The Boulder Jewish Festival returns to the Dairy Arts Center for its 11th celebration of Jewish world cinema, November 2-12. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday, October 6.
We look forward to seeing you for ten days of insightful and impactful films, enlightening conversation, and meaningful connection as our 17 film programs examine the Jewish experience throughout time and across the world.
This year we proudly present a special film series to enhance audience understanding of life in the shtetl, Vanished World, as well as a five-film celebration of Israel at 75.
We are also excited to present the festival’s first silent film – with live music performed by the world’s foremost klezmer violinist, Alicia Svigals.
ROCK CAMP: THE MOVIE – Thursday, November 2, 6:30 pm/Reception at 5:30
When David Fishof founded the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp in 1997, he had no idea that the concept would prove wildly popular. The son of a Holocaust survivor, a proudly observant Jew, and all-round mensch, Fishof dreamed up a way for avid amateurs to play, write, record, and perform with some of the best rock musicians of all time, from Gene Simmons to Alice Cooper, Jeff Beck to Roger Daltry, Brian Wilson to Nancy Wilson. A testament to the power of music, this intimate look at the participants and their idols conveys the sheer joy of playing in a rock and roll band.
Directors Renee Barron and Douglas Blush convey the thrill the participants experience while fulfilling a fantasy, as well as the unexpected satisfaction that rock legends experience as they mentor their most ardent fans. The directors also create a loving, lively portrait of the ebullient Fishof, an improbable matchmaker who serves as the breezy documentary’s guide.
ONLY IN THEATERS – Friday November 3, 12:30 pm
A film lover’s delight, this documentary about the Laemmle family’s legendary art house movie chain in L.A. provides a rousing refresher course in film history as well as a personal account of one family’s influence on contemporary cinema.
Director Raphael Sbarge, a popular American character actor, displays a fine sense of historical import as well as a keen understanding of the personal dynamics of the Laemmles, a film-obsessed family struggling to keep the seminal chain going.
SHORTS – Friday November 2 at 3 pm and Sunday, November 4 at noon
The 2023 Shorts Film Program takes our Boulder Jewish Film Festival audience through 90 minutes of entertaining and vivid storytelling through a variety of genres, including comedy, drama, animation, MOS and documentary. From Europe to the USA to Israel and back, all six short films will make you smile.
Judith Dack returns as Director of BJFF Short Film Programs, along with Short Film Program Assistants Libby Berry & Rochelle Schwartz, supported by 2023 Short Film Selection Committee: Adam Edelman, Dick Golden, Susan Litt, Sara Sturz, Jill Temkin and Wendi Temkin.
SHTTL (Vanished World) – Sunday, November 5 at 3 pm and Wednesday, November 8 at 12:30 pm
Astonishing on many levels, this black-and-white, Yiddish-language feature film is set in a shtetl on the Ukrainian/Polish border 24 hours before the brutal German invasion of the Soviet Union. This haunting, evocative drama richly details the intrigues of everyday life in a robust community poised on the brink of destruction.
First-time director Ady Walter shot on location in Ukraine and gathered a remarkable international cast, including Yiddish-fluent actor Saul Rubinek. The film location has become a permanent open air museum.
THE KLEZMATICS: ON HOLY GROUND (Vanished World) – Sunday, November 5, 6:30 pm
Klezmer music survived the Holocaust, improbably emerging from the ashes when hip, young Jewish musicians began to explore this lost tradition in the post folk music era when all things ethnic were in vogue. Always at the forefront of this Klezmer renaissance, which continues to this day, The Klezmatics found wide acclaim reviving shtetl music with robust musicality, using merriment, respect, authenticity, and intensity to fuel the music’s nostalgic appeal.
Festival guest and violinist extraordinaire Alicia Svigals, who will perform live accompaniment to our Centerpiece screening of the silent film “The Man Without a World,” is featured prominently in this 2010 documentary, directed by Eric Anjou, chronicling the fortunes of the band she co-founded and the importance of the music they revitalized.
JUNE ZERO (Israel at 75) – Monday, November 6 at 12:30 and 6:30 pm
A coming-of-age story that astutely conveys an individual and national loss of innocence, this empathetic and exciting drama focuses on a pivotal moment in history when a handful of Israelis faced a pressing, practical dilemma: How to execute Adolph Eichmann.
Acclaimed American filmmaker Jake Paltrow directs this Hebrew-language drama centered on three people whose lives intersect at an historic crossroads.
BARREN (Israel at 75) – Monday, November 6 at 3 pm
A terrible personal violation creates a crisis for an Orthodox couple struggling with fertility in this intimate look at life in Tzfat. Provocative and poignant, director Mordechai Vardi’s first feature film displays uncommon sympathy toward its characters, all of whom are caught in a personal test of faith.
