By Judith Dack
It has been a great pleasure to create the 2021 Shorts Film Programs, which open the Boulder Jewish Film Festival, along with a fabulous small team of volunteers: Rochelle Schwartz, BJFF Shorts Film Programmer; Libby Berry, BJFF Shorts Film Program Assistant; Mamie Kakes and Nicky Wolman, Shorts Film Previewers. Appreciation grew as we previewed so many incredible encapsulated stories that moved us.
Through this short form, the filmmaker offers a snapshot of life – carefully chosen dialogue and poignant shots convey rich story lines, emotion, and diverse responses to a complicated world. Many short films are the early work of up-and- coming filmmakers creating something that is meaningful while exploring their look, tone and style.
Assembling the shorts program is indeed a particular process of discernment. Through many discussions and ratings, we carefully considered the 80-plus short films we had located for previewing. Once we had identified our favorites, we had to consider how the films interrelate and inform the sequence when screened together as a program. We also had to imagine what the impact will be on our audience as they are taken on a journey viewing a variety of films in one sitting.
When considering a grouping of specifically Jewish shorts films, there are themes a programmer must weave into this international program. For example, many in our audience really appreciate the opportunity to hear our two tribal languages Hebrew and Yiddish, and even Arabic for some of us. Israeli “slice of life” films take us back to our travels in Israel or dreams of the trip we hope to make. And in some films, the parallel Palestinian experience is revealed.
Historical Holocaust themes must always be integrated. Now we are seeing more of the post-Holocaust stories of trauma carried forward. Some films allow us to enter the cultures of religious Jewish families or sample the distinct flavor of Sephardic families. And of course, there’s often food involved.
I hope you enjoy the journeys we have crafted for you in this upcoming 2021 Boulder Jewish Film Festival. I look forward to sharing insights and hearing your reactions as we watch these films together, with breaks for discussion.
Program 1 – Wednesday, March 10 at 2:00 and 7:00 pm
Jewish shtetl, Ukraine, 1941. A box with mother’s hairpins – the only thing left from his family – is Yasha’s last chance to escape German invaders and rescue his new friend, a wounded goat kid.
On the way to a Passover dinner with extended family, a family drama erupts and mother is fed up with the fight.
40 Chess Boards
In Argentina, in 1939, while the chess world championship was being played, news shocked the participants: Germany invades Poland and the Second World War begins. Many of the great masters were stranded far from their countries and families. They gave exhibitions for a living.
Thank You for Buying Chess America
Yoav’s daily routine is filled with anticipation as he obsessively tracks a package he ordered online. This dull routine becomes confusing and hallucinatory as he meets colorful service providers.
Birdie is a biracial girl raised by her mom in a NJ suburb. She spends a visitation day with her father and invites him to her Bat Mitzvah, as she navigates her life as a Black Jewish girl entering adulthood.
Letters to God
Moshe has lived alone with his grief. On the anniversary of his daughter’s death, he accepts a job at the Jerusalem Post Office, reading piles of letters to God. Moshe will realize that only forgiveness can bring him peace again.
Mika’s boyfriend Nati puts an end to the relationship when Mika proposes marriage. Mika moves back home and becomes addicted to the ATARI video game still sitting in her childhood room. But going back to the past doesn’t heal Mika’s heartache. She will have to find another way of moving on.
Program 2 – Thursday, March 11 at 2:00 and 7:00 pm
Ziad, a Palestinian day laborer, is one day refused entry to Israel. Not wanting to come home empty-handed when he has promised his daughter meat for dinner, he will have to improvise.
Flour & Water: A Baker’s Peace
Three bakers — a Christian, a Jew, and a Muslim — come together in Tel Aviv to bake bread in the form of a “hamsa” — a symbol of protection. They share the respect and spirituality they have for their ingredients and for their craft.
Jerusalem, 1938. A divided city. At the “Cinema Rex,” a Jewish boy and an Arab girl form a true friendship based on one mutual language – the language of cinema.
The Outer Circle
Midway through a grueling Orthodox conversion, Daniel and his fiancée Katherine are eager to gain the blessing of his intimidatingly large and loud Iraqi Jewish family. At their annual Rosh Hashanah feast, it soon becomes apparent that beneath the warm and welcoming atmosphere, some are not ready as others to accept her.
Confusion escalates and fragile relationships erode when a little girl thinks she sees her beloved family maid steal a precious ornament.
Harry would do anything, even self-disembowelment, to convince Mr. Cohen, his girlfriend’s father, that he can’t possibly live without his daughter. But an ancient Jewish ritual gives him pause.
Ilana is struggling to get pregnant amidst massive social pressure. She is dragged to a circumcision ceremony by her superstitious Bukharan grandmother, who has her own idea about how to remedy the situation.
A bitter-sweet comedy and coming-of-age tale about a 12-year-old Israeli girl who goes to the beauty salon to get her eyebrows done for the first time.