The breadth and depth of the Jewish experience will be on view during the sixth annual JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival, comprised of 43 films exhibited in seven venues across the city and suburbs from March 1-17.
Curated by JCC Chicago, this year's festival boasts a world premiere, a dozen Midwest premieres, and four Chicago premieres. Several of the screenings will feature appearances by directors and cast members.
Opening night will see the world premiere of The Last at the Century 12 Evanston/Cine Arts 6. This contemporary drama focuses on a Jewish family thrown into turmoil by a confession by its 92-year-old matriarch. Director Jeff Lipsky and actor AJ Cedeno are scheduled to attend.
Also screening March 1 is the Midwest premiere of Fig Tree , a tragic coming-of-age story set during the 1989 Ethiopian Civil War about a teenage Jewish girl who plots desperately to save her Christian boyfriend from being drafted before her family emigrates to Israel.
Rebecca Zellelew and Hanna Shawel of the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago are scheduled to lead a post-film conversation.
The Chicago premiere of Winter Hunt will also screen that night at the Century 16 Deer Park. In this psychological thriller, a woman is determined to confront a man at his remote chateau whom she suspects is a former guard at Auschwitz.
Fig Tree and Winter Hunt are among several films in the festival that focus on strong women protagonists, notes JCC's Director of Arts and Ideas Ilene Uhlmann. These films are in celebration of the installation in July 2018 of Addie Goodman, the first woman CEO in JCC's 115-year history, she said.
Other female-centric offerings include the Midwest premiere of Golda's Balcony , starring Tovah Feldshuh. This performance of William Gibson's one-woman play about Golda Meir was recently unearthed.
And Working Woman is a timely drama about a Jerusalem career woman who struggles to deal with harassment in the workplace.
The JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival was created to engage Chicago's vibrant Jewish community beyond showing films produced solely in Israel.
"It's important to see films from all around the world reflecting Jewish thought and themes," Uhlmann said. "This year's films come from France, Germany, Mexico, Spain, the United States, and, of course, Israel. We're showing a beautiful film, A Fortunate Man, which was Denmark's official entry to the Academy for Best Foreign Film."
"Our interest with the film festival is to inspire thought, conversation, and connection to Jewish identity," Uhlmann said. "That's why we show a range of films."
This year's roster of films, for example, include several acclaimed documentaries, including the Midwest premiere of Carl Laemmle which profiles the founder of Universal Pictures and rescuer of over 300 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, and Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel , which chronicles a team of current and former Jewish Major League Baseball players' first trip to Israel. This screening will feature a post-film discussion with Jeff Aeder, director of the Chicago Jewish Baseball Museum.
Joe's Violin is a short documentary about how a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor's donation of his violin to an instrument drive impacts the life of a pre-teen Bronx schoolgirl. Sustainable Nation follows three people who utilize solutions developed in Israel to bring sustainable water.
In its inaugural year, the festival screened eight films and attracted 800 people across 14 screenings. Last year, Uhlmann said, the JCC engaged 12,000 people through the film festival as well as other film screenings throughout the year.
"Our audience is diverse," she said. "We try to find films that offer many different perspectives. The film festival brings together people from across communities, ideologies, and ages. It's a way to bring people together. That's why we do it."
For more information about the JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival, visit jccfilmfest.org. .