Widman becomes BJFF board President
March 5, 2013 – The Boston Jewish Film Festival board of directors elected Denise Widman as its new president.
“I am honored to be associated with one of the world’s premier Jewish Film Festivals and one of New England’s largest cultural events,” says Widman. “I look forward to watching as the festival continues to engage and excite our community while celebrating the vibrancy of the Jewish experience.
Widman, a Wellesley resident, has been involved with the Boston Jewish Film Festival for more than 10 years, most recently as the Festival’s vice president. As president, she oversees the Board of Directors.
“The festival is a perfect fit for me as it combines my passion for film with my love of Jewish life,” says Widman.
An award-winning screenwriter, Widman also served on the Board of Women in Film/Video New England, is a past member of the Mass Media Alliance and is a current member of the Massachusetts Production Coalition. Widman previously headed the Screenwriting Competition for Women in Film Video/New England and has been a judge for this competition.
Widman takes over the position from Joyce Pastor, who remains on the Board of Directors.
Widman began her career in the Management Development Program at AT&T Information Systems, where she held several strategic planning, marketing and sales positions. She then worked in marketing and marketing communications for media and entertainment companies, including The New York Times Co., Bravo, Kurzweil Computers and Houghton Mifflin.
Widman, a native of Deal, N.J., is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Syracuse University and earned a masters degree in management from Drexel University in Philadelphia.
ReelAbilities Boston sets records
Feb. 19, 2013 – The second annual ReelAbilities Boston Disabilities Film Festival was a record setter. The Festival, presented from Jan. 31-Feb. 5, enjoyed a nearly 21-percent jump in overall attendance and a record number of people attending a single screening.
ReelAbilities Boston, presented by The Boston Jewish Film Festival, saw attendance rise to almost 850 people. The screening of Israeli feature film Mabul (The Flood) drew 275 people, the best ever for a single screening at the Festival.
The Festival also had a jump in the number of movies from six to nine and spread to new locales in Hanover, Newton and Springfield, Mass.
“I am, of course, thrilled that we were able to increase our attendance,” says BJFF Executive Director Jaymie Saks. “But most importantly, the Festival enabled people to gain a greater understanding about the lives of those with disabilities.”
This year’s features included films about autism (Mary and Max from Australia and Mabul from Israel), mental illness (Princess from Finland), Down syndrome (Me, Too from Spain), blindness (The Straight Line from France) and physical disabilities (Body and Soul from Mozambique).
The Festival also included an evening of short films about Down syndrome (Anything You Can Do from Australia), stroke-related disability (Aphasia from the U.S.) and blindness (I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone from Brazil).
In addition to the Museum of Fine Arts and the West Newton Cinema, films were screened at the Cardinal Cushing Centers in Hanover, the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center of Newton (hosted by the CJP Committee on Services for People with Disabilities and the Special Needs Professionals Committee and the Scibelli Enterprise Center in Springfield (hosted by the New England Business Associates).
The Festival was made possible by grants from The Boston Foundation, The Butler Foundation, The Ruderman Family Foundation, the Cambridge Trust Co., Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Massachusetts Cultural Council and NLM Family Foundation.
“We look forward to bringing ReelAbilities back again in 2014,” Saks says.
ReelAbilities Boston Disabilities Fest coming soon
Jan. 5, 2013 – The Boston Jewish Film Festival presents the 2nd annual ReelAbilities Boston Disabilities Film Festival, Jan. 31-Feb. 5, showcasing films about the lives of people with different disabilities from a variety of communities.
The series of nine films, from Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Mozambique, Spain and the U.S., represents a slice of how cultures experience and deal with disabilities. “These particular stories highlight mental and physical disabilities through intimate character-driven narratives,” says Boston Jewish Film Festival Artistic Director Amy Geller. “While the films do touch on the differences between people with and without disabilities, they focus more on the commonalities among all people.
