THE OPPORTUNITY to see Tovah Feldshuh on screen in her award-winning Broadway turn in “Golda’s Balcony” — and to greet the celebrated actor in person — may be the high point of the 19th annual New Jersey Jewish Film Festival, but among its offerings, say organizers, are plenty of cinematic gems.
Over two dozen acclaimed films will be shown during the festival, taking place March 27-April 7 at (mostly) JCC MetroWest in West Orange.
They include features, documentaries, comedies, and shorts from Israel, America, France, Germany, Poland, and other countries, many followed by discussions led by filmmakers and experts.
Opening the festival on Wednesday, March 27, will be the award-winning French film “Promise at Dawn,” based on the epic memoir by novelist Romain Gary, who was born a Lithuanian Jew in 1914 and became a noted French diplomat, film director, and war hero.
The closing night double feature on Sunday, April 7, will include a short, “The Outer Circle,” about the fraught gathering of an Iraqi-Jewish family in England, and “The Other Story,” by renowned Israeli filmmaker Avi Nesher, about two Israeli women, one fleeing the chaos of secular hedonism for the discipline of faith, the other desperate to transcend her strict religious upbringing for sexual and spiritual freedom.
In between, films will offer an eclectic range of stories, including:
An Israeli father struggles to keep his family together while transitioning to being a woman; an octogenarian sets out to find and exact revenge on the SS officer who killed his parents and is joined in the search by the Nazi’s son; Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds declared, “We are all Jews here,” when his German captors ordered him to identify the Jews among his fellow POWs; Israeli doctors save the lives of wounded Syrians secretly transported across the border from their war-ravaged country; while delivering wedding invitations by hand, a Palestinian father and son reveal the generational gaps in Arab-Israeli society; and, desperate to ensure that a record of the Nazis’ genocidal brutality not die with them, members of the Oyneg Shabes group risk all to chronicle the reality of life in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Not to mention: a 97-year-old Shoah survivor seeking acceptance as a Death Metal singer, Jewish retirees so devoted to Latin dancing they earn the title “the Mamboniks,” and four comrades doing their all to see that their friend receives the Nobel Prize he strove for all his life (one problem: he’s dead).
“It takes more than a village to put on a festival of this size and scope,” said festival cochair Andrea Bergman. “We are so fortunate to have a stellar line-up of staff and volunteers to help us showcase these incredible films.”
Her cochair, Joni Cohen, expressed her pride that “the festival has become so well recognized in New Jersey and beyond.”
The “wide range of exceptional films,” said festival director Sarah Diamond, “advance our mission to foster Jewish culture and community.”
Committee members Caren and Herb Ford of Livingston founded the NJJFF in 2000. Vicky Jacobs is festival curator; Mara Miller is administrator.
Sponsored by JCC Metro-West’s Gaelen Center for the Arts, the festival receives support from the NJ State Council on the Arts and from more than two dozen community and corporate sponsors.A
If you go
What: New Jersey Jewish Film Festival
When: March 27-April 7
Where: JCC MetroWest, West Orange (and other venues)
Tickets: General seating, $13; $11 for students, seniors, and for matinees (before 5 p.m.); $10/ticket for groups of 10 or more; sponsorships begin at $325 and include an all-festival pass and other benefits
Contact: Sarah Diamond at email@example.com or 973-530-3417 or visit jccmetrowest.org/njjff