CJFF Films

10th Annual Columbus Jewish Film Festival - November 2-16, 2014

24 Days

Directed by Alexandre Arcady, Narrative/Drama, 2014, 110 minutes, France, French with English subtitles – Violence

This is a gripping and carefully plotted thriller that tells the true story of the kidnapping of Ilan Halimi in a Paris suburb by The Gang of Barbarians, who expect a huge ransom as they assume that all Jews have money.  Based on the book by Ilan’s mother, Ruth, 24 Days follows the police as they try to keep one step ahead of the kidnappers and as the family deals with the immense pressure of possibly losing their son.

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70 Hester Street

Directed by Casimir Nozkowski, Documentary/short, 2014, 10 minutes, USA

The 140 year old building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan that Casimir grew up in was a former synagogue, whiskey still, raincoat factory and an art studio.   His parents rented it as their home for 45 years.  Casimir started filming as his parents were moving out, wanting to capture the history the building contained before its new owner could erase it.  70 Hester Street is about his childhood home, all childhood homes and the lives of old buildings.

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A Place In Heaven

Directed by Joseph Madmony, Narrative/Drama, 2013, 117 minutes, Israel, Hebrew with English subtitles

A retired general lies on his deathbed, bitter and alone, prompting his estranged, ultra-orthodox Jewish son to try and save his soul from hell.  This quasi-biblical, epic drama covers the history of Israel through 40 years and three wars, but at heart, it is a film about relationships between fathers and sons.  The meaning of the title emerges as a tale within a tale that begins shortly after the founding of modern Israel.  When a brave, much admired officer named Bambi, returns to base after a daring mission, the cooks assistant, a young rabbi, tells him that he has earned a place in heaven for endangering his life on behalf of his Jewish brethren.  As a secular Zionist, Bambi scoffs at this notion and notes that he would gladly give up that place in exchange for his favorite spicy omelet.  Since religious law permit’s the trade of such abstract concepts, the cook draws up a contract.  Such impulsive behavior, typical of young Bambi, proves to have long term consequences, especially with his only son.

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Bethlehem

Directed by Yuval Adler, Narrative/Drama, 2013, 99 minutes, Israel/Germany/Belgium, Hebrew & Arabic with English subtitles

Bethlehem tells the story of the complex and tragic relationship between Razi, a Shin Bet intelligence officer and Sanfur, his teenage Palestinian informant.  Sanfur feels overshadowed by his older brother Ibrahim, a militant local hero wanted for orchestrating suicide bombings in Israel.  Conflicted and vulnerable he is exploited by Razi, who establishes a fragile bond with him.  As the Israeli plot to assassinate Ibrahim heats up, Sanfur’s loyalties to his brother and Razi are compromised when a chain of unfortunate events forces him to choose sides.

Israel’s Official Entry for Best Foreign Language film into American Academy Awards.

Nominated for 12 Israeli Academy Awards; winning Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor.

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First Cousin Once Removed

Directed:  Alan Berliner, Documentary, 2013, 79 minutes, USA

Presented in partnership with The Leventhal Visiting Artists Program, The Columbus Jewish Foundation, The Ohio State University’s Hill, Film Studies Program, The Department of Art, The Melton Center for Jewish Studies and The Wexner Center for the Arts

First Cousin Once Removed, Alan Berliner’s deeply personal portrait of Edwin Honig, his good friend, cousin and mentor, is a first-hand look at Honig’s journey through the ravages of memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. Shot over the course of five years, Berliner artfully documents Honig’s condition with deep compassion.  In addition to numerous visits with Honig at his home and conversations with his estranged children, ex-wife, friends and former students, the film chronicles Honig’s metamorphosis with archival imagery, family photos, home movies, poetry readings and Berliner’s ever-playful search for visual metaphors that help provide a better understanding of memory loss.

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It Happened in St. Tropez

Directed by Daniele Thompson, Narrative/comedy, 2013, 100 minutes, France, French with English subtitles

From London to Paris, New York St. Tropez…It Happened in St. Tropez opens with a wedding and a funeral.  Domestic entanglements involving a family of opposites set the stage for a distinctly French mix of romance and disaster.  An extreme case of sibling rivalry between two brothers whose professions, life choices and wives couldn’t be more different….religious austerity on one side, intense enjoyment of life’s pleasures on the other.  They have nothing in common but their aging father and their respective daughters who adore one another.

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The Jewish Cardinal

Directed by Ilan Duran Cohen, Narrative/Drama, 2012, 90 minutes, France, French with English subtitles

This compelling drama is based on the remarkable true story of Jean-Marie Lustiger, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants who maintained his cultural identity as a Jew even after converting to Catholicism at a young age and later when he joined the priesthood.  Quickly rising within the ranks of the Church, Lustiger was appointed Archbishop of Paris by Pope Jean Paul II.  He utilized his dual identity to advance Jewish-Catholic relations, a unique platform that earned him both friends and enemies.  When Carmelite nuns prepare to operate a convent within the walls of Auschwitz, the death camp where his mother perished, he finds himself the reluctant mediator between the two communities.

