Over the weekend, I spoke with Marsha Bornstein, director of the Louisville Jewish Film Festival. She says this yearâ€™s is bigger and contains films with more relevance to current affairs. As usual, this is a celebration of Jewish culture in cinema on an international level, so most of the films are in foreign languages. â€œI try to get people over their bias against subtitles.â€ Says Bornstein, â€œOnce you get started, youâ€™ll get into it.â€ Some of her fellow older members of the community are particularly resistant. â€œYouâ€™d better get started, weâ€™re going to be reading closed-captions soon!â€ she laughs.
Based on Uri Olevâ€™s novel, â€œRun Boy Runâ€ will launch the fest at Village 8 on Thursday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. Set in 1942 Poland, it follows a young boy in who runs away from a Warsaw ghetto, shedding his Jewish identity in order to survive. This film, produced by France and Germany is in Russian, Polish, German and Yiddish with English subtitles, will play again on Feb. 15 at 11:30 a.m.
â€œA Musical Celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the JCCâ€ will be presented at Louisvilleâ€™s Jewish Community Center, Saturday, Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. This Peabody Award-winning doc celebrates the history of Jewish artists on Broadway, from George Gershwin to Stephen Sondheim. A reception will follow with desserts and complimentary beer and wine.
On Sunday, Feb. 8, the 2013 French/Israeli produced comedic spy film, â€œKidonâ€ will deliver a con-game style thriller revolving around the mysterious assassination of Mahmoud al Mabhouh in Dubai. It will play at Village 8 at 2 p.m.
â€œWhen I took over the job, the Israeli films were so poor.â€ Says Bornstein reflecting on her eleven years with the festival. â€œI like to believe they realized the power of film and the importance of film to get their message out.â€ â€œA Borrowed Identityâ€ (aka â€œDancing Arabsâ€) is one of many movies that demonstrate how far the country has come with its film industry. It is said to be one of the festivalâ€™s most daring features, telling a coming-of-age story about an Arab growing up in Israel. The film is written by Sayed Kashua, based on his semi-autobiographical novel. The Eye Care Institute is sponsoring this very special presentation at Village 8 at 7:30 on Saturday, Feb. 14.
On Sunday, Feb. 15, Adath Jeshurun will present, â€œAbove and Beyond,â€ a new documentary from producer, Nancy Spielberg (Stevenâ€™s sister) and director, Roberta Grossman. Interviews with World War II pilots recounting their 1948 post-war choice to participate as volunteer fighters in Israelâ€™s War of Independence are interspersed with re-enactment imagery and historical footage. The film begins at 2 p.m.
â€œGett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalemâ€ was nominated for a Golden Globe and won the Israeli Film Academyâ€™s Ophir Award for Best Picture in 2014. This serious drama tells the story of a woman put on trial for a reasonable divorce request that her husband will not grant. â€œTheir films are very critical of themselves.â€ Says Bornstein regarding the honesty of Israelâ€™s filmmakers, â€œIsraelâ€™s a democracy like we are and itâ€™s got many, many problems and theyâ€™re not afraid to show it.â€ This feature will play at the Temple, Monday Feb. 16 at 7 p.m.
â€œ24 Daysâ€ is a disturbing French thriller based on the real incident of a Parisian Jew kidnapped for an unusually huge ransom. The mother of the victim tries to convince the detectives that her familyâ€™s religion has some bearing in the motivation behind the abduction. Bornstein says the recent violence in France makes this one a very topical selection. Village 8 will present it on Thursday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m.
â€œWe wonâ€™t diminish our standards to find a comedy,â€ says Bornstein reflecting on past requests to play lighter fare. â€œThe truth of it is, there arenâ€™t many out there that are excellent.â€ How fortunate that this yearâ€™s lineup features one of Israelâ€™s most prestigious filmâ€™s from 2014 â€“and itâ€™s a comedy. In the tradition of military satires like â€œM*A*S*Hâ€ and â€œCatch 22,â€ â€œZero Motivationâ€ is about how annoying life in the service can be, and features an ensemble of women in the Israeli Army combating boredom through odd behavior while stationed in a remote location with chauvinistic men to endure. Village 8 will show the film on Saturday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
In the highly honored French film, â€œThe Jewish Cardinalâ€ we learn of the struggles Jean-Marie Lustiger endured after being appointed archbishop of Paris by Pope John Paul II. Lustiger was born a Polish-Jew who converted during childhood, but maintained recognition of this heritage -especially when a difficult debate arose between Catholics and Jews, regarding a proposed convent at the former Auschwitz concentration camp. Village 8 will show the film on Sunday, Feb. 22 at 2 p.m.
Festivals benefit films with hard-hitting bold issues that people often ignore when seeking entertainment. The challenging side in seeing some of these films is supported by a communal gathering prepared to reflect together.
â€œThe Jews have seen so many Holocaust films and read so much,â€ says Bornstein, â€œbut given whatâ€™s happening in France and other countries itâ€™s a reminder â€“itâ€™s a wakeup call: Be vigilant.â€
For more information, ticket pricing and advanced sales, visit jewishlouisville.org/filmfestival or call Marsha Bornstein at 502.238.2731.