Running from Nov. 1 through 19, the JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival's eighth year will--not surprisingly--be distinct from previous iterations. In addition to the festival happening in the fall instead of the spring, it will be entirely virtual. The films will be available for home viewing, with 72-hour passes that enable access to the film and conversations with important figures like filmmakers and topic experts.
"To me, a major part of the value of a film festival is the conversation after the film," said Ilene Uhlmann, Director of Arts and Ideas at JCC Chicago. To simulate the moments after leaving the theater when moviegoers share their thoughts, she and others at JCC Chicago have organized talkbacks to enhance the viewing experience from home.
Here We Are,
which showcases the relationship between a father and his son with autism, will feature a speaker from Keshet, a JUF partner offering services for individuals with disabilities. An unrelated organization with the same name that focuses on LGBTQ inclusion will provide commentary on
I Was Not Born A Mistake
, which follows the journey of an Orthodox man who transitions from male to female.
Uhlmann described selecting these and the other films for the Festival as a "puzzle" that needs to suit the needs of the entire community with varied interests. An important consideration was including films from March's film festival that was abruptly canceled in its third weekend when the stay at home order was put in effect. Half of this year's films are carried over from then, and half are new, six of which were produced in Chicago. The diverse spread of films, documentaries, comedies, dramas, and narratives hail from places that range from the United States to France, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Latvia... and of course Israel.
The films "represent all different themes and perspectives but are all about the human condition, and that's what we focus on with the film festival," Uhlmann said. "We want people to think about the films and how it might pertain to their lives, talk about them, and feel more enriched than when they sat down."
The selection also includes feel-good film
, which Uhlmann recommends for theater-lovers and anyone looking for an escape from the real world. Unorthodox lead Shira Haas stars in both
, which focuses on a mother-daughter relationship, and
, which highlights a troubled father and daughter. And
, a new documentary, shares the little-known story of three Catholic doctors who invented a contagious disease to keep Nazis out of a hospital ward where they were rescuing Jews.
Tickets for all these films and more are available for $15. The ticket covers unlimited viewers on one screen, which can help families save money on buying tickets. "It's an opportunity to stretch your movie money and see more films. Oftentimes, people say that they wanted to see so many movies, and this is an opportunity for that," Uhlmann said.
The film festival has also led to new opportunities for the JCC, which has partnered with Illinois Federations outside of Chicago to bring the viewing experience statewide. "We're really excited" for the partnership, Uhlmann said. "In times of tumult, you have to be open to opportunity and find it. That's definitely the case with virtual programming."
To learn more about the films and purchase tickets, visit
. JCC Chicago is a partner with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community.