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Dim the lights…

The 22nd Annual Mandell JCC Hartford Jewish Film Festival, March 8-18



USA 2017 (Documentary)
Dinner: 5:30 p.m.
Film: 7:30 p.m.
Mandell JCC
Encore presentation: Sunday, March 11, 7 p.m.
Spotlight Theaters, Hartford

World-renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman personifies the resilience, the vision and the contribution of the Jewish people. In Perlman and his music, we hear the story of obstacles and survival, we trace the path of the Jewish people from the chaos of Europe to the promise of Israel, we see the comfort of home and family and witness how humor and talent combine with discipline and drive.



“Land of Milk and Funny”
USA 2017 (Comedy/Documentary)
Special Guest: Avi Liberman, comedian/filmaker
8 p.m. at the Mandell JCC

A rising young Jewish comedian decided to devote much of his own career to regularly visiting Israel to entertain a nation battered by terrorism. Liberman also (initially) implored, cajoled and (subsequently) encouraged his professional colleagues – Jews, Christians, white, black, whatever – to join him on this adventure. Here’s a look at their experience.



“Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel”
Israel, Japan, USA, South Korea
11 a.m at the Mandell JCC

After years of defeat, Team Israel finally ranked among the world’s best in 2017, eligible to compete in the prestigious international tournament. Their line-up included several Jewish American Major League players – most with a tenuous relationship to Judaism, let alone having ever set foot in Israel. Their odyssey takes them from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem where they are greeted as heroes, to Seoul.

“The Testament”
Israel 2017 (Drama)
Hebrew, German, Yiddish with English subtitles
2 p.m. at Spotlight Theaters

When a renowned historian embarks on a legal battle concerning a brutal massacre of Jews in Austria during the Second World War, he discovers a surprising testimonial in which his mother confesses to a deep dark secret from her past.

Winner of the Best Feature Film Award at the Haifa International Film Festival 2017.

Israel 2016 (Narrative)
Hebrew, Arabic with English subtitles
2 p.m. at Spotlight Theaters

A contemporary adaptation of the biblical tale of Abraham and Sarah, a beautiful harpist named Sarah and her husband, Abraham, the charismatic conductor of the Jerusalem Philharmonic Orchestra, are sadly childless. Enter Hagar, a young horn player of French-Arab descent from East Jerusalem, who offers to carry the couple’s baby. Two rival prodigies are born, one Jewish, one Arab, leading to a clash that can ultimately be reconciled only through music. Nominated for five Israeli Academy Awards. Winner of the Best Cinematograph and Lia Van Leer Jewish Heritage awards at the Jerusalem Film Festival.

“Bye Bye Germany”
Germany 2017 (Narrative)
German, English subtitles
4:30 p.m. at Spotlight Theaters

Frankfurt, 1946. David Bermann has escaped the Nazis and sets out to earn money for passage to America. The smooth-talking businessman is very successful – until the past catches up with him, as does a smart and attractive US officer named Sara Simon.

“An Act of Defiance”
Netherlands 2018
English, Afrikaans with English subtitles
4:30 p.m. at Spotlight Theaters

In this historical drama, 10 political activists (including Nelson Mandela and his inner circle of Black and Jewish supporters) face a possible death sentence for conspiracy to commit sabotage after they are arrested by the apartheid South African government during a raid in the town of Rivonia during the summer of 1963. Bram Fischer, a sympathetic lawyer, risks his career and freedom to defend these men, attempting to hide the fact that he, too, frequently convened on the farm where they were arrested.

Winner – Best Film, UK Jewish Film Festival 2017
Audience Favorite – Gold Award, Mill Valley Film Festival 2017

Encore Presentation:
7 p.m. at Spotlight Theaters
(see opening night)



“Keep the Change”
USA 2017 (Romantic comedy)
5:30 p.m. at the Mandell JCC

David leads a very comfortable life until he is forced to come to terms with his own high-functioning autism. He meets Sarah – a quirky and outgoing woman with whom he takes a trip together to the Brooklyn Bridge. As their relationship deepens, Sarah challenges David to embrace his own uniqueness.

