By Michelle Rusgo, LJCC Director of Art and Culture
CJN January 2024
The Charlotte Jewish Film Festival (CJFF) has been a platform for celebrating and promoting Jewish culture through the medium of film. January marks the 20th year of the film festival which is a true celebration of Jewish identity with an array of enlightening and exceptional films.
With venues across Charlotte and Shalom Park, the festival shines the spotlight on Jewish and Israeli culture, values, and history. From stories of Jewish identity to tales of resilience and triumph, the CJFF embraces the intricate nature of Jewish experiences, allowing for a more inclusive representation of the community. One of the key aspects that makes the Charlotte Film Festival remarkable is its carefully curated film selection. The festival screening committee works tirelessly to bring together a collection of compelling films that captivate and inspire viewers. From documentaries to narratives, the films explore different themes, including the Holocaust, Jewish identity, and social justice.
Jeff Turk, the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival committee chair, acknowledges the impact the festival makes on its movie-goers. “The lineup of films this year is an impressive offering of international films that illuminate the global Jewish experience and showcase our history and our culture. This being the 20th anniversary of the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival, I am excited that with each film, the audience will be guaranteed to have an outstanding movie-going experience. For the first time ever, two of the films, “Irena’s Vow,” and ”Kidnapped” will be premiered at the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival before they are released in theaters nationwide. In addition, we are especially proud of the latest Israeli Academy (Ophir) Award big winner, Seven Blessings” about a Moroccan family in 1990s Jerusalem. “ This film swept the Israeli Oscars, winning 10 awards out of 12 nominations and will kick off the Film Festival at Temple Israel.
The festival’s commitment to delivering cinematic excellence is evident in the quality of the films presented. By featuring both established and emerging filmmakers, the festival provides a platform for talented artists to showcase their work. Attendees are treated to incredible cinematography, compelling storytelling, and powerful performances that resonate long after the credits roll. The festival promotes a broad range of cinematic styles, ensuring that there is something for everyone, from documentary enthusiasts to fans of fictional narratives.
The Charlotte Jewish Film Festival creates a sense of togetherness that is truly remarkable. Through shared experiences and the exploration of Jewish culture, attendees form connections and build relationships that extend beyond the festival itself. The festival serves as a catalyst for dialogue, understanding, and empathy, fostering a sense of unity. Whether it is laughter, tears, or thought-provoking discussions, the experience leaves a lasting mark on those who participate, forging memories and lifelong connections. “Israel Swings for Gold,” a documentary about Israel’s baseball team during the 2021 Olympics will include a special appearance by Tal Erel, the team catcher, who will facilitate a Q&A after the film.
Many of the movies pay tribute to legendary film-makers who have had a significant effect on the industry. Avi Nesher’s latest film, “The Monkey House,” was recently released in Israel to great acclaim. The score was written by Avner Dorman, one of Israel’s most celebrated classical composers. “Home” was recently awarded the Ophir Award (the Israeli Oscars) for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. The Charlotte Jewish Film Festival also focuses on important events and figures in Jewish history. The Charlotte Jewish Film Festival will conclude at Temple Beth El with ”Remembering Gene Wilder” which pays homage to Wilder’s contributions and highlights his influence on the world of cinema.
The Charlotte Jewish Film Festival continues to provide an amazing experience for all festival-goers. By offering diverse perspectives and celebrating Jewish heritage, the festival reinforces the importance of cultural understanding and appreciation, ensuring that the vibrant Jewish culture remains alive and thriving. As the festival moves forward, it will undoubtedly inspire, educate, and captivate audiences, cementing its place as a cultural gem within the Charlotte community and beyond.
Films for the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival will be screened at Temple Israel, Temple Beth El, Sam Lerner Center for the Cultural Arts at the Levine JCC, and The Independent Picture House. For the full 2024 film line up and for more information, please go to the Levine JCC website at charlottejcc.org or go to charlottejewishfilm.com, and on page 9 of this issue of the CJN.