Celebrate Virtually At The Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival

Every year, the JCCs bring the community together to learn, laugh, cry, and share the consciousness of Jewish culture, history, and artistry through the magical medium of film. And, while we may not be able to celebrate in person, this year’s Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival is right around the corner! Keeping in the theme of 2020, the festival will be entirely virtual, offering great films, all from the comfort of your home. The line-up features eight exciting film events over the two-week period, still featuring many of the interactive touches that have become a hallmark of the JCCs’ Festivals in years past. From feature-length films to award-winning shorts, this year’s Festival reminds us, once again, of the power of film to inspire, entertain, and create conversation.

Local filmmaker Rod Martel didn’t know the movie he was going to end up with when he shot some spontaneous cell phone video of his late mother, Gerta Martel Freund. But what transpired in the making of Lost In Berlin, he said, was a search for himself.

“The best support someone can get is acceptance,” says Ezra Kaner-Roth a panelist for the post-film discussion for the film Transkids. This film features four Israeli teenagers who undergo the process of life-and-identity-saving gender transformation in a country where military service is mandatory and Orthodox Jewish religion is the law.

A Promise to Our Fathers is part of the Human Condition block of short films that are featured this year. The documentary short features Gene Greenberg, the son of Holocaust survivors, and his childhood friend Larry Pollard, now 97 and living in a veteran’s home in rural Missouri, whose father was a medic in World War II that tended to survivors at Dachau after the camp was liberated.

“Despite the pandemic, our community has a strong desire to engage,” said Robyn Awend, JCC Twin Cities Jewish Cultural Arts Director. “We are thrilled to be able to adapt and offer a variety of entertaining and thought-provoking films…all from the comfort of your couch!”

The culmination of the Festival is a live zoom event featuring a short film from The Israel Museum, You Need to be Ready to Let Go of What the Eye Sees, followed by a line-up of esteemed speakers. A Jewish woman, a Muslim Woman and an Orthodox Russian nun, all of whom represent the world of pious women who observe rules of extreme modestly.

Awend added, “The role of the JCC has always been the ‘place’ where people connect. This continues to be our mission. Our goal is to find creative and meaningful ways to build community and continue the conversation.”

In addition to the eight outstanding film events, including feature-length and short films, there will be post-film conversations and more. So, grab your popcorn and your ALL FEST PASS to see the wide array of films that this year’s Festival has to offer.

The Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival is FREE to the community, thanks to the generosity of the Mary and Julius Pertzik Jewish Cultural Arts fund. For more information or to register, visit: www.tcjfilmfest.org



Oct. 15-Nov. 1

Directed by Hilla Medalia | Israel, 2019 | Documentary | Hebrew with English Subtitles| 103 mins.

Recommended for Teen+

Partners: J-Pride; a program of the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis, The Israel Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation & St. Paul Jewish Federation

Four Israeli teenagers undergo an irreversible life-altering process. Four Israeli families must grapple with the unsettling process their child goes through during the already brutal enough teenage years; each in its own way. Four years of intimate and raw documenting, paint an emotional, dramatic, and eye-opening picture at the heart of which are fundamental questions: What does it mean to be born in a body that is misaligned with your gender? How would we, as parents, react when the child we have raised turns out to be a different person to the one we thought they were? And, is our love for our children truly unconditional? In a long, unprecedented documentary journey, the director chronicles the physical, emotional, and social ups and downs in the foursome and their families’ lives – Israeli teens who, despite the hefty price, are no longer afraid of being themselves.


Oct. 15-Nov. 1

Directed by Rod Martel | USA, 2020 | Documentary | English | 103 mins.

Recommended for Adults

Partners: Minneapolis Jewish Federation & St. Paul Jewish Federation

In her small apartment in Minneapolis, the centenarian, Gerda Martel Freund sits in her comfortable recliner watching an endless loop of I Love Lucy reruns. Much like the brutal temperature extremes of the city in which she has landed, her life mirrors the cataclysmic events of the past century. Gerda is the daughter of Oscar® winning Director/Cinematographer Karl Freund, whose life takes us on an incredible life journey spanning the globe from NAZI Germany, to the Canary Islands and eventually back to Minnesota. Her son, Director Rod Martel, takes us along on his desperate quest to discover his family’s fascinating past before his mother’s rapidly fading memory closes the door forever.