Rabbi Mordechai Vardi has been the head of the screenwriting department at the Maaleh School of Film and Television in Jerusalem for decades and has a degree in film from Tel Aviv University.
1341 FRAMES OF LOVE AND WAR (Israel at 75) – Tuesday, November 7 at 12:30 and 6:30 pm
Director Ran Tal (“The Museum,” BJFF 2018) returns with an exquisite film that provides a unique first-hand experience of Israeli history, witnessed — and recorded on camera — by celebrated war photographer Micha Bar-Am. Culled from over half a million negatives and spanning five decades of work, this portrait of an artist also illuminates the arc of Israeli history.
Independent filmmaker Ran Tal graduated from the Tel Aviv University Department of Film in 1994 and is the head of the MFA documentary film program at the Tisch Film School.
FOUR WINTERS: A STORY OF JEWISH PARTISAN RESISTANCE AND BRAVERY IN WWII – Tuesday, November 7 at 3 pm and Thursday, November 9 at 12:30 pm
More than 25,000 Jewish partisans fought back against the Nazis and their collaborators during WWII, hiding out in the forests of Eastern Europe, Ukraine, and Belarus. Against extraordinary odds, these intrepid men and women escaped Nazi slaughter, transforming themselves into courageous resistance fighters and shattering the myth of Jewish passivity.
Director Julia Mintz interviews survivors to tell their incredible story, revealing a stunning narrative of heroism and resilience. Shown at the Boulder International Film Festival.
MARCH ‘68 – Wednesday, November 8 at 3 pm
This gripping coming-of-age story draws on the social turmoil and Jewish discrimination in 1960’s Communist Poland, which culminated in a tragic revolt. A Jewish theater student in Warsaw experiences a political awakening and her own personal revolution, along with first love, as her fate collides with history. This heartfelt drama reveals the anti-semitism and brutal suppression of human rights of an often-overlooked period in Polish history, which led to the exile of 13,000 Jews.
Director and co-writer Krzysztof Lang was inspired by an infamous moment in time that shaped his social consciousness.
STAY WITH US – Wednesday, November 8 at 6:30 pm
Beloved Moroccan-Canadian stand-up comic and actor Gad Elmaleh, who found extraordinary fame in France, stars in this painfully funny comedy about a Jewish man contemplating Catholic conversion — much to his parents’ dismay.
Called the Jerry Seinfeld of France, Elmaleh strikes a nerve with his tale of a man caught in a prickly dilemma. Elmaleh wrote and directed this semi-autobiographical comedy, and shrewdly asked his parents to play themselves.
VISHNIAC (Vanished World) – Thursday, November 9 at 3 pm
Roman Vishniac’s legendary series of photographs, taken in Eastern Europe just prior to the Holocaust, famously documented a world about to vanish. There was much more to the photographer than these seminal images, however, as this biographical documentary reveals. The late CU Professor David Shneer is one of several experts interviewed in this long-overdue testament to Vishniac’s legacy.
Produced by Roberta Grossman and Nancy Spielberg (“Hava Nagila,” “Above and Beyond,” “Who Will Write our History?”), this historical homage is directed by American-Israeli filmmaker Laura Bialis (“Rock in the Red Zone,” BJFF 2016).
THE MAN WITHOUT A WORLD (Vanished World) – Thursday, November 9 at 6:30 pm
Centerpiece Live Music Event with Alicia Svigals and pianist Donald Sosin- Reception following the screening. Presented in collaboration with CU’s College of Music and Program in Jewish Studies.
A sly meditation on history and a very funny and beautiful melodrama, this “silent film” set in a Jewish shtetl, is cleverly credited to the legendary (and imaginary) 1920s Soviet director, Yevgeny Antinov. The “classic” film depicts the lives of an eccentric collection of shtetl dwellers — including Zionists, religious zealots, socialists, and lovers — dancing on the precipice.
Experimental filmmaker Eleanor Antin created this imagined drama as a “love letter” to her mother, an actress in the Yiddish theater. Alicia Svigals, a founding member of the Klezmatics and world’s foremost violinist, will provide live musical accompaniment, with Donald Sosin on piano.
Alicia Svigals has spent her life reviving a musical art form that came perilously close to extinction in the Holocaust. A classically trained musician with a degree in ethnomusicology from Brown University, Svigals made it her mission to learn and perform klezmer – an instrumental musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jews of Central and Eastern Europe. Svigals co-lead the Klezmatics and toured with the band for 17 years, performing around the world, teaching, recording, and working on projects such as the musical recordings based on Woody Guthrie’s surprisingly large and forgotten treasure trove of Jewish songs. The band, which created contemporary Jewish music that combined the joyous and mystical Yiddish tradition with a postmodern aesthetic and an overtly political worldview, quickly found a following – and klezmer began to enjoy a renaissance.