The ReelAbilities Festival is collaborating in a more direct way with organizations – including one in western Massachusetts – that serve people with disabilities by showing films at their sites. “Connecting with these new partners allows us to serve a more targeted audience while at the same time exposing films to different audiences than we traditionally reach through The Boston Jewish Film Festival,” notes Geller.
Other festival films are:
- The Straight Line – A taut French sports drama about a blind runner, who trains with a former athlete with a criminal past. The Straight Line is at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 2 at the MFA.
- Body and Soul – An uplifting documentary following three young Mozambicans with physical disabilities. Body and Soul is at noon, Sunday, Feb. 3 at the MFA.
- Me, Too – This gripping Spanish drama is about a recent college grad with Down syndrome and his bond with his lively workmate. Me, Too screens on Sunday, Feb. 3 at the MFA and Monday, Feb. 4 at Cardinal Cushing Centers in Hanover.
- Mabul – An award-winning Israeli film in which Yoni studies his bar mitzvah portion about the story of Noah’s Ark amidst a troubled family. Life gets very complicated when older brother Tomer, who is severely autistic, returns home. Mabul screens on Monday, Feb. 4 at the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center in Newton.
- Princess – Cheerful, delusional Anna lives in a Finnish psychiatric hospital believing she is an English royal. Can “Princess” escape a dangerous lobotomy, a cutting-edge psychiatric treatment in the mid-20th century, the period in which the film is set? Princess screens on Tuesday, Feb. 5 at West Newton Cinema.
- Shorts Program – features three short films, Anything You Can Do about two youths – one wheelchair bound – in competition with each other; Aphasia, a comical docudrama about actor Carl McIntyre, who suffers a stroke; and I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone, about a teen boy, who is blind, with complicated male/female relationships. The films screen on Monday, Feb. 4 at Scibelli Enterprise Center in Springfield.
All films are open captioned. The Straight Line is audio described.
The ReelAbilities Boston Disabilities Film Festival is presented in partnership with The Boston Foundation, The Butler Foundation, The Ruderman Family Foundation, the Cambridge Trust Co., Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Massachusetts Cultural Council and NLM Family Foundation.
And the winner is…
Nov. 12, 2012 - B-Boy, a documentary about a Jewish break dancer from Connecticut, won first place at The Boston Jewish Film Festival’s second annual Short Film Competition on Tuesday at the Somerville Theatre. Music Man Murray, a documentary about a Los Angeles record store owner, was second.
The two films were among seven finalists with the audience picking the winners. The seven films were screened at the theatre with the audience voting afterward.
Lisa Cohen of Seattle, who made B-Boy, said at a post-event party, “I’m a little overwhelmed. It was really amazingly satisfying to hear the audience laugh and respond.”
Cohen learned about Eli, the break dancer, at a Tufts University college reunion where she reconnected with Eli’s mother with whom she went to Tufts. “She said, ‘you got to check out my son,” Cohen said. Cohen ended up visiting Connecticut where Eli lives to shoot his activities, which ranged from his bar mitzvah to his break dance skills, four times. After laboring off and on for four years, Cohen completed the film in January.
“This is such an honor,” said Park in accepting the award. “Thank you so much for laughing and enjoying the film.”
In the movie, Murray owns a record store containing hundreds of thousands of records, but due to slow sales, he wants to sell the store. His son, Irving, also is prominently featured, considering the store an ode to his father. Parks did the film as a project for University of California at Berkeley where he was in school. He is the son of singer/songwriter Van Dye Parks, who scored the movie.
Cohen received the first place prize of $1,500, while Parks won $1,000.
Bedazzled & Betrothed – a great night!
WEST NEWTON, MA. – Oct. 31, 2012 – Thanks to all who came and made our annual Gala Bedazzled & Betrothed, a great night of fun in late October at the Revere Hotel Boston Common. The night honored ward-winning actress Annette Miller, BJFF Board President Joyce Pastor and restaurateur Jim Solomon in a fun, festive evening.
