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Boston Jewish Film Fest reveals a new era of directors

Opening November 5 and continuing through November 16, the 20th annual Boston Jewish Film Festival reveals a new era of directors – from Generation X. These directors explore age-old issues surrounding the worldwide Jewish community, from the Holocaust to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and offer surprising and fresh insights and angles.

“Gen X had its childhood in the 1980’s, a time of relative peace and affluence. Gen X grew up with the Cold War drawing to a close, Israel raising its third generation of citizens, and kids around the world watching Madonna on MTV,” said Sara L. Rubin, Executive Director. “Gen X never faced the wars or economic struggles of earlier generations, and Gen X’ers were known as latchkey kids characterized by passive media viewing and complacency.
“But now we see them as 30-year olds, searching for meaning and answers. Their new films explore history from a different perspective, and question relationships and assumptions that were previously restricted. And these films are glossed with pacing, rhythm and music that reflect Gen X’s sophisticated techno childhoods.”
The Boston Jewish Film Festival presents the year’s most innovative films on Jewish themes. Films are accentuated by panel discussions; visits by directors, actors, and subjects; and musical events. The Festival program explores what it means to be Jewish – in the U.S., Israel, and around the world. Highlights for 2008, in addition to Gen X films, include history pieces and documentaries, as well as a range of humorous films.
The Festival is New England’s largest Jewish cultural event, with last year’s attendance at 13,500 people. This year, the critically acclaimed Festival screens 46 independently produced films in 9 locations, and reflects the work of film artists from 16 countries, spoken in 13 languages. Highlights include 3 North American premieres, 3 U.S. premieres, 2 East Coast premieres and 18 New England premieres. The Festival presents more than 35 film artists, noted speakers, and panelists from around the world.
Gen X Films
On November 1, the Festival celebrates its opening gala with The Beetle at the Norton’s Woods Conference Center at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in Cambridge, preceded by a buffet reception. Director Yishai Orian’s wife, pregnant with their first child, insists he scrap his beloved VW Beetle for a safe family car. Yishai’s comic struggles with his “inner Peter Pan” take him to Jordan in a last ditch effort to salvage the relic before his child arrives. Along the way, former owners of his Beetle tell remarkable life stories involving the car.
In Strangers, he’s Israeli, she’s Palestinian. They meet in Berlin during the frenzy of the World Cup finals, where relief at running into somebody from “home” quickly turns to desire. Can love trump politics? Working without a script, directors Erez Tadmor and Guy Nattiv shot on location, and actors Lubna Azabel and Liron Levo improvised. Strangers was a Grand Jury Prize nominee at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Arab Labor, directed by Ron Ninio with screenplay by Arab Israeli Sayed Kashua, is a groundbreaking and wildly funny prime-time Israeli TV show, the first to feature an Arab Israeli family. Amjad is a reporter for a Hebrew-language newspaper whose hilarious attempts to assimilate into Israeli society expose prejudices and stereotypes from both sides of the Israeli Jewish-Arab divide.
History through the Lens of Gen X
In Bon-papa, a man under the Occupation, director Leila Férault sets out to uncover the obscure history of her non-Jewish paternal grandfather. She exhumes facts about the Vichy regime that many would prefer stay buried while honoring her maternal grandparents, Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
In Budapest to Gettysburg, Dr. Gabor Boritt, an authority on Abraham Lincoln, resists probing into his own traumatic history. A Hungarian Jew, now a U.S. citizen, he lived through the Nazi Invasion, the Holocaust, Soviet Tyranny, and the 1956 Revolution. Director Jake Boritt prevails upon his father to return to Budapest and explore the past.
…and Humor
Opening Night, on November 5 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), features The Deal. Actor William H. Macy shows his leading man and screenwriter chops in this riotous Hollywood send-up. A serious script about the life of Jewish British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli morphs into an action flick with an African American star (LL Cool J) recently converted to Judaism playing “Dis.” Macy plays a cynical producer. Meg Ryan, as a studio “suit,” is Hepburn to his Tracy. It also stars Jason Ritter, and Elliot Gould as an unforgettable Hollywood rabbi.
Our Mid-Fest Event, on November 11 at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, is Holy Land Hardball. After 5,000 years, is Israel ready for baseball? Bostonian Larry Baras takes on the challenge of forming Israel’s first professional baseball league, which opened June 2007, with Dan Duquette as Director of Baseball Operations and familiar faces from Red Sox Nation.
Panel Discussion on Gen X
On November 9 at 5:30PM we present a panel discussion New Generation, New Passions, New Quests. As the generation of MTV viewers, latch-key children, and brand-conscious consumers grows up, they begin to challenge conventional notions of history and family -- and to probe previously hidden subjects. How do their films address important questions for their generation? What subjects from past generations inspire them most? How do their films reflect an upbringing saturated with technology?
Media Opportunities
Preview screeners are available for most films. Photos are available for download; contact the Festival office for user name and password. Interviews with visiting artists can be arranged.
Festival Locations, Tickets, Sponsors
Primary venues are the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA); the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; and the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. Screenings also take place at AMC Framingham 16, the Arlington Capitol Theatre, Hollywood Hits Premiere Theatre in Danvers, Kendall Square Cinemas, Showcase Cinemas Randolph and the West Newton Cinema.
On October 6, the Festival’s website,, goes live and tickets can be purchased through or 1-866-468-7619, as well as through each location’s box office, for that venue’s shows.
Passes are available, including the ReelPass, a $30 three-film pass for viewers in their 20s and 30s; the Friends Pass, $225, which gives admission to all events at a deep discount; and Weekday Pass for $40 for five regularly-priced shows Monday – Thursday.
Tickets for most films are $12 for general admission; $10 for seniors, students, BJFF, MFA, CCT, and WGBH members. Discount tickets for groups of 20 or more are available at $8 per person by contacting the Festival office at 617-244-9899 or prior to October 17. For more information, or to request a mailed brochure, contact the Festival office at 617-244-9899x200 or
The Festival sponsors are the Consulate General of Israel to New England, Hebrew SeniorLife, Staples, Inc., and Tofias PC. Media sponsors include WGBH, The Jewish Advocate and National Public Radio station WBUR, and Air France is the official Festival airline. The Festival is grateful for the continued support of Combined Jewish Philanthropies and its Boston-Haifa Connection as well as the Massachusetts Cultural Council, French Cultural Services, and the Goethe-Institut Boston.


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