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Film Screenings
 
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Film Screenings

Film screenings throughout the 31st IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will present works that will educate, entertain and inform attendees on many facets of the Jewish experience. Most come out of the documentary genre, particularly audio-visual works that contain genealogical and sociological themes, while some are fictional presentations. A comedy or two should help lighten the generally serious mood.

Here is the schedule.

Sunday, August 14

11:00 AM to 12:15 PM
S-FS1  "The Last Marranos" (64 min.) In the late 15th century, the glory of Sephardic Jewry on the Iberian peninsula came to an end: In 1492, the Jews of Spain were expelled. In 1497, the Jews of Portugal were forcibly converted to Christianity. Now they were subject to the Inquisition's harsh punishment for heresy. Despite the danger, however, many of the converted Jews called marranos "pigs" by Christians continued to practice Judaism in secret. Five centuries later, The Last Marranos takes a fascinating look at the village of Belmonte, Portugal. Its rites and prayers are an amalgam of Christianity and vestiges of Judaism tenaciously preserved through the ages. These traditions bear the scars of history distorted by clandestine practice and couched in symbols of fear. Now, brought into the open and reacquainting itself with mainstream Judaism, the community faces a new challenge. (1991. Courtesy of The National Center for Jewish Film.)

12:30 PM to 2:00 PM
S-FS2  "Kinderland ist abgebrannt (Kinderland Cinderland)" (91 min.) Sibylle Tiedemann and Ute Badura's documentary about 12 German women who recall their earlier schooldays during the lead up to World War II. The women, four Jews and eight Christians, now in their seventies, tell of their youth in the South German city of Ulm. The Christian women still reside there, while their former Jewish classmates live in Israel or the United States. Their memories of the same place, during the same period of time, could not be more different. Made with never before seen archive material, this is a touching film of many layers, and has been highly praised by German film critics and viewers. (1998. Courtesy of Sibylle Tiedmann and George Arnheim.)

2:15 PM to 3:30 PM
S-FS3  "Me and the Jewish Thing" (43 min.) This film, winnder of best documentary award at the Sao Paulo Jewish Film Fesival, is a witty and thoughtful meditation on the collision of two cultures. Danish Jewish filmmaker Ulrik Gutkin and his Danish non-Jewish girlfriend find themselves on opposites sides in deciding whether to circumcise their new baby boy. What follows is Gutkin's reconsideration what it means to be a Jew in Denmark, a country with a small and deeply assimilated community. (2009. Courtesy of The National Center for Jewish Film.)

3:45 PM to 5:15 PM
S-FS4  "Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray" (86 min.) Brother against brother, Jew against Jew, 10,000 Jewish soldiers fought in the nation's deadliest war, in numbers proportionally higher then other American groups. Jewish Soldiers in Blue & Gray explores the little known history of the Civil War Jews who fought on both sides of the battlefield - 7,000 for the Union and 3,000 for the Confederacy. Allegiances during the War Between the States split the Jewish community as deeply as it did the nation at large: some prominent Jews, including Jewish slave owners, cited the Torah to justify slavery, while others were leaders in the abolitionist movement or established their synagogues as stops on the Underground Railroad. Jewish Soldiers in Blue & Gray unreels remarkable history, including Ulysses S. Grant's infamous "General Order No. 11" expelling Jews from Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi; the rise of Sephardic Jew Judah P. Benjamin to Secretary of State of the Confederacy; the imprisonment of Confederate spy Eugenia Levy Phillips; and the unlikely story of Abraham Lincoln's Jewish doctor who moved through the South as a Union spy. A dramatic and visual rich film narrated by Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Milius (Apocalypse Now) with Sam Waterson (Law & Order) voicing Abraham Lincoln. (2011. Courtesy of The National Center for Jewish Film.)

