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International Jewish Film Festival of Eastern Connecticut turns 20

By Rick Koster

Publication: The Day

Published March 20. 2014 4:00AM
The family drama called "Fill the Void" won seven Israeli Academy Awards in 2013, including Best Picture.

SIDEBAR SCHEDULE

Film fest schedule

The International Jewish Film Festival of Eastern Connecticut line-up is listed below. All films begin at 7 p.m., unless otherwise noted. Tickets for most viewings are $10. Students are admitted free at Conn College showings. There is a requested $5 donation for the April 7 screening at Westerly Library. For more information, call (860) 442-8062 or access jfec.com.

Tonight - "Brothers," Olin Science Center, Connecticut College, New London

Saturday - "The Consul Bordeaux," 8 p.m., Garde Arts Center, 325 State St., New London

Sunday - "The First Basket & Wilt Chamberlain: Borscht Belt Bellhop," Congregation B'nai Shalom, 125 Church St., Putnam

Monday - "The First Basket & Wilt Chamberlain: Borscht Belt Bellhop," Olin Science Center, Connecticut College, New London

Tuesday - "Life in Stills" and "50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus," Capitol Theater, 896 Main St., Willimantic

Wednesday - "Under the Same Sun," Blaustein Humanities Center, Connecticut College, New London

March 29 - "Fill the Void," 8 p.m., Olde Mistick Village Art Cinemas, Coogan Boulevard, Mystic

March 30 - "The Jewish Cardinal," Garde Arts Center, New London

April 3 - "Life in Stills" and "50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus," Garde Arts Center, New London

April 7 - "The Jewish Cardinal," Westerly Public Library, 44 Broad St., Westerly

April 9 - "The Last White Knight," Garde Arts Center, New London

Movie milestoneThe International Jewish Film Festival
of Eastern Connecticut turns 20

Sometimes, these things take on their own momentum.

Twenty years ago, on the recommendation of a young Israeli woman in New London to do community work for the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut, a small film festival was founded. Featuring movies chosen by a committee of three people, the foundation's inaugural Israeli Film Festival took place on the campus of Connecticut College - partly while the students were on spring break.

Starting today, the 20th annual international event - now called the Jewish Film Festival of Eastern Connecticut - will show 10 films over the next three weeks at six locations: Garde Arts Center and Connecticut College in New London, the Olde Mistick Village Arts Cinemas in Mystic, the Capitol Theater in Willimantic, Congregation B'nai Shalom in Putnam, and Westerly Public Library, where Congregation Shara Zedek is sponsoring a screening.

Many screenings will be accompanied by presentations or panel discussions from folks directly involved or connected to the respective films.

"It's become an amazing festival," says Jerry Fischer, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut. "Over the years, our selection committee has grown to include 15 people, and we've expanded beyond just Israel in terms of focus. We've now shown Jewish films from all over, including Russia, Mexico, Argentina, France and so on."

Among the films chosen this year is a heart-wrenching family drama called "Fill the Void," in which 18-year-old Shira is about to get married to a promising young man. But when her sister dies during childbirth, the tragedy postpones Shira's nuptials. When the late sister's husband receives a family proposal to match him with a Belgium widow, Shira's family responds with a different offer that could change Shira's life forever.

The film won seven Israeli Academy Awards in 2013, including Best Picture. It was also chosen to compete in such prestigious events as the Sundance, Toronto and New York Film Festivals.

Also scheduled is "The Jewish Cardinal," a film based on a real-life Jew who, at 13, concerted to Catholicism and rose to the ranks of cardinal; "Life in Stills," wherein a photo-shop owner and her grandson try to save the business and a million negatives that document Israel's defining moments; and "The Consul of Bordeaux," about Harry Bingham, the titular official who saved 30,000 lives during World War II - including 10,000 Jews - by issuing visas of safe passage. Bingham's son, Kim Bingham, will offer remarks when the film screens Saturday in the Garde Arts Center.

The festival closes on April 9 at the Garde with Paul Saltzman's "The Last White Knight." As a young man, Saltzman went to Mississippi as a civil rights worker - where he was beaten by a Klansman named Byron De La Beckwith, the son of the man convicted of killing civil rights activist Medgar Evers. The film is about Saltzman's return, decades later, to meet with Beckwith and to see what if anything has changed about the South.

New London resident Lonnie Braxton II, a historian and former Waterford prosecutor who grew up in segregated Mississippi, will speak after the viewing.

"Putting on the festival is an awful lot of work, but it's good work - and it's also an awful lot of fun," says Fischer. "This is a nonprofit event, so we're not trying to make money. The films are diverse and excellent, and the special guests make it even more amazing."

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