The 12th Annual New Jersey Jewish Film Festival, sponsored by JCC MetroWest, will host a selection of new and award-winning feature films and documentaries from March 18 to April 1.
Several of the two dozen films — chosen from the Israel, United States, Germany, Poland, Sweden, France, Canada, Austria, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom — are making their NJ premieres and many screenings will feature discussions with directors and other guests.
Screenings will be held at the Leon and Toby Cooperman JCC, West Orange; AMC Loews East Hanover; and the Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown.
Among the festival highlights:
(Note: All films will be screened at the JCC unless otherwise indicated. * indicates New Jersey premiere.)
Gei Oni — Valley of Fortitude
Sunday, March 18, 5 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. (preceded by 6:30 reception)
Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown
An unusual love story set during the first wave of Jewish European migration to Palestine in the late 1800s, Gei Oni is a historic epic about the early Zionists’ dream of returning to the homeland.
The screening will be followed by a discussion with director Dan Wolman.
We Are Still Here
Monday, March 26, 7:30 p.m.
Director Evan Kleinman is the grandchild of Polish Jews, the only members of their families to survive the Holocaust. Curious to learn more about his family’s roots, he travels to Poland with his sister and parents.
The film will be followed by a discussion with Evan Kleinman; Max Kleinman, executive vice president of UJC MetroWest NJ; and other family members.
Land of Genesis*
Sunday, March 25, 12:30 p.m. (For ages 10 and over)
News images of Israel are most often accompanied by images of violence and war. This documentary instead focuses on the annual lifecycle of a little-known world of insects, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
Sunday, March 25, 3:15 p.m. (For ages 10 and over)
While coping with military threats and political conflicts, Israelis have succeeded in turning a desert into a flourishing country. Dr. Tal Ben Shahar, author of the best-selling Happier, hosts this film examining the core character strengths that have made Israel’s achievements possible.
Post-screening discussion with Gil Lainer, public affairs director, Consulate General of Israel in New York.
Music of Remembrance: The Boys of Terezin
Sunday, March 25, 7:30 p.m.
Rehearsing a new oratorio, members of Seattle’s Northwest Boys choir learn of the experience of a group of boys in a Nazi concentration camp. Haunting music by American composer Lori Laitman illuminates not only the fear and anger of the “Boys of Terezin,” but also their humor, courage, and unity in the darkest of times. The film also reunites four of the five boys who survived.
Post-screening discussion with Laitman and Terezin survivor Leo Lowy, and a musical performance with Denise Mihalik.
In Heaven Underground: The Weissensee Jewish Cemetery
Thursday, March 29, 5 p.m.
With 115,000 graves, Weissensee Jewish Cemetery in Berlin is the world’s largest Jewish burial ground, in continuous operation for over 130 years. This iconic Jewish site was spared by the Nazis. The film’s poetic ambiance underscores Rabbi William Wolff’s exploration of burial customs.
Post-screening discussion with Rabbi Steven Kushner, Temple Ner Tamid, Bloomfield, and president, Beth El Memorial Park Foundation.
My Best Enemy*
Sunday, April 1, 7:30 p.m. (closing night, with dessert reception)
In this Hollywood-style thriller, Victor Kaufmann, the son of wealthy Jewish gallery owners in Vienna, and Rudi Smekal, the son of the Kaufmanns’ housekeeper, are childhood friends. When the Nazis annex Austria, Rudi enlists and betrays the Kaufmanns. A twist of fate leads Rudi and Victor, now a prisoner of the Germans, to swap identities. They compete to recover a stolen Michelangelo and for the beautiful Lena, who must choose between them.
Post-screening discussion with Deborah Zafman, art historian.
Tickets for evenings screenings cost $12 in advance/$15 at the door, $10 for seniors/students/children; matinees, $10. Tickets for the opening and closing events with dessert receptions are $20 in advance/$25 at the door. There is also a $30 package for any three films, exclusive of the opening and closing night events.
Advance ticket purchases are recommended. Visit boxofficetickets.com or call 1-800-494-TIXS (8497). Tickets are available at the individual venues 45 minutes prior to the screening.
For a complete film schedule with dates, times, and locations, visit njjff.org.
— RON KAPLAN