MICHEL KICHKA’S graphic novel has been adapted into the film, ‘My Father’s Secrets.’  (photo credit: Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival)
MICHEL KICHKA’S graphic novel has been adapted into the film, ‘My Father’s Secrets.’ (photo credit: Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival)
Nazi hunters Klarsfelds to light up J’lem Jewish Film Festival

The Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival will brighten the wintry nights during Hanukkah for the 24th time at the Jerusalem Cinematheque from December 17-22, presenting a mixture of entertaining, thought-provoking and moving films that highlight the Jewish experience.

The festival, which will include over 40 feature films, documentaries, short films and animated movies from more than 20 countries, will also host a number of special events, including panel discussions, master classes and lectures by academics, and, of course, nightly candle lighting.

The festival will present a new documentary about its guests of honor, legendary Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, Klarsfeld: A Love Story by Mike Lerner and Martin Herring. The Klarsfelds will attend the screening of this film, which details their work tracking down Nazi war criminals and bringing them to justice. Now in their 80s, they continue their fight against the resurgence of Nazism among the far right in Europe. In addition to its focus on their lifetime work, it paints a portrait of their relationship, revealing both their courage and love.

What else will be shown at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival?

Other festival guests this year will include actor and director Stefane Freiss, whose film, Where Life Begins, will be shown in as part of the International Competition. It tells the story of an ultra-Orthodox young woman (Lou de Laage) from France who spends summers with her family in Italy harvesting etrogim on a farm, where she begins a romance with the farm’s owner (Riccardo Scamarcio).

Ondine Debre, the directory of the documentary, The Return to Westhoffen, which will be shown in the Interfaith Section of the festival, will be present at screenings of the film in which she explores her family’s Jewish roots in the Alsace region, which were not discussed when she was growing up.

 LEON PRUDOVSKY’S ‘My Neighbor Adolf.’  (credit: Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival) LEON PRUDOVSKY’S ‘My Neighbor Adolf.’ (credit: Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival)

Ruggero Gabbai and Gilles Samama, respectively the director and producer of the film, From TGM to TGV, a Tunisian Story, will attend the screenings of this documentary about the Tunisian Jewish community, which is part of the Documentary Section. Taliya Finkel’s Anna and the Egyptian Doctor, which will be shown in the Israeli Competition, tells the extraordinary story of Dr. Mohamed Helmy, an Egyptian doctor, who, posing as a Nazi supporter, rescued a Jewish girl disguised as a Muslim in Berlin during the Nazi era. He was the first and only Arab to be recognized as Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem, but his family refused to accept the award due to political reasons and fear. Helmy’s nephew, Dr. Nasser Kotby, will be a guest of the festival.

The festival will open with James Gray’s Armageddon Time, a coming-of-age drama film about an American Jewish middle schooler (Banks Repeta) in the 1980s. The movie, which had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, co-stars Jeremy Strong (Succession) as the boy’s father, Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) as his mother and two-time Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins as his Holocaust-survivor grandfather. The film will be opening throughout Israel in late January and in the wake of Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans seems to be part of a mini-trend of established Jewish-American filmmakers creating movies inspired by their childhoods.

THE DOCUMENTARY section this year is very rich. The first episode of the acclaimed documentary series, The US and the Holocaust by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein, will be shown in the Documentary Program. This episode, The Golden Door, looks at how the US closed its doors to immigrants as Nazism was on the rise in Europe. The series provoked a great deal of discussion over the issue when it was shown on PBS in the US earlier this year.

Reckonings, the latest film by Roberta Grossman, will be shown. Grossman made such acclaimed documentaries as Above and Beyond, the story of the founding of the Israeli air force and Who Will Write Our History, an exploration of a secret archive created by Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. Reckonings explores the tense negotiations that led to the decision to grant reparations to Holocaust survivors.

Also in the Documentary Program will be Lisa Hurwitz’s extremely entertaining film, The Automat, an affectionate look back at what was once an American institution. Mel Brooks (who even sings a song he wrote about his love for the iconic restaurant chain), Carl Reiner and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are among the interviewees who wax nostalgic about the mechanized-meal mecca.

In the International Competition, Michel Kichka’s graphic novel has been adapted into the film, My Father’s Secrets by Vera Belmont, an animated look at the struggles of first – and second-generation Holocaust survivors to come to terms with the past. A program called Cinemidrash Elul will feature a lecture following the film.

Another film in the Cinemidrash Elul program will be the documentary, We Made Matza Balls for the Revolution by Kellie Wellborn, a look at a collectively run kosher restaurant that opened in the 1970s in Washington, DC.

Leon Prudovsky, who made the enjoyable comedy, Five Hours from Paris, has a new feature in the International Competition, My Neighbor Adolf. In this film, which was made in Colombia, a lonely Holocaust survivor (David Hayman) convinces himself that his new neighbor (Udo Kier) is none other than Hitler. A skeptical Israeli consulate employee won’t do a thing until he finds proof, so he finds himself getting closer to the German emigre, trying to trap him in ways that become surreal and comic.

Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song by Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine, a look at the saga of Cohen’s famous song, will be shown with a lecture and a concert.

Among the many special programs will be films from the Maaleh Film School’s ultra-Orthodox track, presenting the work of its seventh graduating women’s class. These films give a unique glimpse at the female ultra-Orthodox-religious world and beyond.

Roni Mahadav-Levin, the CEO of the Jerusalem Cinematheque is the director of this festival and Daniella Tourgeman is the festival’s artistic director. This year’s Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival is being held with the support of the Culture Ministry, the Azrieli Foundation, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Jerusalem Foundation, the Avi Chai Foundation, the Gesher Fund for Multicultural Cinema, Helene Schoumann and Jill Samuels.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit the Jerusalem Cinematheque website: https://jer-cin.org.il/en.

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