Oct. 15-Nov. 1

Directed by Marc Bennett | USA, 2017 | Documentary, Animation | English | 21 mins.

Family Friendly with Holocaust content (suggested ages 8+)

Partners: Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakota’s Holocaust Education program, Minneapolis Jewish Federation & St. Paul Jewish Federation

The Tattooed Torah is an animated short film, adapted from the beloved children’s book by Marvell Ginsburg that has been a powerful resource for Holocaust education for children. The film is a three-generational endeavor, initiated by Marvell’s daughter, who first had the dream to transform the book into a film. The film brings the rich artwork to life and allows the story to reach a much broader audience all over the world. Now more than ever, it is essential to continue teaching the lessons of the Holocaust to young children in an impactful and palatable way, so that such horrific events are never forgotten and never repeated.

The children’s book, Tattooed Torah by Marvell Ginsburg is available for FREE thanks to the generosity of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakota’s Holocaust Program.

To request a book: https://forms.gle/Zcf2KbR25TGGfeZJ7


Oct. 22-31

Directed by Kirsten Kelly and Katie Taber | USA, 2019 | Documentary | English | 40 mins.

Recommended for Adults

Partners: Twin Cities Film Festival, Minneapolis Jewish Federation & St. Paul Jewish Federation, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakota’s Holocaust Program

The United States is experiencing a surge in hate crimes as a tide of white supremacy gathers momentum nationwide. Muslim and Jewish communities are particularly at risk. Stranger/Sister is the story of two ordinary women, one Muslim and one Jewish, who dare to believe they can join hands to stop the wave of hate. Overcoming a long history of distrust between their two religions, they build a movement that turns strangers into sisters, challenging our assumptions about how to fight hate in America. Intimately following women from Sisterhood chapters in Austin, Chicago and across the Nation, the Sisters build a powerful network of hope in a time of chaos and hate.


Oct. 28-Nov. 1

Directed by Michal Waszynski | Poland, 1937 | Narrative | Yiddish with new English subtitles | 123 mins.

Recommended for Adults

Partners: Center for Jewish Film, Minneapolis Yiddish Vinkl, Minneapolis Jewish Federation & St. Paul Jewish Federation

Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Ansky’s The Dybbuk with this newly restored film!

In this mystical tale of star-crossed lovers, ill-fated vows, and supernatural possession, two friends tempt fate by betrothing their unborn children. Years later when the pledge is broken and the couple’s love is thwarted, Channon the young lover (Leon Liebgold, Tevye) turns to the dangerous power of the Kabbalah to win back his love (Lili Liliana, Kol Nidre). Made in Poland on the eve of WWII in a stylized, Expressionistic manner that has been called “Hasidic Gothic,” The Dybbuk, based on S. Ansky’s play, brought together the best talents of Polish Jewry.



Directed by Ari Teperberg | Israel, 2020 | Narrative | Yiddish with new English subtitles | 16 mins.

Nov. 1, 11 a.m.-noon

Recommended for Adults

Partners: The Israel Museum, Center for Jewish Studies; University of Minnesota, The Israel Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation & St. Paul Jewish Federation

Join us as we view this short film, hear from the filmmakers, and discuss the idea of letting go of what the eye sees. Three actresses assume the roles of a Jewish woman, a Muslim woman, and a Russian Orthodox nun, all of whom represent the world of pious women who observe rules of extreme modesty. The film’s title quotes Haya, one of the Jewish modesty women, who appeals not to judge them by their clothing and outward appearance. The narratives are based upon interviews conducted between 2015 and 2018 with women from all three religions.


Oct. 15 – Nov. 1

Limited only by their runtime, short films transcend traditional storytelling and are an important part of cinema, storytelling, and culture. Our first Shorts Block offers an extraordinary array of documentaries, featuring five films ranging from a touching journey to motherhood, to a musical documentary, to raw stories of social justice and faith. Films include Matriarchs, Healers of Faith, Reawakening, Braided Prayer, and A Promise to our Fathers.


