The entertainment world has always drawn much depth, richness, character, wit and talent from the Jewish community.
Since the dawn of the silver screen Jewish entertainers have enriched the lives of film aficionados. The list includes such luminaries as the Marx Brothers, Al Jolson, Mae West, George Burns, Danny Kaye, Red Buttons, Mel Blanc, Lauren Bacall, Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas – and that’s just a tiny sampling of thespians of Jewish heritage born before 1940.
Considering the list of folks behind the camera — the directors, producers, composers, screen writers and others — it’s hard to imagine just where American entertainment would be without this very important ethnic group. Their contribution to the arts is simply staggering.
Readers may not be aware that there is an annual Jewish Film Festival held every year in Sacramento. This year’s fest will shine the spotlight on feature films from around the globe that represent the diversity of Jewish culture, continuing a tradition of great storytelling. This will be the 14th year for the event, held at the Crest Theatre.
The Festival opens at 7 p. m. on Saturday, Feb. 5, with “Nora’s Will.” One of the most acclaimed Mexican films of recent years, “Nora’s Will” won seven Ariel Awards, Mexico’s equivalent of the Oscars. Director Mariana Chenillo’s dark comedy tells the story of a Jewish family turned upside down when a long-held family secret is uncovered.
A short film entitled “Hava Nagilah: What is it?” will follow. The short is a documentary romp through the history, mystery and meaning of the great Jewish standard. Funny, deep and unexpected, the film celebrates 100 years of Jewish history and culture and reveal the power of music to bridge cultural divides and bring us together as human beings.
The second opening night film begins at 9:30 p.m. with “Half-Remembered Stories” from the New Jewish Filmmaking Project (NJFP), a corps of young adult storytellers who explore Jewish heritage from the digital generations’ point of view. Humor, love, culture and family are examined in this collection of short films. Following the screening there will be a Q & A session with some of the project filmmakers. A dessert reception will be held in the lobby between the two screenings.
The Festival continues at noon on Sunday, Feb. 6, with the screening of “Five Hours from Paris,” a tender love story that takes place in modern day Tel Aviv. Yigal is a kind-hearted but painfully passive taxi driver whose deep fear of flying and intolerance for change has kept him from ever leaving Tel Aviv. When he unexpectedly falls for his son’s worldly music teacher, a lovely Russian immigrant, Yigal is compelled to take charge of his future.
A lighthearted “short” follows, entitled “Gefilte Fish.”
The second feature, “Anita,” begins at 2:30 p.m. Set in Argentina in 1994, “Anita” is a poignant drama that examines the impact of a terrorist act on the life of its title character, a woman with Down’s syndrome. In honor of Jewish Disabilities Awareness Month, there will be a post-film discussion with participants in the Celebration of Jewish Inclusion weekend.
The 14th annual Jewish Film Festival will be held Feb. 5–6 at the Crest Theatre, 1023 K Street in Sacramento. Advance tickets are on sale at the Crest Box Office and tickets.com. Tickets are $10.50 general admission, $9 for seniors, students and Friends of the Festival. Festival passes are $38 general, $34 for seniors, students and Friends of the Festival. Saturday and Sunday Day passes are $20 general, $17 for seniors, students and Friends of the Festival. For additional information, visit thecrest.com, sacjff.org or call (916) 442-7378. Admission includes validated parking at the Sacramento City Garage at 10th and L streets in Sacramento.
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