By Deb Silverthorn
The 25th Annual Jewish Film Festival of Dallas, hosted by the Aaron Family JCC and Comerica Bank, will screen 10 films this year between Jan. 22 and March 7. The festival will be presented online, with Zoom Talk Back events after four of the films.
“I think the community will really appreciate the lineup of incredible films we are presenting, and, while we are sorry that we will not be meeting anyone in person, we look forward to seeing our friends and community members during the Zoom Talk Back events,” said Brenda Marcus, event chair for 16 years, the first 10 of which she shared the role with her husband Peter of blessed memory. “Our filmmakers and local guests are brilliant, educated and so well versed in our history and the arts, able to share aspects of the films we might not notice ourselves.”
Marcus’ committee consists of Micole Pidgeon Cobert, Joyce Govrin, Catherine and Paul Lake, Ann and Steve Meyer, Haiya Naftali, Gerri Patterson, Richard S. Rome, Carole and Joram Wolanow and Sissy Zoller.
The films are co-sponsored by the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies at UT Dallas, Belmont Village Senior Living Turtle Creek, Congregation Shearith Israel, Dallas Jewish Historical Society, Jewish War Vets and Auxiliary, Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, The Legacy Senior Communities and the Women of Adat Chaverim.
The 2022 season introduces the Eventive platform for purchasing and viewing films.
Each installment will be available for 48 hours beginning at 7:30 p.m. on the dates noted below. Each of the four Talk Back programs, hosted by filmmakers and local guests, will begin at 7:30 p.m. via Zoom.
“Comerica Bank is honored to, after years of support to the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center, become the title sponsor for the 25th Annual Jewish Film Festival of Dallas,” said Comerica Bank SVP Paul Sims. “Bringing together our community, closer and more integrated with the Jewish community — by way of such a special series of events — is something we are very excited about.”
Jan. 22: “Golden Voices” is the story of Victor and Raya Frenkel, known as the golden voices of Soviet film dubbing. In 1990, with the collapse of the USSR, the couple immigrated to Israel to begin a new chapter of their life filled with amusement, pain and absurdity.
Feb. 5: “Tiger Within,” released in 2020, explores the unlikely friendship between a troubled, homeless teen and a Holocaust survivor – one of the last performances by Ed Asner of blessed memory — which sparks questions of ignorance, fear, lies, family, love, forgiveness and a divided world.
Feb. 8: “My Dearest Enemy” tells the story of a friendship between an Israeli Arab professor and a Jewish artist who met as young teens living in Jerusalem. The film spans over 25 years as they struggle to keep their friendship throughout their communities’ ever-growing toxic conflict. Filmmaker Zipora Trope is the Talk Back featured guest on Thursday, Feb. 10.
Week of Feb. 12: The “Persian Lessons” screening (Feb. 12) and “Love it Was Not” on Feb. 17 will be discussed during the Thursday, Feb. 17, Talk Back with David Patterson, Ph.D., the Hillel A. Feinberg Distinguished Chair in Holocaust Studies and Hillel A. Feinberg Distinguished Professor of Literature and History at UT Dallas.
In “Persian Lessons,” a young Jewish Belgian man is arrested by the SS in 1942 and sent to a concentration camp in Germany. He narrowly avoids execution by swearing to the guards that he is not Jewish, but Persian, a lie which saves his life. Given the job to teach Persian to an officer, the man makes up a language which spares his life.
“Love it Was Not” is a documentary of a Jewish woman named Helena Citron who was taken to Auschwitz, where she developed an unlikely romantic relationship with Franz Wunsch, a high-ranking SS officer. Some 30 years later, a letter arrives from Wunsch’s wife asking Helena to testify on Wunsch’s behalf, leaving her to choose whether or not to help the man who brutalized so many lives but saved her own.
“‘Persian Lessons,’ in particular, is so absolutely profound. It is about an assault on language which is truly an assault of human on human,” said Patterson. “It is about language and memory — about preserving that and the testimony we are entrusted with which transforms us into witnesses.”
Feb. 19: “Neighbours” becomes available, followed on Feb. 24 by Congregation Shearith Israel’s Rabbi Adam Roffman leading the Talk Back. Inspired by the director Mano Kahlil’s personal experiences, the film follows a first-grade student who lives in a Kurdish village in northeastern Syria in the 1980s. The student’s teacher is determined to instill Ba’ath Party Arab nationalism into his students, attempting to suppress any feelings of Kurdish cultural identity. The teacher preaches hate of Jews, lessons that upset and confuse the young boy, whose longtime neighbors are a lovable Jewish family.
Feb. 22: “Yerusalem, The Incredible Story of Ethiopian Jewry,” based on an Israeli documentary series, screens beginning Tuesday, Feb. 22. The feature documentary brings to life the story of a long, dramatic and tumultuous journey as the Jewish Ethiopian community, also known as “Beta-Israel,” find their way back to Jerusalem.
Feb. 26: “Greener Pastures” shares the story of a widower who is forced by his family to move to a nursing home. When he notices that all his fellow residents smoke legal medical cannabis, he realizes selling the drug — not smoking it — will be his salvation.
March 1: “Children of the Inquisition” will feature a Talk Back with filmmaker Joseph Lovett on March 3. The film unearths 500 years of hidden history revealing — through the eyes of their contemporary descendants, many of whom are just discovering their once problematic Jewish roots — what happened to families forced to convert to Catholicism or flee during the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions.
March 5: The festival closes out with “Love and Mazel Tov,” which begins screening on Saturday, March 5. Anne is a pretty non-Jewish bookstore owner who enthusiastically embraces everything Jewish to assuage her feelings of guilt for what she believes to be her parents’ ill-gotten profits from assisting Jews to escape Nazi Germany. She falls for Daniel, who leads her to believe she is Jewish, and who does nothing to correct her.
“A new year with new films brought with the J’s same dedication to entertainment, education and sharing interesting stories — really an incredible group of films,” said Rachelle Weiss Crane, JCC Israel Engagement/Jewish Living director and Film Festival producer. “We’ve got serious and lighthearted, fictionalized and true stories of courage and history, romance and laughter and we look forward to ‘seeing’ everyone at the movies.”
For more details, and to register, visit jccdallas.org/special-events/film-festival.