Ten Top Picks at the Denver Jewish Film Festival, Opening February 10

Adhmed Drame in Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar's Once in a Lifetime (Les Heritiers)
Adhmed Drame in Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar's Once in a Lifetime (Les Heritiers)

What do we think of when we think of Jewish film? For three generations, the grainy black-and-white footage of the Holocaust has dominated the collective mind, a trauma that will take the passing of generations to dissipate. Recent Jewish-themed films however, reflect a resilient and rebounding worldwide Jewish population, displaying a broader, livelier palette.

The twentieth annual Denver Jewish Film Festival, which opens Wednesday, February 10, at the Mizel Arts & Culture Center, is very diverse and defiantly alive. The lineup includes films from Israel, France, Germany, England, Spain and the Netherlands; there are comedies, dramas, documentaries and even a slam-bang, action-packed thriller. Here are ten intriguing films plucked from the 28 on the schedule this year.

Ten Top Picks at the Denver Jewish Film Festival, Opening February 10

10. Apples from the Desert
Based on the short story and resulting play by Savyon Liebrecht, this film follows a coming-of-age saga about a young girl in Jerusalem who struggles against her Orthodox parents’ expectations.

Ten Top Picks at the Denver Jewish Film Festival, Opening February 10

9. Brundibar revisited
Hans Krasa premiered his children’s opera Brundibar inside the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943. Its sly anti-Nazi message didn't go unnoticed; after the cast was filmed for propaganda purposes, most of the performers were shipped to the gas chambers. The opera survived, though, and its contemporary performance by teens is attended by one of the few survivors of the original cast.

Jerome Holder and Jonathan Pryce in Dough
Jerome Holder and Jonathan Pryce in Dough

8. Dough
This is a screwball comedy with an old Jewish baker (Jonathan Pryce), his young black Muslim assistant, a bunch of weed and an assortment of kooky characters. What’s not to like?

David Broza, left, and Steve Earle in East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem
David Broza, left, and Steve Earle in East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem

7. East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem
The opening night film shows us Israeli singer/songwriter David Broza as he makes a recording in the span of eight days, on the Arab side of Jerusalem, using both Palestinian and Israeli musicians – along with some co-producing by Steve Earle. Broza will be at the festival on February 10, and a post-film dessert reception will honor this year’s recipient of the festival’s Cultural Achievement Award: the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.

6. My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes
The successful protection of 80 percent of Italy’s Jews during the Holocaust is not generally known. This documentary combines interviews, newsreel footage and dramatic reconstruction to tell the story. My Italian Secret was one of the late Robert Loggia’s last film projects; director Oren Jacoby will attend the screening.

5. Once in a Lifetime
Based on a true story, this film follows a feisty teacher who inspires her class of unmotivated, down-and-out pupils to engage in a project that brings them face to face with the Holocaust.

Keep reading for four more picks.


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