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24th Annual Hartford Jewish Film Festival opens March 5

WEST HARTFORD – Twenty films that offer movie goers hope and inspiration in the face of rising levels of antisemitism will be featured at the annual Mandell JCC Hartford Jewish Film Festival, say festival organizers. The festival, now in its 24th year, opens March 5 and runs through March 15. 

“With antisemitism and hate on the rise, the themes of this year’s festival, and the selection of films, are more relevant than ever,” says Jill Ziplow, the festival director and Mandell JCC cultural arts director. 

“Reel Israel,” a special post-festival panel discussion that explores Israeli society through the lens of six featured Israeli films – Advocate, Incitement, Ma’Abarot, King Bibi, The Reports on Sarah and Saleem, and Tel Aviv on Fire – will be held March 23, 7 p.m. The panel of experts incudes Jeremy Pressman, associate professor of political science and director of Middle East studies at the University of Connecticut, Avinoam Patt, director of UConn’s Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, and Tom Wainrich, Mandell JCC Israel program coordinator. 

“These films are extraordinarily moving and they afford us the opportunity to come together and have a deeper discussion about the realities of Jewish life right here at home in America. The historical significance of these films is resonating in our present day,” says Ziplow. 

The festival will open on March 5 with a screening of Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles, a documentary about the making of one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals Fiddler on the Roof. The film stars Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bloomfield native Jessica Hecht. 

Comedic relief comes to the festival in the way of Latter Day Jew, a humorous look at comedian H. Alan Scott – a gay, former Mormon and cancer survivor who converted to Judaism at the age of 34. The laughs continue with Mossad, a box office hit inspired by the American comedy, The Naked Gun series. 

The curtain will close on the festival Sunday, March 15, 7 p.m. with My Name is Sara. The true-life dramatic feature tells the powerful story of Sara Guralnick, a courageous 13-year old Polish Jew whose entire family was wiped out by the Nazis in 1942. After a grueling escape to the Ukraine, Sara takes her Christian best friend’s identity and finds refuge in a small village, where she hides in plain sight, masquerading as an Orthodox Christian in the Ukrainian countryside. 

Though the festival officially closes on March 15, a special screening of the documentary, Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations, will be held on Thursday, March 19, 7 p.m. This important film takes a look at the rise of antisemitism today, through the eyes of some of those most affected by it in the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Hungary. The film examines the far right in the U.S. and how they have incited such acts as the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The film’s producer, Diana Robinson will be on hand following the film for a discussion and Q&A.

“The Hartford Jewish Film Festival really has become an anticipated cultural tradition for our community,” says David Jacobs, executive director of the Mandell JCC. “Each year our film festival committee works tirelessly to bring the best of Jewish film to the Greater Hartford community, and every year they exceed our expectations.” 

Other films being screened at the 2020 Mandell JCC Hartford Jewish Film Festival include:  Aulcie; City of Joel; Picture of His Life; Holy Silence; Crescendo; The Keeper; Those Who Remained; Song of Names and Saul and Ruby: To Life! 

Tickets on sale Jan. 24. Most tickets range in price from $12/advance purchase to $15/at the door for most films. To purchase tickets, visit www.hjff.org. For more information, contact Jill Ziplow at jziplow@mandelljcc.org.

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