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At the movies…

This year’s Mandell JCC Hartford Jewish Film Festival features an eclectic collection of feature films, documentaries and short films. 

“The themes explored throughout the festival are universal, and at a time that is so divisive, we have an incredible opportunity to encourage deeper discussions,” says Jill Ziplow, director of the Mandell JCC Hartford Jewish Film Festival, which opens Thursday evening, March 7 and closes Sunday evening, March 17. 

The films will screen in three venues: Mandell JCC at 335 Bloomfield Ave. in West Hartford; Spotlight Theaters, 39 Front St. in Hartford; AMC Classic Bloomfield 8, 863 Park Ave. in Bloomfield

Ticket prices range from $12 advance purchase/$15 at the door (excluding opening and closing night). For other ticket info: (860) 236-4571, mandelljcc.org/tickets, hjff.org, or jziplow@mandelljcc.org.

 

THURSDAY, MARCH 7 OPENING NIGHT

“A Bag of Marbles”

France 2017 (Drama); English subtitles
5:30 – 7 p.m.
Bloomfield AMC 8
$25/film and dessert reception
Based on the true World War II story of two young brothers who embark on a dangerous mission to escape Nazi-occupied Paris. Their courage and the hope of being reunited with their family when the war ends keeps them alive and together.
Encore: Wednesday, March 13, 7 p.m., Bloomfield AMC 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 9

“The Catcher was a Spy”
USA 2018 (drama)
8 p.m.
Bloomfield AMC 8
The incredible true story of Moe Berg (Paul Rudd), the Jewish, Princeton-educated, multilingual catcher for the Boston Red Sox, who became a spy for the US government’s wartime intelligence agency. His mission: go behind enemy lines in Europe to assassinate the Nazis’ chief nuclear scientist before the Germans develop an atomic bomb.

 

“Winter Hunt” SUNDAY, MARCH 10

SUNDAY, MARCH 10

“Why the Jews?”
USA 2018 (documentary)
2 p.m.
Spotlight Hartford
From Moses to Maimonides, to Mahler, Marx, Freud, Einstein and some 197 Nobel Prize laureates, the stunning social, scientific and artistic accomplishments of the Jews raise an obvious question, how do they do it? Some of the world’s most prominent thinkers tackle a mystery shrouded in ignorance and prejudice.

“Winter Hunt”
Germany 2018 (drama/thriller)
With English subtitles
2 p.m.
Spotlight Hartford
A young woman goes to extremes to seek reprisal against a suspected ex-Nazi. Driving on a deserted highway through the German countryside, Lena arrives at the Rossbergs’ remote estate. Feigning a car accident, she begs for help from the apprehensive Maria, who reluctantly agrees to invite her in. But Lena’s plea is a ruse to confront the aged patriarch Anselm Rossberg, a former Auschwitz guard accused of war crimes. 

“Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz”
Canada 2018 (documentary)
4 p.m.
Spotlight Hartford
A portrait of Ben Ferencz, the 98-year-old lawyer who is the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor. After witnessing Nazi concentration camps shortly after liberation, Ferencz, then 27, became lead prosecutor in the Einsatzgruppen case at Nuremberg, which has been called the biggest murder trial in history. All 22 Nazi officials tried for murdering over a million people were convicted. 

“Redemption”
Israel 2018 (drama)
With English subtitles
4 p.m.
Spotlight Hartford
Menachem, a former frontman for a rock band, is now religious, and a father to a six-year-old. When his daughter is diagnosed with cancer, he must find a creative solution to fund the expensive treatments. He reunites his band for one last tour – a journey to save his daughter that exposes old wounds.

 

MONDAY, MARCH 11

“Shoelaces”
Israel 2018 (drama); English subtitles
5:30 p.m.
Mandell JCC
The story of a complicated relationship between an aging father and his special-needs son, whom he abandoned while he was still a young boy. Reuben’s kidneys are failing and his son Gadi wants to donate one of his own kidneys to help save his father’s life. The transplant committee objects to the procedure, claiming that Reuben does not have the right to authorize such an invasive procedure. But Gadi feels he finally has the chance to do something meaningful; to become a man and stand on his own. 

“Remember Baghdad”
Great Britain (documentary)
Pre-Screening Dinner: 6 p.m.
Film: 7:30 p.m.
$32/dinner and film; $12/film only
Mandell JCC
The untold story of Iraq – through the eyes of the Jews whose families lived there for 2,600 years, until only a generation ago. The story begins in 1917, when Baghdad Jews were were living a good life. But after the creation of Israel they were no longer safe and a mass exodus took place, though many stayed behind, loyal to the country they loved. But, after 1967, Saddam Hussein mobilizes a mass movement against them and they must flee. 

 

“The Samuel Project” TUESDAY, MARCH 12

TUESDAY, MARCH 12

“The Samuel Project”
USA 2018 (drama/comedy)
7 p.m.
Mandell JCC
Eli gets to know his grandfather Samuel for the first time when he makes him the subject of an animated art project for school. With dreams of becoming a professional artist, Eli discovers that his Jewish grandpa, a San Diego dry cleaner, was heroically saved from Nazi capture in Germany by a young woman when he was a boy.

