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Jewish Federation of Lee & Charlotte Counties Jewish Film Festival set

By Staff | Jan 1, 2016

The Jewish Federation of Lee & Charlotte Counties presents its 2016 Jewish Film Festival of Southwest Florida from Thursday, Jan. 14, through Tuesday, Feb. 9. Eight evening films will be shown at 7:15 p.m. at Regal Cinema Bell Tower at 13499 Bell Tower Drive in Fort Myers.

Festival subscriptions cost $77 for the eight evening films; individual film tickets cost $11. In addition this year, there are two matinee films, also costing $11 per ticket. Seating is open at all films.

Tickets are available online at www.jewishfederationlcc.org or by calling 239-481-4449, extension 3.

The Jewish Film Festival of Southwest Florida is held annually. It offers a rare opportunity to view high caliber independent movies created by Jewish filmmakers, featuring Israeli or Jewish themes.

The Jewish Film Festival of Southwest Florida historically plays to sold-out audiences.

EVENING FILMS

Thursday, Jan. 14 – “Dough”

Curmudgeonly widower Nat Dayan (Jonathan Pryce) obstinately clings to his way of life and his livelihood as a kosher bakery shop owner in London’s East End. With a dwindling clientele and the pressures of encroaching big box stores, Nat reluctantly enlists the help of teenager, Ayyash, who has a secret side gig of selling marijuana to help his struggling immigrant mother make ends meet. When Ayyash accidentally drops his stash into the mixing dough, the challah starts flying off the shelves and an unlikely friendship forms between the old Jewish baker and his young Muslim apprentice. Dough is a warmhearted and gently humorous story about overcoming prejudice and finding redemption in unexpected places.

Tuesday, Jan. 19 – “Once in a Lifetime”

A dedicated history teacher at a French high school is determined to give the best education she can to her underprivileged inner-city pupils. Overcoming their apathy, however, is proving to be more difficult than expected. Frustrated, but undaunted, the teacher tests her multicultural classroom with a unique assignment: a national competition on the theme of child victims of the Nazi concentration camps. The project is initially met with extreme resistance, until a face-to-face encounter with a Holocaust survivor changes the students’ attitudes dramatically. Despite their long-shot odds of winning, these once rebellious teens soon begin to see one another, and themselves, in a whole new light. This movie demonstrates the enduring impact of the Holocaust in transforming future generations.

Thursday, Jan. 21 – “A Borrowed Identity”

Gifted Eyad, a Palestinian Israeli boy, is given the chance to go to a prestigious Jewish boarding school in Jerusalem. As he desperately tries to fit in with his Jewish schoolmates and within Israeli society, Eyad develops a friendship with another outsider, Jonathan, a boy suffering from muscular dystrophy and gradually becomes part of the home Jonathan shares with his mother. After falling in love with a Jewish girl, Eyad leaves school when their relationship is uncovered and he discovers that he will have to sacrifice his identity in order to be accepted. Eyad is forced to make a decision that will change his life forever.

Tuesday, Jan. 26 – “Rock in the Red Zone”

“Rock in the Red Zone” is an intimate portrayal of life on the edge in the war-torn Israeli city of Sderot. Once known for its prolific rock scene that revolutionized Israeli music, for 13 years the town has been the target of ongoing rocket fire from the Gaza strip. Though the personal lives and music of Sderot’s diverse musicians, and the personal narrative of the filmmaker, who ends up calling the town home, the film chronicles the town’s traumas and reveals its enduring spirit. This film is a gripping encounter about life and resilience, choices, defeats and triumphs

Thursday, Jan. 28 – “The Last Mentsch”

Having spent a lifetime concealing his heritage, an aging German Holocaust survivor tries to come to terms with his past. Born Menachem Teitelbaum, Marcus Schwarz escaped Auschwitz with his life only to exterminate his Jewishness. Without family, a synagogue or a single Jewish friend, the hardened old man has so effectively created a new identity, that when faced with his own mortality, the rabbis refuse his appeal to be buried in a Jewish cemetery in Cologne. Determined to return to his birthplace and establish his ancestry, Marcus enlists the help of a brash, chain-smoking young Turkish woman with a troubled history of her own. The unlikely duo sets out on a road trip to a small village on the Hungarian-Romanian border, a journey that will irrevocably change them both..

Tuesday, Feb. 2 – “Apples in the Dessert”

Rivkah, the only child of Orthodox Jewish parents, lives in Jerusalem under the iron fist of her controlling, traditional father while her mother cowers in abdication. No option for college, Rivkah is stuck in a dead end job under the restriction of returning home directly at the end of each day. Restless and dealing with stifled creativity, Rivkah is drawn into the secular world where she encounters a casual folk dancing class. The expressive freedom she feels in dancing is counterbalanced by the tightening grip of her father. As this confinement grows in more extreme ways, Rivkah runs away to join her secular dance partner in a kibbutz.

Thursday, Feb. 4 – “To Life”

Jonas, a young man on the run, arrives in Berlin just in time to save Ruth’s life. Evicted from her apartment, the sarcastic, but warm-hearted aging Jewish cabaret singer saw no other way out than suicide. Meanwhile Jonas, driven by a secret, is also fleeing from his love and his future. As Ruth recovers, she and Jonas form a deep bond informed by her own tragic love for a non-Jewish man in post World War II Germany – a love burdened by the legacy of the horrors of Nazi Germany. With Jonas’ help, Ruth finds the passionate, lusty Yiddish songs of her past that help her find her way back to life and she in turn helps him to find the strength to face his fears.

Tuesday, Feb. 9 – “A Blind Hero: The Love of Otto Weidt”

At Yad Vashem, the Berlin brush maker, Otto Weidt is listed as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. But Weidt’s story has otherwise been overlooked until now. A Blind Hero finally brings the story of his daring and cunning rescue of his blind and deaf Jewish employees from being sent to the camps, as well as his tragic love of Alice Licht and his desperate journey to save her and her entire family from the gas chamber, all while he himself was almost completely blind. This is a powerful docu-drama of a little known story of love, devotion and selfishness that depicts Otto Weidt’s story with award-winning journalist and author Inge Deutschkron, providing her incredible personal account of Weidt’s efforts to save her, her mother and the rest of his employees from the Nazis.

MATINEE FILMS

Wednesday, Jan. 20 – “Midnight Orchestra,” 1 p.m.

After leaving Morocco, as a young boy, amidst racial tensions spurred by the Yom Kippur War, the son of a famous Jewish musician travels to his home country to reunite with his father. The Midnight Orchestra uses the creative device of music in telling the story of how the estranged son’s memories are transformed as he learns about an unknown part of his father’s life and meets the members of the band his father led. The film deals with the difficult topic of Jewish/Muslim relationships, with all its complexities, while telling a story that smashes common stereotypes with humor and compassion. The story is even more relevant in light of the recent condemnation by the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Anti-Semitism in Morocco.

Sunday, Jan. 31 – “Rabin in His Own Words,” 3 p.m.

This is an exceptional documentary released this year on the 20th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination. Through a combination of rare archival footage, home movies and private letters, his personal and professional dramas unfold before the viewer’s eyes – from his childhood as the son of a labor leader before the founding of the State of Israel, through a change of viewpoint that turned him from a farmer into an army man who stood at one of the most critical junctures in Israeli history, through his later years during which he served as Prime Minister and made moves that enraged a large portion of the public, until the horrific moment when his political career and his life were suddenly brought to an end.