Remembrance

'Remembrance' is one of the films playing at the 16th Annual Hartford Jewish Film Festival. (Image courtesy hjff.org)

This month Mandell Jewish Community Center of West Hartford hosts the 16th Annual Hartford Jewish Film Festival, which boasts 22 films, from 10 countries, in 10 days: Saturday, March 17 to Tuesday, March 27.Thirteen of the films are Connecticut premieres, four are showing for the first time in Hartford, and four for the first time in New England. All offer dramatic tales — both documentaries and fiction — that reflect on the challenges to Jewish community in the modern world, with settings such as Poland in the war, a prison in Los Angeles, the flood-threatened town on the Israeli coast, the Orthodox community in Baltimore, a children's dance troupe in Zagreb, neighborhoods in Berlin and Brooklyn, Eastern Europe during the Holocaust, and Sesame Street…in Jerusalem. Many films are followed by discussions with the people who made the films possible: directors, actors, producers, authors. Films will be showing at five locations: in Bloomfield, Digiplex Destinations; in Hartford, the Aetna Theater in the Wadsworth Atheneum; in West Hartford, Criterion Cinemas Blue Back Square, the Herbert Gilman Theater in the Mandell JCC, and The Emanuel Synagogue. Check the schedule at www.hjff.org for showtimes and venues.

In addition to an opening reception and a closing night tango dance party, there will be special gatherings for young and old and in between: for the whole family, Family Flicks; for teens: a Jewish-Muslim Teen Screen program; for seniors, a Senior Luncheon Matinee. Partnership with the New York Disabilities Film Festival provides the premiere of ReelAbilities, a day of screenings at The Emanuel Synagogue celebrating the lives and achievements of people with disabilities, including Warrior Champions — From Baghdad to Beijing (China and USA, 2009), about the inspirational Olympic efforts of four U.S. Iraq War veterans, and Shooting Beauty (USA, 2010), showcasing the film work of people with disabilities.

Billed as “Jewish story-telling with an international accent,” the festival brings together award-winning films from Argentina, China, Croatia, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Some highlights:

Remembrance (Germany, 2011), a story of two lovers who survive Auschwitz only to be parted; each believing the other to have died, they face a potentially shattering encounter in the Seventies — this fine film precedes the gala reception on Opening Night. March 17, 8:30 p.m., Aetna Theater; encore screening March 21, 8:15 p.m., Criterion Blue Back Square.

The Family Flicks program features Shalom Sesame Street (USA, Israel, 2011): Grover attends a Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem while Jewish reggae musician Matisyahu creates a beatbox version of Hava Nagila. March 18, 10 a.m., Gilman Theater, JCC.

David — The Movie (USA, 2011): a family drama about the perils of crossing the borders of racial and religious identity. March 18, 3 p.m., Digiplex Destinations; screening on March 18, 4 p.m., Gilman Theater JCC, for teens only: a Jewish-Muslim Screen Teen event, with director Joel Fendelman and others.

The Klezmatics — On Holy Ground (see review). March 19, 7 p.m., Gilman Theater, JCC; director Erik Greenberg Anjou at Reel Talk after the film.

Standing Silent (USA, 2010), March 20, 7 p.m., Gilman Theater, JCC; for Reel Talk, director Scott Rosenfelt, of Branford, will join other guests, such as Rabbi James Rosen of West Hartford, and Phil Jacobs, the courageous former editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times whose articles are the basis for this wrenching film: an investigation of child abuse among Orthodox rabbis and educators. Parental guidance suggested.

A Book and Movie event: March 26: 5:30 p.m., dinner with Alison Pick, author of Far To Go, a novel depicting a Czechoslovakian Jewish family involved with the Kindertransport; 7 p.m., Gilman Theater, JCC: the film Nicky's Family (Czech Republic/Slovak Republic, 2011), the story of Sir Nicholas Winston, who engineered the Kindertransport of 669 Czechoslovak Jewish children, followed by Reel Talk with Pick, and Ivan Backer of Hartford, one of “Nicky's children.”

When Jewish musicians fled Russia for Buenos Aires, they created the style explored in Tango — A Story with Jews (Argentina, 2009), followed by a closing-night reception and a tango concert dance party. March 27, 7 p.m., Gilman Theater, JCC.

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