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2023 Hartford Jewish Film Festival

March 18 – 29

All Films will be held at the Mandell Jewish Community Center, 335 Bloomfield Ave., unless stated otherwise.

Saturday, March 18

7:30 p.m., Farewell Mister Haffman 

Dessert Reception to Follow

Synopsis: Paris 1941. François Mercier is an ordinary man who only aspires to start a family with his wife Blanche. He is also the employee of a talented jeweler, Mr. Haffmann. Facing the German occupation, the Jewish jeweler arranges for his family to flee Paris and strikes a high-stakes bargain with his gentile assistant. The consequences of this agreement play out over the ensuing months and change the fate of our three protagonists. This understated and deeply engrossing story of moral decline and justice was adapted from an award-winning play and stars celebrated French actor Daniel Auteuil.

Sunday, March 19

12 p.m., Trust

Synopsis: A mother’s suicide brings three adult children back home to Los Angeles where they confront each other, their selfish father, and long-avoided truths that have torn the family apart. A closely-observed social satire with excellent writing, a first-rate cast, and many comic elements amid the dysfunction and pathos. Ends on a note of hope

2 p.m., Four Winters 

REEL Talk with Voices of Hope Members Alan Berkowitz, Ted Zablotsky and Jeanette Brod

Community Partner: Voices of Hope

Synopsis: Deep within the forests of World War II Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine, more than 25,000 Jews fought back against the Nazis and their collaborators. Many of these Jewish partisans had witnessed the murders of their families and friends before escaping into the forest. Often operating from mere holes in the ground and armed with whatever weapons they could build, trade, or steal, Jewish men and women organized and fought against the better-trained and better-equipped German war machine rolling across Eastern Europe. Their tactical missions included blowing up trains, bridges, police stations, and telegraph lines. Whenever possible they carried two grenades, one for their target and one for themselves in case of capture. By 1944, their vigilance had made the forests so dangerous that Nazi soldiers were afraid to enter. 

4 p.m., Jews of the Wild West

Synopsis: Over two million Jews fled continuous cycles of anti-Jewish oppression, deadly violence, and forced poverty in Europe to seek out a better life in America. But big-city tenements didn’t offer the respite many were seeking. The wagon trains that moved westward with Jewish families traveled for the same reason as many settlers: opportunity. By 1912, it is estimated that over 100,000 Jews had migrated to the Wild West. These pioneers put down roots, and today they epitomize the important legacy of immigration in America. Sure you’ve heard of Levi Strauss and the Guggenheim family, but do you know about Jesse Shwayder, Simon Bibo, and Josephine Marcus Earp? This documentary tells their stories and others using archival footage, historical photos, diaries and letters, and first-person testimony of descendants.

6 p.m., Rose

Synopsis: Suddenly widowed at age 78, family matriarch Rose—portrayed with great sensitivity by French screen legend Francoise Fabian—emerges from a period of mourning and learns to negotiate her new status, rejecting the advice of her three adult children and a society that thinks widows should turn away from life, act their age, and fade into oblivion. This film is beautifully produced, sensual, and brimming with Sephardic and Ashkenazic flavors.

Monday, March 20

7 p.m., Xueta Island

Community Partner: Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford

Synopsis: Part travelogue, part documentary, this fascinating film explores the history of Majorca’s Xuetas (pronounced Cheutas), descendants of a group of 15 Jewish families expelled from Inquisition-era Spain and forced to live as Catholics for 450 years. These Crypto-Jews put down roots on the Spanish island of Majorca, but during centuries of discrimination, secret worship, and forced conversion they gradually intermarried and lost touch with Jewish customs, traditions, and faith. Jewish-American expat Dani Rotstein takes us on a tour of towns that bear traces of a Jewish culture that has vanished. Today the oldest survivors (now practicing Catholics) are joining with younger generations to rediscover their Jewish ancestors. Approximately 20,000 Xuetas live on the island today, and the new awakening allows for various levels of religious commitment and piety.

7 p.m., The Man in the Basement

Community Partner: Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford

Synopsis: A taut psychological thriller based on true events. Simon, a Parisian Jew descended from family who perished in the Holocaust, unknowingly sells the unused cellar space in his apartment building to Fonzic, a former history teacher and Holocaust denier. As soon as Fonzic takes occupancy, his motives become clear. Simon’s family life is upended, his naïve teenage daughter falls prey to Fonzic’s propaganda, and events in the apartment building take a sinister turn. Can Simon rescind the sale and evict the bigot on the basis of his anti-semitic beliefs? Does Fonzic have a legitimate legal claim to the space? The story unfolds in a way that shifts your sympathies back and forth, each unsettling turn of the plot raising the stakes.