We also hosted Director Doug Block, who showed his work-in-progress film 112 Weddings, revisiting couples whose weddings he filmed. Block is well known for having directed the documentary 51 Birch Street.
We appreciate the support of those who came to the event and helped make it a great night of fun.
Five questions with Amy Geller
Amy Geller has enjoyed a love of film since she was a kid growing up in southern New Hampshire. That interest continued at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, leading to a career in film from working on costumes for films to working at The Boston Jewish Film Festival in the late ‘90s to producing her own films. Now, she’s the Artistic Director of The Boston Jewish Film Festival.
- Why were you interested in being Artistic Director?
AG: “I think, in part, because I’d had such a great experience 14 years ago when I worked as the Associate Director for The Boston Jewish Film Festival. That was really my first professional job out of college, so it was a seminal experience for me. I had the opportunity of working with three wonderfully creative, resourceful, intelligent women – Festival Founder Michal Goldman and then Artistic Director Kaj Wilson and Executive Director Sara Rubin, all of whom taught me that good programming is an art form of its own. After spending over a decade working in the production of films, I’m really looking forward to bringing my skills and creative ideas to the Artistic Director position.
2. In your experience, how does the Festival impact audiences?
AG: “There are so many ways to explore being Jewish. There are so many ways to celebrate Judaism. There are so many different Jewish identities. What The Festival has done really well and what I hope to continue to do is to provide many pathways to explore those various identities. If you go to 10 different movies at the BJFF, you may see your history represented, but maybe you’ll see the experiences of other people that are different from your own.”
“The other piece I think the Festival has done really well – and I look forward to that – is building community. People are so busy in their lives. But people commit to going to the BJFF film after film. They participate in the Q&As with the filmmakers and maybe even meet up for a meal or coffee afterwards. The conversations are allowed to continue beyond the actual event.”
3. When did you develop an interest in film?
AG: “I was always interested in watching films, particularly foreign films. I remember being 13 or 14 and watching “Jean de Florette” and “Manon of the Spring” with my dad. The lush cinematography transported me to the romantic countryside of Provence, an exotic place that looked nothing like the suburban landscape of Hampton, N.H. where I grew up.
But my interest in making films really developed at Bates College. Bates didn’t have a film major or even a minor. But I was able to take a number of classes with some really incredible professors, like Robert Branham. The films that I saw, like Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line, Trinh T. Minh-ha’s Reassemblage and Marlon Riggs’ Tongues Untied exploded my insulated view of the world. They not only introduced me to new and alternative places and cultures, different racial and sexual identities, they also helped me to understand the complex role of the filmmaker and the power of the medium. I know that it sounds a bit idealistic, but I saw the potential for moving images to change the way people think about themselves, each other, and the world…and I still believe in that power.”
4. What kinds of films do you like?
AG: “Personally, for me, I like films that that show the complexity of people’s experiences. I prefer films that aren’t too heavy on plot and are more character based, that have a strong visual and a thematic component, that take form and story telling seriously.” For example, two Israeli films that really thrilled me were Jellyfish and The Band’s Visit.
“But this doesn’t mean that everything I program has to be intense and serious. My goal is to create a balanced Festival program that has drama, comedy, more light-hearted stuff, more intense stuff, a mix of documentary, shorts and fiction.”
5. What’s your take on Boston as a film city?
AG: “Boston has a very strong film community. Unlike many American cities, there are multiple independent theatres and countless festivals. There’s also a tradition of cinema-verite documentary filmmaking that started at MIT in the 1970s and continues at Harvard and many other local universities and colleges today. All of these things contribute to smart and interested audiences that love film. When you throw in the fact that the Boston area has perhaps the most culturally-curious Jewish community in the country, you know you’ve got a recipe for something special.”
Festival names new Artistic Director
March 29, 2012 – The Boston Jewish Film Festival named Amy Geller, long active in the Boston film community with curatorial and production experience, as its new Artistic Director.
Geller’s background includes producing a variety of feature, documentary and short films, curating film festivals and serving as Associate Director of The Boston Jewish Film Festival.
