By Deb Silverthorn
The curtains will soon rise on the 24th annual Jewish Film Festival of Dallas, with popcorn and drinks coming from the safety of viewers’ homes rather than concession stands.
The virtual festival will present five films this August and five more in April, hopefully in the theater, each with an expert-led Talk Back session sharing each film’s subject matter. From the comfort of home, the festival hopes to reel in bigger audiences than ever.
“This year we have created an incredible opportunity to be together, to share in some very special film experiences and conversation, despite being apart” said Rachelle Weiss Crane, Aaron Family JCC Israel Engagement/Jewish Living director and producer of the festival.
The films, all provided with subtitles, will be available from 7 p.m. Monday to 7 p.m. Wednesday of each week posted with the associated Talk Back Thursday evening at 7 p.m.
Following is the schedule:
“The Keeper” Aug. 3-5
Talk Back with Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman and David Zimmerman, Athletic Director and Dean of Students at Akiba Yavneh Academy, Aug. 6
“The Keeper” is the true story of Bert Trautmann, a German soldier and prisoner of war who, against a backdrop of British postwar protest and prejudice, secures the position of goalkeeper at Manchester City, and in doing so becomes a soccer icon.
“This story, about so much more than sports, is about understanding your enemy, trying to become accepted by that enemy and then trying to reach an incredible goal together,” said David Zimmerman. “I’m excited to share this with my father because, while I can bring the sports background and my love of film,” continued Zimmerman, “he’s an incredible historian who I know will bring so much valuable Jewish content to the discussion which will be meaningful, educational and also challenge us to ask ourselves tough questions.”
For Rabbi Zimmerman, the film allows us to question what we can learn from the Jewish tradition and can we open our doors and even our hearts to those who have harmed, and even tried to destroy us. “Can they do teshuvah?” he asks. “Can we accept their teshuvah, can we accept them without forgetting their past deeds and can we accept them without forgiving them?”
“Flawless” Aug. 10-12
Talk Back with Rabbi Adam Roffman of Congregation Shearith Israel, Aug. 13
“Flawless” features a trio of high school outcasts in Jerusalem who remake themselves while prepping for prom night. Together, the three go to dangerous extremes to bankroll the cosmetic surgeries they believe will solve everything. The tale of identity, self-discovery and prejudice features actress Stav Strashko, the first transgender woman nominated for Israel’s Ophir (Israeli Academy) Award.
“When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” Aug. 17-19
Talk Back with Dr. Nils Roemer, Director, Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, Aug. 20
Based on the bestselling novel of the same name, “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit” is a touching perspective on the experience of German Jews who fled the country before the war. In 1933, 9-year-old Anna is unaware of Hitler’s rise to power until her father goes missing from their home in Berlin. Moving with her mother and brother to Switzerland, then Paris, then London, Anna experiences family disruption and dislocation while assimilating into a new life.
“This film walks us through as Anna bids farewell to her home, her toys, her furniture and what it means as a child, to fit your clothes and choose one toy to go in a suitcase. It’s about a family and the choices that have to be made,” Roemer said. Roemer, a native of Hamburg, Germany, said he read the book as a child and has experienced it anew through the film. He recommends reading before viewing the filem. “As we see a young child wonder, heartbreakingly, if her stuffed animal will be OK, the plight of refugees, and the loss of status and position, is clear,” he said.
“Hate Among Us” Aug. 24-26
Talk Back with Cheryl Drazin, Anti-Defamation League Central Region Vice-President, Aug. 27
This sobering documentary sounds the alarm on the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States and historic European Jewish neighborhoods. Producer Montel Williams says that “anytime hate crime happens to anyone, it happens to all of us.” This film’s scenes of hate rallies, attacks on synagogues and other violent anti-Semitic activities underscores its message of history repeating itself.
“The ADL’s timeless mission is to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and secure justice and fuse treatment for all,” said Drazin. “In 2019, we saw more anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. than ever recorded. Anti-Semitism is not just part of our history; it is very much a current event.”
“Love in Suspenders”
Aug. 31-Sept. 2
Talk Back with Rabbi Stefan Weinberg, Congregation Anshai Torah Sept. 3).
A light-hearted comedy that reveals the building relationship between a widow in her sixties and widower, a bit older. The two, still suffering the loss of their loved ones, meet when the woman hits the man with her car. They disregard their many differences and eventually fall in love. Rabbi Weinberg will speak on the film’s message of love as ageless and without boundaries.
All registered participants will receive a link to watch the film one hour before the viewing window opens. They will also receive links to interactive Talk Back sessions via Zoom. Technical support is available for those who need assistance accessing the links, projecting them from computer to television screens and navigating Zoom. “When Hitler Stole Rabbit” is appropriate viewing for all ages; the other four are suitable for viewers in high school and older.
The Dallas Jewish Film Festival’s presenting sponsor is Pegasus Bank, with additional support from many others, including Cindi’s Deli, Kahn Mechanical and community partners Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies at UTD, AJC Global Jewish Advocacy, Belmont Village Senior Living Turtle Creek, congregations Anshai Torah, Beth Torah and Shearith Israel, Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest United States, Dallas Jewish Historical Society, Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, Jewish War Veterans Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Post 256, Legacy Senior Communities and Women of Adat Chaverim.
“The Jewish Film Festival of Dallas has beyond lived up to our expectations and we are proud to have sponsored it for decades,” said Pegasus Bank CEO Joe Goyne. “The festival films, produced by an incredible team of dedicated people, are about serious people, serious subject matters and beautiful storytelling and it’s why we are back every year.”
Earlier this summer, in partnership with the films’ producers, the Festival premiered “Picture of His Life” and “Resistance.” The latter included a Talk Back with star Jesse Eisenberg and its writer and director Jonathan Jakubowicz, led by Dr. Sara Abosch of the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum. Both films are still available for screening, as is the “Resistance” conversation through the JCC’s website.
“Many film festivals around the country have canceled for this year, but in a quick turnaround we’ve put together an incredible lineup. We’re so excited to, in these really difficult times, bring distraction, joy and excellent entertainment to the community,” said Brenda Marcus, the film festival’s chair for 11 years. “We will miss seeing our very loyal audiences in person, but I’m thrilled we can now be open to guests around the country, around the world.”
The Talk Back experts, says Marcus, are respected representatives from throughout the community, “who will each help us unpack the films, some of their delicate subject matter, and frame them in wonderful ways. I hope that people will watch and bring questions to the conversation.”
The festival’s Emerging Filmmaker Prize was created in memory of Marcus’ husband Peter of blessed memory, with whom she co-chaired the event for eight years. The prize is awarded to a young filmmaker for a short film containing Jewish content or theme. Applications for this year’s contest are open now.
“We have worked with JCCs around the country, with producers and distributors and with our incredible committee, sponsors and community partners and I assure you,” said Rachelle Weiss Crane, JCC Israel Engagement/Jewish Living director, “whether it’s date-night, or a matinee that you create at home, you won’t be disappointed.”
Registration for each presentation is $10 for JCC members and $13 for non-members For more details and Festival registration visit jccdallas.org/special-events/film-festival.
For Emerging Filmmaker contest information and applications, email firstname.lastname@example.org.,