The all-virtual 2021 Boulder Jewish Film Festival opens Wednesday, March 10 and runs through Sunday, March 21, featuring seventeen film programs – including six international feature films making their Boulder premieres. Tickets go on sale Monday, February 1, with an all-access pass available for $180 per household.
You may watch films in any order or follow the talkback schedule. In addition to talkbacks for all films, look for several live programs presented in real time, including our shorts programs curated by Judith Dack, and two interactive events with our tribute guest.
The ninth Boulder Jewish Film Festival is thrilled to pay tribute to documentary filmmaker Pierre Sauvage, as well as to honor his lifelong dedication to Holocaust education and memorialization, in a special six-program series. Described by Tablet Magazine as “a filmmaker of rare moral perception,” Sauvage has consistently probed questions of moral choice, focusing on the magnitude of humanity’s failure during the Holocaust by underscoring what it was possible to do.
Sauvage was honored in 2018 with similar retrospectives at the Paris Mémorial de la Shoah and in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. The exclusive BJFF tribute program includes two special live events and four talkbacks. The closing event Q&A will focus on “Weapons of the Spirit” but will also include conversation and questions on all films. Except for the footage from the Varian Fry work-in-progress, the mini-festival will be available to viewers nationally, and a special pass for the six programs is available for $75.
PIERRE SAUVAGE RETROSPECTIVE
“My Cousin: An Interview with Holocaust Survivor Samuel Pisar”
With Pierre Sauvage and Special Guests
Sunday, March 14, at noon
When Antony Blinken was nominated as Secretary of State, he referred, in his remarks, to his stepfather’s liberation from the Nazi death camps. That stepfather, the late Samuel Pisar, who was to become a very prominent international attorney and author (“Of Blood and Hope“), is documentary filmmaker Pierre Sauvage’s first cousin. This is the first public screening of Sauvage’s tribute to his cousin, who played an influential role in his life. Family members will be among those participating in the discussion that will accompany the screening.
“Yiddish: The Mother Tongue” – Q&A with Pierre Sauvage and special guests
Talkback Monday, March 15, at 5:00 pm
As Pierre Sauvage began to explore his newly discovered Jewish identity as a young filmmaker, he began his journey of discovery with a lively celebration of the Mamaloshen (mother tongue). Soon Sauvage would turn his attention to his own origin story, and train his lens on the subject that would become his life’s work: morality and the Holocaust. This 1979 Emmy Award-winning exploration proved prescient, released just before the Yiddish renaissance that revived a language and reinvigorated a people and a culture.
“Not Idly By: Peter Bergson, America, and the Holocaust” – Q&A with Pierre Sauvage
Talkback Tuesday, March 16, at 5:00 pm
This shocking documentary pays tribute to the remarkable efforts by a group of mostly Palestinian Jews who labored mightily to make the rescue of the Jews of Europe a priority for American Jews and for the American government. An ardent Zionist and self-appointed political advocate for the millions being slaughtered in the camps, Peter Bergson was thwarted at every turn, leaving a painful legacy. Best known for his 1943 staging of the “We Will Never Die” pageant that toured the US and the Rabbis’ March that same year, Bergson sadly remains an unsung hero to the Jewish people.
“We Were There: Christians and the Holocaust” – Q&A with Pierre Sauvage
Talkback Wednesday, March 17, at 5:00 pm
Thirty years in the making, Sauvage’s well-modulated documentary examines the Christian motivations of four notable Righteous Gentiles during the Holocaust. The heroic rescue of Jews by non-Jews is contrasted with an overarching ethical Christian failure forcefully conveyed by American clergymen. This challenging assessment of personal and collective responsibility ultimately emphasizes moral duty, the complexities of human nature, and the imperative of the divine word.
“And Crown Thy Good: Varian Fry and the Refugee Crisis, 1940-41” – LIVE AND IN PERSON: Pierre Sauvage
Thursday, March 14, at 5:00 pm
This one-time program takes place in real time and is available only to local festival audiences.
Join us for clips and discussion of this work in progress, which celebrates the most successful private American rescue effort of the Nazi era. New York intellectual Varian Fry and his colleagues helped some 2,000 anti-Nazi and Jewish refugees escape from Nazi-occupied France. A wealthy Harvard grad with no Jewish connections, Fry was outraged by Nazi persecution and soon found himself in Marseille, where he created the Emergency Rescue Committee to save artists, political dissidents, intellectuals, and any desperate soul who made their way to his office.
