The Nashville Jewish Film Festival (NJFF) kicks off its 12th year of screening educational, entertaining and thought-provoking Jewish-themed films on Wednesday.
On its website the festival notes that it “aims to create a forum for the wider Nashville community to understand the complexity of issues surrounding Jewish life in contemporary society. The films chosen each year are meant to demonstrate the breadth and depth of the Jewish cultural, religious, historical, and social conditions of the modern era.”
Each year the NJFF also presents the Annual Kathryn H. Gutow Student Film Competition. The competition, which originated in 2005 and is named in memory of a festival co-founder, “features student films with Jewish themes or content from campuses around the world” according to the website. Student filmmakers are eligible for a $1000 cash prize made possible by the Kathryn H. Gutow Fund for Jewish Arts and Culture and Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Finalists are screened during the festival and the winner is screened at the Nashville Film Festival (the next edition of that event is April 18-25, 2013).
All films will be shown at Belcourt Theatre (2012 Belcourt Ave.) with the exception of Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom and David screenings at the GJCC (801 Percy Warner Blvd.). A concurrent screening of Little Rose will be shown at the Franklin Theatre (419 Main St. in Franklin, Tenn.).
Tickets for individual screenings are available; there’s also a $45 Reel Deal Pass and a $150 All Festival Pass. To learn more about the film festival’s ticket sales, visit their Ticket Page.
The films of the 2012 festival with descriptions provided by the NJFF are:
Hava Nagila, Nov. 7 at 7:30 pm following the Opening Night Reception at Cabana (5:30 pm). Directed by Roberta Grossman, USA, 2012. 75 minutes, English. Documentary.
The song you thought you knew. The story you won’t believe. Did you know that “Hava Nagila” started as a prayer? This documentary will have you laughing, clapping, and tapping your feet, and give you new appreciation of a tune you’ve heard all of your life. Featuring Harry Belafonte, Connie Francis, Glen Campbell, Regina Spektor, Leonard Nimoy and many others.
Special guest: Roberta Grossman, Producer and Director
Tony Curtis: Driven to Stardom, Nov. 8 at 12:30 pm. Screened at the Gordon Jewish Community Center. Directed by Ian Ayres, France, 2011. 96 minutes, English. Documentary.
Born to poor Hungarian Jewish parents, Bernard Schwartz found escape in the films of Cary Grant and Errol Flynn. His dreams and determination turned him into the handsome Tony Curtis. Rare home movies plus interviews with lovers, colleagues, and Curtis himself celebrate this Hollywood star.
Gei Oni, Nov. 8 at 7:00 pm. Directed by Dan Wolman, Israel, 2011. 100 minutes, Hebrew/English/Russian/Arabic/Romanian/Turkish with subtitles.
Based on the bestselling novel by Shulamit Lapid, this beautiful love story has the backdrop of the Jewish dream to rebuild the land of Zion. Fania, having fled the Russian pogroms, arrives in late 19th Century Palestine with her baby, uncle and brother. This story about the hardships of the land, the challenge of building a life, and the blossoming of love will captivate your heart.
Awards: Best Israeli Film, Berlin Jewish Film Festival, 2011; Best Foreign Film Award by Audience, “Golden Rooster” (Chinese Oscar), One Hundred Flowers Film Festival, China; Best Actress, Israeli Critics Association, 2011
The Day I Saw Your Heart, Nov. 10 at 7:00 pm. Directed by Jennifer Devoldere, France, 2011. 98 minutes, French with subtitles. Nudity and explicit language.
Melanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds; Beginners) is Justine, a 20-something struggling with commitment issues in this French “dramedy” about father-daughter relationships. After a trail of boyfriends, Justine thinks she has found her soul mate, but temporary happiness is thrown when her neurotic 60-year-old Jewish fater announces that his young wife is pregnant. The film also features a livelly soundtrack by Nathan Johnson (The Brothers Bloom & Brick).
Panorama Audience Award, Berlin International Film Festival, 2011
A Reuben by Any Other Name, Nov. 10., movie short, 2012 NJFF Film Competition Winner (coupled with the screening of This is Sodom).
This is Sodom, Nov. 10 at 9:30 pm. Directed by Adam Sanderson and Muli Segev, Israel 2010. 88 minutes, Hebrew with subtitles.
Somewhere between Monty Python and Mel Brooks, this raucous and bawdy comedy was a box office hit in Israel. As G-d’s wrath draws closer, Abraham, Lot, the Sodomites and even the avenging angels are seduced by the decadent delights of the most famous Sin City in history. Skewering everything from religious figures, reality TV, game shows, and vapid celebrities to contemporary Israeli culture, the comedy troupe Eretz Nehederet (the Israeli Saturday Night Live) takes it all on.
David, Nov. 11 at 9:00 am. Screened at the Gordon Jewish Community Center. Directed by Joel Fendelman, USA, 2011. 80 minutes, English, Arabic and Hebrew with subtitles.
A lonely Muslim boy growing up in Brooklyn is inadvertently immersed in the world of Orthodox Judaism in this tender drama. Eleven-year-old Daud, the only son of a devout imam, is mistaken for a Yeshiva student and befriended by a group of Jewish boys. Unable to resist the camaraderie and freedom, Daud becomes David. the ruse soon unravels, and the boy struggles to find his place in the world.
Special Guest: Avi Poster, Educator
Awards: The Brooklyn International Film Festival Audience Award; The Montreal World Film Festival Ecumenical Prize.
Note: Religious School Screening — Parents and community welcome. Free admission to this event.
Concurrent Event: Shalom Sesame and PJ Library Program for young children at 9:30 am in the Senior Lounge of the Gordon Jewish Community Center. Free while you watch the film; no reservations required.
