Devastated as we are by the Hamas attack on Israel, the directors of Jewish film festivals across the country have been in discussions about how our upcoming festivals should respond to the tragedy still unfolding. Ideas being implemented include a moment of silence before each screening, a display of votive candles in the shape of a Jewish star, and the inclusion of the Israeli flag on screen and in the lobby. Some festivals are also changing or adding to their programs.
The Boulder Jewish Film Festival is also responding programmatically. We have just acquired “The Boy,” a 25-minute Israeli short made by Israeli filmmaker Yahav Winner, who was slaughtered by Hamas terrorists in his kibbutz, Kfar Aza, protecting his filmmaker wife Shaylee Atari and infant daughter Shaya, who were able to hide under horrifying circumstances for 24 hours until rescued.
“The Boy” will be made available to all ticket buyers for free to screen at home, starting November 2 when the festival opens with “Rock Camp: The Movie.” Winner’s new film, a poignant, father-son drama, is set in the kibbutz five kilometers from the Gaza border where his body was found after the brutal massacre.
Our shorts program will now feature another exceptionally relevant short that we have also just acquired, the aptly titled “Sirens.” The Israeli Academy Award winner for Best Short Film, “Sirens” features a frustrated Israeli couple en route to a fertility clinic appointment coping with a series of misadventures as missiles rain down on Tel Aviv.
Both short films convey the experience of being under constant threat, although “Sirens” is lighter in tone, conveying Israeli resiliency. Both films are very much in keeping with our desire to focus on stories that afford Israelis the human dignity they deserve.
We also hope audiences will join us for Israel at 75. Five of our 17 films are Israeli, and all were selected because of their deep humanity. The program is designed to provide a deeper look at the diversity of the Israeli experience by showing films that reveal the complexity of life as it is lived in the Jewish homeland. Our goal is, as always, to foster appreciation and enhance understanding. Israel is a nation with real people, living under constant threat and with a traumatic history of persecution, and it is their remarkable stories we choose to tell at the festival.
I could not have found a better film to include in Israel at 75 than Ran Tal’s superb documentary “1341 Frames of Love and War,” a first-hand experience of Israeli history, witnessed — and recorded on camera — by celebrated war photographer Micha Bar-Am. Culled from over 500,000 negatives and spanning five decades of work, this portrait of an amazing artist and human being also illuminates the arc of Israeli history.
Two love stories, both by first-time directors, serve as counterpoints in our celebration of the diversity of life in the Jewish homeland. “Barren” is set in an Orthodox enclave in Tzfat, and is made with great sensitivity and tenderness by Rabbi Mordechai Vardi, the head of the screenwriting department at the Orthodox-centric Maaleh School of Film and Television in Jerusalem.
The engaging yet astute romantic comedy “Elik and Jimmy” humorously focuses on a secular couple in Tel Aviv and is directed by Gudis Schneider, whose debut feature won Best First Film at the Haifa International Film Festival 2022.
Provocative and poignant, “Barren” is about a test of faith and a terrible personal violation that creates a crisis for a couple struggling with fertility. “Elik and Jimmy” is an Israeli take on “When Harry Met Sally,” an uplifting story of opposites whose attraction takes years to develop.
One of my favorite films this year is as unusual as its title, “June Zero,” which focuses on a cross-section of Israelis faced with a pressing, practical dilemma: exactly how to execute Adolph Eichmann after he is famously condemned to death in 1961. Acclaimed American filmmaker Jake Paltrow (yes, brother of Gwyneth) directs this Hebrew-language drama, a coming-of-age story that conveys both an individual and national loss of innocence.
“Reckonings” grapples with Israel’s early years, when the new state was in desperate need of funds as it absorbed so many survivors of the Shoah. This engrossing story of a searing moral dilemma from award-winning documentarian Roberta Grossman examines the idea of German reparations, which offered a financial solution but polarized the Holocaust survivor community, most of whom were understandably horrified by the idea of accepting blood money.
We look forward to coming together for 10 days of cinema and conversation, as we keep Israel in our hearts and in our prayers. Community matters, now more than ever.