April 21, 2024
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Get Ready for JFNNJ’s Israeli Film Festival

For more than 20 years the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey based in Paramus has celebrated and showcased the finest of new Israeli films and documentaries that often explore the Jewish experience in Israel.

“This year the film festival actually takes on a different meaning as a great way to support Israel,” said Laura Freeman, Federation managing director, marketing and communications.

The festival had been held virtually during COVID but has taken on a hybrid approach this year. For those who appreciate the magical experience of viewing movies on the big screen, movies will be shown at the Teaneck Cinemas, the Kaplen JCC in Tenafly and the Wayne Y from Sunday, Nov. 12 through Sunday, Nov. 19. There will also be virtual screenings that can be watched from the comfort of home from Sunday, Nov. 12-Thursday, Nov. 30.

A committee of 15 people curated a selection of films that have broad appeal. Ranging from drama to comedy, each of these new Israeli films is a unique offering with most not available anywhere else in the area. It was hard for the committee to limit the selection to only eight movies, which is an increase from the six that were featured last year.

Those catching the in-theater offering at the Kaplen JCC on Nov. 14 will have the opportunity to hear Dr. Eric Goldman, a noted film historian and educator who lectures on Jewish, Yiddish and Israeli cinema and is an adjunct professor of cinema at Yeshiva University. He will lead a discussion about that day’s film and provide additional insight and background.

There are single film tickets, as well as package options that mean no longer being subject to the hard work of deciding which films to see. An added benefit of virtual films is that there is a 48-hour window within which the film can be watched. If something unexpected occurs, a film can be stopped and resumed within the next day or two. The four films that are featured in the theater are not available virtually until after they have been shown in person.

Debbie Corwin, director, Center for Israel Engagement, was not able to choose which of this year’s offerings are her favorites or which she would recommend. “All the movies are great. Which I would most recommend really depends on the person I would be recommending them to.”

The opening movie, “Matchmaking,” is a very sweet movie featuring several renowned Israeli actors that has been described as an entertaining and good-hearted romantic comedy that gives a light Orthodox twist to “Romeo and Juliet.” There are powerful films such as “Barren,” which was based on actual events, and “Children of Nobody,” a heart-tugging story of youth living on the fringes of society.

“I enjoyed all of them across the board, and these are the films that 15 other people gave top grades to over the very many that they had to choose from,” she added.

Although only in her second year of running the program, Corwin is impressed with the commitment of the committee to their selection of quality films.

Another appealing film is “Sand Flakes,” which tells the story of David, a sensitive, creative teenager who lives in southern Israel with his ill mother, his father and his young brother. He discovers an online writing forum and starts publishing his family stories under the fake identity of the rich kid “Nadav.” As he gets entangled in his lies, he is afraid of losing his new forum friends and being exposed by his family.

There was no thought of canceling the Israeli Film Festival because of the current situation in Israel.

“There were people who called to ask about it and were relieved to hear we were going forward,” said Corwin, “People are looking for ways to feel connected to Israel, and this is one of the many ways to do that.”

Out of respect, the initial advertising push for the festival was delayed, but ticket sales are going on and there is much interest.

“The manager of the Teaneck Cinemas, not a Jewish guy, said he was so glad that the films would continue to be shown in his theater. It is important for the community to continue to join together,” Corwin said.

The American Psychological Association released a statement earlier this month warning that constant consumption of violent and traumatic news can in and of itself negatively affect mental health. Taking a break from the news and watching an Israeli film supports Israel and has many benefits for the viewer.

For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Corwin at [email protected] or (201) 820-3918, or visit jfnnj-filmfestival2023.eventive.org/schedule.


Deborah Melman is a staff writer at The Jewish Link.

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