PJFF Opening Night: “One Week and a Day”

On opening night, PJFF is delighted to present “One Week and a Day,” a 2016 Israeli drama depicting a day in the life of a middle-aged couple who begin their lives over again after sitting shiva for their 25-year-old son, Ronnie. This droll yet extraordinarily moving film is directed by newcomer Asaph Polonsky.

Getting stoned and playing air guitar with your next-door neighbors’ twenty-something son are two activities not commonly associated with the Jewish mourning period. Yet for Eyal and Vicky, anything goes. As nothing makes sense after the death of one’s own child, Eyal finds himself grasping for whatever will distract him from returning to the real world, while Vicky remains focused on the path set before her: getting in her morning jog, making sure her students take their pop quiz, and showing up to a long scheduled dental appointment.

Without resorting to sentimentality or melodrama, Polonsky expertly crafts a tender and honest portrait of what it means to navigate the absurdity of life after death. “One Week and a Day” is a stellar debut from a promising new talent. The film has screened in the 2016 International Critics’ Week at Cannes Film Festival, the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, and the Jerusalem Film Festival, garnering glowing reviews from critics and filmgoers alike.

Buy tickets for this film here.

Guest Speaker: Isaac Zablocki, director of film programs at JCC Manhattan and director of the Israel Film Center

Special Event: Film followed by private reception for PJFF sponsors and supporters and for All-Access Festival and Big Nights pass holders

Sponsors: Glenmede and Harris & Debra Devor

In Search of Israeli Cuisine at the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival

— by Debbie Fleischman

The Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival kicks off its CineMonday series on Monday, March 28 at 7:30 PM at the Gershman Y with the Philadelphia Premiere of In Search of Israeli Cuisine, directed by Robert Sherman.

A portrait of the Israeli people through food, In Search of Israeli Cuisine is a mouth-watering documentary that follows Michael Solomonov, the James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur behind the Philadelphia dining establishment Zahav, as he returns to his homeland to discuss his culinary heritage. From Tel Aviv’s most exclusive eateries to street bazaars and simmering pots in family kitchens, Solomonov travels the length and breadth of Israel, meeting with an eclectic group of professional and amateur chefs, cheese makers, vintners, farmers, and fisherman, to define the ever-growing lexicon of Israeli cuisine. As Solomonov immerses himself in the local flavors of the myriad cultures that make up the Israeli people – Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Christian and Druze–Oscar-nominated documentarian Roger Sherman offers a behind-the-scenes look at a dynamic Israeli food scene rooted in centuries-old tradition. Sherman shines a light on the sectarian conflict when Palestinian cooks chafe as their savory secrets are adapted by Jewish chefs, and the story behind the ingredients that Israel produces using both ancient farming techniques and high-tech innovations.

The screening will be followed by a conversation with celebrity chef and restaurateur Michael Solomonov and director Roger Sherman, moderated by the Senior Editor of New York Magazine’s Grub Street, Sierra Tishgart. After the talk, Michael will be signing his cookbook, Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, during a separately-ticketed book signing/reception featuring hummus by Dizengoff (and other tasty treats) and Israeli wine.

Tickets to the Opening Night Film only are $15; $30 if attending the post-film book signing and reception; $60 for the film, book signing/reception, and Zahav cookbook. Tickets are available online or by calling 215-545-4400.

Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival Kicks Off With “God’s Neighbors”

“God’s Neighbors.”

The 33rd season of the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival will kick off tomorrow, November 2, at the Gershman Y, 401 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, with the film God’s Neighbors.

In the film, three young working-class zealots appoint themselves enforcers of the Torah in their neighborhood. The group’s dynamic is challenged when the team’s leader threatens a young woman who defies their rules, yet awakens his desire. The showing will be followed by a Skype conversation with the film’s director, Meni Yaesh.

The Festival, which will feature 18 films in nine different venues, will be concluded November 16. More than half of the showings will be Philadelphia premiers.

Full schedule after the jump.
Saturday, November 2: God’s Neighbors.
Sunday, November 3: Sukkah City.
Sunday, November 3: Rock the Casbah.
Monday, November 4: Hannah Arendt.
Tuesday, November 5: Commie Camp.
Wednesday, November 6: Red Flag.
Thursday, November 7: Koch.
Thursday, November 7: Paris-Manhattan.
Saturday, November 9: Center Piece: The Jewish Cardinal.
Sunday, November 10: An American Tail.
Sunday, November 10: Igor and the Cranes’ Journey.
Sunday, November 10: The Dandelions.
Monday, November 11: Aftermath.
Wednesday, November 13: My Awkward Sexual Adventure.
Thursday, November 14: Orchestra of Exiles.
Thursday, November 14: Upstarts – An Evening of Jewish Shorts.
Saturday, November 16: Bethlehem.

New Filmmakers Weekend to Honor Three Jewish Directors

Life in Stills, PJFF’s international award winner

Deaf Jam, PJFF’s national award winner

The Gershman Y’s Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival will close its 32nd Season with New Filmmakers Weekend, taking place Saturday, April 20 and Sunday, April 21 at the Gershman Auditorium.

Now in its 16th year, New Filmmakers Weekend celebrates the work of first-time Jewish directors for excellence in filmmaking. This season, the Festival will present three awards:

The Festival will also recognize and present the short film The Earthquake by a local new filmmaker Danielle Lessovitz. New Filmmakers Weekend will be hosted by Dan Friedman, Managing Editor of The Forward.

