The Boston Jewish Film Festival Names Ariana Cohen-Halberstam New Artistic Director


NEWTON, MA – April 22, 2015 – The Boston Jewish Film Festival is proud to announce Ariana Cohen-Halberstam as its new Artistic Director. Cohen-Halberstam comes to the Festival from the JCC Manhattan where she was Associate Director of Film Programming. She has been active in the New York film community for over ten years and now brings her comprehensive curatorial and festival production experience to Boston.

Cohen-Halbertstam’s background includes film production and editing in a variety of documentary and short films and television, as well as curating and coordinating numerous film festivals.

At the Boston Jewish Film Festival, Cohen-Halberstam’s chief responsibilities will be selecting films and programming for the annual Boston Jewish Film Festival as well as other film programs and Festival events throughout the year. Cohen-Halbertstam, 31, was chosen after a national search.

The Boston Jewish Film Festival Executive Director Jaymie Saks said, “I am thrilled to have Ariana bring her vibrant, thoughtful artistic sensibility to the Festival. She has a keen sense of Jewish tradition and is out in front of current trends in film and filmmaking. She is the right person to continue to move the Festival forward.”

Film Festival Board President Denise Widman added, ”Ariana’s unique combination of experience, talent, and enthusiasm allows her to jump in and continue the Festival’s record breaking expansion into the Boston area community.”

“I am honored to become part of the story of one of the largest and longest running Jewish film festivals in the world,” said Ms. Cohen-Halberstam. “I believe the role of The Festival is even more significant at a time when Jewish life is taking place more and more outside the walls of synagogues. The Festival enables people of all ages to engage with their Jewishness in new ways.”

Cohen-Halberstam had a full plate at the JCC Manhattan where she managed and worked with festival teams to curate and program Cinematters, the JCC Manhattan’s year-round film program, ReelAbilities: New York Film Festival, the Other Israel Film Festival, and the Israel Film Center Festival.

Cohen-Halberstam added, “Jews have undoubtedly played a role in shaping the history of film, particularly in America, but today more than ever, we are seeing reflections of Jews and Jewish life on screen. The Boston Jewish Film Festival will continue to celebrate Jewish culture while creating a space for conversation and community building among all filmgoers in the Boston area.”

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Boston Jewish Film Festival Announces Its 26th Annual Film Festival November 5-17

NEWTON, Massachusetts — Sept. 26, 2014 — The Boston Jewish Film Festival (BJFF) announces its 26th annual film festival November 5-17.

“We are committed to bringing our audiences the very best films with Jewish content from around the globe, both fiction and documentary,” says Amy Geller, BJFF Artistic Director.  “BJFF 2014 has a stellar line-up of films and related events—over 35 guest speakers, moderated discussions, after-parties, and in-person visits from filmmakers, actors, and other artists.”

This year, there are 39 films from 14 countries including Cuba, Greece, Morocco, and the Philippines, and of course many from Israel and the United States.17 films are New England premieres.

Says Geller: “Our festival strives to bring together a passionate Jewish community as well as movie lovers of all faiths and walks of life. And of all ages. This year, we have several fun, edgy programs, the FRESHFLIX picks, curated by and for younger adults (20’s-40’s). With something for everyone, we anticipate breaking our record last year of over 10,000 tickets sold and 17 sold-out films.”

BJFF 2014 Special Highlights include:

  • Fifth Commandment Series: Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother

In Exodus, Moses received the Ten Commandments.  “Honor thy father and thy mother was the fifth, and sometimes, through the centuries, the hardest to live by. The 2014 BJFF explores the complicated relationships between Jewish parents and their children in nine thought-provoking and often humorous films.

  • Sports! This year, the BJFF presents two sports related films:

Touchdown Israel

Yes, there’s American football in the Holy Land, an eleven-team league of pigskin crazy amateurs, who play on too-short soccer fields while wives and parents look on anxiously.  The players and coaches represent a cross-section of Israeli society, including Arabs, Christians, and religious settlers; their shared passion creates unexpected friendships. (Saturday, November 15, 6:30 p.m., Belmont Studio Cinema).

There’s more! The BJFF will present a special kick-off event honoring New England Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, one of the supporters of the Israeli Football League, on Wednesday, October 29. 

  • Family Programming!

      Havana Curveball (recommended for ages 8 and up):

As part of his Bar Mitzvah project, “Thirteen-year-old Mica takes to heart his Rabbi’s dictate to help ‘heal the world,’ and launches a grand plane to send baseballs to Cuba—a country with a mysterious pull.  He knows only that Cubans have few resources, love baseball, and gave refuge to his grandfather during the Holocaust.  The filmmakers, also Mica’s proud parents, know a curveball is coming…” –Washington Jewish Film Festival (Sunday, November 9, 2:15 p.m., Coolidge Corner Theatre)

  • FRESHFLIX, a new program targeting young adults 20’s-40’s, kicks off with two events:

The Hole Story with director, writer and actor Alex Karpovsky, a Newtonnative. Filmgoers will have the opportunity to meet Karpovsky, a star of HBO’s Girls,  and listen to his stories about his friendship and work with Lena Dunham, acting for the Coen Brothers, and much, much more.  (Saturday, November 8, 6:30 p.m., Coolidge Corner Theatre)

4th Annual Short Film Competition. The audience will meet and mingle with a new wave of young filmmakers, pick the winning shorts via text voting, and, afterward, clink glasses with Boston’s tastemakers at the Saloon in Somerville’s Davis Square.  (Tuesday, November 11, 7:00 p.m., Somerville Theatre)

