When programming a film festival that caters to a particular segment of the population -- be it black, Asian, gay, Latino, Christian or Jewish -- organizers endeavor to find films that speak from many different voices to tell the group's collective story. But they also must be careful not to alienate those outside the group who want to learn about the class or culture being portrayed. "As we were choosing films for this year's festival, a theme began to emerge: coexistence," says Sharon Haber, chairwoman of the 2015 Denver Jewish Film Festival, which begins Wednesday, February 4 and runs through Sunday, February 15. "Living in peace together, despite our differences, is the fabric of [this year's] festival, whether between Israelis and Palestinians, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters or between friends."
With over 24 features and short films and only so much time to see it all, we asked Julie Schwarz, co-chairwoman for the festival, to weigh in on some of the titles and events waiting for you at the Mizel Arts & Culture Center. Here are seven can't-miss films...
7) God's Slave 8:15 p.m. Thursday, February 5 It will be a while before films emerge that can shed light on the recent terrorist attacks in Israel and France and help us process the events to find some semblance of closure, but this film about a twenty-year-old tragedy feels particularly timely, given the recent death of Alberto Nisman, who was the prosecutor for a the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires depicted in God's Slave. "The film is remarkable in that it features the perspective of the terrorist as well as the Mossad Agent tracking him in order to prevent another attack," says Schwarz. 6) Magic Men 5:30 p.m. Sunday, February 8 According to Schwartz, this dramatic comedy is "a new twist on a Greek Odyssey and the strained father-son relationship. In this case, Avraham Kofinas is a secular Jew who finds himself on a journey to his birth country, Greece, with his Hasidic rapper son, Yehuda. There is humor, sadness, a hooker with a heart of gold and lovely Greek scenery. This should be an audience favorite." For more films not to miss at the Denver Jewish Film Fest, turn the page 5) Run Boy Run 8:15 p.m. Sunday, February 8 Even if you miraculously escaped the concentration camps, surviving the Holocaust meant hiding your identity for long lengths of time. This film is "based on the remarkable true story of Srulik, a nine-year-old boy who escapes the Warsaw Ghetto and 'runs' for three years to escape the Holocaust. The film has won over audiences at some of the top Jewish film festivals," says Schwarz.4) Coexistence Shorts Program 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 11
Collections of short films are usually the backbone of any great festival, and this package plugs into the overall theme of coming together to understand one another -- no matter how wide the gaps in our similarities. This set contains three films:On the Road to Tel Aviv
,The Other Side
, which has a famous face supporting its message. "Chelsea Clinton is the executive producer of this film about the friendship between a rabbi and an imam and the positive way in which their strong bond leads to the creation of a multi-faith community at New York University," explains Schwarz.
Keep reading for more films to see at the Denver Jewish Film Festival.3) Joachim Prinz: I Shall Not Be Silent 5:30 p.m. Thursday, February 12
Another film pleading for coexistence is this timely documentary that not only examines the role of religious differences in our society but the color of our skin as well. "It is the inspiring story of a rabbi who was so deeply affected by his experiences in pre-war Nazi Germany that it led to him becoming an advocate for African Americans in the United States," says Schwarz. "The film highlights his friendship with Martin Luther King Jr. and shows the speech he gave on the mall just before King's 'I have a dream' speech."
2) Transit 10:15 a.m. Sunday, February 15
1) Paradise Cruise 7:30 p.m. Sunday, February 15 "Both of these films will be screened on our final Sunday when we are offering something new this year -- an Israel Through The Lens series, which is a lineup of five films that show the diversity of Israel," says Schwarz. "Transit is extremely topical in examining the lives of Filipino migrant workers in Israel. Paradise Cruise is an intense love story set against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Director Matan Guggenheim's experience as a combat fighter in the Israeli Army has a profound impact on the mood and style of this film, which moves from intense to dreamlike and back again."
The 2015 Denver Jewish Film Festival runs February 4 through February 15 at the Mizel Arts & Culture Center, 350 South Dahlia Street. Tickets are $8-$12, to buy tickets go to maccjcc.org/film or call 303-316-6360.
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