A REMARKABLE UNDERDOG story — based on real events from the ’80s — of the Sephardic community’s pursuit of political equality in Israel is the opening night of the Rutgers Jewish Film Festival. Now in its 20th year, the festival will run Sunday-Sunday, Nov. 3-17, featuring 19 films, including four New Jersey premieres, that explore Jewish history, culture, and identity and discussions with filmmakers, scholars, and other guests.
The festival is sponsored by Rutgers’ Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life and is made possible by a grant from the Karma Foundation.
The brand-new New Brunswick Performing Arts Center will be the site of the opening-night program, Sunday, Nov. 3, featuring a gala dinner at 5 p.m., followed by the 7:30 screening of “The Unorthodox,” an Israeli film about the events leading up to the creation of Israel’s Shas Party; rich in comedy and drama, the film was nominated for 14 awards, including Best Picture, at the 2019 Israeli Oscars. The opening-night celebration is sponsored by the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation.
All other screenings will be held either at AMC New Brunswick or Princeton Garden Theatre.
The documentaries on the roster will cover a wide variety of topics — from the cultural history and legacy of “Fiddler on the Roof,” to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Israel Museum, to the discovery of a vast trove of historical documents at an ancient Egyptian synagogue.
“Latter Day Jew,” an American documentary from producer/director Aliza Rosen that is variously hilarious and moving, follows H. Alan Scott, a gay comedian, writer, and cancer survivor who decides to leave the Mormon faith he was born into and become a Jew. Scott will appear at the screenings on Nov. 13 and 14.
Acclaimed filmmaker Aviva Kempner will be guest speaker at both showings of her new documentary, “The Spy Behind Home Plate,” about enigmatic American-Jewish baseball player Moe Berg, who led a secret life as a spy during World War II.
The line-up of dramatic films also deals with a broad range of subjects — from a forbidden interfaith love affair in contemporary Mexico, to the divide between secular and religious Jews in Israel today, to a light-hearted look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Three award-winning dramas will make their New Jersey premiere: “The Mover,” a Latvian film based on the true story of “Latvia’s Schindlers,” Žanis Lipke and his family; “Those Who Remained,” set in postwar Hungary, about the healing power of love after the trauma of the Holocaust (director Barnabás Tóth will speak at the Nov. 7 evening screening); and the French film “My Polish Honeymoon,” which follows a young Parisian-Jewish couple as they honeymoon in Poland, confronting modern-day anti-Semitism and coping with their families’ silence about the past (director Élise Otzenberger will speak at both Nov. 14 screenings).
Closing night will feature a preview of “The Song of Names” from renowned director François Girard. In this Canadian historical drama, a man searches for his childhood friend — a Polish violin prodigy orphaned in the Holocaust — who vanished decades before, on the night of his debut performance.
The festival offers a free film screening for middle and high school student groups from across New Jersey, in collaboration with Rutgers’ Littman Holocaust Resource Center.
A Veterans Appreciation Program, cosponsored by the Rutgers Office of Veteran and Military Programs and Services, will offer a screening and discussion of “Footsteps of My Father” — a documentary about Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, who saved the lives of 200 Jewish American soldiers during World War II — on Friday, Oct. 18, at 2 p.m. at the Alexander Library in New Brunswick. RSVP to email@example.com.
Festival tickets cost $14, with discounts for seniors and students. For updates and information — including special admission packages and opening-night tickets — contact 848-932-4166 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit BildnerCenter.Rutgers.edu/film.