Tuesday, March 21

5 p.m., Hartford Jews

Community Partner: Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford

Reel Talk with Jewish Historical Society members Michael Cohen, David Cohen and Elizabeth Rose

Synopsis: A rediscovered treasure, produced 50 years ago for local television to document the life of Hartford’s Jews in the first quarter of the 20th century, in partnership with the Jewish Historical Society. The economic, political, and cultural history of Hartford Jews is told using hundreds of photographs found in local archives, alongside excerpts from taped interviews with prominent community members many will remember, and narration by Emma P. Cohen, Sadie E. Klau, Joseph Hurwitz, and Sylvia Sheketoff.

7 p.m., Valiant Hearts

Community Partner: Survival & Spirit Lessons from the Holocaust, Kirstein Family Fund for Holocaust Education. Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford.

Synopsis: Inspired by true events. A group of six Jewish children separated from their parents make their way through Nazi-occupied France to relative safety in the Free Zone. In their perilous escape they are aided by members of the French Resistance, especially by an astonishing woman inspired by real-life art museum curator and spy Rose Valand, who throughout the war documented artwork stolen by Nazi officers. The children first hide at Château de Chambord among the hidden treasures of the Louvre, then cross the forest where they encounter danger, battle fear, fight for their survival, and learn the values of solidarity and friendship. The outstanding child actors carry much of this film by themselves.

Wednesday, March 22

7 p.m., The Fourth Window 

Sponsored by Liberty Bank

Israel at 75

Synopsis: By most measures, Israeli writer Amos Oz represents an international success story. His thought-provoking novels, short stories, articles, and essays—translated into 45 languages—embody the conscience, conflicts, and complexities of Israeli society. Yet behind the curtain of fame lurked tragedy and profound loss. When he was 12 years old his mother committed suicide, and a year later his father abandoned the boy and moved to England to start a new life. Amos became a kibbutznik, a socialist, a defender of Palestinian rights, and a supporter of the two-state solution. Then late in life a daughter airs long-suppressed grievances and breaks off contact with him. Still later, facing terminal illness, Oz tells his last story in a series of recorded conversations with his latest biographer. She weaves these fragments together with biographical passages from his novels and conversations with family, friends, and colleagues.

7 p.m., March ‘68

Sponsor: Cambridge 

Community Partner: Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford; The Robert B. Fishman Memorial Fund

Synopsis: Two college students—Hania and Janek—meet and fall in love amidst the social turmoil and Jewish discrimination of 1960s Warsaw. Initially uninterested in politics, the young lovers are forced to confront harsh realities when Hania’s parents lose their jobs in an antisemitic purge and face deportation. Hania doesn’t want to part from Janek, and together they soon participate in a protest rally at the university. When the demonstration is met with a violent crackdown by the repressive authoritarian regime, they discover freedom comes at a high price.

Thursday, March 23

7 p.m., One More Story

Sponsor: Marriot Hartford Downtown

Israel at 75

Synopsis: If you’re in the mood for something light, try this contemporary rom-com. Yarden Gat writes human interest stories for a newspaper, and her boss (also her lover—uh oh!—played by Lior Ashkenazi) gets her to persuade her male best friend—a well-meaning sad sack—to try a novel dating situation for a month in order to get a sensational story. Deeply cynical, she goes along with the plan for all the wrong reasons, then everything backfires.

7PM, Reckonings

Sponsor: TD Bank

Community Partners: UCONN Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, UCONN Global, Jewish Community Foundation; Rona Gollab Fund.

Reel Talk with Dr. Johanna Silwa, Dr. Avraham Weber and moderated by Dr. Avionam Patt

Synopsis: In the aftermath of the Holocaust, Jewish and German leaders began meeting in secret to negotiate the incomprehensible—compensation for survivors of the largest mass genocide in history. Survivors were in urgent need, but how could reparations be determined for the unprecedented destruction and suffering of a people? The teams pressed on under constant threat of violence, knowing that no compensation would ever be enough, but hoping a settlement would have symbolic value and be a step toward healing. The film reenacts many of the key moments in the tense negotiations that came to be known as the Luxembourg Agreements and incorporates testimony of survivors, witnesses, and scholars. It was produced in consultation with The Claims Conference (Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany) and the governments of Israel and Germany. From the award winning director of Above and Beyond and Who Will Write Our Story?

Saturday, March 25

8 p.m. Song Searcher

Community Partners: UCONN Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, UCONN Global, Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford; The Rosalie H. and Jay D. Smith Jewish Heritage Fund; The Ellen Jeanne Goldfarb Memorial Fund.

