Jewish Film Fes­ti­val fea­tures works of com­pas­sion and un­der­stand­ing

Wisconsin Gazette - - Opinion - By Michael Muck­ian Con­tribut­ing writer

A di­verse col­lec­tion of dra­mas and doc­u­men­taries from around the world, all of them threaded with the com­mon­al­i­ties of Jewish cul­ture, unite the films selected for the Jewish Com­mu­nity Cen­ter’s 21st an­nual Mil­wau­kee Jewish Film Fes­ti­val.

The fes­ti­val, which runs Oct. 7–11, has be­come a big event for the cen­ter, says Micki Se­in­feld, the JCC project man­ager who has headed the fes­ti­val for its en­tire run.

“Nor­mally, we run eight films at the end of Oc­to­ber, but this year we elim­i­nated one film and moved the fes­ti­val up to ac­com­mo­date other events and pro­grams go­ing on in Mil­wau­kee’s Jewish com­mu­nity,” Se­in­feld says. “This has be­come the fastest-grow­ing pro­gram, not only for us, but for JCCs across the coun­try.”

Se­in­feld and a group of vol­un­teers screened some 30 films be­fore se­lect­ing the seven they feel will res­onate best with Mil­wau­kee au­di­ences.

The group, she says, is es­pe­cially in­ter­ested in films that are in­trigu­ing, ed­u­ca­tional and de­signed to elicit emo­tional re­sponses. Each film will be in­tro­duced by a host, who also will lead a dis­cus­sion af­ter the screen­ing.

Does Se­in­feld have a fa­vorite among this year’s films?

“Oy, that’s like try­ing to pick a (fa­vorite) child,” she re­sponds. “I have to think it’s our open­ing film, The Sa­muel Project, which re­ally shows how com­mu­ni­ca­tions, com­pas­sion and un­der­stand­ing can heal past wounds and help some­one to be­come a bet­ter per­son.”

But Se­in­feld be­lieves all the se­lec­tions meet the fes­ti­val’s goals.

“We want peo­ple to be en­ter­tained, to be moved and to bet­ter un­der­stand what makes up the Jewish ex­pe­ri­ence,” she says.

THE FILMS, AT A GLANCE

The Sa­muel Project,

When high school se­nior Eli de­cides to make his grand­fa­ther Sa­muel the sub­ject of a school project, he learns of the old Jewish dry cleaner’s past as a Holo­caust sur­vivor. The ef­fort leads to in­creased com­mu­ni­ca­tion, un­der­stand­ing, com­pas­sion and heal­ing. Oct. 7, 7:30 p.m.

Shalom Bol­ly­wood,

In the early days of In­dian cin­ema, Hindu and Is­lamic women were for­bid­den to ap­pear on screen. So, fe­male roles fell to women from the coun­try’s 2,000-year-old Jewish com­mu­nity. This cheeky doc­u­men­tary looks at five of the best per­form­ers. Oct. 8, 1:30 p.m.

Tes­ta­ment,

Holo­caust re­searcher Yoel, in the midst of a bat­tle to stop an in­dus­tri­al­ist from build­ing a real es­tate project on the site of a Jewish mas­sacre dur­ing WWII, dis­cov­ers clas­si­fied tes­ti­mony by his mother, a sur­vivor who never told him about the event. Trapped be­tween walls of si­lence and de­nial, the re­searcher per­se­veres with an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that places him at risk per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally. Oct. 8, 7:30 p.m.

An Act of De­fi­ance,

In this his­tor­i­cal po­lit­i­cal thriller, lawyer Bram Fis­cher risks his ca­reer and per­sonal free­dom to as­sist a group of black and Jewish con­spir­a­tors, in­clud­ing Nel­son Man­dela, fac­ing pos­si­ble death sen­tences for con­spir­acy to com­mit sab­o­tage in 1963 South Africa. Oct. 9, 7:30 p.m.

Itzhak,

A charm­ing and en­tranc­ing pro­file of vi­o­lin­ist Itzhak Perl­man and his strug­gles to over­come per­sonal ad­ver­sity and be­come one of the world’s great­est vir­tu­osos. Oct. 10, 5:30 p.m.

Head­ing Home: A Tale of Team Is­rael,

The stir­ring story of Is­rael’s un­der­dog na­tional base­ball team and its jour­ney to the World Base­ball Clas­sic in Seoul. Oct. 10, 7:45 p.m.

Shel­ter,

This neo-noir film, sus­pense­ful and el­e­gant, ex­am­ines the re­la­tion­ship be­tween a fe­male Is­raeli Mos­sad agent sent to Ger­many to pro­tect a Le­banese in­for­mant as she re­cov­ers from plas­tic surgery as part of as­sum­ing a new iden­tity. Oct. 11, 1:30 p.m.

— M.M.

From

A scene from

Itzhak Perl­man is fea­tured in

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