 

“The Other Story” WEDNESDAY, MARCH 13

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 13

“The Other Story”
Israel (drama); English subtitles
7 p.m.
Bloomfield AMC 8
Anat Abadi, a bright and intense young woman, long part of Tel Aviv’s wild club scene, has found God. She moves to Jerusalem, enrolls in an ultra-orthodox seminary, and gets engaged to a charismatic musician who’s also recently found religion. Dismayed, her atheist grandfather teams up with her divorced parents to thwart Anat’s upcoming wedding. 

Senior Screen
“The Samuel Project”
USA 2018 (drama/comedy)
1 p.m.
Mandell JCC
Free for seniors (70+). For film details see March 12.

 

THURSDAY, MARCH 14

“93Queen”
USA 2018 (documentary)
5:30 p.m.
Mandell JCC
Set in the Hasidic enclave of Borough Park, Brooklyn, 93Queen follows Rachel “Ruchie” Freier, a no-nonsense Hasidic lawyer and mother of six who is determined to shake up the “boys club” in her community by creating Ezras Nashim, the first all-female ambulance corps in NYC.

“Working Woman”
Israel 2018 (drama)
With English subtitles
7:15 p.m.
Mandell JCC
To help support her family, Orna returns to the workplace, landing a job with a former army superior, Benny, who is now a successful
real estate developer. While Orna embraces her new position and tries to balance its demands with her home life, she begins to experience escalating sexual harassment from her boss. A timely story is expertly told by feminist filmmaker Michal Aviad.
Post-film discussion with Rachel S. Harris, author of Warriors, Witches and Whores: Women in Israeli Cinema, and Professor Avinoam Patt, Ph.D., University of Hartford. 

 

SATURDAY, MARCH 16

“Standing Up”
USA 2017 (documentary)
8 p.m.
Three unlikely aspiring comedians risk everything to find their voices on the stand-up scene. David Finklestein, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, risks expulsion from his community; Sara Parks moved to New York to become a comic star, but is barely scraping by with menial jobs; and Raafat Toss, a lawyer whose Egyptian immigrant parents discouraged him from pursuing stand-up.

Plus…“LOL: On Film & Onstage” with comedian Linda Belt and friends. 8 p.m.

 

SUNDAY, MARCH 17

“The Last Suit”
Spain, Argentina 2018 (drama)
English subtitles
12 noon
Bloomfield AMC 8
At 88, Abraham Bursztein is seeing his place in the world rapidly disappear. His kids have sold his Buenos Aires residence, set him up to move to a retirement home, and disagree on how to handle his fading health. But instead, Abraham, a Holocaust survivor, plots a one-way trip to Poland to find the Christian friend who saved him from certain death. 

“GI JEWS: Jewish Americans in WWII”
USA 2017 (documentary)
12 noon
Bloomfield AMC 8
The story of the 550,000 Jewish men and women who served in World War II, as seen through the their own eyes. Like all Americans, they fought against fascism, but they also waged a more personal fight – to save their brethren in Europe. 

“The Dive”
Israel 2018 (drama); English subtitles
2 p.m.
Bloomfield AMC 8
Yoav is the prodigal son who returns from Tel Aviv to bury his father. The small kibbutz of his youth is still home to his mother and his two brothers, Itai and Avishai, who is soon to complete his military service in Lebanon and is desperately unprepared and reluctant to leave. The father’s final wish is for the three sons to dive together and place a part of his remains in a cave under the sea. But the actual dive is secondary to the time the trio spends together in the two days remaining before Avi must leave. 

“The Twinning Reaction”
USA 2017 (documentary)
2 p.m.
Bloomfield AMC 8
In the 1960s, the Neubauer-Bernard study involved the separation of identical twins and triplets during infancy in a misguided attempt to understand nature versus nurture. “The Twinning Reaction” tells the stories of four sets of identical twins and triplets who were separated by the Louise Wise Services adoption agency with the support of NYC-based Jewish Family Services.
Post film discussion with Colleen Porth, LCSW, Jewish Family Services Clinician and community guest Debbie Mehlman, who will share her own personal twin story.

 

SUNDAY, MARCH 17 CLOSING NIGHT EVENT 

“Who Will Write Our History”
USA 2018 (feature/documentary)
English, Yiddish and Polish
7 pm.
Mandell JCC
$25/includes dessert reception
In November 1940, days after the Nazis sealed 450,000 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, a secret band of journalists, scholars and community leaders – known by the code name Oyneg Shabes – fought back to defeat the Nazis, not with guns or fists but with pen and paper. “Who Will Write Our History?” mixes the writings of the Oyneg Shabes archive with other material to transport the viewer inside the Ghetto and the lives of these courageous resistance fighters who defied their murderous enemy with the ultimate weapon – the truth – and risked everything so that their archive would survive the war, even if they did not.
Post-film discussion with Trinity College Professor Samuel L. Kassow and author of the book “Who Will Write Our History? Rediscovering a Hidden Archive From the Warsaw Ghetto,” upon which the film is based.

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