Indie Film: Travel the world from your living room during the Maine Jewish Film Festival

The 23rd once-a-year Maine Jewish Film Competition kicks off Saturday. As ever, this yearly cinematic

The 23rd once-a-year Maine Jewish Film Competition kicks off Saturday. As ever, this yearly cinematic celebration takes on the this means and evolution of Jewishness, all by programming a weeklong roster of movies that see distinct factors of globally Jewish everyday living, in all its complexity.

Which is usually good information for us right here in Portland, given that MJFF has come to be a spotlight of the moviegoing year. A main attraction for motion picture fans, whatsoever their faith or deficiency thereof, MJFF, with its at any time-tough and entertaining movie lineup and the prospect to interact with both equally fellow film lovers and illustrious filmmakers, is a should-go to. Even when, as so many film festivals have found out in the past two several years, the definition of “attend” has had to evolve a bit. 

“This is our 2nd all-virtual competition,” stated Maine Jewish Film Festival Government Director Barbara Merson, outlining, “We’d read a good deal from our audience about their considerations about going back to sit in theaters with massive groups of folks and had been just thinking about the plans for this year’s festival when the Delta variant started sweeping Maine.” Like quite a great deal each and every movie pageant given that the starting of this pandemic (which is nonetheless not around, so get vaccinated, currently), MJFF has had to modify. And, like these other festival organizers, Merson has learned to find the silver linings in which she can. 

“Last year’s pageant went truly effectively,” Merson claimed, “We experienced incredibly substantial box office environment and attendance on the net. As well as, we found that filmmakers had been even more keen to show up at just about through Zoom discussions with us and our viewers. Portland’s fantastic, but convincing a filmmaker to choose a week out of their incredibly active lives to occur to town is a huge talk to.”

Fair more than enough, in particular because, as at any time, this year’s MJFF incorporates films and filmmakers from as far afield as Israel and Palestine, Morocco, Argentina and Russia. “There was a steep finding out curve last 12 months, both equally for us and our audience, in arranging and attending a virtual film competition,” explained Merson. “Now, while we miss the in-man or woman experience, we’ve discovered that, all in all, there are a ton of positives in doing issues almost.”

For 1 issue, Merson says that the 17 movies that make up this year’s pageant symbolize an even extra selective screening approach than common.

“We have a a little bit higher range of movies than last year’s pageant, but still lower than when we’ve carried out it in individual,” she reported. “What that signifies is that our collection committee definitely experienced to choose and pick. When you do a stay pageant, you presume that not everyone will be equipped to go to each and every screening, so you tend to schedule different types of movies for different audiences in the very same time slots. This 12 months, given that absolutely everyone can watch just about every movie from their individual households (and a digital ticket can be utilized in excess of multiple days), we could be seriously selective and just decide on the best of more than 100 submissions.”

I questioned Merson to decide on out a handful of of her favorites from this year’s already meticulously curated roster, a method she laughingly described as obtaining to “choose which is my preferred child.” Continue to, she favored us with several picks of the films she’s significantly psyched for audiences to verify out. 

“Persian Classes,” from Ukrainian director Vadim Perelman, is amongst the highlights of the Maine Jewish Film Competition, which commences Saturday. Image courtesy of 1 Two Movies

Persian Lessons,” from Ukrainian director Vadim Perelman, is, according to an enthusiastic Merson, “an remarkable movie. It’s about Environment War II, but it is not a usual WWII movie. It actually is about the relationship of language and human connection, all though getting a incredibly suspenseful drama – actually, I don’t want to say also significantly.” (In deference to Merson’s tips to know as tiny as possible heading in, I’ll only incorporate that the “Persian Lessons” of the title type a pivotal and stunning central conceit, and leave it at that.)

In Your Eyes I See My Region” is a fully diverse film, a documentary about two musicians who vacation from their Jerusalem residence to their ancestral Morocco in order to reconnect with their cultural, and musical, heritage.

“The film (from director Kamal Hachkar) focuses on the music of Morocco as performed and done by two musicians whose dad and mom arrived from there. I like new music, and this film has a good deal to say about the procedure of immigration, about what you obtain and what you lose as a result of generations,” Merson mentioned.

The interconnectedness of marginalized people today all comes collectively in the stirring documentary “A Criminal offense on the Bayou,” a uniquely and regrettably American tale of bigotry and injustice. The genuine-life tale of a young Black man’s 1966 arrest (for touching a white person on the arm) and the Jewish legal professional who battled a white supremacist Louisiana Jim Crow authorized technique on his behalf, the film, reported Merson, “is about the intersection of the Black tale and the Jewish tale in Louisiana. It’s quite a lot about the history of what went on, and what is likely on.”

Merson claims that Mainers in certain will come across a ton to relate to in director Isaac Artenstein’s documentary, “Challah Climbing in the Desert,” a stunningly shot and insightful evaluation of the small but vivid Jewish local community in New Mexico. “There’s a braided challah bread built with environmentally friendly chiles in the movie,” claimed Merson, “and if that does not say it all, I really do not know what does. There are a lot of similarities in the Maine and New Mexico Jewish encounter, in how communities come to a position and take in, but also include to the society. This is an particularly engaging film that I really feel people today in Maine will relate to.”

That is just the tip of the iceberg, of course, with this year’s competition featuring up a normally eclectic and intriguing roster. The drama “200 Meters” examines the hardships of a Palestinian couple pressured to dwell on possibly facet of Israel’s separation wall. “Hollywood and WWII” documents the endeavours of immigrant Jewish filmmakers William Wyler, Billy Wilder and Anatole Litvak to deliver their cameras to war. And the gripping documentary “Appreciate It Was Not” tells the story of a Jewish woman’s tale of focus camp survival thanks to the attentions of a German officer – and her determination to testify at the officer’s war crimes trial.

“Number one, we’re generally on the lookout for outstanding motion pictures,” Merson mentioned of the annual choice system. “There’s constantly a equilibrium of dramas and documentaries, and our selection committee usually appears for a stability, due to the fact our viewers is pretty varied.” This calendar year, says Merson, that process noticed MJFF gravitating towards that diversity, in equally issue subject and stage of origin. “With men and women not so relaxed about traveling at this point, we sought to carry men and women to sites where they are not in fact heading to go, with a lot of distinctive countries and languages all represented.”

For Merson, Maine Jewish Film Festival’s mission stays consistent, irrespective of what any exterior factors (like a international pandemic) say. “We want to enrich, educate and entertain. The Jewish local community in Maine is modest, and I hope folks who are not as mindful of it, and who never interact with it generally, will study a thing about us, and about the worldwide Jewish experience. These are vital and universal themes – family interactions, the working experience of currently being an outsider – and it is our mission to give people a popular, immersive experience.” 

The 23rd Maine Jewish Film Festival runs via Nov. 14. For comprehensive facts about MJFF and this year’s movies and visitor speakers, and to obtain specific tickets or the ever-economical festival go, go to 

Dennis Perkins is a freelance author who lives in Auburn with his spouse and cat.

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