AJFF Continues Collaboration and Support of Jewish Film Artists | Shalom Austin

AJFF Continues Collaboration and Support of Jewish Film Artists

The Jewish Outlook

Dec 1, 2023

Attendees view film during Austin Jewish Film Festival at the Dell JCC. Credit: Ken Nordhauser

By Cynthia Winer

The annual Austin Jewish Film Festival opened on Thursday, November 2, at the Dell Jewish Community Center, bringing its audience an outstanding compilation of dramas, comedies, animated films, and shorts over the course of two weekends. The festival celebrated its 21st year, even as the community mourns the current tragedy in Israel and acknowledge that battles are still being fought for Israel’s safety. AJFF continues its collaboration and support of Jewish film artists, encouraging diversity and inclusion in the film and entertainment industry.

Supporting these movies during the festival created opportunities for Jewish artistic talent to shine and brought the community stories about Israeli and Jewish life from around the world. At this time in particular, it’s critical that the community come together to support Israel and the people who live there.

Patrons enjoyed every evening of the 21st film festival, celebrating not only with great films, but also with several receptions offering food, drink, and music, presenting opportunities to socialize with old friends and new. It was a full house for the Opening Night Reception in the Jennifer & David Kaufman Family Living Room at the Dell JCC.

Following that event, attendees made their way to the Gloria & Harvey Evans Performance Center, featuring comfortable seating in a stadium-like setting, for the screening of “Remembering Gene Wilder.” Sounds of laughter filled the theater as the audience enjoyed that entertaining film which was followed by a live-over-Zoom Q&A session with Director Ron Frank and Writer and Co-Director Glenn Kirschbaum.

Kirschbaum noted the importance of watching Jewish film, even comedies, as they are an important part of standing up and showing resistance to terrorism. Each of the remaining films in the festival was accompanied by in-person, live-over-Zoom, or recorded Q&A’s and interviews with directors, writers, and actors.

Utilizing the beautiful spaces in the Dell JCC, the festival continued throughout the weekend. Director/Author Heather Dune Macadam participated in a special film book event: the screening of her film, “999: The Forgotten Girls of the Holocaust,” was followed by a discussion about her book of the same name on which her movie was based. Another highlight of that weekend, the musical/comedy “Less Than Kosher” was followed by an in-person Q&A with the creator and award-winning Actor/Singer/Songwriter Shaina Silver-Baird. In response to a request from an audience member, the group was treated to her stunning  acappella rendition of “Eli, Eli.”

AJFF’s audience numbers have continued to increase as film fans’ passion for movies on the big screen has been reignited. Of course, adding food, drinks, music, and socializing to the equation also helps! This year the Austin Jewish Film Festival offered moviegoers two screens of entertainment—documentaries and dramas ran concurrently, providing a great selection of opportunities to enjoy Jewish films.

At the final weekend of the annual festival, a timely documentary, “A Tale of Four Minorities,” screened Saturday, November 11. In making his film, David Deri-Barkai began by interviewing four families—his own secular gay family in Tel Aviv, a Jewish Ultra-Orthodox family in Beit Shemesh, a Muslim family in Taibeh, and a religious Jewish family in the Ofra settlement (West Bank), just as the pandemic broke out. The film revealed extremism and disintegration among these four minorities in Israel. Surprising alliances were created as a fascinating dialogue began.

The annual film festival closed on Sunday, November 12, with a reception offering the audience drinks, food, and live entertainment. The comedy/drama “No Name Restaurant” related the story of one camel, two men, and three religions on a mission to save the once largest Jewish community in Alexandria, Egypt, from being shut down. The Middle East takes center stage in this film, for once not by news of horror but through a story of an unexpected friendship. Beyond all national boundaries, this film mediates between two universes by allowing the discovery of the human being inside the stranger. During the live Q&A with Actor Luzer Twersky he discussed the complexities of filming in Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan with a German, Jewish, and Palestinian crew.

The 2023 annual Austin Jewish Film Festival may be over, but AJFF won’t leave its audience without great films and programming until next year. The AJFF365 program will present year-round events at the Dell JCC.

To learn more visit AustinJFF.org.

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