Berlin 36, Nov. 11. at 4:30 pm. Directed by Kaspar Heidelbach, Germany, 2011. 100 minutes, German with English subtitles.
A remarkable story of the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the Nazi propaganda machine. Hitler saw the Olympics as an ideal way to show the world Fascist superiority, but he was stalled when the U.S. Olympic team announced they would boycott the games unless Jewish athletes could participate. If the Jewish world-class German high jumper Gretel Bergmann was allowed to compete, how could Hitler let a Jew win? He could not, and he did not.
In Heaven Underground: The Wiessensee Jewish Cemetery, Nov. 11 at 7:00 pm. Directed by Britta Wauer, Germany, 2011. 90 minutes, German with subtitles. Documentary.
The Wiessensee Jewish Cemetery is the largest active burial ground in Europe. It has been in continuous operation under Jewish authority, even during the Nazi regime which left the cemetery and its archives unharmed. This uplifting film celebrates the immortality of memories and the importance of tradition. Interweaving historical facts, the cemetery is portrayed as it should be — a survivor.
Special Guest: Marshall Karr, Co-Chair of The Temple Cemetery Committee.
Panorama Audience Award, Best Documentary, 2011 Berlin International Film Festival
Monday Matinee Films
The Cake Lady, Nov. 12 at 12:15 pm. Directed by Adam Hirsch. Produced by Brittany Tenenbaum, USA, 2012. 30 minutes, English. Documentary.
Meet Fay Tenenbaum, whose sense of humor, willingness to give to others, and love for baking help her with the transition of moving into assisted living.
Special guest: “The Cake Lady,” Fay Tenenbaum, Director Adam Hirsch and Producer Brittany Tenebaum.
Dressing America: Tales from the Garment Center, Nov. 12 at 12:15 pm. Directed by Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher, USA, 2009. 57 minutes, English. Documentary.
A boxed lunch is available upon reservation.
“Mavens of the shmatte business” come together to pay tribute to the Jewish immigrant roots of New York’s garment industry. Cultural scholars and family members share stories about the 20 square block radius of Seventh Avenue that made 80 percent of the clothing in the U.S.A. in the 1920s. Dressing America shows how Jewish immigrants paved the way for the likes of Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Isaac Mizrahi and others.
Special Guest: Howard Stringer, Retired President and Chairman of Colonial Corp. of America, a publicly owned apparel manufacturer with 40 factories.
Brothers, Nov. 12 at 7:00 pm. Directed by Igaal Niddam, Israel, 2008. 116 minutes, Hebrew with subtitles.
This explosive drama centers on the burning contemporary issue: Should orthodox yeshiva students be compelled to serve in the Israeli army? The story begins as two estranged brothers, kibbutznik Dan and orthodox American attorney Aharon, finally meet after many years of silence and find themselves on opposite sides of the controversy. Violence and passion erupt in a divided Israel as a powerful courtroom drama unfolds. Will reconciliation be possible — for the brothers or for Israel as a nation?
Special guest: Rabbi Phillip Lieberman, Professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University
Best of the Festival, New York Israel Film Festival
Portrait of Wally, Nov. 13 at 7:00 pm. Directed by Andrew Shea, USA, 2012. 90 minutes, English. Documentary.
In 1939, Nazis seized control of Austrian art collector Lea Bondi’s beloved Egon Schiele painting “Portrait of Wally.” For 70 years the Bondi family fought to reclaim the painting in a battle that pitted them against the likes of the Austrian government, billionaire art collectors, MoMA, and NPR. This documentary is a fascinating and intricate detective story that highlights the struggle of determining the ownership of confiscated art.
Special Guest: Susan Edwards, Ph.D., Executive Director of The Frist Center for the Visual Arts
Little Rose, Nov. 14 at 7:00 pm. Directed by Jan Kidawa-Blonski, Poland, 2010. 118 minutes, Polish with subtitles. Adult language; sexually explicit.
Concurrent Screenings at the Franklin Theatre and Belcourt Theatre.
In 1968 Poland, student protests and anti-Semitism continue. A secret policeman attempts to incriminate a dissident writer by sending his young and beautiful mistress, code name Little Rose, to him. Pretending to be a novice writer she soon gains his love. Surprisingly, Rose begins to appreciate the soul, knowledge and sensitivity of the writer and the vulgarity of her earlier life. Film inspired by a true story.
Special Guests from Vanderbilt University’s Department of Germanic and Slavic languages.
Franklin Theatre: Konstantin Kustanovich, Associate Professor of Russian. Belcourt Theatre: Alex Spektor, Andrew Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor.
Aka Doc Pomus, Nov. 15 at 7:00 pm immediately following Nosh and Happy Hour at the Pancake Pantry (5:30 pm). Directed by Peter Miller and Will Heckler, USA, 2012. 98 minutes, English. Documentary.
“Save the Last Dance For Me” and “This Magic Moment” are only two of over 1,000 songs written by Jerome Felder, better known as “Doc Pomus.” This documentary tells the story of a young Jewish boy who became one of the founders of rock n’ roll in the late 1950′s and 1960′s. He wrote, or co-wrote, many of Elvis Presley’s hits, as well as material for the Drifters, the Coasters, Ray Charles and Andy Williams. Although crippled by polio when he was six years old, Felder didn’t allow his handicap to keep him from his love of music.
Special Guests: David Preston, Director of Writer/Publisher Relations, BMI, Nashville; Marshall Chapman, singer, songwriter, author and actress.
2012 Grand Prize, Stony Brook Film Festival
*Nashville Jewish Film Festival artwork courtesy NJFF.