Festival Brings in Award-Winning International Films

jewish film festival_500x200pxThe 16th Annual Louisville Jewish Film Festival will present 10 films from February 8-23, bringing tastes of Jewish and Israeli culture to Louisville. The Festival includes two special events – a night of comedy at Congregation Adath Jeshurun with the film, When Comedy Went to School and a live performance featuring comedian Mark Klein on Sunday, February 9; and there will be a special screening of Sonny Boy at the Muhammad Ali Center on Sunday, February 23.

The Louisville Jewish Film Festival strives to show the richness and diversity of the Jewish experience by presenting the best contemporary international films. Through feature films, shorts, documentaries and student films, as well as conversations with guest speakers, the festival explores Jewish identity with the hope of increasing tolerance and educating its audiences.

Tickets are $8.50 in advance, $10 at the door, $6 student unless otherwise stated. On the day of the show, tickets will be available 1 hour prior to the film at the venue. Tickets to all films are available online at jewishlouisville.org/filmfestival, by phone at 502-459-0660 or in person at the JCC.

The Festival opens Saturday, February 8, at 7:30 p.m. at the Village 8 Theatres with Bethlehem, the winner of six Ophir Awards, including Best Feature Film, at the Jerusalem Film Festival; nominee for best foreign film at the Academy Awards; and first place at Venice Film Festival.

This 99-minute Israeli film depicts the relationship between Razi, an Israeli Secret Service officer and Sanfur, his 17 year old Palestinian informant. Razi cares about Sanfur, but manipulates him to get information about his militant brother’s deputy, Badawi. This same relationship with Sanfur is mirrored by Badawi. A series of events eventually forces the teenager to choose sides.

The first special event of the Festival will be Sunday, February 9, at 3 p.m. at Congregation Adath Jeshurun. In addition to the film, When Comedy Went to School, nationally-known Louisville comedian Mark Klein will regale this hometown audience with stories and jokes following the film.

Why are there so many Jewish comedians? This American 77-minute documentary covers the origins of stand-up comedy in the Catskill Mountains. Popping up telling jokes and stories are: Mel Brooks, Jerry Lewis, Sid Caesar, Jackie Mason, Mort Sahl, Jerry Stiller, Larry King, Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld and others. A reception and conversation will top off a fun afternoon.

Tickets for this show are $15 in advance or $18 at the door.

On Tuesday, February 11, the Festival will present the German film Wunderkinder at 7 p.m. at the Village 8. The 100-minute film has garnered awards from the Jerusalem Film Festival and the Copenhagen International Film Festival, as well as many Audience Awards from Jewish Film Festivals.

Three musically gifted children develop deep friendships while living in Poltava, Ukraine, in 1941. Although different religions, nationalities and social classes, the children find they have much in common. When the war reaches their town, they are forced to use their talents and friendship to survive.

The next two films, The Attack, to be shown Saturday, February 15, at 7:30 p.m., and Fill the Void, Sunday, February 16, at 2 p.m., come from Israel, and both will be shown at the Village 8.

The Attack, winner of awards from the Spanish and Moroccan Film Festivals, is a thriller based on a popular novel about an Arab doctor living in Israel whose wife is killed in an explosion. He desperately pursues an investigation to determine if she was involved in the planning of the bombing. His emotional and physical journey takes him from Jerusalem to the Palestinian territories in search of answers.

This film, a unique cooperation between Israelis, Palestinians and Lebanese, was written and directed by a Lebanese filmmaker who shot the film in Israel with Israeli actors. It is in Arabic and Hebrew and runs 102 minutes.

Fill the Void captured Best Feature Film and 6 other Ophir awards at Jerusalem Film Festival. The 90-minute film recounts the story of 18-year-old Shira, who is thrilled that the marriage arranged for her within her Orthodox Jewish community is with a boy she likes. But when her sister dies in childbirth, Shira’s hopes for her future are thrown into turmoil by her grieving mother.

It has become a Louisville Jewish Film Festival tradition for The Temple to sponsor and host the free presentation of Ma’ale Films by the Ma’ale School of Television, Film and Arts in Jerusalem. This year, the two Israeli films will be shown on Monday, February 17, at 7 p.m. Rabbi’s Daughter and Ma Nishtana both focus on the dilemmas facing those who live in a strictly religious community. The program will run about an hour. There will also be a reception sponsored by Louisville Jewish Film Festival and The Temple.

The Festival returns to the Village 8 on Wednesday, February 19, at 7 p.m. for the 105-minute French film The Other Son. This is a moving and provocative tale of two young men, one Israeli and one Palestinian, who discover they were switched at birth during the Gulf War, and the complex repercussions facing them and their respective families.

On Saturday, February 22, the 107-minute Polish film, Aftermath, will be shown at 7:30 p.m. at the Village 8. Aftermath is the story of two brothers who dare to investigate the secret murder of Jews in a small Polish village in 1941. When Franek returns from USA to his village, he finds his brother is hated by the neighbors, and together they discover a terrifying secret.

Based on true events, Aftermath is considered one of the most controversial and important films made in Poland, and one of the best foreign films of the year. It contains violent scenes.

The Festival concludes with a special free screening of the 132-minute Dutch film, Sonny Boy, at Muhammad Ali Center.

This epic Dutch film, based on a true story and best-selling novel, follows a young man from Dutch Guiana who boards a ship to the Netherlands in search of an education. He finds love with Rika, a white woman twice his age, and they have a son.

Through difficult years, the mixed race couple fights to survive and life becomes more dangerous when sheltering Jews during the 1940’s in Nazi-occupied Netherlands.

This event is co-sponsored by the Muhammad Ali Center. Space is limited, so please call for a free ticket. The museum also invites Film Festival patrons to come early and visit the museum prior to the film for just $2.

You can become a Louisville Jewish Film Festival sponsor. Details about sponsorship packages are available at  jewishlouisville.org/filmfestival toward  the bottom of the page or contact Festival Director Marsha Bornstein, mbornstein@jewishlouisville.org or 238-2713.

Keiley Castor is chair of the 2014 Louisville Jewish Film Festival.

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