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2023 Rutgers Jewish Film Festival Preview

originally published: 10/06/2023

2023 Rutgers Jewish Film Festival Preview

(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) --The Rutgers Jewish Film Festival returns to in-theater screenings with fifteen award-winning films from Israel, Poland, Ukraine, Germany, the United States, and France. Running October 26 through November 12, the festival will present mid-Atlantic and New Jersey premieres, as well as discussions with filmmakers, actors, scholars, and other special guests. Screenings will be held in person at the Regal Cinema, North Brunswick, and the Rutgers Business School in Piscataway. Four films will be available in the virtual cinema.

In-theater and virtual tickets are both $14. Discount passes are also available. The festival is sponsored by Rutgers’ Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life and made possible by a grant from the Karma Foundation. For information or to purchase tickets, visit BildnerCenter.Rutgers.edu/film.

The festival kicks off with Irena’s Vow, which had its world premiere this September at the Toronto International Film Festival. This powerful drama is based on the true story of Irena Gut Opdyke, a young Christian nurse who risked her life to save Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland while forced to work as a housekeeper in the home of a Nazi commandant. Irena’s daughter, Jeannie Opdyke Smith, will speak at both festival screenings.

The festival will present the mid-Atlantic premiere of the documentary film Rabbi on the Block, about Tamar Manasseh, an African American Jewish rabbi and community activist from Chicago who is building bridges in support of a revitalized alliance of African Americans and Jews. Manasseh and the film’s director, Brad Rothschild, will speak at the screening, which is cosponsored by Rutgers’ Tyler Clementi Center for Diversity Education and Bias Prevention.

Producer Nancy Spielberg will speak at the N.J. premiere of Closed Circuit, a riveting film from Tal Inbar that offers a cutting edge, cinematic use of closed-circuit camera footage. It weaves together raw footage from closed-circuit cameras at the 2016 terrorist attack in Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market with current memories of Arab and Jewish survivors of the incident.



 
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The festival will screen the beautifully animated, award-winning film Where Is Anne Frank, which brings to life Anne’s imaginary friend Kitty, whose quest to find her best friend leads to unexpected adventures with modern day refugees and a deeper understanding of Anne’s legacy. Lead actor Moshe Lobel (Broadway’s Yiddish Fiddler on the Roof) will speak at both screenings of the remarkable Ukrainian film SHTTL, which captures the lives and loves of a Ukrainian Jewish village just before the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Director Maxim Pozdorovkin will speak at the N.J. premiere of his acclaimed documentary film The Conspiracy, which takes on the age-old myth that Jews are plotting to take over the world.



2023 Rutgers Jewish Film Festival Schedule

Thursday, October 26

3:00pm - Irena's Vow - Pre-theatrical Release Sneak Preview. In occupied Poland, a young nurse risks her life to hide Jews in this powerful drama. Forced to work as a housekeeper in the home of a Nazi commandant, Irena Gut uses her wit and courage to charm the commandant while avoiding his dangerous comrades in an impossible situation. Based on the true story of Irena Gut Opdyke who was awarded a Righteous Among the Nations medal in 1982, the film was adapted by Dan Gordon from his 2009 Broadway play and features Sophie Nélisse of the hit series Yellowjackets in the title role. Country: Canada, Poland; Year: 2023; Director: Louise Archambault; Run Time: 121 minutes; Language(s): English; Speaker: Jeannie Smith, daughter of Irena Gut Opdyke

5:30pm - Opening Night Patron Reception

7:00pm - Irena's Vow (see description for 3:00pm screening)



Saturday, October 28



 
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7:30pm - Matchmaking - A yeshiva student goes to comical excess to meet the girl of his dreams in this ultra-Orthodox matchmaking romcom. Handsome, young Moti goes on a whirlwind of dates within his tight-knit Ashkenazi community. He's soon paired with the ultimate catch: a wealthy American girl visiting Israel to find a suitable husband. But Moti is smitten with his sister's alluring Mizrahi friend, Nechama, taboo due to her Middle Eastern origins. To the dismay of the exasperated matchmaker and his parents, Moti will do anything to pursue his true love. An award-winning cast rounds out this joyous, lighthearted tale of romance-overcoming-prejudice, one of Israel's biggest recent box office hits. Country: Israel; Year: 2022; Director: Erez Tadmor; Run Time: 98 minutes; Language(s): Hebrew with English subtitles