More trailers after the jump.
OC87: The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger’s Movie, local award winner

Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival Distills Vodka, IDF and more!

— by Donna Katz

Five Philadelphia Premiere Screenings will highlight the best of independent Jewish Documentary Cinema today. The Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival continues its 32nd Season with its acclaimed Documentaries & Dialogue Series, screening documentary films from the UK, Israel, Austria, Germany, and the United States. Opening Night will feature How To Re-Establish A Vodka Empire at The Prince Music Theater, with the remaining documentaries screening four consecutive Monday nights at The Gershman Y.

Click links below for movie trailers and more information.

32nd Annual Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival Nov. 3-18

Many of us are still without power after Hurricane Sandy, so why not make the best of the situation and enjoy a great movie.

For the 32nd consecutive year, the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival is treating our community to dozen exciting films sure to please over the next two weeks (November 3-18).

PJFF Fall Festival

Click on links above for summaries and trailers of all of the Fall films.

A second series of films “PJFF Documentaries and Dialog” is scheduled for this winter, and we are looking forward to the PJFF New Filmmakers Weekend, April 20-21, 2013. Stay tuned for details!

Talkback with Nicky’s Family Director

— By Hannah Lee

Can you imagine saving the lives of 669 strangers and not talking about it for 50 years — that is, until your wife finds the scrapbook you’ve made in the chaotic prelude to the outbreak of World War II? That’s the true story of Nicholas Winton, a young British stockbroker who spent his Christmas holiday in Czechoslovakia when Jewish refugees started fleeing the regions bordering Germany. His compassion for their desperate plight propelled him to single-handedly mobilize a rescue mission to save their children. His international appeals to governments were ignored by all but his own and Sweden. England agreed to issue him visas as long as he could find families to take in the children, as well as pay 50 pounds per child. Once war broke out, he changed course to serve his own country and never spoke about it again.  

More after the jump.

Appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his work in establishing homes for the elderly in Britain and knighted in 2002 for his role in the Czech kindertransports, the very active and lively Sir Nicholas will turn 103 on May 19th.

The Czech director Matej Minac was raised by a mother who’d survived the Auschwitz death camp and he has been fascinated by this man’s story over a 26-year career.  His latest cinematic effort is Nicky’s Family, which was shown on January 16th as part of the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival.  He answered questions from the audience via Skype at the Prince Music Theatre afterwards, even though it was 3 am for him in the Czech Republic.

Nicky’s Family intersperses interviews with the now-elderly rescued children with newsreel footage and re-enactments with Czech actors, who do not have speaking roles in the American version. Minac told the audience he was delighted to learn from Sir Nicholas — called “Nicky” by all — that there was footage of some of the transports in the federal archives in Washington. He wanted to tell a more intimate tale, so the re-enactments depicted the emotional aspects of these rescues, such as the one of Marta, a mother who was hesitant about giving up her small child. In the film, the scene depicts her retrieving her daughter, and then chasing the train to return her through the window to the group.

So why did Nicky remain silent about his deed, not even telling his own wife?  In the film, he said that it was no longer relevant and he “had much more interesting” things to share. Maybe it was because his last and biggest transport of 250 children was aborted by the outbreak of the war, a view offered in person on Monday by Peter Rafaeli, the “honorary Czech consul” in Philadelphia, the person who’d spent seven years lobbying for American recognition of these courageous rescues, culminating in the Congressional bill HR583.

How did Nicky raise the money he needed — without an organization backing him? Minac said that Nicky had good money sense, being in the financial profession. He took photographs of the children and made photo cards with six children depicted on each card. Prospective families were shown the cards and asked to make a selection. His methodology was very effective and he found families over a narrow window of several months in 1939.

How many of the rescued children remained Jewish?  Minac said that about 90% of the children were Jewish, but the transports also included children from other families also targeted for persecution by the Nazis.  In the film, Nicky recalled being rebuked by some people in England for sending the Jewish children to Christian homes but his defense was that it was better than the alternative of dead Jewish children.  Minac said that a few of the children were reunited with their families but it was not an unqualified joy.  One man who now lives in Australia was rescued at age 6 and reunited with his father at age 13.  Sadly, there was no emotional bond by then, because he’d found happiness with his foster family.  Minac estimates that there are almost 6000 people living today because of Nicky’s rescue missions.

Minac’s 2002 breakthrough documentary, Nicholas Winton- The Power of Good, won many awards, including the International Emmy Award for Best Foreign Documentary. He covered the same topic – the rescue of Jewish children during WWII – in his 1999 feature film, All My Loved Ones. Culminating over 12 years of devotion to this story, Nicky’s Family highlights the greater impact of Nicky’s legacy: how his deeds continue to inspire children and adults to do acts of good around the world.

The Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival continues its “Documentaries and Dialogues” series on Monday evenings at 7 pm at the Prince Music Theatre on 1412 Chestnut Street.  The remaining films are: Just Like Home on the 23rd ; Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment and Strangers No More, both on the 30th; and Eichmann’s End on February 6th.  For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit www.pjff.org.

This article has been corrected for the proper address of a British royal, as per a savvy reader.  Sir Nicholas Winton is called Sir Nicholas, not Sir Winton.

Bonnie Squires Honored At Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival

Bonnie Squires, president of Squires Consulting, was  honored by the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival at its recent New Filmmakers Festival at the Gershman Y,  for her 25 years as vice-chair of the PJFF and her role in creating the New Filmmakers Festival.  She is seen here with Louis Coffey, Esq., chairman of the board of the Gershman Y, who made the presentation.