Geller’s chief responsibilities will be selecting films and programming for the annual Boston Jewish Film Festival and films throughout the year. Geller, 38, was picked after a national search.
Boston Jewish Film Festival Executive Director Jaymie Saks said, “I am excited for The Festival to get a fresh perspective. Amy’s understanding of current trends in film and filmmaking is an asset. She has a unique artistic sensibility.”
Film Festival Board President Joyce Pastor added, ”Amy is the right person to lead us as we head towards our 25th year. We look forward to expanding the Festival’s reputation and presence in the community.”
“I’ve come full circle,” said Geller. “Not long after I graduated from Bates College, I worked with Festival Founder Michal Goldman and then Artistic Director Kaj Wilson and Executive Director Sara Rubin. I feel so fortunate to have been mentored by these three leaders in the Jewish film community. Now after over a decade of work experience in film, television and media production, I am excited to bring the skills I learned as a producer and leader of various local media organizations back to The Festival.”
Geller views the Festival as a “unique and safe place” to explore one’s Jewish identity. “I hope to create a space for Jews and people of all backgrounds to join in the dialogue and explore their own complex identities and lives.”
“I’m interested in further expanding The Boston Jewish Film Festival audience by finding new ways of getting young people excited and getting young adults and families engaged.”
Geller, a Cambridge resident, produced the successful documentary For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism (with writer/director, film critic and husband Gerald Peary), which was broadcast nationally on Documentary Channel and locally on WGBH Boston and has screened at more than 60 film festivals and theatrical venues around the world.
Geller also was a supervising producer for NKP Media of Newton from 2004-2010, developing and producing educational videos for the college market. She taught classes in producing at Boston University and Emerson College (2009-2010) and was president of the board of Women in Film & Video/New England (2001-2002), directing and curating the first ever 20-year retrospective festival of member films and videos.
Geller was Associate Director of both the Northampton Independent Film Festival in Northampton, Mass. (2002) and The Boston Jewish Film Festival (1997-1999). Geller is a native of Hampton, N.H.
REELAbilitiesBOSTON Film Festival: a successful debut
March 12, 2012 – REELAbilitiesBOSTON Film Festival was a big success with hundreds of people attending, helping to foster greater awareness of those with disabilities.
The Festival showcased six films in a one-week period in February – My Spectacular Theatre from China, War Eagle, Arkansas, Shooting Beauty, Snow Cake, Warrior Champions and Anita from Argentina.
Each film featured a differing perspective on those with disabilities ranging from the blind in My Spectacular Theatre to a high schooler who stutters and his friend with cerebral palsy in War Eagle, Arkansas to the creativity of those with cerebral palsy in the local documentary Shooting Beauty to autism in Snow Cake to soldiers injured in the Iraq war trying to make the U.S. Paralympics team in Warrior Champions to a Buenos Aires high school age student with Down syndrome in Anita.
One of the key goals of REELAbilitiesBOSTON was to educate people and broaden their perspective about those with disabilities. Based on feedback received, we achieved our goal of uniting the entire community around this issue through film.
More than 700 people the Festival! Many attending had never been to a film sponsored by The Boston Jewish Film Festival.
We want to thank all who attended the festival and/or helped by promoting the movies. Many disabilities organizations were particularly supportive of REELAbilitiesBOSTON. We especially applaud the efforts of J.E. & Z.B. Butler Foundation, Ruderman Family Foundation, the Cambridge Trust Co., the Saul Schottenstein Foundation B and the Nancy Lurie Marks Foundation for helping to make a dream a reality.
See you in 2013 for the second edition of REELAbilitiesBoston Film Festival.
announced for 2012
NEWTON, MA. – Dec. 5, 2011 – Six films from around the world about people with disabilities will highlight the first REELAbilitiesBoston Film Festival being held Feb. 2-8.
My Spectacular Theatre, a Chinese film from Director Yu Lang, will be the opening night film on Feb. 2, 2012 at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown.