9:30pm - Barren - New Jersey Premiere. A young ultra-Orthodox couple in Israel, unable to conceive children, find their lives turned upside down in this provocative drama about faith, trust, and sexual exploitation. When Naftali travels to Ukraine during Rosh Hashanah to pray for a child, his wife Feigi is left with her in- laws, who invite a visiting rabbi to stay at their home for the holiday. He claims to be a healer of barren women, convincing Feigi to undergo his “treatment” and setting off a chain of events that leads to marital strife and crises of conscience and belief. Country: Israel; Year: 2022; Director: Mordechai Vardi; Run Time: 108 minutes; Language(s): Hebrew with English subtitles



Sunday, October 29

12:30pm - SHTTL - This film captures the vibrant world of a Ukrainian Jewish village before the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. A young filmmaker returns home from Kyiv to vie for the woman he loves, the rabbi’s daughter who is engaged to be married. The vitality of the village and the romance, politics, and intrigue of daily life there are brought home by a remarkable cast led by Moshe Lobel (Broadway’s Yiddish Fiddler on the Roof) and actor Saul Rubinek (Hunters, Unforgiven). The film is shot in a fully reconstructed shtetl designed by the film crew outside of Kyiv. Country: Ukraine; Year: 2022; Director: Ady Walter; Run Time: 114 minutes; Language(s): Yiddish and Ukrainian with English subtitles; Speaker: Moshe Lobel, Lead Actor, both screenings

3:30pm - The Conspiracy - New Jersey Premiere. With the increase of misinformation through social media and the rise of the alt-right, antisemitism has surged and moved from the fringes to the mainstream. Combining animation and archival footage, this powerful documentary takes on the biggest lie ever told: the myth that Jews are plotting to take over the world. Weaving together the history of three internationally prominent Jewish families—the Warburgs, Dreyfuses, and Bronsteins—with the broader history of the Jewish people, the film is beautifully narrated by Mayim Bialik and features the voice talents of Liev Schreiber and Jason Alexander. Country: USA; Year: 2022; Director: Maxim Pozdorovkin; Run Time: 90 minutes; Language(s): English; Speaker: Maxim Pozdorovkin, Director

6:30pm - Rabbi on the Block - Mid-Atlantic Premiere. Tamar Manasseh, a charismatic rabbi and community activist from the south side of Chicago, wants African Americans and Jews to become closer allies. With one foot firmly in each of these communities, Black Jews like Tamar are a natural bridge to help overcome decades of fear, misunderstanding, and lack of communication. With antisemitism and racism on the rise, Rabbi on the Block shows how Manasseh is bringing together Jews of all colors and building bridges that will serve as the foundation for a revitalized alliance of African Americans and Jews while creating a new style of activist Judaism that takes the religion out of the synagogue and into the streets. Country: USA; Year: 2023; Director: Brad Rothschild; Run Time: 88 minutes; Language(s): English; Speaker: Tamar Manasseh and Brad Rothschild, Director



Tuesday, October 31

12:30pm - Matchmaking - (see description for October 28 at 7:30pm screening)

3:30pm - Barren - (see description for October 28 at 9:30pm screening)

7:30pm - Closed Circuit - New Jersey Premiere. Filmmaker Tal Inbar helps us imagine the unthinkable by skillfully weaving together raw footage from closed-circuit cameras at the infamous 2016 terrorist attack in Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market with the present-day memories of Arab and Jewish survivors of the incident. The result is a heart-pounding and cinematic confrontation with trauma.—Jaie Laplante, Artistic Director, DOC NYC. Country: Israel; Year: 2022; Director: Tal Inbar; Run Time: 54 minutes; Language(s): Hebrew with English subtitles; Speaker: Nancy Spielberg, Producer





 
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Wednesday, November 1

12:30pm - SHTTL -  (see description for October 29 at 12:30pm screening)

3:30pm - No Name Restaurant - Mid-Atlantic Premiere. Three religions. Two men. And a camel. In this hilarious clash of cultures buddy comedy, Ben agrees to fly to Alexandria to save what was once the largest Jewish community in the world, now desperately short of a tenth man to celebrate Passover. When Ben misses his flight and is subsequently thrown off a bus in the Sinai Desert, a grumpy Bedouin in search of his lost camel becomes Ben’s only hope. But can the ultra-Orthodox religious practices of a Jew from Brooklyn be reconciled with the pragmatism of a Bedouin while traversing the desert? Country: Germany; Year: 2022; Director: Stefan Sarazin and Peter Keller; Run Time: 120 minutes; Language(s): Arabic, English, and Hebrew with English subtitles; Speaker: Luzer Twersky, Lead Actor, invited to both screenings