These days, Svigals is a sought-after performer and busy composer who works in many genres, from heavy metal to traditional Greek. Among her more recent solo projects, Svigals has been composing scores for Jewish silent films and performing them along with pianist Donald Sosin, whom she met at a silent film festival in Italy in 2017. For a full bio, visit aliciasvigals.com.
ELIK AND JIMMY (Israel at 75) – Friday, November 10 at 12:30 pm and Sunday November 12 at noon
This contemporary romantic comedy, set in Tel Aviv, is an Israeli take on “When Harry Met Sally,” an uplifting story of opposites whose attraction takes years to develop. But is friendship the best foundation for romance?
Director Gudis Schneider’s debut feature won Best First Film at the Haifa International Film Festival 2022.
RECKONINGS (Israel at 75) – Friday, November 10 at 3 pm
This engrossing story of moral reckoning from award-winning documentarian Roberta Grossman examines the critical moment when the newly fledged Jewish state was in desperate need of funds, and the idea of German reparations offered a solution – but polarized the Holocaust survivor community.
The latest from festival favorite Roberta Grossman, who, along with her co-producer Nancy Spielberg (another friend of the festival) also produced “Vishniac,” which is being shown as part of our Vanished World series on shtetl life.
FAREWELL MR. HAFFMANN – Sunday, November 12 at 2:30 pm
Winner of 16 audience awards and featuring the legendary French actor Daniel Auteuil, this intense historical drama is set in occupied Paris in 1941. A successful Jewish jeweler strikes a Faustian bargain with his faithful employee, setting in motion a suspenseful fight for survival in this morally complex and utterly compelling story of the devastating effects of power, greed, and fear.
Writer/director Fred Cavayé based this heralded French drama on the multi Molière Award-winning play by Jean-Philippe Daguerre. Shown at the Boulder International Film Festival.
IDINA MENZEL: WHICH WAY TO THE STAGE? – Sunday, November 12 at 6:30 pm
CLOSING NIGHT RECEPTION AT 5:30 pm
Broadway sensation, animated film heroine, Adam Sandler screen co-star, songwriter, singer, writer, children’s book author, entrepreneur, designer and solo recording artist Idina Menzel is best known as Maureen in “Rent,” Elphaba in “Wicked,” and the voice of Elsa in “Frozen.” This intimate musical biography follows a very human, eminently likable Broadway sensation who is also a mom, wife, daughter and sister as she pursues a lifelong dream to headline a concert at Madison Square Garden.
Directors Annie McCabe and Eric Maldin follow the charismatic yet down-to-earth superstar as she navigates her complicated life and career, creating an endearing, revealing, humorous and heartwarming portrait of a multi-talented artist.
This four-film series takes us back in time to a world violently wiped from existence by the Holocaust. Much of what we know about Jewish life in Eastern Europe in the early 20th century stems from Fiddler on the Roof and the astounding images captured by Roman Vishniac, whose life and work is examined by director Laura Bialis in “Vishniac.” The remarkable Yiddish language drama “Shttl” vividly recreates daily life on the Polish border on the eve of its destruction. Our Centerpiece presentation, the silent film “The Man Without a World” – featuring live musical accompaniment by violinist Alicia Svigals – also depicts the intricacies of life in the hundreds of small villages where Jews lived a humble but rich communal existence. “The Klezmatics: On Holy Ground” offers an understanding of Klezmer music, which played a vital role in shtetl life. Taken together, these four films provide a glimpse into the vanished world of Eastern European Jewry.
ISRAEL AT 75
As Israel celebrates 75 triumphant and traumatic years of statehood, we offer five films that take stock of our homeland’s turbulent, inspirational history.
Ran Tal’s revelatory “1341 Frames of Love and War” uses the life and work of a fabled photographer to convey the full sweep of Israel’s aspirations.
Jake Paltrow’s “June Zero“ focuses on a pivotal moment in Israeli history, the execution of Adolph Eichmann, as experienced by a handful of individuals.
Roberta Grossman’s “Reckonings” travels back in time to another momentous turning point as the young nation comes to the difficult, controversial decision to extract reparations from those responsible for the murder of six million innocent souls and the decimation of an entire people.
Set in an Orthodox enclave of modern Tsvat, “Barren“ depicts a highly personal dilemma that arises when a loving, childless couple is confronted with sexual misconduct.
In “Elik and Jimmy,” set in contemporary Tel Aviv, another young couple humorously struggles to decipher the difference between love and friendship, physical attraction and true love.
These five films share a profound sense of compassion for the lived experience of their Israeli characters, deepening our connection to the diversity of life in the Jewish homeland.