Other films in the REELAbilitiesBoston Film Festival include War Eagle, Arkansas (Canada/England/US); Shooting Beauty (USA); Snow Cake (Canada/England/USA); Warrior Champions (China/US); and Anita (Argentina) as the closing night film.
“We are excited to be part of the inaugural REELAbilitiesBoston Festival,” said Boston Jewish Film Festival Managing Director Jaymie Saks. “This will enable the public to see films about the lives, stories and art of people with disabilities from around the world.”
“REELAbilitiesBoston is a unique experience for us because the films are not necessarily Jewish in content,” Saks said. “Disabilities are universal. They affect people in all communities. We want to unite the entire community around this issue through film.”
My Spectacular Theatre – Feb. 2, 6:30 p.m., Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown. A young man finds refuge in a Beijing movie theatre where all of the patrons are blind in this movie about love, acceptance and heartbreak. Directed by Yu Lang, 120 minutes. In Mandarin with English subtitles.
War Eagle, Arkansas – Saturday, Feb. 4, 7 pm, Arlington Capitol Theatre. Enoch Cass (Luke Grimes, TV’s Brothers & Sisters), a star pitcher with a debilitating stutter, has a chance for a college scholarship – his ticket out of his small-town home. But that may mean leaving behind his lifelong best friend, “Wheels,” whose cerebral palsy gives him his nickname. Based upon a true story. With Brian Dennehy as Enoch’s grandfather, Mare Winningham as Enoch’s mother and Mary Kay Place as Wheels’ mom. Directed by Robert Milazzo, 90 minutes.
Shooting Beauty – Sunday, Feb. 5, noon, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Alfond Auditorium). Local photographer Courtney Bent discovers a hidden world of beauty in people living with cerebral palsy at a community program in Watertown. When Bent begins inventing cameras her new friends can use, an unforgettable story unfolds about living with a disability – and without one – in this documentary. Directed by George Kachadorian, 62 minutes.
Snow Cake – Sunday, Feb. 5, 2:30 pm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Alfond Auditorium). Alex (Alan Rickman of Harry Potter), an ex-con on a road trip, picks up Vivienne, an eccentric hitchhiker. After Vivienne dies in a car accident, Alex visits her mother (Sigourney Weaver), a woman with high-functioning autism, to tell her the news. Directed by Marc Evans, 112 minutes.
Warrior Champions – Tuesday, Feb. 7, 7 pm, West Newton Cinema. Four Iraq War veterans turn their nightmares into Olympic dreams in this documentary. After losing limbs and suffering paralysis fighting for their country, they set out to do what many thought impossible in the sports world. Directed by Brent Renaud and Craig Renaud, 80 minutes.
Anita – Wednesday, Feb. 8, 7 pm, West Newton Cinema. Anita Feldman (an extraordinary debut by Alejandra Manzo), who has Down Syndrome, helps run her mother’s (Oscar nominee Norma Aleandro) small store in their Buenos Aires Jewish neighborhood. That all changes when a bomb explodes outside the Jewish community center, killing and injuring hundreds. Anita wanders the city for days – trusting and deeply affecting everyone she meets. Presented at 2010 Boston Jewish Film Festival. Directed by Marcos Carnevale, 104 minutes, in Spanish with English subtitles.
REELAbilitiesBoston presenting partners are J.E. & Z.B. Butler Foundation, Ruderman Family Foundation, the Cambridge Trust Co., the Saul Schottenstein Foundation B and the Nancy Lurie Marks Foundation.
Tickets go on sale in early January. Films will be $10 general admission, $9 for seniors, students and members of the MFA, Coolidge Corner Theatre and WGBH and $6 for groups of at least 10 people. Some films will have a question-answer session afterward with a guest speaker.
Festival earns NEA grant
NEWTON, MA., Nov. 17, 2011 – The Boston Jewish Film Festival will receive a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, it was announced today. This marked the first time that The Festival received a grant from the organization.
