The Jacob Burns Film Center’s annual Jewish Film Festival returns for its 21st year after having to go virtual in 2020 and then offering a hybrid in-person and virtual festival last fall and this past winter due to Covid. This year’s festival, which runs Oct. 6-20, includes more than two dozen entertaining, thought-provoking, and often humorous films, with features hailing from Israel, the United States, and around the world.
According to Bruni Burres, who has curated the Jewish Film Festival at the JBFC since 2016, “I really embrace boutique festivals that are about bringing a unique, curated program – documentaries, fiction films, animation, and even sometimes interactive exhibits – to a community. Since it’s over a two-week period with a limited selection, it’s possible for people to see every film if they actually wanted to.”
The festival starts Oct. 6 with acclaimed Israeli director Moshe Rosenthal’s Karaoke, which Burres calls “a wild rollercoaster ride with some of the best actors and actresses in Israel today.” She says, “It’s an exploration of what happens to a middle-class Sephardic Jewish couple living for years and years in a high-rise apartment in Tel Aviv when a new neighbor unexpectedly moves in.” The new neighbor’s unhinged karaoke nights bring out unexpected feelings in the couple, and the film explores what the couple each discovers about themselves and each other.
This year’s offerings highlight a number of films by female filmmakers. The documentary Jews of the Wild West (Oct. 8 and 19) by Amanda Kinsey, includes a story about the first American cowboy on the silver screen. “He was called Broncho Billy Anderson, but his real name was Max Aronson, and he was the son of two Jewish immigrants,” Burres said.
Another highlight is iMordecai (Oct. 8 and 9), a comedy starring Judd Hirsch (TV series Taxi) and Academy-Award-nominated actress Carol Kane (Hester Street). Burres says, “This was made by an American first-time filmmaker Marvin Samel as a love letter to his parents. The actors play his parents, Holocaust survivors who live in Miami, and it’s about their relationship and how it changes over time.”
New this year is the Exciting New Voices Close to Home shorts program (Oct. 11), which highlights the work of two local filmmakers. Sophie Parens of Sleepy Hollow has created a short called Zaida. It tells the story of her grandfather Henri Parens, who escaped the Holocaust at the age of 12 and went on to become a world-renowned psychoanalyst.
While her grandfather passed away in February, Parens says, “One of the biggest ways I have dealt with the grief has been knowing that I am continuing to push forward his life’s work and his story.”
The Victorias, a short created by Chappaqua native Ethan Fuirst, set in the Tenement Museum in Manhattan, features a diverse group of costumed interpreters performing as a 14-year-old immigrant in 1916 includes a present-day twist with the actors talking about being laid off during the pandemic.
The festival closes with the New York premiere of the acclaimed Israeli television series The Chef (Episodes 1 to 5, October 8 and 16; Episodes 6 to 9, October 9 and 20), by the award-winning producers of Fauda and Shtisel. The story takes place at a high-end restaurant in Tel Aviv with a chef who everyone thinks is the greatest and another man who has left his job as an IT worker to become a sous chef. “The film explores the relationship between the two men and interrogates the masculinity and fragility of Israeli men in this day and age,” says Burres.
On Oct. 20, the festival’s closing night, The Chef series final episodes will be followed by a “film to table” event at the JBFC, which is sponsored and catered by Pubstreet, a Pleasantville restaurant and JBFC community partner. “We’re expecting a surprise galore of dishes that are inspired by the television series with the restaurant’s personal ‘twirl’ on it,” says Burres.
More information at burnsfilmcenter.org.