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The Outrageous Sophie Tucker

Directed by William Gazecki, Documentary, 2013, 96 minutes, USA

Nicknamed “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” singer Sophie Tucker defied expectations.

Born into an Orthodox Jewish family, she was the first woman to infatuate her audiences with a bold, bawdy and brassy style.  Her blues-inflected songs, sexual innuendo, infectious charisma and irreverent humor catapulted her to stardom. Spanning a career that oversaw the decline of vaudeville, the invention of talking pictures and the birth of television, Tucker’s 60-year career redefined show business

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Rescue in The Phillipines: Refuge from the Holocaust

Directed by Russell Hodge and Cynthia Scott, Documentary, 56 minutes, USA

Presented in partnership with The Leventhal Fund of the Columbus Jewish Foundation

It all began with a card game and cigars!  This previously untold story recounts a little known chapter of WWII heroism; how the Frieder brothers (Cincinnati cigar makers), together with the first President of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon, the US High Commissioner, Paul McNutt and an ambitious Army Colonel named Dwight Eisenhower helped 1,300 Jews escape the Nazis and immigrate to the Philippines.  Note that these men were from completely different backgrounds – military, political, business – Jewish, Protestant and Catholic – with vastly different personal agendas and reasons for being in the Philippines.  Narrated by Live Schreiber.

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Road to Eden

Directed by Doug Passon, Documentary, 2013, 75 minutes, USA

Road to Eden is a feature-length music documentary about Dan Nichols, one of the most influential Jewish musicians of his generation.  In October 2011, Dan and his band, Eighteen, loaded into an RV and spent the Jewish festival of Sukkot on tour.  This is the story of what happened when one artist with a message of love and hope set out on a journey that changed him and his fellow travelers in ways that they could never have imagined.   Nichols meets homeless Jews in Florida, sings in Birmingham with the Tribe of Judah, a black gospel choir, and recounts Martin Luther King Jr’s last days with Rev. Billy Kyles, the last man alive to be with Dr. King before he was assassinated.

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Run Boy Run

Directed by Pepe Danquart, Narrative/Drama, 2014, 107 minutes, Germany/France, Polish, German, Russian, Yiddish with English subtitles

A superlative saga of courage and compassion, Run Boy Run tells the extraordinary true story of a Polish boy who seeks the kindness of others in his solitary struggle to outlast the Nazi occupation and keep alive his Jewish faith.

Escaping the Warsaw ghetto at the behest of his father, nine year old Srulik flees to the woods.  There, he learns to hide from SS patrols and scour for food, until loneliness and the harsh onset of winter drive him back to civilization.  Taken in by a kindhearted farmer’s wife, he is given shelter and a new identity.  Passing himself off as Jurek, a Christian war orphan, the intrepid boy traverses the countryside from village to village, working as a farmhand under an ever-present threat of persecution.  Some will help him survive and others will betray him.  Just when it seems his childhood memories and identity could be lost forever, Jurek’s harrowing journey culminates in a powerhouse conclusion and postscript.

Run Boy Run is directed by Oscar-winner Pepe Danquart and based on the bestselling Holocaust novel by Israeli author Uri Orlev.

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The Sturgeon Queens

Directed by Julie Cohen, Documentary, 2014, 52 minutes, Canada

What do Chef Mario Batali, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader and 60 Minutes’ Morley Safer all have in common?  They love the offerings at New York’s famous Lower East Side lox and herring emporium, Russ & Daughters.  Produced to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the store, this documentary features interviews with two of the original Russ daughters, now 92 and 100 years old who share their memories of the struggles and delights of running the store.  A true Jewish immigrant success story!

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The Wonders

Directed by Avi Nesher, Narrative/Drama, 2013, 112 minutes, Israel, Hebrew with English subtitles

Inspired by a true story, Avi Nesher’s latest combines genres to create a unique movie that mixes mystery, comedy, psychological thriller, political intrigue and romance.

The Wonders centers on Arnav, a bartender/graffiti artist who lives in Jerusalem whiling away the days with simple pleasures until he becomes enwrapped in a mystery taking place in his own apartment building.   Spying a man seemingly held captive a few units over from his; he investigates, and is soon taken down a rabbit hole into the seedy underbelly of Jerusalem’s criminal underworld.  Arnav becomes involved with not only the mysterious stranger in the apartment, but also a hard-boiled detective and a beautiful mystery woman.

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