March is the month for 6 films
By Deb Silverthorn
The 26th Annual Jewish Film Festival of Dallas, hosted by the Aaron Family JCC and title sponsor Comerica Bank, will share six films between March 1 and 30. An array of genres will be screened at Studio Movie Grill on Spring Valley Road. Three Talk Back events will be held via Zoom after the virtual screenings have completed their run.
“This selection of films is truly one of the best ever.. Our group has curated a broad spectrum of the best films with something for everyone. Every film is a 5-star cinematic experience. Whether you come in-person or watch from home, you will enjoy yourselves,” said Brenda Marcus, the JCC Film Festival’s chair for 17 years.
Joining Marcus and Rachelle Weiss Crane in bringing the best to the Festival are committee members Nancy Brickman, Haiya Feder, Joyce Govrin, Catherine and Paul Lake, Ann and Steve Meyer, Gerri Patterson, Rich Rome, Kimberley Ross, Karla Steinberg, Carole and Joram Wolanow and David Zoller.
The 2023 opening event, “Three Minutes — A Lengthening,” is the only program offered solely in-person. It begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 1. There is no charge for this event, but registration is required.
The documentary, based on Glenn Kurtz’s book “Three Minutes in Poland,” is narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, was awarded the inaugural Yad Vashem Award for Excellence in Holocaust Documentary Filmmaking. The screening precedes Kurtz’s appearance at the 53rd Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches at The University of Texas at Dallas.
The book-turned-documentary came from a 16mm film that Kurtz found at his parents’ home. The film was shot in 1938 by Kurtz’s grandfather at the precipice of World War II during a visit to his hometown in Poland. He couldn’t have known that community’s future — its decimation — or what his footage would mean. Of the town’s 3,000 Jews, less than 100 would survive.
“The images in my grandfather’s footage were so moving, and they were because we know what came next for most of those featured. They were just living their lives,” said Kurtz, who will deliver the Mitchell L. and Miriam Lewis Barnett Lecture at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5, in UTD’s Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center.
Kurtz explained that although he did not know the people or the place personally, he felt a responsibility to them. “For two years I tried to put names to faces, an almost impossible bridge to cross. I sent the film to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and it was posted online. A woman from Detroit saw it and recognized her grandfather, Maurice Chandler, who is now 98 years old. Maurice helped me and so did seven other survivors I was privileged to meet. They shared their lives and the history of the town in detail in a way I only could have dreamed might be possible,” he said.
All Studio Movie Grill screenings begin at 7 p.m. For online viewers, the Eventive platform returns with films available for 48 hours beginning at 12:01 a.m. on the dates noted. Talk Back sessions are on Zoom only.
“March ‘68” will screen Thursday, March 9, in-theater and starting Sunday, March 12, virtually. It is about a student couple in love in a country overwhelmed by a rebellion of young people against authorities wanting to take away spiritual freedom, civil liberties and a sense of national identity.
“This is a great film that is more than a powerful love story between a Jewish girl and a non-Jewish young man. It is heavily grounded and accurate and comes now in a time of resurgence of antisemitism and anti-Zionism,” said Dr. David Patterson, the Hillel A. Feinberg Distinguished Chair in Holocaust Studies and Distinguished Professor of Literature and History at UT Dallas. He will lead this film’s Talk Back at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 16.
“The One and Only Jewish Miss America,” co-sponsored by The Legacy Senior Communities, will run Monday, March 13, in-theater and beginning Thursday, March 16, virtually. David Arond, the film’s director, will host the 7:30 p.m. Talk Back on Sunday, March 19, about the documentary, which follows Bess Myerson’s story of disappointment turned into determination. The daughter of poor Russian immigrants spent her early years in a Jewish housing project and, while smiling through her reign, endured the pain of antisemitism when Miss America sponsors withdrew their support and race-restricted tour stops closed their doors.
The yet-to-be-announced winner of the Festival’s 2022-2023 Emerging Filmmaker Prize, awarded in memory of Dr. Peter Marcus, will screen with “The One and Only Jewish Miss America.” At a later date, Shearith Israel staffer Liz Faeder, a former film and video production student, will interview the filmmaker.
“America” screens Monday, March 20, in-theater and opens Tuesday, March 21, online. The film is an affectionate tribute to ‘60s and ‘70s cinema that pays homage to values such as friendship, love and moral responsibility. An Israeli man returns to Israel after 10 years in America. An encounter with a childhood friend and his future wife will change everyone’s lives. A story set between a flower shop and an ancient monastery, a swimming pool and the Mediterranean Sea, life and death — and somewhere in the middle.
“The Shadow of the Day” will run Thursday, March 23, in-theater and beginning on Sunday, March 26, virtually. At 4 p.m. March 26, Congregation Shearith Israel’s Rabbi Adam Roffman hosts the Talk Back of the Italian film, which is the story of Luciano, a fascist-abiding restaurateur who, with the 1938 racial laws already in place, believes he can live by his own rules. Once a girl with a dangerous secret begins working at his restaurant, everything changes.
The season closes with “Matchmaking,” on Monday, March 27, in-theater and starting Tuesday, March 28, online. This is a romantic comedy offering glimpses of the matchmaking process of an ultra-Orthodox community where Moti, the son every mother wants and a student every rabbi loves to teach, is in search of a wife. He meets the “best girls” in the Orthodox world but falls for the one girl he can never have.
Additional sponsors of the Jewish Film Festival of Dallas are congregations Beth Torah and Shearith Israel; Dallas Jewish Historical Society; Jewish War Veterans Dr. Harvey J. Bloom Post 256; J Seniors; and the Women of Adat Chaverim.
“The J is so appreciative of our sponsors, our Talk Back hosts, Brenda and her great committee and of course everyone who has the opportunity to share in what is a really great lineup,” said Weiss Crane, JCC Israel engagement/Jewish living director and Film Festival producer.
“We’re so glad to be back in the theater, and to still provide online viewing for those more comfortable at home and also for our Talk Back events,” said Weiss Crane. “Connecting, however we can, is very special.”
For more details, and to register or sponsor the 2023 Jewish Film Festival of Dallas, visit jccdallas.org/special-events/film-festival.