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Boston Jewish Film Festival to explore themes of Home

2009 Boston Jewish Film Festival: Family to Fables; Homeland to Homesick

Opening November 4 and continuing through November 15, the 21st annual Boston Jewish Film Festival presents a wide range of films exploring themes of "home." These films survey families, faith, doctrinal sects, nationalities, immigration, and exile as facets of our powerful stories of "home."
"Home is a word that acts like a Rorschach test," said Sara L. Rubin, artistic director. "Some of our images are intensely unique and personal, some are joyous or poignant, some are archetypal remembrances - dreams of the ‘home' for which we long. For the Jewish community especially, the term brings to mind Israel, immigration and diaspora. Our filmmakers probe these aspects and more, and our special events will engage viewers to share and scrutinize their own constructs of home."
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 2009, in addition to the theme of home, include films from Latin America and comedies.
The Festival is New England's largest Jewish cultural event, with last year's attendance at over 12,000 people. "The Fall Festival is a homecoming event for Jewish people throughout New England each Fall," added Rubin. "We challenge, celebrate, and engage each other in a reunion that has become an annual highlight. It's true that home is where the heart is - and the Festival is at the heart of Boston's Jewish and film communities."
This critically acclaimed Festival screens 40 independently produced films in 9 locations, and reflects the work of film artists from 15 countries, spoken in 14 languages. Highlights include one world premiere, five North American premieres, eight East Coast premieres, and 19 New England premieres. The Festival presents more than 2 dozen film artists, noted speakers, panelists, and musicians from around the world.
Films about Home
Our November 4 opening night film, Eli & Ben, is Ori Ravid's debut feature film, preceded by a musical performance courtesy of Berklee College of Music. Handsome Lior Ashkenazi plays father and husband Ben, the city architect of the wealthy Tel Aviv suburb of Herzliya. Ben's father, a noted architect, is about to win the Israel Prize. Ben's son, Eli, is 12. Watching the police take his father into custody changes everything for Eli. When the police question him about his father's actions, Eli begins to feel like a double agent. Where, he wonders, is the truth?
Our November 11 mid-fest event features The Jazz Baroness, about Nica de Koenigswarter, née Rothschild. The granddaughter of Britain's first Jewish Member of Parliament, her early life was marked by both tremendous wealth and her father's suicide. After WWII, she left her husband, a Baron, and their five children to become the unlikely muse of jazz great Thelonius Monk. In New York, jazz musicians became her new family. The film will be introduced by Eric Jackson, host of the WGBH radio show, and the evening will include a concert by musicians from the Berklee College of Music.
Closing night (November 15) features Within the Whirlwind, preceded by a special musical performance courtesy of Berklee College of Music. From the bestselling memoirs of Russian Jewish poet Evgenia Ginzburg, Oscar-winning director Marleen Gorris has crafted a sweeping, epic drama. Emily Watson portrays Ginzburg as she falls from Communist grace. Betrayed by her husband, she is forced to abandon her two children to serve her sentence of ten years hard labor in the desolate Soviet Gulag. Ulrich Tukur plays the German doctor who is as much a prisoner as she, but who rekindles her passion for life. Director Marleen Gorris will be present.
Latin American Films
On October 25, the Festival celebrates its opening gala with To Life. Beautiful Emilia, a Mexican photographer, has been invited to visit her long-estranged father in scenic Valparaiso, Chile, for his Bar Mitzvah at age 80. This bittersweet film portrays the pain and rewards that ensue when we become vulnerable enough to connect. The gala is replete with a cocktail reception, raffle, comments by the film's screenwriter, and a seated dinner at The Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at Harvard Medical School.
Camera Obscura features a precursor to the modern camera, which provided an upside-down image with perfect perspective. For homely Gertrudis, married to a wealthy landowner in a Jewish colony of Argentina in the late 1800s, a visit from an itinerant French photographer sharpens her view of herself.
Letters to Jenny introduces a girl who faces the hurdles of adolescence without her mother, who died young. Jenny's mother, anticipating her own death, prepared three letters to help Jenny get through an unplanned pregnancy, a trip from her home in Argentina to Israel where she uncovers a long-held family secret, and the difference between infatuation and love.

Our comedy night at the Coolidge is November 5. At 6:30 PM we show Hello Goodbye with French superstars Gérard Depardieu and Fanny Ardant in a comedy about a couple with an empty nest in Paris who try to build a new one in the Promised Land. At 9:00 PM we show He's My Girl where Simon's Ashkenazi mother accepts that he's gay, but doesn't realize that her pretty nurse is the Arab cross-dresser who steals her son's heart.
Panel Discussion: "Losing My Religion"
On November 8 we show Leap of Faith at 1:00 PM, about four American families who struggle with a life-altering decision to abandon their childhood Christian faith for conversion to Orthodox Judaism. At 3:15 PM we show Leaving the Fold about five people in their twenties who leave the ultra-Orthodox Jewish world. At 4:15 PM the directors of both films take part in a panel moderated by Rabbi Barbara Penzner of Temple Hillel B'nai Torah in West Roxbury.
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 Theatre in Danvers, Kendall Square Cinema, Showcase Cinemas Randolph and the West Newton Cinema.
On October 6, the Festival's website,, goes live and tickets can be purchased through, or by phone at 866-702-8877.

We offer these Passes: 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 the 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 23. For more information, or to request a mailed brochure, contact the Festival office at 617-244-9899x200 or
Lead Festival sponsors are the Consulate General of Israel to New England, Hebrew SeniorLife, and CBIZ Tofias. Other sponsors include National Public Radio station WBUR, WGBH-TV and Air France. 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.
About The Boston Jewish Film Festival
The Boston Jewish Film Festival presents the best contemporary films from around the world on Jewish themes at its annual November Festival and throughout the year. Through features, shorts, documentaries, and conversations with visiting artists, the Festival explores Jewish identity, the current Jewish experience, and the richness of Jewish culture in relation to a diverse modern world. The Boston Jewish Film Festival, Inc. is a 501(c)3, not-for-profit arts organization.

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