“Raise the Roof”
USA 2015 (Documentary)
English, Polish with English subtitles
6 p.m. – pre-screening dinner program with filmmakers, Cary and Yari Wolinsky, and professors/artists Laura and Rick Brown
7:30 p.m. – film at the Mandell JCC

Artists Rick and Laura Brown, who are neither Jewish nor Polish, set out to rebuild Gwoździec, one of the magnificent 18th-century wooden synagogues of Poland, the last of which were destroyed by Nazis during World War II. Joined by hundreds of others, they use their hands, old tools and techniques, they rediscover Gwoździec’s history, culture, and art.

Audience Awards Philadelphia JFF, Rutgers JFF, Washington DC JFF, Seattle JFF



“Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me”
USA 2018 (Documentary)
1 p.m. at the Mandell JCC

A star-studded roster of interviewees including Jerry Lewis, Norman Lear, and Billy Crystal pay tribute to the legendary Sammy Davis, Jr. – a star of stage and screen and member of the legendary Rat Pack, who broke racial and religious barriers during his iconic career as a performer and patriot. Through it all he remained as devoted to Judaism as he was to entertainment.

“Etched in Glass: The Legacy of Steve Ross”
USA 2017 (Documentary)
Post screening conversation with producer/director Roger Lyose and Steve’s son, Mike Ross
7 p.m. at the Mandell JCC

The story of Steve Ross, who rose up from five horrific years in 10 concentration camps as a child, and spent the rest of his life working to get kids off the streets and into the classroom. Ross is founder of the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston. Winner Audience Asard Best Documentary Rhode Island International Film Festival and Boston Jewish Film Festival 2017.



“The History of Love”
Canada/France 2016 (Drama)
English, Yiddish with English subtitles
7 p.m. at Cinepolis Blue Back Square, West Hartford

Based on author Nicole Krauss’ bestseller, “The History of Love” follows the decades-long love story of Alma and Leo, two sweethearts whose romance is thwarted by the rise of fascism. The brilliant case includes Gemma Arterton and veteran actors Derek Jacobi and Elliott Gould.

Israel 2018 (Drama)
English, Hebrew, Arabic with English subtitles
7 p.m. at Cinepolis Blue Back Square, West Hartford

A breathtaking and elegant film noir, centering on a Lebanese woman and an Israeli Mossad agent who is sent to protect her. The two are stuck together for two weeks in a quiet apartment in Hamburg that acts as their safe house and refuge from terrorists looking to kill them.



Hungary 2017 (Narrative)
Hungarian with English subtitles
7 p.m. at Cinepolis Blue Back Square, West Hartford

Based on the acclaimed short story Homecoming by Gábor T. Szántó.

On a summer day in 1945, an Orthodox man and his grown son return to a village in Hungary. The townspeople fear the men may be heirs of the village’s deported Jews and expects them to demand their illegally acquired property back. A complex picture of a society trying to come to terms with the recent horrors they’ve experienced, perpetrated, or just tolerated for personal gain.

Winner – Audience Award – Jewish International Film Festival, Australia 2017
SF Film Critics Circle Award & – Audience Award (Best Narrative) – San Francisco JFF 2017
Winner – Yad Vashem Chairman’s Award – Jerusalem Film Festival 2017
Winner – Audience Award – Washington Jewish Film Festival 2017
Winner – Audience Award – Berlin Jewish Film Festival 2017
Winner – Audience Award for Best Narrative – Miami Jewish Film Festival 2017

“The Cakemaker”
Israel/Germany 2017 (Drama)
Hebrew, German with English subtitles
7 p.m. at Cinepolis Blue Back Square, West Hartford

A forbidden love story that follows shy Berlin baker Thomas who starts a passionate affair with Oren, a businessman visiting from Jerusalem. Their story is cut short when Oren is tragically killed in a car accident. Devastated, Thomas cooks up a plan to help Oren’s grieving family and his own broken heart by traveling to Jerusalem and offering up his baking expertise to Oren’s widow Anat who owns a struggling café. Winner of the Jury Award at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival and the Jewish Experience Award at the Jerusalem Film Festival.



