By Deb Silverthorn
The curtains at Studio Movie Grill Spring Valley will soon part for the 22nd annual Jewish Film Festival of Dallas, produced by the Jewish Community Center of Dallas with support from the Office of Cultural Affairs/City of Dallas, and presented by Pegasus Bank.
Screening throughout September are The Testament (Sept. 4), The Cakemaker (Sept. 5), Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me (Sept. 8 and 26), GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II (Sept. 12 and 16), Bye Bye Germany (Sept. 13), Shelter (Sept. 15), Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel (Sept. 17), The Body Collector (Sept. 20), The 90-Minute War (Sept. 22), and The Last Suit (Sept. 27).
“In watching close to 100 films this year, some in English, many in their original language with subtitles, we searched for outstanding artistic value and relevance with something for everyone,” event chair Brenda Marcus said. “They all have strong values of courage and bravery, and they are spectacular.”
The Testament tracks a dedicated Holocaust historian working to prevent the desecration of a mass Holocaust gravesite to make way for road construction. Examining testimonies of Holocaust survivors who could be witnesses to the massacre, he finds his own mother’s testimony, which she refuses to discuss. Dr. David Patterson, the Hillel A. Feinberg Chair in Holocaust Studies, Ackerman Center at UT Dallas, will lead the talkback.
The Cakemaker traces the bond between a gay German baker and the Jerusalem-based widow of the man they both loved, which is formed when his Israeli lover dies and he goes to Israel to learn more. The portrait of grief raises an array of social and religious questions. Post-screening discussion will be led by Congregation Shearith Israel Rabbi Adam Roffman.
Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me is about the legendary entertainer — a Puerto Rican, Jewish, African-American who was driven toward the American dream in a time of racial prejudice. The film, spanning his life from childhood and including the Rat Pack, has interviews with Billy Crystal, Kim Novak and Jerry Lewis. Beri Schwitzer, director of congregational learning at Congregation Beth Torah, leads Saturday evening’s discussion.
GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II tells the experiences of 550,000 Jewish Americans. Veterans unknown and famous, including Mel Brooks and Henry Kissinger, narrate their fight for their nation and their brethren in Europe, while struggling with anti-Semitism within their ranks. Sara Abosch Jacobson, chief education, programs and exhibits officer at the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, will speak after Sunday afternoon’s showing.
Bye Bye Germany, a dramedy, features a former concentration camp survivor who sees his scarred homeland as one of opportunity. He recruits Jewish traveling salesmen in a scheme selling overpriced linens to guilt-ridden Germans, also facing interrogation by an American military intelligence officer about his past as an alleged Nazi collaborator. The film was inspired by the screenwriter’s family history in an engaging salute to the nearly 4,000 European Jews who chose to remain, reclaiming their lives.
Shelter is the story of a Mossad agent who reluctantly accepts a mission at a safe house in Berlin. The thriller trails her as she protects a Lebanese informant recovering from identity-changing surgery and the two develop a fragile but special bond.
Heading Home is based on Israel’s underdog national team competing for the first time in the World Baseball Classic. With several Jewish American professional baseball players, most of whom had little exposure to Judaism, the team discovers the pride of representing Israel on the world stage. They travel from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where they are heroes, and on to Seoul, where they hope to win. Consul Omer Checkek-Katz, of the Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest, leads the post-screening conversation.
The Body Collector, the highest-rated series in Dutch television history, is a true-life drama following an investigative journalist fighting to reveal a prominent art collector as a Nazi war criminal and the price he must pay during his search for truth and justice. Stonewalled by bureaucrats, he refuses to go down quietly.
The 90-Minute War is a satirical comedy revolving around how, after decades of strife and failed peace talks, the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority agree to end the intractable problem with a winner-take-all soccer match. One 90-minute game will decide who remains in the Holy Land. As the two managers prepare for the game of their careers, nothing is easy.
The Last Suit is about a senior refusing to bend to family pressure for him to move into assisted living. He goes to Poland in search of the friend who nursed him back to health when he returned from Auschwitz, hoping to fulfill a 70-year-old promise. Zsuzsanna Ozsváth, Leah and Paul Lewis Chair in Holocaust Studies at the Ackerman Center at UT Dallas, leads the screening’s talkback.
With the festival comes the 2019 Jewish Film Festival of Dallas’ Emerging Filmmaker Prize. Applications of short films will be accepted from Sept. 3 to March 1 for the contest held in memory of the late Dr. Peter Marcus, who co-chaired the festival with wife Brenda for eight years. Filmmakers don’t have to be Jewish but pieces must reflect aspects of Jewish life. Prizes are $500 and a screening of the winning film next year. Applicants must be under 25 and enrolled or recent graduates of middle school through post-graduate programs.
Film schedules, trailers, and ticket sales are available at bit.ly/2M6wVUA. To order tickets by phone, contact Rachelle Weiss Crane at 214-239-7128.
Jewish Film Festival of Dallas Emerging Filmmaker Prize information and applications are at bit.ly/2AVDC6O. For donations, visit bit.ly/2ORFqAt.