Directors: Johnny P Kennedy, David Saich | United States | 2020 | Documentary | 18 min

In 2011, in response to the rise in anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic violence in the United States and around the world, three renowned musicians, from three different religions, formed a band called “Abraham Jam.” They hoped to do more than simply exchange ideas and art; they wanted to create music that braided these traditions and worldviews together in harmony – not singing the same notes, but singing notes that resonate. They wanted to respond to interreligious hatred by modeling a better way. This journey would include explorations of the commonalities and the differences in their faiths, searching to create a common voice that highlights the unique strengths and beliefs of each musician and each tradition. Braided Prayer is a documentary film that follows these three musicians, Billy Jonas (Jewish), David LaMotte (Christian), and Dawud Warnsby (Muslim), during the creation of their 2019 album “White Moon” and two concerts to celebrate its release.


Director: Jacob Ross | United States | 2020 | Documentary | 9 min

A woman struggling with death by overdose of her younger sister seeks answers from Judaism and the Jewish faith leaders in the community who have their own stories to share.


Director: C.J. Boisvert | United States | 2020 | Documentary | 30 min

In 1958, two nine-year-old boys meet as neighbors & become best friends. Their fathers each experience the hell of war, one as a victim, the other a liberator. It was a promise to their fathers to share their family stories to make sure the world never forgets.


Director: Marissa Roer | United States | 2019 | Documentary I 14 min

From surrogacy to seemingly endless rounds of IVF, Matriarchs follows four Jewish women named Rebecca, Sara, Rachel, and Leah on their journeys toward single motherhood. Raw, vulnerable, and honest, each of the four women has a touching story that you will not want to miss.


Director: Alexandra Kauffman Horowitz | United States | 2019 | Documentary | 8 min

Three years ago, white supremacists came to town chanting neo-Nazi slogans and rallying just outside their congregation. Since then, members of Charlottesville’s only synagogue have been on a journey against hate. At times, the journey required self-reflection. At times, it required communal action. But no matter what form it took, Charlottesville’s Jews found that standing up for themselves meant standing up for justice in the broader community. Reawakening documents their journey. Through interviews with rabbis and congregants, the film explores how the white supremacy they experienced transformed their understanding of themselves and their city — and how it intensified their commitment to social justice.


Oct. 15-Nov. 1

Our second Shorts Block offers an exceptional selection of six short films highlighting relationships, intimacy, family drama, and other exceptional encounters. Films include Wife Me, The Book of Ruth, The Other Side, Butterflies, Give it Back!, and Newlyweds Guide to Physical Intimacy.


Directors: Yona Rozenkier | Israel | 2019 | Drama | 8 min

Another Sunday in April. A kibbutz in the North of Israel. A natural phenomenon. A family on an impromptu ride, maybe the last one…


Director: Becca Roth | United States | 2019 I Drama | 14 min

Margo, Dan, Jordan, and Lizzy visit grandmother Ruth for Passover. Later that night, Lizzy finds Ruth watching a midnight news story about Anne Frank’s death. Lizzy then confesses to have known a related secret for years and Ruth is left with some explaining to do.


Director: Billy Kent | United States/Argentina | 2020 | Drama | 5 min

The loneliness of the long-distance relationship. In quarantine.


Director: Greg Fox | Canada | 2019 | Drama/Comedy | 13 min

Wife Me is a short film that tells the story of a young couple that is forced to unpack a difficult topic of discussion after a particularly turbulent family event. The film is an intimate character piece that examines the importance of transparency in a relationship and deals with the fact that, sometimes, there may just not be a right answer. Other themes explored include juggling family and romantic relationships, the importance of tradition, and how much one should change for the ones they love.


Director: Julie Benko | United States | 2020 | Narrative | 8 min

Inspired by a real self-help book of the same name, The Newlywed’s Guide to Physical Intimacy follows a recently married Hasidic couple who arrive home on their wedding night. The trouble is no one ever taught them what comes next.


Director: Ruchama Ehrenhalt | Israel | 2019 | Drama | 8 min

Olivia just moved to Israel from New York. Throughout her first day of school in the 6th grade she tries to survive, navigating through the new country she just landed in, her new school, and new peers, unsure where she will end up at the end of the day.

This article is sponsored content through FolkMedia Consulting.