The Boulder Jewish Film Festival Gears Up for Its 10th Year with “Audience Favorites”

In anticipation of the 10th anniversary of the Boulder Jewish Film Festival, returning November 3-13 to the Dairy Arts Center, we offer audiences a trip down memory lane with a series of crowd-pleasing films from past festivals. Audience Favorites consists of five feel-good films that delighted our viewers and which I am personally excited to watch again with you.

All screenings will be held at 7:00 pm at the Dairy Arts Center’s Boedecker Theater, with a social gathering before each screening , and a talkback following each film. Tickets, $12, are available at thedairy.org. Watch the trailers by clicking on the titles below.

We get the summer season swinging on June 28 with “Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel,”  a stirring story of sports, patriotism, and personal growth, which we showed in 2018. Laughingly compared to the Jamaican bobsled team, Israel’s national baseball team competes for the first time in the World Baseball Classic. But with several Jewish American Major League players on Team Israel, it’s a whole new ball game for the underdogs. Arriving in Israel with a winning attitude and a great sense of humor but a tenuous connection to Judaism, these American players leave with newfound pride and a personal connection to the Jewish homeland. And their journey leaves us laughing, crying, and cheering at the same time.

Screening July 12, “For the Love of Spock” takes us on a space exploration of the iconic Vulcan character Leonard Nimoy played for 50 years. Shown at the 2017 festival, this loving tribute was originally conceived to coincide with the 50th anniversary of “Star Trek” and meant to focus on the enduring legacy of Mr. Spock. But when Nimoy died in 2015, the director – his son Adam Nimoy – expanded the scope of the documentary to encompass his father’s entire life and career. The result is a lively, heartfelt homage to a proudly Jewish actor who based his signature Live Long and Prosper hand gesture on the Birkat Kohanim – the priestly blessing.

On August 23, a legendary songwriter gets his “magic moment” in “A.K.A. Doc Pomus,” which also opens the Boulder JCC’s ReelAbilities Film Festival. Brooklyn-born Jerome Felder was the most unlikely of rock & roll icons and the first white person inducted to the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame. Paralyzed with polio as a child, he triumphed over adversity, reinventing himself first as a blues singer called Doc Pomus, then as a songwriter, creating some of the greatest hits of the early rock and roll era: “Save the Last Dance for Me” (written for his wife, with whom he was unable to dance due to his crutches), “A Teenager in Love,” “Viva Las Vegas,” and a thousand others. Packed with incomparable music and rare archival imagery, this star-studded tribute to a man who lived life to the fullest is pure joy.

On September 13, another force of nature is honored in “Deli Man,” from the 2014 festival. Ziggy Gruber, whose beloved Houston deli is his life’s mission, is the grandson of the original owner of the Rialto Deli, the first Kosher deli to open on Broadway in New York City in the 1920s. Both an intimate look at one big-hearted man and a tribute to the fading deli tradition itself, the juicy film takes a mouth-watering look at food, culture, community, love, and family, enlivened by luminaries such as Larry King, Jerry Stiller, Fyvush Finkel, Freddie Roman and Alan Dershowitz and numerous deli owners who appreciate the delectable importance of pastrami on rye.

We end Audience Favorites on October 25 with my favorite closing night film of the past decade, “Hava Nagila,” from 2013. A single song may seem an unlikely subject for a documentary, but when that song is “Hava Nagila” and the director is Roberta Grossman, the infectious and ubiquitous party song becomes a potent symbol of Jewish peoplehood. This Jewish staple transcended its origins and became a worldwide hit, popularized by the likes of Bob Dylan, Elvis, and Harry Belafonte. Grossman (a festival favorite whose three subsequent films we have shown) follows the song on its fascinating journey from the shtetls of Eastern Europe to its required performance at every American Jewish celebration, taking viewers from Ukraine to Israel, the Catskills, Greenwich Village, Hollywood and Boulder, exploring Jewish history and identity through the power of music.

Tickets to the 10th annual Boulder Jewish Film Festival go on sale October 12. The annual Sponsor Brunch Sneak Preview is Sunday, October 9. For sponsorship opportunities, contact heidi.dormody@boulderjcc.org. For more information about the ReelAbilities Film Festival, please contact joy.eisenhauer@boulderjcc.org.

About Kathryn Bernheimer

Kathryn has spent her professional life writing about, teaching, and presenting the arts. Founding Director of the Boulder Jewish Film Festival, Kathryn was Director of Menorah and ACE at the Boulder JCC from 2003 through August, 2019. The former film and theater critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, Kathryn is the author of "The Fifty Greatest Jewish Movies" and "The Fifty Funniest Films of All Time." kathryn.bernheimer@gmail.com

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