“We are very excited to receive the support from the NEA,” said Jaymie Saks, Managing Director of The Boston Jewish Film Festival. “It’s gratifying to be recognized nationally for our efforts in bringing Jewish film and culture to the Greater Boston community.”
“The grant will make a difference and enable us to achieve a greater impact in the community,” Saks said. “We will use the money for increased outreach, a goal that is very important to us.” The funds are to be used in 2012.
The Festival, which just concluded its 23rd Festival earlier this week, is looking to extend its audience to various religious, cultural and social organizations and groups in the Greater Boston area. A total of 1,686 applications were submitted for funding. The grant was one of 863 from the NEA to organizations and individual writers around the U.S. with awards totaling more than $22.5 million. The Festival’s grant came through the NEA Art Works program.
The Festival was one of only three Jewish film festivals in the U.S. to receive the honor and one of two organizations in New England to receive funding in the Media Arts category.
NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman said the projects “demonstrate the imaginative and innovative capacities of artists and arts organizations to enhance the quality of life in their communities.”
Festival award winners
Nov. 20, 2011 - Kaddish for a Friend, the debut film of director Leo Khasin, and Beating Time, a documentary about the struggle to overcome ALS, were the winners of The 23rd Boston Jewish Film Festival’s Audience Awards for Best Feature and Best Documentary films respectively.
“I feel very honored to win this year’s Audience Award at the Boston Jewish Film Festival,” said Khasin. “I had the chance to be here in Boston and be part of a wonderful vivid, receptive and, at the same time, profound audience. That’s why this award is so special and important to me – a spontaneous impartial and truthful approval of my work.”
Kaddish for a Friend director Leo Khasin
“And because a film is not a creation of a person alone, I want to take this prize in the name of all those, who put all their passion in this project, starting with the producers, the crew and finally the wonderful actors who gave all their heart to the roles and made out of anti-heroes true heroes. Thank you!”
Kaddish for a Friend is about the relationship between an aging Russian Jewish widower and a teenage neighbor in Berlin, originally from a Palestinian refugee camp. The youth, Ali, vandalizes Alexander’s apartment, jeopardizing his family’s immigration status. Ali then refurbishes the dwelling, leading to a friendship with Alexander.
Khasin was born in Russia and now lives in Berlin. He turned to directing full-time two years ago after a career as a dentist. Kaddish for a Friend was the Opening Night film of The Festival.
Beating Time director Odett Orr
Beating Time Director Odett Orr won the award for her first effort as a feature documentary director. The film tells the story of Avi Kremer, an Israeli and Harvard Business School graduate, who learns he has ALS. Beating Time follows his personal fight against ALS and his efforts supporting research.
“What a wonderful surprise,” Orr said of the award. “Thank you very much. This kind of response is what a film maker waits for at the end of the day. You know that making this film was not easy and at the same time I feel that I was privileged to follow Avi Kremer’s battle against ALS for five years, a battle which has had enormous impact on science and the research of ALS.”
Starring David (David de Ster) previously was announced as the winner of the first annual Short Films Competition. The film from Ester Gould is about a boy born to a Jewish father and Chinese mother, who converts prior to celebrating his bar mitzvah in the Netherlands. “”That’s absolutely great news!” Gould said. “Wow, I’m so pleased and I just forwarded the message to David, the ‘star’ of my short doc.”
Those attending the film screenings voted for the awards.
Khasin will receive Media Composer 5 film editing software from Avid, while Orr and Gould will receive Sony Vegas Pro 11 film editing software.
And the winner is…
Starring David (David de Ster).
Nov. 6, 2011 – For the first time ever, The Boston Jewish Film Festival hosted a Short Films Competition with seven films as finalists in a screening at the Coolidge Corner. In a vote by the crowd at the theatre, the Dutch short film Starring David was the pick. The film is about a boy, who converts prior to his bar mitzvah. David was born to a Jewish father and a Chinese mother in the film directed by Ester Gould.