“Weapons of the Spirit” – Remastered 30th anniversary edition
Closing Event Q&A with Pierre Sauvage
Talkback Sunday, March 21, at 3:00 pm
This 1989 instant classic explored the “conspiracy of goodness” that took place in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon—a Protestant stronghold in Catholic France—where some 5,000 Jews were sheltered by some 5,000 Christians. Pierre himself was born here in 1944, but grew up in New York, where his parents put the past behind them. As an adult filmmaker he returned to pay tribute to the remarkable life-saving mountain village by creating this award-winning memoir, initiating a life-long exploration of the challenging issues raised by the Holocaust.
Talkback for both films Sunday, March 14, at 2:00 pm
“Aulcie” – Q&A with Dani Menkin
Aulcie Perry takes center court in Dani Menkin’s follow-up to “On the Map,” depicting the unlikely victory by fledgling Maccabi Tel Aviv in the 1977 European Basketball Championship. Here he focuses on the Israeli team’s improbable hero, tracing the African-American athlete’s life after the upset victory that enhanced Israel’s world image and boosted Israeli sports. Aulcie ended up staying in Israel, converting, and marrying a supermodel. But his remarkable and inspiring journey didn’t end there.
“Picture of His Life” – Q&A with Dani Menkin
Dani Menkin’s portrait of a rugged individualist whose passion verges on obsession is a thrilling cinematic experience. Fearlessly adventurous, Amos Nachoum is one of the greatest underwater photographers of all time. At the age of 65, he has one last chance to fulfill his lifelong quest to be the first human to photograph polar bears while swimming with them without protection – as he has done with anacondas, giant leopard seals, great white sharks, orcas, and crocodiles. While he is on this daring journey to the Canadian high Arctic, the stoic sportsman and uncompromising artist must also confront a painful memory.
SHORT TRIPS AROUND THE WORLD
SHORTS PROGRAM ONE
Live program with films and discussion in real time
Wednesday, March 10, at 2:00 and 7:00 pm
Our first shorts program takes us around the world, opening with the cinematographer’s wide lens focused on the harsh Ukranian landscape as a boy and a goat evades the Nazis. Our next sweeping landscape places the viewer in the car of a complicated Jewish family traveling through the vast Israeli desert en route to hilarity. Next stop: Argentina 1931, where the great chess masters of the world have convened, and one genius must play a desperate game. In a complementary short, a young Israeli man struggles to order a new chess set. Next, a bi-racial girl navigates her Bat Mitzvah with her divorced parents. Then, a grieving father, in need of a job, gets to assist God and help others launch their prayers through the “accepted” letters arriving at the Jerusalem Post Office. We end with a letter-themed comedy about a jilted woman who exacts an unusual revenge.
SHORTS PROGRAM TWO
Live program with films and discussion in real time
Thursday, March 11, 2:00 and 7:00 pm
The journey of our second shorts program begins in the barren Israeli desert, where a Palestinian day worker traverses many challenges as he tenaciously and shockingly locates food for his family. In the next heart-warming documentary, a Christian, a Muslim and a Jewish baker connect while baking breads for healing and peace. Through animation we are transported to the Cinema Rex, where a shared love of the movies challenges the forbidden friendship of a girl who speaks Arabic and a boy who speaks Hebrew. Set in England, among tables overflowing with a generous spread of Sephardi holiday foods, an Iraqi family is not so generous in their approval of their son’s non-Jewish British girlfriend. Post Holocaust trauma complicates the days of a young mother, her daughter, and the British housekeeper they fondly employ. Next, Harry resorts to a crazy threat to earn consent from his prospective father-in-law. The next tandem film continues the theme of Shephardi family life, this time with a hilarious Bukarian grandmother focused on a small knife and delicacies not usually consumed. We close with an Israeli Bat Mitzvah girl who experiences the requisite preparatory rituals in the local beauty parlor. As her upper lip transforms, the audience’s lips are left smiling.
“Here We Are”
Talkback Friday March 12, 2:00 pm
Beloved Israeli actor Shai Avivi stars as Aharon, a gentle soul who has devoted his life to raising his autistic teenage son Uri. They live together in harmony, enjoying a special bond, until their sheltered existence is threatened, and Aharon takes drastic measures to protect his son. But father doesn’t always know best, and Aharon must face the terrible mixture of pride and fear all parents experience as their children test their wings.
