Monday, March 6, 2017


If it took God six days to create the world, ten men and women to make a minyan, then it's not surprising it will take eleven days to highlight the 21st Annual Mandell JCC Hartford Jewish Film Festival.  From Thursday, March 16 to Sunday, March 26, you need to grab a box of popcorn, a box of red licorice  and a good, intelligent, involved friend or three and go to five different venues around Hartford and West Hartford to view eighteen outstanding films from ten corners of the globe and soak in all the comedy, adventure and drama.

Take your place at center court for the toss up for the fiercely competitive "On the Map." It's 1977 Israel, just after the Yom Kippur War, when the Maccabi Tel Aviv team, against all odds, accomplishes the impossible.  Come opening night, Thursday, March 16 for a light bite at 5:30 p. m. and film at 7:30 p.m. at the Mandell JCC, 335 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford for this exciting Connecticut premiere.

Are your dreams passing you by?  Come Saturday, March 18 at 9 p.m. to the Mandell JCC and meet "MOOS," a girl who is letting the care of her widowed father consume her entire life...until an unexpected guest reminds her that life can be so much more.  On Sunday, March 19 at 1 p.m., at Spotlight Theaters, 39 Front Street, Hartford, flex your muscles as you meet "Supergirl," an 11 year old Naomi Kutin from New Jersey who is an Orthodox Jew and a serious world record power builder.  A Reel Talk by medical and sports experts will follow the film.

Also on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Spotlight Theaters, you can see an involving family tale, "Shtisel," the second season of this hit Israeli television show.  Come follow the intrigues and involvements of the extended Shtisel clan as they share an apartment in ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim with humor, love and family fights.  An encore showing will be held Friday, March 24 at 11 a.m. at the Mandell JCC.

A double feature anyone?  Stay at the Spotlight Theaters for the 4:30 p.m. showing of "Fire Birds," an intense murder investigation of an 80 year old victim or see "Hill Start," a comic drama about a coma patient and all the ammunition in the form of visitors the family furiously assembles to wake their mother Ora up and restore her to health. An encore screening of both films will be held at Bloomfield 8 Theaters in Bloomfield on Sunday, March 26 at 4:15 p.m.

Want your own personal movie marathon?  The adventure continues at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, March 19 at Spotlight Theaters for "Sabena Hijacking-My Version."  Prepare for the intense drama that took place on May 8, 1972 when Belgian Sabena Flight 571 from Brussels to Tel Aviv was highjacked by a quartet from the Palestinian "Black September."  An encore presentation will be held on Sunday, March 26 at 2 p.m. at Bloomfield 8 Theaters in Bloomfield.

A final choice for Sunday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Spotlight Theaters is "AKA Nadia" when the past secrets of a woman's identity rise up and overwhelm a 40 year old Maya Goldwasser and threaten to destroy the life she has so carefully created.  An encore screening will be held at 2 p.m. at the Bloomfield 8 Theaters, Wintonbury Mall, 863 Park Avenue, Bloomfield.

On Monday, March 20, the Mandell JCC will open its doors at 6 p.m to welcome "The Man Who Saved the Louvre," when Jacques Jaujard, the museum's director, cleverly devised a plot to save masterpieces of art from the Nazis' grasp.  Also that night at 8:15 p.m. at the Mandell JCC, come make the acquaintance of "Big Sonia," a 90 year old Holocaust survivor who has miraculously emerged from unspeakable horrors in her nine decades on this earth.  Be inspired by her remarkable story.

On Tuesday, March 21 at 1 p.m., The Emanuel Synagogue, 160 Monegan Drive, West Hartford will screen an intense documented portrait of "Jerry Lewis:  The Man Behind the Clown."  Who is this man who has one persona in front of the camera and a totally different one behind the camera?  The short film "The Last Blintz" about the iconic Cafe Edison and its recent closing, after being a legendary restaurant to Broadway's stars, will air first.

"My Hero Brother" is  the tale of two siblings, one with special needs, who undertake a once-in-a-lifetime journey from Israel to India, across the Himalayas. Family issues are carried in their backpacks that are opened and resolved in their monumental trek.  The film, followed by a Reel Talk, will be aired on Tuesday, March 21 at 7 p.m. at The Emanuel Synagogue.

The collapse of "The Women's Balcony" during a bar mitzvah at an Orthodox synagogue raises questions about the causes of this disaster.  Were the women not modest or observant enough?  Come hear some of Israel's foremost female comics lift their voices in explanation on Wednesday, March 22 at 7 p.m. at the Cinepolis, 42 South Main Street, West Hartford.

Another choice at the Cinepolis that night at 7 p.m. is "The Last Band in Lebanon," a bizarre comic tale of a former rock band trapped in Lebanon, caught in a drug-smuggling ring, trying to get back to Israel, with only a guitar for protection.  On Thursday, March 23, also at the Cinepolis at 7 p.m., follow the journey of Nathan Fabre, a French Catholic teacher who, while visiting a concentration camp, sees a picture of a prisoner who looks exactly like his  father.  He sets off on a mission that leads him to the discovery of long-buried secrets in "The Origin of Violence."

How long must you keep a promise? Hours, days, decades? In "Mr. Predictable," playing Saturday, March 25 at 9 p.m. at the Mandell JCC, a boy promises to be good and continues until as a man he realizes death is near.  Can he change his ways and reach for a piece of forbidden happiness before it is too late?

The Jewish Film Festival will conclude on Sunday, March 26 at the Mandell JCC at 7 p.m. with "Fanny's Journey," the fascinating, suspenseful tale of sisters sent away from France to avoid the Nazis who end up traveling to Switzerland with other children but no adult leader.  Fanny assumes control of their fate.  A dessert reception will follow, with a Reel Talk.

Tickets to most films are $12 in advance and $15 at the door, with Opening Night "On the Map" $50 and Closing Night "Fanny's Journey" $25.  Call 860-231-6316 or 860-236-4571 or go online to

According to Nicole Greenblatt, Director of the film festival, "The Mandell JCC Hartford Jewish Film Festival is in its 21st year.  We strive to find the best Jewish and Israeli films to bring to the Greater Hartford Community to educate and entertain our patrons.  We look for a diverse selection of films and try to cover a wide-range of topics and genres to that there is something for everyone."  

Billed as "Hoops, Heroes and Chutzpah," the 21st Annual Jewish Film Festival promises to be packed with movie treats.

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