April 15, 2024
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New Jersey Jewish Film Festival Opens on March 19

The 17th Annual New Jersey Jewish Film Festival, featuring 20 films from around the world, will take place from March 19 to April 2 at the Maurice Levin Theater of the JCC MetroWest in West Orange, with additional screenings in Morristown and South Orange.

The festival opens on Sunday, March 19, at 7:00 p.m. in the Maurice Levin Theatre with the New Jersey premiere of “The Zookeeper’s Wife.” The film features two-time Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain as Antonina Żabińska and European Film Award nominee Johan Heidenburgh as her husband, Dr. Jan Żabiński, director of the Warsaw Zoo. Under their stewardship and care, the zoo flourishes through the 1930s. When the Nazis invade Poland, the two are forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist. To fight back, the Żabińskis secretly work with the Resistance and put into action plans to save lives in what has become the Warsaw Ghetto. As the story unfolds, Antonina puts herself and her children at great risk to help others. The screening will be followed by a dessert reception.

The festival will offer 11 New Jersey premieres. The films’ topics include such subjects as Israeli and Palestinian soldiers who transcend their opposition to discover their true enemy (“Disturbing the Peace”), facing and coping with the Holocaust (“Cloudy Sunday,” “Paradise” and “Shalom Italia”) and profiles of several important personages (“Art and Heart: The World of Isaiah Sheffer” and “The People vs. Fritz Bauer”). Dramatic films include one about the French health minister in 1974 who fought for women’s rights (“The Law”) and a thriller that examines anti-Semitism in modern Poland (“A Grain of Truth”). On a lighter note are “Hummus! The Movie” and “The Last Blintz.” Two films look at Israel’s kibbutzim and the celebration of the Israeli spirit (“Siberia,” “The Galilee Eskimos”); another is a modern fable based on a seminal Jewish story (“Harmonia”). There are also films about women caught between familial demands and realizing their dreams (“Moos”), women reclaiming their role in society (“The Women’s Balcony”), the tale of three Israeli-Arab women trying to balance traditional and modern culture in Tel Aviv (“Bar Bahar”), questions of identity and its ramifications (“AKA Nadia”) and the fascinating tale of an Orthodox Jewish girl who finds a place in an unusual sport (“Supergirl”).

Some of the films will feature thought-provoking post-screening discussions. These will be led by local clergy, academicians and a filmmaker and protagonist. Details will be available on the festival website (www.NJJFF.org) and on its Facebook page (www.facebook.com/NJJFF).

The festival will offer a free screening of “The People vs. Fritz Bauer” at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown on March 27 at 7:30 p.m. In addition to its screening at the JCC MetroWest in West Orange, “The Law” will be shown at Bowtie Cinema in South Orange on March 30 at 7:30 p.m. “Past Life,” a new film by renowned director Avi Nesher about the Holocaust and its memories, will be screened at Bowtie Cinema in South Orange on March 22 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets may be purchased online at www.boxofficetickets.com/jccmetrowest or in person at the box office in the JCC Gaelen lobby, adjacent to the Maurice Levin Theater, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from March 2 to April 2 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, including the festival schedule, visit www.NJJFF.org or call the festival hotline at 973-530-3417.

By Ruth Roth

 

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