Monday, August 15

9:30 AM to 10:45
SM M-FS1 "Finding Leah Tickotsky" (48 min.) In the summer of 2007, as a Stanford University student Sarah Golabek-Goldman traveled to Poland to teach English in the village of Zakliczyn. While there, she also visited the towns where her family lived before World War II to search for Poles who remembered her relatives. In the village of Jasionowka, Sarah discovered the gravestone of her great-great-grandmother, Leah Tickotsky. Finding Leah Tickotsky explores Polish-Jewish relations as well as one filmmaker's personal journey to discover her family roots. Through her eyes, the film provides a perspective on one of the most painful periods in history and serves as a reminder of the extraordinary contributions Jews made to Poland over nine centuries. (2010. Courtesy of The National Center for Jewish Film.)

11:00 AM to 12:15 PM
M-FS2  "Prisoner of Her Past" (58 min.) Followed by Q&A with Howard Reich. On the night of February 15, 2001, Sonia Reich fled her home in Skokie, Illinois, insisting that someone was trying to kill her -to "put a bullet in [her] head," she told anyone who would listen. It would take a year for her son, Chicago Tribune journalist Howard Reich, to understand why she was running the streets of Skokie, fearing for her life. Prisoner of Her Past tracks Howard's journey across the United States and Eastern Europe to discover why his mother believes - to this day - that the world has conspired to try to execute her. As Howard eventually learned, Sonia has late-onset Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a little-known but extremely debilitating illness that has pushed her into the realm of delusion. At the same time, however, Sonia remains fully aware of her surroundings, totally alert to the world, thoroughly cognizant of the present. Past and present merge in Sonia's perceptions, and Howard sets out to discover why. He locates the few experts in the world who can explain the obscure phenomenon of late-onset PTSD, and he travels to the city of Sonia's birth, in Ukraine, to uncover the horrors that now haunt his mother. (2010, Courtesy of Kartemquin Films.)

2:15 PM to 3:30 PM
M-FS3  "Auf Wiedersehen – Till We Meet Again" (76 min.) In this compelling and often funny tale of recovery and renewal, author and activist Linda G. Mills is propelled by her family's life-threatening experience of September 11, 2001 to return to the site of her mother's flight from Vienna in 1939. Accompanied by her comically restless ten-year old son and highly opinionated mother, Linda discovers unsettling truths that upend familial and historical myths. An unconventional documentary that brings the lessons of history into the present through the eyes of an often irreverent ten-year-old boy. A startlingly humorous adventure spanning five generations. (2011, Courtesy of Ruth Diskin Films.)

3:45 PM to 5:15 PM
M-FS4  "In Heaven, Underground" (90 min.) Here is an enchanting journey into history that celebrates life and the immortality of memories. North of Berlin's noisy city centre, surrounded by a jungle of trees and lush foliage, lies the peaceful and secluded 130-year-old Weissensee Jewish Cemetery, the oldest Jewish cemetery still in use in Europe. Its one hundred acres hold 115,000 graves and a meticulous archive record. The cemetery has never closed, and was one of the few institutions to remain in Jewish hands during the Nazi regime. Award-winning director Britta Wauer's charming portrait creates a serene experience following a delightful array of characters from around the world: mourners, tourists, a young family residing at the cemetery, a third-generation gravedigger and an ornithologist studying rare birds of prey. (2011, Courtesy of 7th Art Releasing.)

5:30 PM to 7:15 PM
M-FS5 "Jubanos: The Jews of Cuba" (43 min.) Cuba is known for its revolutionary leaders, communism, cigars, and 50's cars. However, religion does not define this small island. When the Cuban Revolution hit in 1961, religion was banned, leaving the Cuban Jewish Community struggling to sustain itself for nearly three decades. Jubanos: The Jews of Cuba tells the humbling story of the 1,500 Jews who remained in the country despite the difficulties. With exclusive interviews from members of the scattered Jewish community, this documentary explores how the new generation re-learned what so many had previously forgotten. The journey to rediscovering and reviving Jewish life raises questions about faith, sustenance, strength, and the future, which the Cuban Jews continue to face up until today. (2010, Courtesy of Ruth Diskin Films.)

