriter David Broza assembles an internationally flavored cast of musicians in the Palestinian studio of the band Sabreen. What results is encouragingly energizing. Come hear David Broza in conversation and songs, with CDs and confections, following the film. A tasty treat. An encore presentation of the movie will be Sunday, April 10 at 4:30 p.m. at Bow Tie Cinemas, Palace 17, Hartford.
Next up on Saturday, April 2 at 9 p.m. at the Mandell Jewish Community Center preceded by a reception 8 p.m. is the funny farce “Kicking Out Shoshana.” Ami Shoshan may have all the right moves on the soccer field but he definitely gets sidelined and penalized big time when he flirts with a mobster’s main squeeze. His choices to save his life are King Solomon-like in painful reality. It screens with a short, “The Ten Plagues,” a modern version of biblical dimensions that strikes a woman on her way to the Seder. An encore screening will be Wednesday, April 6 at 7 p.m. at Bow Tie Cinemas, Blue Back Square, West Hartford.
Sunday, April 3 is stuffed with great choices, all at Spotlight Theatres in Hartford, starting with a daughter’s therapy session searching for forgiveness and understanding of her mother at 1 p.m. with “Look at Us Now, Mother!,” followed by a talk with director Gayle Kirschenbaum and her mother Mildred, the subjects of the film.
At 4 p.m., tune in to “Every Face Has a Name,” a film that reunited hundreds of concentration camp survivors seventy years later, after they arrived in Sweden for their first taste of freedom. Hear their emotional stories that bridge the decades. It will be paired with the short film “Remember,” stories of local survivors in the area.
Also at 4 p.m. is “10% My Child,” that follows a journey by a young filmmaker Nico to forge a path of love with his elusive girlfriend Noa’s seven year old daughter Franny. Can he make a family out of tattered hearts? Accompanying this film is “Bulmus (Caught in the Net),” the internet, not a fishing net, when Nathan tries to upload a newly finished project, only to find a neighbor’s child has “stolen” his Wifi connection. An encore screening will be Thursday, April 7 at 6 p.m. at Bow Tie Cinemas, Blue Back Square, West Hartford.
Rounding out the evening are two choices at 7:30 p.m.: “To Life!,” a poignant tale of friendship between an aging cabaret singer Ruth and a young fugitive from Berlin who each give the other something to live for and “Dough,” an unlikely bonding of an apprentice Muslim teen learning the art of bread making from a traditional Jewish baker and the secret ingredient that affects the challah dramatically. “Dough” will have an encore screening Sunday, April 10 at 4:30 p.m. at Bow Tie Cinemas, Palace 17, Hartford.
Get your taste buds ready to savor when “In Search of Israeli Cuisine” invites you to dine with Chef Michael Solomonov on Monday, April 4 at 5:30 p.m. at the Mandell JCC. A grand tasting will be followed at 7 p.m. by the chef’s personal odyssey all over Israel interviewing all the artisans popular in the culinary world: Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Christian and Druze, found in vineyards, olive groves, restaurants and farms. Cookbooks will be sold and a talk with director Roger Sherman and Chef Michael will be held.
The Mark Twain House in Hartford will host “Are You Joking?” also at 7 p.m. Monday, April 4, focusing on a paralegal who switches career tracks when an old and dear friend finds himself in a sex-tape scandal. Barb becomes a comic to help her gay ballet dancer pal Billy as each discovers truths about who they really are. A Reel Talk-Reel Laughs and reception will follow with actress/comic Sas Goldberg and interviewer Julia Pistell. “The Ten Plagues” will screen with it.
On first blush, you wouldn’t think of author Isaac Bathevis Singer as a “hottie,” but his harem of forty female translators, his “muses,” might beg to differ. In ”The Muses of Isaac Bathevis Singer,” you’ll make the acquaintance of this unlikely “Yiddish Don Juan” and the women who idolized him. Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford will be screening this charming tale on Tuesday, April 5 at 1 p.m., followed by a Reel Talk with Professor Joshua Lambert and playwright Leah Napolin, with refreshments. The short “70 Hester Street” will focus on all the transformations at that Lower East Side address from synagogue, whiskey still, raincoat factory, art studio and director’s home.
Return to the Emanuel at 7 p.m. for the inspirational story of hope and courage that is “Imber’s Left hand,” about a Massachusetts artist Jon Imber who doesn’t let a diagnosis of ALS defeat him. With the help of his artist wife Jill, he creates 100 portraits in four months as a visual legacy to his life. A Reel Talk will follow with Jill Hoy, artist, Richard Kane director, ALS director Ron Hoffman and moderator Deborah Gaudet, from the Wadsworth Atheneum. Widow Jill Hoy is originally from Middletown.
Difficult selections will be on hand on Wednesday, April 6 at Bow Tie Cinemas, Blue Back Square, West Hartford at 7 p.m. between “Serial (Bad) Weddings,” like a modern day "Fiddler on the Roof,” when the parents have to deal with the marriages of their four daughters to an Arab, a Jew, an Asian and a Catholic and “The Kind Words,” a tale about a trio of siblings who discover a secret side of their mother’s, one that sends them off on a journey to find their mysterious father figure. “Some Vacation” will screen with “Serial (Bad) Weddings,” about a family road trip taken by a traveling salesman. “Serial (Bad) Weddings” will encore at Bow Tie Cinemas onSunday, April 10 at 2:15 p.m.
“Once in a Lifetime” will highlight Thursday, April 7 at 8:15 at the Bow Tie Cinemas as the teacher of an uninspired class of teens find themselves motivated by Holocaust stories and encouraged to enter a contest they have no chance of winning. In an unlikely haven, the “bomb shelter capital of the world,” in the Negev desert, lies Sderot where music is life-transforming in “Rock in the Red Zone,” playing on Saturday, April 9 at the Mandell JCC at 9 p.m., preceded by a reception at 8 p.m.
The Jewish Film Festival will come to a close on Sunday, April 10 with a full day of events, starting at 10 a.m. with a brunch and Reel Talk at the Mandell JCC. At 11 a.m., “Rabin in his Own Words” will air, a documentary about Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the dramatic life he led, all the way to his the role of peacemaker that ultimately led to his assassination in 1995.
At 7:30 p.m., the festival will conclude with “The Last Mentsch,” how a survivor of Auschwitz, denies his heritage after the war, only to desperately want to reclaim it as he faces his own mortality. With an unlikely companion, he travels back to Hungary to prove he deserves to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. A Reel Talk with Dr. Samuel Kassow,Trinity College, and Dr Avinoam Pitt , University of Hartford, will follow, with a reception.
For tickets to all of these events, call 860-231-6316, fax 860-233-0802 or go online to email@example.com. Go to jcc.org for tickets, questions and a full brochure, www.hjff.org or HJFF.org. Check the full schedule for times, places and encore presentations.
Celebrate the wonderful films and filmmakers, with fascinating conversations and delicious treats, as you enjoy laughter and tears, history, fine acting and tales of the human spirit.