Other finalist films screened were:
The Bris, directed by CJ Johnson, Australia.
David and Goliath, directed by George Zaverdas, USA.
The Fig Tree (La Higuera), directed by Alejo Moreno, Spain.
Grandpa Looked Like William Powell, directed by David B. Levy, USA.
Kosher (Kasher), directed by Isabelle Stead, France.
The Little Nazi, directed by Petra Lüschow, Germany.
Johnson was on hand to talk about his film, a project he made for film school in Australia.
The Boston Jewish Film Festival congratulates Starring David (David de Ster) as well as all films that were part of the competition. And a big thanks to the excellent attendance.
Boston Jewish Film Festival
announces 2011 schedule
NEWTON, MA., Sept. 13, 2011– The theme “Neighbors Near and Far” will be explored at the 23rd annual Boston Jewish Film Festival, which opens Nov. 2 and continues through Nov. 13.
The Boston Jewish Film Festival presents 32 of the most innovative films on Jewish themes from around the world in Greater Boston area theatres. Films are accentuated by panel discussions and with visits by more than a dozen directors, actors and subjects from such countries as Israel, France, Germany and Hungary.
“Our films this year center on intriguing aspects of being neighbors,” says Artistic Director Sara L. Rubin. “Neighbors share the bonds formed by people who live near one another. But neighbors are also people who share dreams and goals, no matter how far away they live. At the same time, neighbors can find themselves in conflict with one another. Our filmmakers surprise us with tensions and rapport as they explore these shifting relationships, whether in works of fiction or nonfiction.”
Highlights this year include 3 North American premieres, 5 U.S. premieres, 2 East Coast premieres and 14 New England premieres. The Festival also will screen a program of shorts. Suburban screenings begin Oct. 25 and run through Nov. 15.
The Festival is New England’s largest Jewish cultural event, with last year’s attendance at about 10,000 people.
The opening night film is Kaddish for a Friend. Muslim teen Ali Messalam and his family move into Berlin’s Kreuzberg area where he is pressured by friends to vandalize the apartment of his elderly, feisty Russian neighbor, Alexander Zamskoy. To avoid being deported, Ali’s parents send him back to Zamskoy’s place to repair the damage. This coming-of-age story, inspired by two real people, is a stirring feature debut by Moscow-born, German filmmaker Leo Khasin, who will be present.
The Centerpiece Film is Deaf Jam. Teen Aneta Brodski attends a school for the deaf in Queens and inhabits the exuberant world of American Sign Language (ASL) poetry. Filmmaker Judy Lieff chronicles Aneta’s bold entry into Manhattan’s spoken-word slam scene, where Aneta, an Israeli immigrant, meets Tahani, a hearing Palestinian-American slam poet. The two collaborate on a powerful duet that mirrors the complex worlds they share. Deaf Jam uses innovative film techniques to honor ASL as a three-dimensional language that exists in space, like dance. Brodski will be present, and Ayisha Knight-Shaw, a deaf poet, will perform, signing in ASL.
Closing night features Mabul (Flood). As Yoni chants the story of Noah and the Ark in preparation for his Bar Mitzvah, his autistic older brother, Tomer, unexpectedly returns home, forcing the entire family to cope with his presence. Their mother is a gifted day-care director in a troubled marriage to a crop duster too stoned to fly. Mabul garnered awards in Haifa and Berlin, nominated for six Ophir (Israeli Oscars). Director Guy Nattiv will be present.
New for 2011
The Festival presents the inaugural “Caffeine and Conversation,” an event where audiences can meet film artists, including directors, actors and documentary film subjects.
Meet ALS patient Avi Kremer, the mesmerizing star of Beating Time. Kremer, who graduated from Harvard Business School, is slated to speak about his battle to find a cure; neurologist Dr. Robert Brown, UMass Medical Center, Worcester, will join him.
The eye-opening film Standing Silent. This film breaks a compelling news story about child molestation by Orthodox rabbis in Baltimore. A distinguished panel, including the journalist who broke the story, will tackle this controversial and alarming issue.
