The JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival marks its seventh anniversary this year, opening the weekend of Feb. 28 and running through March 15. More than 45 films will show at seven locations in the city and suburbs. While the Festival is now year-round, these three weeks make up the bulk of it, according to Elizabeth Abrams, JCC Chicago Director of Program Marketing and Communications .
"We're really proud of how (attendance) has grown from 800 people the first year to over 17 thousand this past year," Abrams said. "The result of that is obviously the community… showing up and wanting to be present and see these films and learn and enjoy and be inspired."
According to Ilene Uhlmann, JCC Chicago Director of Arts and Ideas, studios now reach out to the Festival, asking for their movies to be featured at it. "We've grown so that the industry has begun to recognize that we're a player in the Chicago market," said Uhlmann, who heads up the Festival.
The Festival shows films at the following locations:
- CMX CineBistro & CMX Market at Old Orchard
- CMX Arlington Heights.
- Century 12 Evanston/CineArts 6 in Evanston
- Landmark Renaissance Place Cinema in Highland Park
- The Logan Theatre in Chicago
Moviegoers can purchase tickets online directly through the theaters. There also will be four films showing at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie on Sunday, March 1.
"The Film Festival features a range of films. We really try to strike a balance. Documentaries, comedy, narrative, dramas. I try to bring in film from all around the world. There are Israeli films, but it's not strictly Israeli film based," Uhlmann said.
Oscar nominated and Israeli-born director Dror Shahalvi's film, Crescendo , featured in this year's Festival, tells the story of an orchestra comprised of young Israelis and Palestinians and the tensions that ensue both among the musicians and the political opponents of the orchestra itself.
Another highlight is The Last Vermeer , starring Guy Pearce, based on the true story of a man who forged artwork to trick the Nazis, and his subsequent post-war trial.
For those who love tradition, the documentary, "Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles," shows the journey of how Fiddler on the Roof went from a Sholem Aleichem tale to an international musical sensation. Another documentary of note is Chichinette: How I Accidentally Became a Spy , which tells the remarkable story of Marthe Cohn, who survived the Holocaust and fought the Nazis as a spy.
Like in past years, the Festival will feature "talkbacks" where filmmakers lead discussions with moviegoers, giving them a chance to interact with those behind the scenes. There also are films for kids such as The Tattooed Torah and Heading Home - The Tale of Team Israel
To maintain its higher profile, the Festival shows films throughout the year, including a partnership with Chicago Park District's Movies in the Park series. In addition, the Festival plans to expand its borders in 2020, working with Jewish communities in Elgin and Champagne-Urbana.
"The more we can engage with people the better," Uhlmann said. "Art and culture are something (around which) we can all come together and find some takeaway that's meaningful to us."
For complete details on the 2020 JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival, go to http://www.jccfilmfest.org .
Mimi Sager Yoskowitz is a freelance writer, mother of four and former CNN producer. Her work has been featured on various sites including Kveller, Brain, Child and in the anthology, So Glad They Told Me . Connect with her at mimisager.com.