Presented by the
Mandell JCC

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Dear Festival Friends,

The Mandell JCC Hartford Jewish Film Festival is back for our 18th – CHAI – season. We’re celebrating with 18 feature and documentary films and 4 shorts from 13 countries, screening in 5 venues over 10 days. You’ll see Hollywood legends including Woody Allen, Susie Essman, Isabella Rossellini and Sir Patrick Stewart; Oscar nominees, and award-winning films that will entertain, engage and enrage. We’ll welcome guest directors, authors and film subjects and present live concerts and fun receptions.

Thank You to our lead funders, the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford and the Mandell JCC Pillars Society, whose significant support have helped us become one of the most admired Jewish film fests in the country. The generosity of the Mandell JCC Pacesetter donors; our venue and media sponsors and in-kind supporters ensure the gold standard quality of our films and the festival experience. We are grateful to our community partners, agencies, synagogues, volunteers, our dedicated committee members and the Mandell JCC staff. 

Life is better with music and five titles feature musical themes. West Hartford’s Dr. Alby Hurwit composes a symphony in The Gambling Man. In When Day Breaks a piano professor discovers an unfinished score and his true identity. Israel’s Cupcakes is a frothy, feel-good musical comedy about love, life and friends. Violin virtuoso Philip Quint and singer Nellie McKay shine in Downtown Express, set in the Big Apple. Mama Doni Zasloff electrifies our stage in a live song-and-dance concert for young families following Mama Doni’s Jewish Holiday Party – It’s Passover!

When the world turned its back on Europe’s Jews, one Philadelphia couple dared to rescue fifty Jewish children from the Nazis. Our sixth annual Tribute – Observations on Survival and Spirit program sponsored by the Kirstein family, in collaboration with the Maurice Greenberg Center, will introduce you to one of these children, Dr. Robert Braun of Fairfield. Filmmaker/journalist Steven Pressman, whose wife Liz discovered her grandmother’s diary, the inspiration for 50 Children- The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus will speak.

Proving that age is no barrier to pursuing dreams, meet the Fairfield Jewish Home for the Elderly residents who traveled to Israel in Next Year Jerusalem. Another feisty 90-something, Miriam Weissenstein, saves her husband’s photographic legacy in Israel’s Life In Stills.

Book lovers will recognize authors on screen in The Zig Zag Kid, adapted from David Grossman’s novel and The Prime Ministers –The Pioneers, Yehuda Avner’s memoir of Israel’s history-makers. Fans of the popular Israeli writer will appreciate Etgar Keret – What Animal Are You? 

Our festival has become a platform for important conversations about hot issues. Brave Miss World, shows how art can be a potent instrument of change. Israeli beauty queen Linor Abargil, who survived a horrific knifepoint rape weeks before being crowned Miss World in 1998, is profiled in this new film. Fact-based dramas spotlight larger-than-life stories and characters. The Jewish Cardinal is the astonishing story of Jean Marie Lustiger, the Jewish-born French Cardinal who straddled his two identities. Aftermath, Poland’s critically acclaimed box office hit inspired by the 1941 massacre of Jedwabne’s Jews. Bethlehem, Israel's entry for this year's foreign film Oscar, is a gritty, suspenseful spy drama about a Shin Bet agent and his teenage Palestinian informant.

Two comedy - romance crowd-pleasers include the love travails of a Woody Allen-obsessed French beauty in Paris-Manhattan and the fishy, offbeat, urban fairy tale of Putzel. Talking animals provide the punchlines in Gentledog and Etgar Keret’s The Goldfish and What About Me? Precocious teens steal the show in two films. Young Jonathan employs a gang of silver-haired misfits to rob a bank in the Israeli crime caper Hunting Elephants. The Zig Zag Kid’s mischievous Nono chases his dream of becoming the world’s most famous cop.

CHAI - 18 - Life. Whether it’s a symbol of faith or a statement of your ethnic pride, please join us for our CHAI season this March. We invite you to open your eyes, hearts and ears to new ideas and Jewish storytelling at its best! 

Thank you for your support and see you at the movies!

Dr. Benson Monastersky & Ronny Siegel, Co-Chairs

Harriet J. Dobin, Director

18th Annual Mandell JCC Hartford Jewish Film Festival
December, 2013