By Deb Silverthorn
Ruchama Ehrenhalt’s short film, “Give it Back,” clocks in at just 14 minutes and 14 seconds, the story of how a tween-age girl navigates experiences after making aliyah.
The winner of the new Dallas Emerging Filmmaker Prize, the film will be available for screening from noon on Wednesday, May 19, to midnight on Sunday, May 23.
The Talk Back discussion with Ehrenhalt will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 23, and will be led by Congregation Shearith Israel’s Rabbi Adam Roffman via Zoom.
“We’re excited to share this beautiful film,” said Rachelle Weiss Crane, director of Israel Engagement and Jewish Living for the Aaron Family JCC. She produces the Film Festival with Jewish Cultural and Outreach Coordinator Adina Weinberg and Film Festival Chair Brenda Marcus.
The Jewish Film Festival of Dallas Emerging Filmmaker Prize, the film’s screening and a monetary award of $1,000, was created in memory of Dr. Peter Marcus, who died in 2017. He and Brenda co-chaired the Film Festival for nearly a decade — each year screening more than 100 films.
“Peter loved movies from the time he was a little boy in South Africa,” said Marcus, thrilled for the JCC to honor her husband and for the couple’s sons, Barry and David, to co-chair the competition. “He lived to help anyone and everyone, personally and professionally, and he’d love the message of this film.”
Marcus’ sons recall family movie nights of their childhood. One year, they created a Father’s Day gift of a book of Academy Award winners. Their father turned the tome into a treasure, marking family occasions and notable moments in the margins next to each year’s winner.
“Dad loved films. He encouraged us to appreciate the arts and he’d be very proud to be supporting young filmmakers,” said Barry. “The production value of ‘Give it Back’ is incredible and its story so moving. Ruchama tells a complete story in a very short time.”
Both Barry and David have canvassed schools around the country, in Israel and beyond, broadening the scope of prospective talent.
In “Give it Back,” the lead character struggles to find her place, caught between the popular students and a shy classmate who is taunted by them. Ultimately, she decides how to navigate her newfound circumstances.
“Our childhoods can influence our whole lives. As little leaders we have the power to make a change before reality wears us down and the despair of being a grown-up makes us believe we don’t have the power to make a difference,” said Ehrenhalt, 27, a Long Island, New York, native who made aliyah with her parents at age 4.
“Film and media are powerful tools, and I love using my creativity to make an impact,” said Ehrenhalt. Now engaged to Daniel Tocker, she served two years in the Israel Defense Forces as a liaison to the Jordanian army. In addition to her film school degree, she earned a bachelor’s in education and she’s now working on an online master’s degree in human rights from the University of Arizona.
Ehrenhalt shot the film in five days at the childhood elementary school she attended in Bet Shemesh, Israel. This, her senior thesis while a student at The Maaleh School of Film and Television, was completed with a crew comprising mostly her classmates, its cast almost all amateurs. “Through my film I want to stand up against the status quo and fight for what I know is right.”
Roffman relishes the opportunity to share his theatrical background and his work as a rabbi.
“It’s extraordinarily heartwarming that this prize was established in memory of Peter; he was such an incredibly dear and beautiful man,” Roffman said. “To encourage new filmmakers [with] the opportunity to further their craft, in an arena he so loved, is awesome. I look forward to talking about the film, with its themes that are so important and relevant, with its talented creator.”
Applications for the 2022 Emerging Filmmaker award are open to anyone 30 and under. Participants must be a student or recent graduate of grades 6-12, college or a film studies program.
Film submissions must reflect an aspect of Jewish life — historical, religious, cultural or personal — and be no longer than 40 minutes.
To register for the screening, and its related Talk Back, or to apply for the 2022 Emerging Filmmaker Prize, visit tinyurl.com/JCC-MARCUS-FILM-PRIZE-REGISTER.