  • Honoring a Great American Director: Paul Mazursky:  The BJFF mourns the death this year of Hollywood veteran director Paul Mazursky, best known for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, but who also made classic films about Jewish identity—Blume in Love; Enemies, A Love Story; and the film BJFF is screening on November 16 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Next Stop Greenwich VillagePerhaps no other American film has so profoundly captured what it felt like to be young and enraptured by New York City. (Sunday, November 16, 4:00 p.m., Institute of Contemporary Art)
  • Favorite Films from the Famous asks: whichclassic Jewish films have influenced local luminaries?  Anita Diamant, the celebrated author of the best-selling The Red Tent, will present Joan Micklin Silver’s Hester Street.  It’s a bracing comedy of Jewish immigration and assimilation, starring Carol Kane, an Academy Award nominee for Best Actress.  (Thursday, November 13, 6:45 p.m., Coolidge Corner Theatre)
  • BJFF Community Leadership Award:  The BJFF is proud to honor Deborah Nathan with the 2nd Annual Community Leadership Award for her passionate commitment to social justice and to improving society. Nathan, an arts therapy specialist and professional artist, founded Artsbridge, an organization that uses art and dialogue to develop constructive partnerships between American, Israeli, and Palestinian youth.  (Sunday, November 9, 5:00 p.m., Coolidge Corner Theatre)
  • The Local Connection!  In addition to Touchdown Israel and the Alex Karpovsky event, the BJFF 2014 will screen three additional films with local ties: 

Sweet Blues: A Film About Mike Bloomfield

The late Chicago guitarist stands in the pantheon of Jewish rock ’n’ rollers alongside Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, with whom he played on Highway 61 Revisited. This colorful musical biography Includes interviews with Carlos Santana, BB King, the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, and with Bloomfield’s friend,

Al Kooper, formerly of Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Kooper, recently a Berklee professor, will be in person at the film screening along with director Bob Sarles.  (Saturday, November 15, 9:00 p.m., Brattle Theatre)

Next Stop: Greenwich Village

In Paul Mazursky’s autobiographical comedy set in the 1950s, Larry Lapinsky crosses the bridge from Brooklyn and his larger-than-life Jewish mother (an astonishing Shelly Winters) to become an actor, a lover, and a Greenwich Village bohemian. With sublime supporting performances from Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Walken and a commanding lead from the late Lenny Baker, a Brookline native and a BU graduate.  (Sunday, November 16, 4:00 p.m., Institute of Contemporary Art)

Watchers of the Sky

Juxtaposing four stories of courage and humanity, and journeying from Nuremburg to Bosnia to Rwanda to The Hague, Watchers of the Sky chronicles the extraordinary life of Raphael Lemkin, the Polish Jew who created the word “genocide.” Inspired by Samantha Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem from Hell, which praised Lemkin for his seminal contribution to international law.

A discussion follows, moderated by Dean Martha Minow, Harvard Law School. This screening is presented in partnership with The Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Law School Human Rights Program, the Visual and Environmental Studies Department at Harvard, Facing History & Ourselves and DocYard. The last is an award-winning film and discussion series of documentaries at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge.  (Saturday, November 8, 6:30 p.m., Brattle Theatre)

  • New Discoveries

Deli Man – World Premiere

Laugh your way through hilarious stories of American delicatessens while drooling over the wonderful Jewish food being prepared before your eyes. From New York to Chicago to San Francisco and even to Texas, enjoy the oddball company of the obsessed deli proprietors behind the corned beef, the kreplach, and the magnificent matzo ball soup. You won’t want to miss third-generation Houston deli owner Ziggy Gruber, the maven of deli mavens! In person: Director Erik Greenberg Anjou and film subject Ziggy Gruber (Wednesday, November 12, 12 p.m. Warwick Cinema and Mid-Fest event: 7:00 p.m., Coolidge Corner Theatre)

The Gordin Cell – US Premiere 

The Gordin Cell is a high-octane Israeli thriller in which a married pair of former spies must face their past when asked to surrender their son, a heroic Israel Air Force officer, to Russian Intelligence. Will he choose to betray his parents or his native country? Watch the pilot episode of the immensely popular Israeli television series, soon to be remade by NBC (Allegiance starring Hope Davis). In person: Actress Neta Riskin (Thursday, November 6, 7:00 p.m., Brattle Theatre) 

Orange People – US Premiere

Grandma Zohara, a much-respected fortuneteller within the Moroccan community in her Israeli beachside town, wants to retire. Will her place be taken by daughter Simone, who wants to open a gourmet Moroccan restaurant, or by her teenage granddaughter? Tension, humor, and drama ensue in this mother daughter clash of traditional and modern values. In person: Director and Actress Hanna Azoulay Hasfari. (Wednesday, November 12, 7:00 p.m. AMC Framingham; Thursday, November 13, 9:30 p.m. Coolidge Corner Theatre)

Festival Locations, Tickets, and Sponsors


Venues include AMC Framingham, AMC Liberty Tree Mall 20, Arlington Capitol Theatre, Belmont Studio Cinema, Brattle Theatre, Coolidge Corner Theatre, Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Showcase Cinema de Lux Patriot Place, Somerville Theatre, Warwick Cinema, and West Newton Cinema.


Film descriptions, schedule, and ticket information are available now at Allfilms, with the exception of Special Events, are $14 general admission; $12 for seniors, students and members of the BJFF, Coolidge Corner Theatre, Institute of Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts and WGBH.  Special Events: Opening Night (Nov. 6), Mid-Fest Film (Nov. 13) and Boston Closing Night (Nov. 17): $26 General Admission/$24 Discount.


Festival sponsors include: Adelson Family Foundation, Cambridge Trust Co., Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Consulate General of Israel to New England, The Cross Country Group, Franklin Sports, Israel Bonds, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Newbridge on the Charles, and Northern Trust.