The Jewish Congregation of Marco Island proudly presents The Sidney R. Hoffman Memorial Jewish Film Festival 2014-2015.
For the next four months, JCMI will host four films focused on Jewish history and culture. Marco Island resident Dr. Isabel Price is the founder and organizer of the film festival, which is held in cooperation with the Jewish Federation of Collier County.
“Our film festival aims to build bridges and make connections, Jew to Jew and to our wonderful non-Jewish friends and neighbors,” Price explains. “We want to entertain with new, quality films that also provoke thought and discussion about Jewish history and identity that our audiences can take away from each program.”
Price found inspiration for the film festival after her husband passed away in 2000. “We both loved films, especially the old Yiddish films made in Poland during the 1930s,” she remembers. “That whole Jewish culture, study, learning, music, cooking and 6 million lives were destroyed and wiped off the face of the earth by theNazis. My husband’s family heritage and mine went back centuries in Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine, and we so enjoyed finding and viewing the old Yiddish films with English subtitles.”
After her husband died, Price wanted to do something happy in his memory and started to arrange to show a few of these films at JCMI. The films were well received, and soon with cooperation from the synagogue, Price expanded the theme to Jewish films and the JCMI Jewish Film Festival was born in 2001 — the first in all of Collier County.
Price begins the search for films each spring — even before the end of the current festival. “We look closely at the big Jewish Film Festivals in San Francisco, San Diego, Atlanta, New York and Philadelphia — the big boys,” she says. “There are something like 200 Jewish Film Festivals around the world connecting Jew to Jew and to the Jewish experience. It’s the magic of film which entertains, educates and provokes thought and discussion, focusingon Jewish history, culture and identity. My committee and I preview upwards of 25 films and make our selections for the upcoming season.”
The 2014-2015 schedule of films includes:
- “The Jewish Cardinal”: This 100-minute film is the true story of Father Jean-Marie Lustiger, born the son of Polish Jews in Paris and whose mother died at Auschwitz. Although he converted to Catholicism at age 14, later becoming a priest and then appointed Cardinal, Father Lustiger maintained his cultural identity as a Jew. The film reflects his personal conflict and soul searching as an obedient son of the Church yet attached to his Jewish heritage. Father Tim Navin of the San Marco Catholic Church and JCMI Rabbi Edward Maline will lead the discussion following the film. English and French. Sun., Dec. 14 at 2 PM.
- “The Outrageous Sophie Tucker”: “The Outrageous Sophie Tucker is a 96-minute documentary focusing on the tumultuous early days of this superstar who ruled the 1920s Flapper Era. Before Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Bette Midler, Madonna and Lady Gaga, there was Sophie Tucker, who made her audiences fall in love with her bold, bawdy and brassy style. Born in Russia to a Jewish family Sophie became the “last of the Red Hot Mamas,” with a 60-year show business career. English. Sun., Jan. 18 at 2 PM.
- “Disobedience”: In 1940 as France was being overrun by the Nazis, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese general counsel in Bordeaux, gave visas to thousands of refugees — Jews and non-Jews — so they could cross the border into neutral Spain and Portugal. Sousa Mendes did this knowing he would face severe punishment from Antonio Salazar, dictator of Portugal who had forbidden visas to Jews and others who could not return to their country of origin. Today, the survivors and descendants of those he saved have established the Aristides de Sousa Mendes Foundation to tell his story. Robert Jacobvitz of the Sousa Mendes Foundation will speak about this 104-minute film. French with English subtitles. Sun., Feb. 8, at 2 PM.
- “Yiddle with His Fiddle”: Reflecting the joy of Yiddish life before the Holocaust in Poland — home of 3 million Jews — this 92-minute film is the story of an impoverished man, Arye, and his daughter, Itke, who decide to become traveling Klezmorim. That means they go from shtetl to shtetl playing music, singing and dancing. This is the most successful of all the Yiddish films and a rare gem because all the film’s extras are ordinary Jews picked from the Polish shtetls to show real Jewish life in Poland. Yiddish with English subtitles. Sun., March 8, at 2 PM.
The premiere opens with a reception at 1:30 PM on Sun., Dec. 14, and cake and fruit will be served. The other three films will be followed with receptions and refreshments. Each film will open with an introduction by Price and a bit of Jewish history.
The JCMI Jewish Film Festival is open to the public. Tickets for individual films are $25. Regular series tickets at $70, while patron series tickets are $85.
For more information, contact the JCMI office at 239-642-0800.