- Winner of best director, best actor, best screenplay, and best supporting actor at the Ophirs (Israeli Oscars)
- Official selection of the 2020 Cannes and Toronto International Film Festivals
- By the writer-creator of In Treatment and the director of Broken Wings.
Feature Film/Special Needs/Family Bonds/Israel
“Those Who Remained”
Talkback Friday, March 12, at 4:00 pm
A profoundly human story of connection in a fractured world, this tenderly told tale of trauma, healing, and the fragility of the human heart focuses on the tender, tenacious bond that forms between two Holocaust survivors. Set during post-war Hungary’s brutal years of communism, this beautifully realized drama deals with the painful aftermath of a horror that refuses to end. Reminiscent of The Lives of Others in its theme and restrained power, the story of tragic misunderstanding proves hauntingly intense, elucidating the mysteries of the heart.
- Selections of the Telluride Film Festival and Boulder International Film Festival, and Hungary’s Oscar entry.
- Winner of best film, director, actor, and actress at the Hungarian Oscars
Feature Film/Post-Holocaust Drama/Healing from Trauma
“Thou Shalt Not Hate”
Talkback Monday, March 15 at 2:00 pm
Alessandro Gassmann (son of famed Jewish Italian actor Vittorio Gassman) plays an Italian surgeon and child of Holocaust survivors whose quiet life is disrupted when he stumbles upon a car accident and instinctively rushes to treat the victim. But when the good doctor discovers a Nazi tattoo on the man’s chest, he abandons him to his fate. Plagued by remorse, he seeks out the Nazi’s children and forms an uneasy bond with the eldest daughter. Mauro Mancini’s incisive personal drama about one man’s ethical dilemma lays bare the legacy of Nazi ideology and racial hatred in Italy today.
- Winner of Best Italian Film and Best Actor, Venice International Film Festival
“Born in Jerusalem and Still Alive”
Talkback Wednesday, March 17, at 2:00 pm
A young Jerusalem native becomes a tour guide with a unique focus in this darkly humorous exploration of the effects of trauma on the Israeli psyche, providing a prickly, personal perspective on the reality of daily life in the Holy Land. Our sincere if troubled guide tenderly cares for his aging father as he embarks on his own odd course of healing. A deadpan mixture of black comedy, romance, and psychology, the life-affirming film hinges on the offbeat appeal of its writer/director/star Yossi Atia, a filmmaker and performance artist known for a series of provocative, satirical short films that have screened around the world.
- Winner of best first film at the 2019 Jerusalem Film Festival for writer/director/star Yossi Atia.
Feature Film/Comedy/Healing from Trauma/Jewish Identity/Israel
Talkback Thursday, March 18, at 2:00 pm
Acclaimed classical music radio host Martin Goldsmith brings to life his acclaimed memoir (“The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany“), which forms the basis for this imagined encounter between the author and his deceased father – played by the sublime German actor Bruno Ganz in his final performance before his death in February 2020. Goldsmith flirts with memory and history as co-screenwriter of this personal reckoning, examining what happened to his musician parents before they escaped from Germany in 1941, and exploring the moral quandary they faced as artists, German citizens, and Jews.
Talkback Friday, March 19, at 4:00 pm
Israeli writer/director Talya Lavie struck an edgy twenty-something chord with her 2014 female-centric debut, “Zero Motivation,” which won the Tribeca Film Festival Founder’s Award for best narrative feature and the Nora Ephron Prize. Lavie returns with this quirky comic drama about a bride and groom whose wedding night turns into an oddball odyssey through the streets of Jerusalem. At times bordering on the farcical, “Honeymood” surprises with flashes of insight into modern marriage.
Official Selection, Tribeca Film Festival 2020
Talkback Tuesday, March 16, 2:00 pm
Directed by Academy-Award nominee Oren Jacoby, this spirited celebration of the Great White Way takes us on a backstage tour guided by Broadway’s greatest stars – from Mandy Patinkin to Lin Manuel Miranda. We merrily tag along on Broadway’s bumpy ride through the last few decades – witnessing innovations, a new emphasis on inclusion, and a continuing balancing act between art and commerce. High-kicking highlights of hit shows make this tribute to a beloved American institution currently in crisis immensely enjoyable.
Documentary/Popular Culture/American History