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Louisville Jewish Film Festival celebrates 25 years of art

By Lisa Hornung
For Community

The Louisville Jewish Film Festival is celebrating its 25th year in 2023, and the festival is going to be the best yet. There will be fifteen films and one short film, with some in-person and others available to watch online. The festival will feature six special event programs, some available live and others available virtually.

Some films will be shown in the Shapira Foundation Auditorium at the new Trager Family JCC for the first time, said Tricia Kling Siegwald, senior director of festivals and special projects. There is a new 27-foot, state-of-the-art projector system being installed in time for the film showings.

“I think with this festival, as always, we are making sure that we have something to offer for everyone in the community,” Siegwald said. “And we’re always trying to build on our mission of building bridges, educating, enriching and entertaining. That’s something we always want to accomplish with this festival. The committee has done a really good job with their voting and were very thoughtful in creating this list of films. We think that the community will feel the same way.”

The choices of the films were made by the film festival’s committee, which Siegwald said was an honor to work with. “They’re so incredibly dedicated, giving of their time and so passionate,” she said. “I sit in the committee meetings and listen to the dialogue and it’s just really inspiring. They’re so intelligent, dedicated, and I feel like I’m a resource to them to try to help them create the best festival possible. They’re just amazing people.”

Committee co-chair Keiley Caster said the process for the committee is fantastic. “The committee meets several times starting in August, and – just like Siskel and Ebert – with 15 people debating and trying to persuade others,” Caster said. “It’s really fun. That’s one of the most fun parts of being on the committee. The arguing back and forth and trying to convince others that you’re right, and that happens a lot. ‘Oh, that’s what that meant! That changes my mind. That is good!’”

Caster said he really enjoys being on the film festival committee. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful committee. I keep telling them — and it’s always been this way — that it’s the best committee that I’ve ever worked with. If there’s an issue that comes up, like ‘Oh, we might need help with this.’ Two or three answers pop up immediately. It’s just wonderful.”

As a tribute to the 25th anniversary, the festival will show “La Haine,” a French film that was shown at the original Louisville Jewish Film Festival. The film festival committee watched the four films shown that year, and they decided that “La Haine,” a 1995 drama about hate, was the one they wanted to be shown again, Siegwald said. The committee will offer “La Haine” to expand the community outreach. The film received a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so Shapira Foundation Auditorium committee says to expect a compelling piece of dramatic art.

Opening night of the festival on Feb. 4 will show “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song,” a documentary about the singer-songwriter and his most famous song. There will be cake, hors d’oeuvres and a champagne toast to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the film festival, and there will be a musical performance by local singer-songwriter Brigid Kaelin and Cantor David Lipp before the film.

Another highlight of the festival will be on Feb. 5 at Adath Jeshurun. “Repairing the World: Stories from the Tree of Life,” will be shown. The film is a documentary about the community’s response to the 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who was inside the synagogue during the shooting, will be available after the film for a question-and-answer session, along with the filmmaker Patrice O’Neill. O’Neill is also CEO of the Oakland-based non-profit strategic media company The Working Group and leader of Not In Our Town, a movement of people across the country working to build safe, inclusive communities for all. She’s also co-director of United Against Hate Week in San Francisco. 

For fans of “Fiddler on the Roof,” on Feb. 11 the festival will show “Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen,” about director Norman Jewison’s quest to make the “Fiddler” movie. The documentary has received several awards, including best documentary at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and Best Film at Houston Jewish Film Festival. The Trager Family JCC’s CenterStage Academy, which recently performed “Fiddler of the Roof Jr.,” will provide an accompanying short performance with highlights from their recent production.

The closing film on Feb. 19 will be “Farewell, Mr. Haffmann.” The film is a French historical drama about a jeweler in Nazi-occupied Paris who must flee the city. This film will be shown at the Speed Cinema at the Speed Art Museum.

The rest of the films will be available online, where users can watch from their homes. 

Want to Go?

Festival pass ($99), includes all virtual films and two virtual special program events – “The Levys of Monticello” and “The Last Chapter of A.B. Yehoshua.”

Live Festival pass ($48), includes all live films, live special events, opening night reception with live entertainment, hors d’oeuvres, cake and champagne.

Individual tickets ($12), except opening night ($18) which includes opening night reception with live entertainment, hors d’oeuvres, cake and champagne.

To purchase tickets, visit jewishlouisville.org/filmfestival

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