Reel Talk with Anna Shternshis and Psoy Korolenko as well as concert following the film

Synopsis: Moyshe Beregovsky, a musician and scholar, crisscrossed Ukraine with phonograph in hand during the most dramatic years of Soviet history and Nazi occupation: the 1920s to 1950. His mission? To collect Yiddish folklore and to record and study the traditional music of Ukrainian Jews. In 1950 he was arrested and imprisoned in a Stalinist forced labor camp. His recordings, largely collected on fragile wax cylinders, were returned to his wife. In 1956 Beregovsky, now terminally ill, returned to Kiev where he continued to work on the archive until his death in 1961. His collected works—a record of the musical heritage of Ukrainian Jewry—were finally published in 1985. The documentary features priceless archival footage and includes searing first-person accounts of Jewish communities destroyed by the Nazis.

Sunday, March 26: Israel at 75 Day

12 p.m., Barren 

Synopsis: Feigi and Naftali are a young childless ultraorthodox couple living with Naftali’s parents. At Rosh Hashana the young husband travels to Ukraine to pray for a child at Rabbi Nachman’s grave. During Naftali’s absence a guest is invited to stay with the family for the holiday. He introduces himself as Rabbi Eliyahu, a healer who promises a cure for Feigi’s infertility. Taking advantage of her trust and desperate desire for a child he rapes her, claiming it is part of her barren treatment. In the aftermath of the assault the charlatan is expelled, but when Naftali returns home the couple face a marital and spiritual crisis, raising fundamental questions about faith and trust.

2 p.m., BrownWhite followed by Narrow Bridge 


Synospis: This thought-provoking short explores how skin color influences the development of identity in a group of biracial Israeli kids. Weaving the children’s lived experiences with findings from academic research, the filmmaker uses verbatim interviews to reveal how personal identity is more complicated for these children than simple brown or white.

Narrow Bridge

A searching journey into the souls of four people who, after searing pain, develop strengths they never had before. Bushra, Rami, Maytal, and Bassam, women and men who each lost a child or parent in violent conflict, belong to a controversial grassroots movement—Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families. These brokenhearted people are resolved to transform their grief into a bridge for reconciliation and hope. The film follows their paths from devastating trauma to courageous activism. Despite fierce political and family opposition, they refuse to give up. Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen makes a brief inspirational appearance.

2 p.m., Karaoke 

Community Partner: Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford; The Beth and Benjamin Goldberg Fund.

Synopsis: An offbeat comedy of manners that delights and surprises, Karaoke follows Tova and Meir, an upscale Sephardic couple in their 60s with 46 years of marriage and two grown daughters. They live a comfortable if entirely predictable life in a suburb of Tel Aviv, with Meir on sabbatical from his academic professorship and Tova running a boutique shop. Their lives undergo a series of seismic shocks when Itzik, a charismatic bachelor from Miami, moves into the building and invites them to his penthouse for karaoke nights. Tova and Meir quickly fall under the spell of Itzik’s energetic lifestyle and soon find themselves competing with one another and with their other neighbors for Itzik’s attention and approval. Will their marriage survive?

4 p.m., Dead Sea Guardians

Community Partners: UCONN Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, UCONN Global, Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford.

Reel Talk with Members of EcoPeace (Pre-recorded Zoom) followed by a Q&A with UCONN faculty. 

Israeli Dinner to follow Reel Talk sold separately 

The Dead Sea — a unique salt lake shared by Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians—is the lowest point on earth and known the world over for its exceptional geographical, biological, and historical value. Tragically, the Dead Sea is in immediate peril due to the devastating effects of climate change, overconsumption, and poor water management. This documentary tracks how an Israeli environmentalist recruits a Palestinian and a Jordanian and convinces them to join forces to save this wonder of the natural world. Their plan? Assemble a group of international swimmers to swim across the Dead Sea from Jordan to Israel. They hope this action will attract worldwide media attention and launch a regional effort strong enough to defy political realities and avert the pending environmental catastrophe.

Tuesday, March 28 – East of the River Screening

5 p.m., Parkade Cinemas (Manchester), Jews of the Wild West 

Encore Screening at Parkade Cinemas in Manchester, Synopsis is the same.

Wednesday, March 29 – Senior Screen

1:30 p.m., Innovation Center, Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen

Synopsis: On the 50th anniversary of the release of the beloved Oscar-winning musical film “Fiddler on the Roof,” we’re invited behind-the-scenes to witness the nuts and bolts of moviemaking. Includes beloved film footage, never-before-seen still photos, and revealing interviews with the creative team, cast, and crew. Narrated by actor Jeff Goldblum.


Farewell Mister Haffmann, Xueta Island, The Man in the Basement, Rose, Valiant Hearts, March ’68, Barren, Reckonings, One More Story, The Fourth Window, Narrow Bridge, Dead Sea Guardians, Hartford Jews, and BrownWhite.

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