Jewish film fest offers eclectic mix in hybrid format
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Jewish film fest offers eclectic mix in hybrid format

“Love and Mazel Tov” is an unconventional love story set in Berlin.
“Love and Mazel Tov” is an unconventional love story set in Berlin.

JCC MetroWest’s New Jersey Jewish Film Festival weathered two years of pandemic-induced changes, and it has emerged with plans for another full roster of quality cinema.

The 22nd annual festival will take place from March 20 to April 10.

In 2020 and ’21, interim festival director Randi Zucker said, “we employed highly accessible platforms to maintain the festival’s mission of offering first-rate culture and entertainment and shared (virtual) experiences, all while helping to keep community members safe and cope with the anxiety and isolation felt by many.”

Community members are eager to gather again in person — under safe circumstances, she added — “but we did discover the distinct advantages of the virtual framework. So we are happy to hold the festival as a hybrid event.” A few films will be screened in the theater at the JCC in West Orange, but all 20-plus films again will be available to watch at home. Several will be offered over the course of each week of the festival; real-time discussions with filmmakers and other guests will take place on Zoom.

Ms. Zucker, who stepped up to succeed Sarah Diamond as NJJFF director, has many years of experience running the Jewish film festival at the JCC of Central NJ in Scotch Plains.

The festival committee has chosen a wide-ranging lineup of cinematic works, many award-winning, including features, documentaries, comedies, and shorts. They come from the United States and Israel, as well as from France, Germany, Spain, and Romania, spotlighting Jewish history, culture, and identity.

Celebrated Israeli environmental sculptor Dani Karavan is profiled in “High Maintenance.”

The opening-day feature, “Rose,” being shown at the JCC Sunday, March 20, at 2 p.m. (and streaming through March 26), is a French drama about a recently widowed octogenarian with rich North African Jewish roots, whose sorrow gives way to a realization that she still can redefine herself as a woman.

“High Maintenance: The Life and Work of Dani Karavan” (March 20-26) profiles the renowned Israeli artist, who has created nearly 100 monumental installations all across the world, and the conflict over his monument to Poles who risked their lives to save Jews during World War II.

The French film “The Man in the Basement” (March 27-April 3) is a taut psychological thriller in which a seemingly harmless resident of a Paris flat emerges as a sinister antisemitic conspiracy theorist.

In the German film “Love and Mazel Tov” (March 20-26), Anne, a young gentile woman living in Berlin, has a crush on Judaism. What will happen when she learns that the man she’s fallen in love with is not Jewish at all? He’s just pretending — what about her?

A winner of Best Documentary at Israel’s Ophir Awards, “Speer Goes to Hollywood” tells the improbable story of how the man in charge of 12 million slaves, Albert Speer, tried to whitewash his Nazi past by participating in a Hollywood adaptation of his memoir, “Inside the Third Reich.”

“Honeymood,” an Israeli romantic comedy, follows a pair of newlyweds on a dazed journey through Jerusalem.

Sponsors are welcome — it’s not too late — and receive a range of benefits, from all-festival passes, priority seating, and recognition in festival programs. Giving levels range from Film Fan at $300 to Superstar Lead Sponsor at $10,000, and many in between. Corporate sponsors receive wide visibility in festival literature. “We really count on our sponsors to help us sustain what has become a premier cultural event,” Ms. Zucker said.

NJJFF committee members Caren and Herb Ford of Livingston founded the festival in 2000. Andrea Bergman, Joni Cohen, and Abby Meth Kanter are co-chairs; Vicky Jacobs is festival curator.

To become a sponsor or for other information, email Ms. Zucker at rzucker@jccmetrowest.org or go to jccmetrowest.org/njjff, which includes a complete schedule and descriptions of the films.


What: New Jersey Jewish Film Festival

When: March 20-April 10

Where: Streaming (few films in person at JCC MetroWest, West Orange)

Tickets: $15; sponsorships available

Contact: Randi Zucker at rzucker@jccmetrowest.org or visit jccmetrowest.org/njjff

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