You may not realize, but there are hundreds of films every year that have Jewish content. While that’s great for interested audiences that look for that, it makes the jobs of Marley Richman and Todd Bruse a challenge.
Richman and Bruse are the co-directors of the Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival, which takes place March 18-25 at the Sabes JCC in St. Louis Park and the St. Paul JCC. This year’s festival has six films ranging from full-length studio film premiers to documentaries that offer a different glimpse into Judaism. The festival is part of the JCCs’ commitment to collaborating on arts programming.
“We are really dedicated to showing the highest quality of films: high production value, well-made, well-shot and well-acted,” said Richman, the Jewish Arts & Culture Coordinator at the St. Paul JCC. ” My personal favorites aren’t always the festival favorites. Todd and I want to find a range that everyone will enjoy. We search for films that we think the community will connect with.”
Opening night, March 18, the Hopkins Cinema 6 will feature the advance screening of “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” the real-life story of a working wife and mother who became a hero to hundreds during World War II. The film stars two-time Academy Award-nominated actress Jessica Chastain, and will be shown two weeks before the film’s national release. Price includes pre-show reception with food and drinks at 6:30 p.m. at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.
“It’s the first time we’ve had a film as big as ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife,’ said Bruse, who is also the Director of Theater Production at the Sabes JCC. “A week before our film deadline, Focus Films called and asked we were interested.”
March 19 is a triple-feature at the Sabes JCC, with the Midwest premiers of “The Children of Chance” at 2 p.m, “1945” at 4 p.m., and “The Women’s Balcony” at 7:30 p.m., Israel’s #1 film of the year featuring a good-hearted tale about women speaking truth to patriarchal power in a time of crisis.
The festivals continues in St. Paul on March 23 with the world premiere of “Escape From Room 18.” The film is the true story of John Daly, an ex-neo-Nazi who fled to Israel after his own gang nearly killed him for being Jewish. On a mission to better themselves and make amends for the past, Daly and fellow ex-skinhead Kevin Connell meet in Prague to discover and see firsthand the effects of what they both practiced and preached. Part of the experience will feature a “beyond the screen” event with three people associated with making the film being at the screening to answer questions.
On March 25, the festival concludes in St. Paul with the Minnesota premier of “Bang! The Bert Berns Story.” The biographical documentary, narrated by Steven Van Zandt, chronicles the life and career of Bert Berns, the most important songwriter and record producer from the 60s that you never heard of. His hits include “Twist and Shout,” “Hang on Sloopy,” “Here Comes The Night” and “Piece of My Heart.” He helped launch the careers of Van Morrison and Neil Diamond and produced some of the greatest soul music ever made.
“Getting started is the hardest part – reading about all the films. We spend months compiling lists and tracking how they do at other festivals,” said Bruse. “Once we get it down to 50, we send them out to screeners to get feedback.”
Said Richman: “It’s not always easy to make these decisions, but it’s great to see all these films and pick the best ones to bring to the community.”
To purchase tickets for individual showings or the 2017 Festival All-Pass, check out the Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival’s website.