Jewish Cinema Grabs Spotlight

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“Hunting Elephants,” a crime comedy about three seniors and a young boy, will close the festival on April 10.

The William and Irene Weinberg Family’s Baltimore Jewish Film Festival kicks off March 20, marking the event’s 26th year. The festival will showcase works from national and international filmmakers depicting Jewish themes.

The festival, which runs through April 10, will feature works that range in length from just 10 minutes to more than two hours, in addition to opportunities for discussion with those involved in producing some of the films and educators with insight into some of the topics.

Selection of the films is a months-long process for the festival committee, which begins screenings in September. This year’s selections, said JCC film festival coordinator Danielle Feinstein, represent a balanced mix of genres; the nightly showings are expected to be sold to near capacity.

Ali Waked, a screenwriter for the award-winning film “Bethlehem,” one of the most anticipated of the festival, made a stop in Baltimore March 7 to discuss his film.

It’s exciting to watch the film spread from continent to continent, said Waked. “Bethlehem” debuted in August at the Venice Film Festival and was officially released in the United States last Friday. Since its first screening, it has been the subject of a lot of attention worldwide.

The film, though Israeli-sponsored, was really a co-production between
Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers, said Waked, who is a former Palestinian journalist. It explores the fictional relationship between an Israeli secret service agent and a Palestinian teen turned informant.

“It is different from one place to another,” Waked said of attending many of the film’s screenings in different countries around the world. “In France and the States we had a whole discussion about separation.

“In Germany people were more interested in how an Arab and a Jew came together to make a film. In some other places the focus was on the artwork and less on the political issues.”

All screenings take place at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts. Tickets ($12 in advance, $14 at the door) are on sale now and can be purchased through the JCC’s website.

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