The parking lot of the Katie and Irwin Kahn Jewish Community Center will resemble the areas surrounding Williams-Brice Stadium before a football game with food, beverages and camaraderie – but the gathering here won’t be about athletics.
Sunday, Nov. 1 marks the opening of the Columbia Jewish Film Festival, with a showing of “Touchdown Israel.” The film is a feature-length documentary that illustrates how sports can unify while highlighting Israel’s complex society.
Opening night events, which include a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Jewish community center, will be at the center, 306 Flora Drive in Northeast Richland, while all other films during the festival will be played downtown at The Nickelodeon Theatre.
In addition to the 6 p.m. tailgate, the center’s Jewish programs director, Laurie Slack, said opening night will include a special surprise guest, though she declined to give details.
Organizers of the Columbia Jewish Film Festival screen dozens of films before narrowing them to about a dozen that offer insight and understanding into the diverse Jewish community. Slack said the film festival features Jewish films with Jewish themes, but viewers don’t have to be Jewish to relate.
“It’s for everyone,” she said. “… They have universal themes.”
Slack said the film festival was started by a former Columbia resident named Arline Polinski, whom she described as a passionate film lover. From that grew the mission to promote awareness, appreciation and pride in the diversity of the Jewish experience, as well as the ability and support to show more films.
“This is our largest festival, and we’re showing more films than we’ve ever showed before,” Slack said.
A new development for this year’s film festival includes a short film competition for high school students based on the theme “Freedom: At What Cost?” The competition allows students to explore the cross-cultural strife people of different religions face today while harboring creativity.
“We wanted to create an opportunity for students to kind of explore this and the idea of coming together instead of being pulled apart,” she said. “It’s relevant. As a Jewish community, it’s something that affects us and has affected us in the past.”
The winning entries will be shown 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8 at the Nickelodeon.
Another special event this year includes a “talkback” with author Edwin Black after the 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9 screening of “The Last Mentsch.” Black has written several books on the Holocaust.
Slack said the movies shown range from award-winning documentaries to comedies and encouraged anyone interested to attend.
“We have something for everyone,” she said. “Don’t feel like you have to be Jewish to come to the Jewish Film Festival. It’s for all people.”
If you go
Columbia Jewish Film Festival
DATES: Sunday, Nov. 1 through Tuesday, Nov. 17
LOCATIONS: Opening night at the Jewish Community Center, 306 Flora Drive in Northeast Richland. Films shown at The Nickelodeon, 1607 Main St.
FILMS: For dates, times and descriptions of the movies, as well as ticket prices, see www.columbiajewishfilmfestival.com.