The Festival inaugurates a “Short Films Competition.” Short films, long known as the “calling cards” of young filmmakers, are increasingly popular. Viewers will watch top selections and then vote for a winner.
Watch the newest in Israeli TV shows. Directors often migrate between film and TV in this small marketplace, and the quality of shows is high. See new visions of Israel in The Office, Yellow Peppers and Another Life.
The Festival offers a “Surprise Screening,” reserved for a last-minute new film or a reprise of a smash hit. Check our website, Facebook or Twitter to find late-breaking news.
Festival Locations, Tickets, Sponsors
Primary venues are the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), the West Newton Cinema and the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. Screenings also take place at AMC Framingham, the Arlington Capitol Theatre, Hollywood Hits Premiere Theatres in Danvers, Showcase Cinema de Lux Patriot Place in Foxboro, Showcase Cinemas Randolph and Fenway Community Health in Boston.
The Festival’s website offers film descriptions and schedule information. Tickets can be purchased through www.bjff.org.
The Festival offers two pass options: the all-access Friends Pass, at $225 and the REELPass, a $30 three-film pass.
Tickets for most films are $12 for general admission and $11 for seniors, students, and current members of The Boston Jewish Film Festival, MFA, Coolidge Corner Theatre, and WGBH. Discount tickets for groups of 10 or more are available at $9 per person. For more information, or to request a mailed brochure, contact the Festival office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-244-9899 x200.
Lead Festival sponsors are the Cambridge Trust Co., Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Consulate General of Israel to New England, CBIZ Tofias, Hebrew SeniorLife, Pageo Fine Jewelry, Staples Advantage and SwissAir.
Luminaries and Legends Gala
NEWTON, MA., Aug. 16, 2011 – The Boston Jewish Film Festival is excited to announce “Luminaries and Legends,” our major fall 2011 fundraiser. Three Luminaries will be honored for their leadership in film in New England on Oct. 22 – Judy Ganz, Lisa Gossels and Kaj Wilson.
Judy Ganz, Festival architect and visionary. Judy has been at the heart of the Festival since its inception, serving as Board Chair from 2002 – 2009. During her tenure, the Festival enjoyed exponential growth in attendance and stature. Judy lives in Belmont.
Lisa Gossels, a documentarian who believes in the power of film to affect social change. Lisa’s films include Emmy award-winning The Children of Chabannes and award-winning My So-Called Enemy. Lisa’s movies reflect Jewish history and offer profound messages about building bridges of understanding during times of great conflict. Lisa is a native of Wayland.
Kaj Wilson, Festival artistic director for over a decade. Kaj brought creative vision and acumen to the Festival and broader Jewish community. The winner of honors from the Boston Society of Film Critics and Women in Film and Video/New England, she was artistic liaison for the Boston-Haifa Connection, curated film series for Jewish Women’s Archive and the New Center for Arts and Culture. Kaj lives in Newton.
The work of a film legend will be shown at “Luminaries and Legends” with scenes from the work-in-progress documentary, Sidney Lumet: The Moral Lens. The late Sidney Lumet directed more than 40 films, including Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, The Pawnbroker, 12 Angry Men, Long Day’s Journey into Night, Murder on the Orient Express and Equus. Director Daniel Anker will share insights on Lumet, the moral questions he raised, and the impact of Lumet’s Jewish upbringing on his films. Daniel will share clips from his documentary Sidney Lumet: The Moral Lens.
The event takes place Saturday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. at WGBH, One Guest St., Boston. Co-chairs are Maya Katz and Adam Riemer. The evening features both silent and live auctions. A list of items will be available on the Festival website. Cocktails, supper and dessert will be offered. Tickets are $250 each, available through our web site.
The fundraiser kicks off this year’s 23rd Annual Festival, Nov. 2 – 13 with suburban screenings Oct. 25-Nov. 15.
See you there for a great night of fun!