18th Annual Louisville Jewish Film Festival Brings Drama and Comedy to the Silver Screen

The Jewish Community Center’s Louisville Jewish Film Festival kicks off on Saturday, February 6, at Bellarmine University’s Cralle Theater with an opening reception in celebration of its 18th year, and a screening of the British comedy Dough, about a struggling Jewish baker whose business starts booming after his new young Muslim assistant accidentally drops marijuana into the challah batter.

“We chose Dough to open because it is very endearing, funny and tender and it depicts a cross-cultural friendship,” said Film Festival Director Marsha Bornstein. “It has been the audience award winner for so many Jewish Film Festivals and it’s just a real crowd pleaser.”

The Festival will present 12 movies from February 6, through March 1, at venues across Louisville, including the Muhammad Ali Center, Village 8 Theatres, Congregation Adath Jeshurun, The JCC, The Temple and Louisville Free Public Library.

As always, Bornstein and her film-selecting committee have worked hard to find a balance of critically acclaimed foreign and English language documentaries, dramas and lighter fare about the Jewish identity and experience.

The films they chose encompass universal themes and have something relevant and powerful to say about the human condition no matter what the viewer’s culture or religion. One film in which many families will see some reflection of themselves is Apples from the Desert, an emotional drama from Israel about the conflict between an Ultra-Orthodox father and his tradition-defying daughter.

At the core of Apples is Rebecca, the only child of a very religious Jewish family, who falls in love with a secular Jew and plans to marry him despite her father’s fierce opposition.

“In every culture and religion there are those who are more devout than others who expect their children to live lives just like they do,” Bornstein said. “Think about how many American families have this issue where the father doesn’t like the boyfriend his daughter wants to marry. This creates conflict between the mother and father. Does she stand by her husband and all the principles he’s imposed on the family or will she side with her daughter?”

Apples from the Desert will be shown on Saturday, February 13, at 7:30 p.m., at the Village 8 Theatres.

The Israeli documentary Rock in the Red Zone, playing on Thursday, February 18, at 7 p.m., at the JCC and Sunday, February 21, at 11:30 a.m., at the Village 8, will appeal to filmgoers with a passion for music and creating art no matter what obstacles stand in their way.

In the case of the talented and fearless musicians in the film who live in the war-torn town of Sderot, rockets constantly being fired from Gaza are the obstacles. Rock in the Red Zone is an intimate look into the work and lives of the musicians who keep Sderot’s vital and influential music scene rocking despite the danger.

“How do you make great music under duress, when every 15 minutes you’re running down to a bomb shelter? How do you live a normal life?” Bornstein said. “They run down to the bomb shelter, come up, and pick up where they left off. They’re tough and they won’t give in to having their lives destroyed.”

Special guest Avi Vaknin, an Israeli recording artist featured in Rock in the Red Zone, will perform, speak and answer questions from the audience at the February 18 screening. A reception will follow.

A fascinating Jewish philanthropist who poured energy and money into the education of African-American students in Louisville and numerous other southern cities, is the subject of the American-made documentary Rosenwald, presented by The Eye Care Institute, showing on Thursday, February 11, at 6:30 p.m., at the Muhammad Ali Center, 144 N. Sixth St. “The Ali Center was a natural partner for this film,” Bornstein said.

Sears & Roebuck CEO Julius Rosenwald worked with Booker T. Washington in the early twentieth century to create The Rosenwald Schools, 3,500 institutions across the south dedicated to the education and artistic and intellectual empowerment of African-American students.

Distinguished local historian, politician and University of Louisville American History Professor Tom Owen will speak about the man and the Rosenwald Schools during a pre-show reception.

The Dove Flyer, an Israeli-made film showing Sunday, February 21, at 3 p.m., at Congregation Adath Jeshurun, with a post-screening reception, is a piece that Bornstein believes will educate, entertain and inspire empathy for people throughout history who have been forced to flee their beloved homelands.

Based on the best-selling novel, Farewell Bagdad by Eli Amir, the film focuses on the Jews of Iraq, who were forced out of their homeland in the 1950’s. This tale of the expulsion of the most ancient Jewish community in the world is expressed through the coming-of-age tale of 16-year-old Kabi, a serious student who transforms into a central activist in the Zionist underground that helped Iraqi Jews find their way to Israel.

“People don’t want to leave their homelands. Do you think the Syrians want to leave their country?” Bornstein said. “It’s their home. It’s their life. Maybe somebody will see The Dove Flyer and it will make them think about the immigrants who are forced to leave and can take almost nothing with them.”

There are also two short films, Revival and Pinhas, which highlight the talents of Israeli student filmmakers. The two films will be shown together at a free screening followed by a dessert reception at The Temple, on Monday, February 15 at 7 p.m.

Revival, from the Ma’ale School of Television, Film and Arts, is about a religious Jewish man whose life is shaken up when his former punk rocker wife’s band plans a reunion.

Pinhas, an Israeli Student Academy Awards finalist from the Department of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University, centers on the titular character, a 9-year-old boy whose mother is preoccupied with work and an affair with a married man. The neglected Pinhas finds comfort in a warm religious family that lives in his building.

Other films on the schedule include Fire Birds, an award-winning Israeli-made mystery about a con man who pretended to be a Holocaust survivor, and Closed Season, a German drama set against the backdrop of the Holocaust about a couple who presents the young Jewish man they are protecting with a provocative proposal. Many films will wrap up with moderated discussions.

This year’s Louisville Jewish Film Festival sponsors include The Muhammad Ali Center, The Temple, Louisville Public Library, Congregation Adath Jeshurun, Bellarmine University, Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence, Louis Levy Film and Theatre Arts Fund, The Eye Care Institute and The Ann and Coleman Friedman Children’s Judaic Activities Fund.

The members of the 2016 Film Festival Committee are chairman Keiley Caster, festival co-founder Louis Levy, Rabbi David Ariel-Joel, Michael Furey, Janice Glaubinger, Angeline Golden, Meryl Kasdan, Cantor David Lipp, Prof. Ranen Omer-Sherman, Pami, Mark Prussian, Shelly Rifkin, Susan Waterman and Rabbi Michael Wolk.

To order tickets, call the JCC at 502-459-0660 or visit www.jewishlouisville.org/filmfestival, where you will also find the full festival schedule. For more information, contact Marsha Bornstein at 502-238-2731, or mbornstein@jewishlouisville.org.

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