From Jan. 10 through Jan. 21, enjoy an especially diverse selection of films at this year’s Mobile Jewish Film Festival, featuring stories from close to home and far away, both funny and moving, true and imagined, united in a shared theme of the equally diverse Jewish experience.
From a self-made billionaire, who in the 1920s and ‘30s, established schools for African-American kids in the South, to a contemporary delicatessen owner in Houston, Texas, each of these films tells a remarkable, and remarkably different, tale.
“Rosenwald” — Sunday, Jan. 10, 2 p.m., Springhill Avenue Temple
This documentary is the inspiring story of Julius Rosenwald, the son of an immigrant peddler who never finished high school, but rose to become the president of Sears, Roebuck & Co. Influenced by the writings of the educator Booker T. Washington, this Jewish philanthropist joined forces with Washington himself and African-American communities throughout the “Jim Crow” South to build more than 5,300 schools during the early part of the 20th century.
“Phoenix” — Tuesday, Jan. 12, 7 p.m., University of South Alabama Laidlaw Center for Performing Arts
A spellbinding mystery of identity, illusion and deception unfolds against the turmoil of post-World War II Germany in the stunning new film from acclaimed director Christian Petzold (“Barbara,” “Jerichow”). Nelly (Nina Hoss), a German-Jewish nightclub singer, has survived a concentration camp, but with her face disfigured by a bullet wound.
After undergoing reconstructive surgery, Nelly emerges with a new face, one similar but different enough that her former husband, Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), doesn’t recognize her. Rather than reveal herself, Nelly walks into a dangerous game of duplicity and disguise as she tries to figure out if the man she loves may have been the one who betrayed her to the Nazis.
Evoking the shadows and haunted mood of post-war Berlin, “Phoenix” weaves a complex tale of a nation’s tragedy and a woman’s search for answers as it builds toward an unforgettable, heart-stopping climax.
“The Green Prince” — Wednesday, Jan. 13, 7 p.m., USA Laidlaw Center for Performing Arts
Set against the chaotic backdrop of recent events in the Middle East, Nadav Schirman’s “The Green Prince” retraces the details of a highly unprecedented partnership that developed between sworn enemies. In the style of a tense psychological thriller, this extraordinary documentary recounts the true story of the son of a Hamas leader who emerged as one of Israel’s prized informants, and the Shin Bet agent who risked his career to protect him.
“Dough” — Thursday, Jan. 14, 7 p.m., USA Laidlaw Center for Performing Arts
Jonathan Pryce stars as an old Jewish baker whose faltering business is inadvertently saved by his young Muslim apprentice in this British dramedy. This is a warm-hearted and gently humorous story about overcoming prejudice and finding redemption in unexpected places.
“Secrets of War” — Sunday, Jan. 17, 2 p.m., Springhill Avenue Temple
As conflict rages across Europe in the summer of 1943, 12-year-old best friends Tuur and Lambert are all but oblivious to the danger. Reality begins to divide families, with Tuur’s father joining a resistance movement and Lambert’s parents allying themselves with the Nazi party.
The boys’ relationship is particularly strained with the arrival of Maartje, a dark-haired girl with a mysterious identity. As the boys compete for her attentions, jealousy and betrayal set in motion a series of high-stakes events that will alter the lives of all three youths. Suitable for children 10 and older.
“A Blind Hero: The Love of Otto Weidt” — Tuesday, Jan. 19, 7 p.m., USA Fairhope campus
This incredible docudrama tells the little- known story of Berlin brush and broom manufacturer Otto Weidt, who uses cunning and payoffs to save his staff, most of them Jewish and most of them blind, from the clutches of the Gestapo. The story relies almost exclusively on the eyewitness accounts of Inge Deutschkron, the celebrated 92-year-old German-Jewish writer who Weidt also saved from the Nazis. Years later he was recognized at Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial as one of the “righteous among the world’s nations.”
“Hester Street” — Wednesday, Jan. 20, 7 p.m., Ben May Library’s Bernheim Hall
Revisit the 1975 classic “Hester Street.” In a nuanced performance that earned her an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress, Carol Kane plays Gitl, a young Jewish woman who is in for a rude awakening when she travels from Russia to New York’s Lower East Side in 1896 to join her husband, Jake, after several years apart. While Gitl clings to the long-standing traditions of her heritage, Jake is intent on adapting completely to his new life in America. Jake’s assimilation includes shedding all traces of the old world, including his wife.
“Once in a Lifetime” — Thursday, Jan. 21, 7 p.m., Ahavas Chesed Synagogue
A drama about a dedicated history teacher at a French high school who taps lessons of the Holocaust in an effort to motivate her troubled students in an uplifting drama based on a true story. Determined to give the best education she can to her inner-city pupils, she tests her classroom with a unique assignment: a national competition on the theme of child victims of the Nazi concentration camps. The project is met with resistance, until a face-to-face encounter with a Holocaust survivor dramatically changes the class’s attitude. Despite their long-shot odds of winning, these once-rebellious teens soon begin to see one another — and themselves — in a whole new light.
“Deli Man” — Sunday, Jan. 24, 2 p.m., Ahavas Chesed Synagogue
This deli documentary explores Jewish culture as it reflects the heart of a vital ethnic history. In Houston, third-generation deli man Ziggy Gruber has built arguably the finest delicatessen restaurant in the U.S., Kenny & Ziggy’s. His story — augmented by the stories of iconic delis such as Katz’s, 2nd Avenue Deli, Nate ‘n Al, Carnegie and the Stage — embodies a tradition indelibly linked to its savory, nostalgic foods. Followed by a performance of Broadway show tunes and delicious deli food.
Visit www.mobilejewishfederation.org to purchase tickets, or call 251-343-7197. Tickets are $8 per adult, $6 per student or senior.