7:30pm - The Good Person - New Jersey Premiere. When a feminist film producer teams up with an ultra-Orthodox rabbi to make a film based on a biblical tragedy, artistic differences quickly escalate. Sharon, an art-house film producer on the verge of bankruptcy is presented with an unlikely opportunity to salvage her future: a collaboration with Uzi Silver, former grandmaster of Israeli filmmaking who gave it up when he became ultra-Orthodox. He wants to make his comeback film, an adaptation of the epic biblical story of King Saul, on condition that Uzi and his wife play the lead roles. This joint effort quickly unravels, threatening to undo much more than their careers and financial situation. Country: Israel; Year: 2022; Director: Eitan Anner; Run Time: 85 minutes; Language(s): Hebrew with English subtitles; Speaker: Azzan Yadin-Israel, Dept. of Jewish Studies, Rutgers University



Sunday, November 5

12:30pm - The Frisco Kid - Classic Film. In this vintage comedy western, Gene Wilder gives one of his best performances as a hapless but loveable Polish rabbi who traverses the Wild West of the 1850s. The cultures of the Old World and the Old West collide as the intrepid rabbi—on his way to lead a synagogue in San Francisco—and his outlaw cowboy companion (Harrison Ford) encounter a series of rollicking misadventures. See this classic film on the big screen! Country: USA; Year: 1979; Director: Robert Aldrich; Run Time: 119 minutes; Language(s): English

3:30pm - Where is Anne Frank - New Jersey Premiere. Anne Frank’s imaginary friend Kitty comes to life in this award-winning, beautifully animated film. Miraculously appearing in the Anne Frank House in present-day Amsterdam, Kitty goes in search of her best friend. Her quest takes her to the Anne Frank Bridge, the Anne Frank School, and the Anne Frank Theater, but instead of finding Anne, she discovers the city’s refugees who are searching for a safe haven. Kitty’s adventures lead her to inspire city officials to use Anne’s legacy and message of hope and generosity in helping current and future generations. Country: Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Netherlands, Israel; Year: 2021; Director: Ari Folman; Run Time: 99 minutes; Language(s): English

6:30pm - No Name Restaurant - (see description for November 1 at 3:30pm screening)



VIRTUAL SCREENINGS (available November 6-12)

Generation 1.5 - New Jersey Premiere. The monumental influx of Soviet immigrants to Israel in the 1990s left an indelible mark on Israeli society. This powerful documentary explores this complex history through the eyes of immigrants to Israel from the former USSR who came as children or teenagers. Three decades later, they reflect on the discrimination and racism they experienced and the compromises and sacrifices their families made to live freely as Jews. They share their rocky journey, navigating their complex identity and sense of belonging in their adopted homeland. Country: Israel; Year: 2022; Director: Roman Shumunov; Run Time: 80 minutes; Language(s): Hebrew and Russian with English subtitles

The Goldman Case - Mid-Atlantic Premiere. This electrifying courtroom drama offers a fascinating portrait of Pierre Goldman and his highly politicized 1976 appeals trial that gripped and divided France. Director Cédric Kahn was inspired to make the movie after reading the defendant’s autobiography, Obscure Memories of a Polish Jew Born in France, which Goldman penned in prison. Political activist turned criminal, Goldman was tried and convicted of multiple crimes, including two murders; the police prejudice and antisemitism he endured were a microcosm of the political, ideological, and racial tensions of the time. Country: France; Year: 2023; Director: Cédric Kahn; Run Time: 115 minutes; Language(s): French with English subtitles.

The Other Widow - New Jersey Premiere. A week before the opening of his new play, Ella’s married lover Assaf dies suddenly, leaving the theater community in mourning. The young costume designer attends his shiva, keeping her identity a secret and diving into a world once forbidden to her. Wanting to understand her place in Assaf’s life and to share her grief, she finds herself growing more intimately connected with his family, particularly his wife. This moving film lingers playfully at the intersection of drama and comedy, probing the complexity of human relationships and empathetically depicting the typically vilified “other woman” as she demands her legitimate right to mourn. Country: Israel, France; Year: 2022; Director: Ma'ayan Rypp; Run Time: 83 minutes; Language(s): Hebrew with English subtitles

The Story of Annette Zelman - In this riveting drama set in 1942 Paris, Annette Zelman has fallen in love with Jean Jausion, a Catholic young man. His family opposes the match and when the couple become engaged, Jean’s father takes the extreme measure of reporting their relationship to the Gestapo. Annette is arrested and there is no turning back in this tragic love story based on historical events. Country: France; Year: 2023; Director: Philippe Le Guay; Run Time: 93 minutes; Language(s): French with English subtitles


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