“Doing Jewish: A Story from Ghana”
Canada 2017 (Documentary)
English, Sefwi, Twi with subtitles
6 p.m. at the Hartford Public Library, Albany Branch

Gabrielle Zilkha had little interest in religion when she arrived in Ghana to volunteer for six months of community service, a lone Jew from Montreal awash in a sea of Christians. As the High Holidays approach, she longs to reconnect with a Jewish community and goes on a trip to a remote western township in Sefwi Wiawso where, remarkably, Judaism has been practiced in isolation for centuries. A heartwarming, often humorously self-deprecating consideration of identity and belonging.



“Abe and Phil’s Last Poker Game”
USA 2017 (Narrative)
7:30 p.m. at the Mandell JCC

When Dr. Abe Mandelbaum (Martin Landau) moves into the nursing home, Cliffside Manor, with his deteriorating wife Molly, he forms an improbable relationship with gambler and womanizer, Phil Nicoletti (Paul Sorvino) and sultry volunteer (Pamela Dubin). At first, Abe feels that moving into the home is the end of the road, but he soon realizes that his life is finding a whole new beginning. Starring legendary Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau in his final onscreen performance.



“The Settlers”
Israel 2016 (Documentary)
Hebrew with English subtitles
12 noon at Hoyts Cinemas

A look into the world of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank: their daily lives, their worldviews, and their position within Israel. Along with personal profiles, Dotan unpacks the history of the settlements, laying out the facts with extraordinary care and lucidity, to allow us to see the progression of actions and reactions that have led to the current volatile situation.

“And Then She Arrived”
Israel 2017 (Comedy)
Hebrew with English subtitles
12 noon at Hoyts Cinemas

Thirty-year-old Dan Freilich was sure that his life was all planned out for the next 50 years. Until he meets 27-year-old Meirav Levi, a waitress from Jerusalem, and discovers that the feeling of butterflies in your stomach does exist.

“In Between”
Israel 2016 (Narrative)
Hebrew , Arabic with English subtitles
2:15 p.m. at Hoyts Cinemas

Three very different young Israeli women find themselves doing the same balancing act between tradition and modernity, citizenship and culture, fealty and freedom. In Between is a story of a certain kind of female friendship, a fierce bond that comes about because of shared gender, background, and hopes.

Winner: NETPAC Award – Cairo International Film Festival
Best Film – San Sebastian International Film Festival
Best Film – Bahamas International Film Festival

“Ben-Gurion, Epilogue”
Israel 2017 (Documentary)
Hebrew with English subtitles
Special guest: Dr Clinton Bailey, Ben-Gurion interviewer
2:15 p.m. at Hoyts Cinemas

In never-before-seen footage, David Ben-Gurion, the then-82-year-old former prime minister in his final years after leaving office, is interviewed at his secluded desert home over the course of several days in 1968. In an introspective mood, Ben-Gurion reflects on the loss of his wife, his personal health and political legacy, and his hopes for Middle East peace.

Winner of Israel’s Ophir Award for Best Documentary.



“Across the Waters”
Denmark 2017 (Drama)
Danish with English subtitles
Post film discussion with Prof. Avinoam Patt, University of Hartford
7 p.m. at the Mandell JCC

Unsure of whom they can trust, a Jewish musician and his family make a frantic escape from Nazi-occupied Denmark. Putting their fate in the hands of strangers whose allegiance and motives are not always clear, they set out on a journey for the fishing village of Gilleleje, where refugees await passage to Sweden by boat. Based on true events.

Federations emphasize Jewish security at GA
Facing Jerusalem
A priest, a rabbi, and an imam walk into a synagogue…

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