You don’t have to be part of Columbia’s Jewish population to enjoy the city’s Jewish Film Festival, organizers say.
Now in its 16th year, the festival kicks off Sunday, Oct. 30 and will show nine films and a student short film competition before ending Tuesday, Nov. 15. The selected movies range from dramas to Holocaust remembrances to comedies.
“People might be worried that everything will be in Yiddish and they won’t be able to understand anything, but that’s not the case at all,” said Laurie Slack, Jewish programs director at the Katie and Irwin Kahn Jewish Community Center.
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There is a movie about a teenager rebelling against her conservative Orthodox Jewish parents in a classic tale of tradition vs. modernity, a “Stand And Deliver”-esque film about a dedicated teacher determined to educate her inner-city pupils on the Holocaust and a documentary about a passionate Jewish baker in Chicago.
Many of the movies explore interactions between Jewish and non-Jewish characters and communities, as well as the theme of identity.
In “My Italian Secret,” prominent Italian figures, including a Tour de France cycling champ, risk their lives to save Jewish strangers in World War II because, well, what kind of people would they be if they didn’t?
“It’s showing a different side to the story,” organizer Ruth Rast said. The film will be followed by a talkback with a priest and a history professor at the University of South Carolina.
In “A Borrowed Identity,” an Arab student earns a scholarship to an elite Jewish school and struggles with fitting in and figuring out who he is until he is embraced by a Jewish family.
If you’re already starting to wonder how you’re going to see all of these films, kvetch not.
The festival is longer than years past to allow people more time to see the films, organizer Patty Tucker said.
“It started as one week of films, but it was hard for people to go out every night. Now it stretches to three weeks.”
Plenty of time for movie watching and interfaith dialogue, the latter of which is one of the hoped-for outcomes of the festival.
“Jewish film festivals have really grown. They’re not just in big cities anymore,” Rast said. “There’s a general sense of wanting to bring Jewish cultural life out of the community centers and into the mainstream.”
Slack added, “The film fest for me is a way to confirm our identity while also connecting with the community without the pressure of religious life pushing down on them.”
If you go
Jewish Film Festival
When: Sunday, Oct. 30-Tuesday, Nov. 15
Where: Nickelodeon Theatre, 1607 Main St.
Cost: Films are $8.