Last year I wrote about the ninth annual Westchester Jewish Film Festival at the Jacob Burns Film Center as a main feature on this blog. I was new to the blogging world and was thrilled to have a forum to promote Jewish film programming in Westchester. Now one year later, I am doing it again. The Jacob Burns is about to kick off their 10th Festival, and the program looks incredible, once again. I am admittedly drawn to Jewish and Israeli themed art – whether it be actual art, theater, film or literature, and this festival is a superb celebration of Jewish and Israeli culture. The Q&A’s and receptions after the screenings are pretty fabulous. Last year I met the incredible Ruth Gruber after a filming of a documentary about her called Ahead of Time. She saved thousands of Jews from dying in camps during the Holocaust. It was certainly a highlight of not just my night, but my lifetime. She was truly engaging and inspiring.
The complete schedule of films, speakers, special events, and receptions can be viewed on the JBFC website. It’s a terrific line-up, chock full of narrative and documentary films from around the world.
When I lived in the city, before I had kids, I lived at the Jewish Film Center at Lincoln Center. I loved it and watched every film they ran – ask my family, they can vouch for it. I lived 7 blocks away; it was the easiest thing to do at the time. Now I have little kids, so I can’t see everything, but I’ll be at as much as I can. I’m taking 40 people from my synagogue’s Sisterhood to see The Hidden Children, a drama based on the true story of the Finaly brothers, two Jewish boys who survived Nazi-occupied France under the care of a devout Catholic woman. The film will be followed by a Q&A with Dr. Elena Procario-Foley and Rabbi Noam Marans with a reception sponsored by the American Jewish Committee (the sponsors of the festival).
The opening night film on March 24 at 7:00 pm is Little Rose, a sexy, gripping portrait of a culture of suspicion in 1960s Poland, where everyone’s motives are unclear. It’s coined as a riveting drama in the mold of The Lives of Others. It’s set in 1968, when the Communist party unleashed a campaign of anti-Semitism to counter the free thinking emerging in Eastern Europe. A reception will follow the screening.
Other highlights in the series include The Human Resources Manager on March 27 followed by a Q&A with A. B. Yehoshua, the celebrated Israeli author whose novel inspired the film. It’s a poignant black comedy about an unhappy, self-absorbed personnel manager who is forced to escort the body of a suicide-bomb victim in Israel to her Romanian home. Yehoshua is one of my favorite authors and I can’t wait to see him in person.
Other films include Vidal Sassoon: The Movie with filmmaker Craig Teper interviewed by New York Times critic Janet Maslin on March 28th; Grace Paley: Collected Shorts on March 28 followed by a Q&A with the film’s director LillyRivlin; and Amos Oz: The Nature of Dreams on April 7 followed by a photo exhibition and reception in the Jane Peck Gallery on the third floor of the Film Center; The Klezmatics: On Higher Ground; Norman Mailer: The American; and so many other great films and documentaries.
As an addition to the festival, they are showing a new print of Shoah to commemorate Holocaust Day on May 1st. Clocking in at 10 hours, this cinematic epic contains no historical footage, just unprecedented testimony from survivors, eyewitnesses, and Nazi perpetrators. “I think that the film, using only images of the present, evokes the past with far more force than any historical document,” says filmmaker Claude Lanzmann—and critics and audiences around the world agree. Seeing this documentary changed my life and was a pinnacle of my Jewish youth. It’s important for everyone to see, and I’m proud of Jacob Burns for bringing it to Westchester.