The Jewish Film Festival is back this year to continue to expand viewers’ horizons, even as it is, inevitably, experienced from home. The 2021 virtual version takes place March 5-25. On this 20th anniversary of the festival, consider the opportunities that come with this format, as this year will be expanding its reach through a partnership with the Jewish Federation of Huntsville and North Alabama and the Pensacola Jewish Federation. These community connections have never been more important.
“While we can’t be together in person this year, we still believe that a well-made film is the best way to connect us, to entertain us and to bring about meaningful dialogue,” festival co-chairs Barry Silverman and Ricky Voit said. Here is this year’s stellar lineup of documentary and feature films.
“The Keeper” (March 5-7): The incredible true story of Bert Trautmann (David Kross), a German soldier and prisoner of war who, against a backdrop of British post-war protest and prejudice, secures the position of goalkeeper at Manchester City, and in doing so becomes a footballing icon. “The Keeper” is an extraordinary love story between a young English woman and a German POW, who together overcome prejudice, outrage and personal tragedy.
“Crescendo” (March 8-10): When world-famous conductor Eduard Sporck accepts the job to create an Israeli-Palestinian youth orchestra, he is quickly drawn into a tempest of sheer unsolvable problems. Having grown up in a state of war, suppression or the constant risk of terrorist attacks, the young musicians from both sides are far from able to form a team. Lined up behind the two best violinists — the emancipated Palestinian Layla and the handsome Israeli Ron — they form two parties who deeply mistrust each other, on- and off-stage alike. Will Sporck succeed and make the young people forget their hatred, at least for the three weeks until the concert? The special guest for this film is Dr. Victor Adamenko, professor of musicology at Pensacola State College.
“Picture of His Life” (March 11-13): This documentary chronicles wildlife photographer Amos Nachoum’s efforts to fulfill his lifelong dream of photographing a polar bear while swimming with one in open water. This movie has already won the “best documentary” prize in film festivals throughout the world.
“Incitement” (March 14-16): For the first time on-screen and based on true events, acclaimed writer-director Yaron Zilberman (“A Late Quartet”) chronicles the disturbing descent of a promising law student into a delusional ultranationalist obsessed with murdering his country’s leader, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. “Incitement” is a gripping and unnerving look through the eyes of a murderer who silenced a powerful voice for peace. The film’s co-writer stated they wanted “to visit the stations of his brainwashing, the dark and terrifying ideas that propelled him,” and that mission, while based on threats to democracy in Israel, could not be more relevant to American society today. The special guest for this film is Dr. Michael Koplow, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum.
“Aulcie” (March 17-19): Spotted playing basketball in Harlem in 1976, African American Aulcie Perry was recruited to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv. Within a year, he led the team to its first European championship, converted to Judaism and became an Israeli citizen. Off the court, his relationship with model Tami Ben-Ami made him a hit with the Israeli press. Filmmakers Dani Menkin and Nancy Spielberg bring us an inspiring documentary that traces the meteoric rise and fall of an Israeli basketball legend, who now works with youth in Israel and around the world, educating them on issues of drug abuse and addiction. Special Guest: Dani Menken, director of the film.
“Here We Are” (March 20-22): An official selection at the Festival de Cannes, this is the moving story of Aharon, who has devoted his life to raising his son, Uri. They live together in a gentle routine, away from the real world. But Uri is autistic, and now as a young adult, it might be time for him to live in a specialized home. While on their way to the institution, Aharon decides to run away with his son and hit the road, because he knows Uri is not ready for this separation. Or is it, in fact, his father who is not ready?
“Shared Legacies: The African American Jewish Civil Rights Alliance” (March 23-25): The crucial historical lessons of Black-Jewish cooperation are revisited in this utterly fascinating, urgent call to action. Common cause was found in the turbulent, ’60s civil rights era, as Jewish leaders backed Dr. Martin Luter King Jr.’s efforts at racial equality and harmony. Yet, the relationship has frayed in recent years, as a once-mighty bond of support and respect has seemingly faded, been forgotten or ignored. This potent, inspiring story of unity, empathy and partnership validates the ubiquity of the human experience and shows how freedom and equality for all can be achieved only when people come together. The special guest for this film is Dr. Shari Rodgers, the director.
Tickets for the films may be purchased at mobilejewishfederation.org. Single tickets are $9; household tickets are $15; a festival pass for all seven films is $60.
New This Week
“Boogie”: Acclaimed writer, producer and restaurateur Eddie Huang’s directorial debut. The coming-of-age story of Alfred “Boogie” Chin, a basketball phenom living in Queens, New York, who dreams of one day playing in the NBA. AMC Mobile 16, Eastern Shore Premiere Cinema.
“Raya and the Last Dragon”: Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the last dragon to finally stop the Druun for good. All listed multiplex theaters, Nexus Cinema Dining.
“Chaos Walking”: In the not-too-distant future, Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) discovers Viola (Daisy Ridley), a mysterious girl who crash lands on his planet, where all the women have disappeared and the men are afflicted by “the Noise” — a force that puts all their thoughts on display. In this dangerous landscape, Viola’s life is threatened, and as Todd vows to protect her, he will have to discover his inner power and unlock the planet’s dark secrets. All listed multiplex theaters, Nexus Cinema Dining.
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