8:00 PM to 9:45 PM
M-FS6  "Steal a Pencil for Me" (94 min.) 1943: Holland is under Nazi occupation. In Amsterdam, Jack, an unassuming accountant, first meets Ina at a birthday party - a 20-year-old beauty from a wealthy family who instantly steals his heart. But Jack's pursuit of love will be complicated; he is poor and married to Manja, a flirtatious and mercurial spouse. When the Jews are being deported, the husband, the wife and the lover find themselves at the same concentration camp, living in the same barracks. When Jack's wife objects to the "girlfriend" in spite of their unhappy marriage, Jack and Ina resort to writing secret love letters, which sustain them throughout the horrible circumstances of the war. Steal a Pencil for Me is a compelling documentary feature film by Academy Award nominee Michele Ohayon about the power of love and the ability of humankind to rise above unimaginable suffering. (2007, Courtesy of 7th Art Releasing.)

Tuesday, August 16

9:30 AM to 10:45 AM
T-FS1 "The Last Jews of Libya" (50 min.) The Last Jews of Libya documents the final decades of a centuries-old North African Sephardic Jewish community through the lives of the remarkable Roumani family, who lived in Benghazi, Libya, for hundreds of years. Thirty-six thousand Jews lived in Libya at the end of World War II, today none remain. The film traces the story of the Roumanis from Turkish Ottoman rule through the age of Mussolini and Hitler to the final destruction and dispersal of Libya's Jews in the face of Arab nationalism. Based on the recently discovered memoirs of the family's matriarch, Elise Roumani, as well as interviews in English, Hebrew, Italian, and Arabic with several generations of the Roumani family and a trove of rare archival film and photographs, it is an unforgettable tale. (2007. Courtesy of The National Center for Jewish Film.)

11:00 AM to 12:15 PM
T-FS2  "Empty Boxcars" (83 min). Followed by Q&A with producer-director Ed Gaffney. Empty Boxcars tells the amazing story of the survival of over 50,000 Jews of the Kingdom of Bulgaria in 1943, and the atrocity of the murder of 11,393 Jews in the Bulgarian-occupied territories of Thrace and Macedonia in World War II. Each story contains details that make it unique. In the same year in which the Bulgarian story came to a climax the Nazis planned to round up the Danish Jews on Yom Kippur. A member of the German army tipped off the Chief Rabbi, who immediately sent his community a strange order not to come to the synagogue on the High Holiday. Thousands of non-Jews welcomed their Jewish neighbors into their homes. They moved them by night to the east coast, where Danish fishermen rowed them to safety in neighboring Sweden. Over six thousand Jews were saved in this mass rescue. "The film tells the story in a way that is historically accurate, ethically compelling and emotionally moving," Gaffney said. "It focuses, not only on what makes the Bulgarian story unique in Holocaust history, but also on its moral relevance to our times." (2010, Courtesy of Ed Gaffney.)

2:15 PM to 3:30 PM
T-FS3 "Liquid of Life" (55 min.) Pini Schatz's funny and colorful film proves there’s no reason to be afraid of the liquid that flows inside our veins: An artist paints with his own blood, a psychologist explains our fears of blood, an academic describes the fertilization with blood of the lands in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period, one make up artist and one special-effects wizard compete over making fake blood, the director of Israel's blood bank service discusses the ingredients of blood, and a hypnotist proves that under hypnosis, blood won't flow. Director Schatz contributes macabre recreations of family history and childhood memories. And yes there is also a recipe for Bloody Mary . . . and a hamster as well! (2008. Courtesy of The National Center for Jewish Film.)

3:45 PM to 5:15 PM
T-FS4  "Three Stories of Galicia" (86 min.) Followed by a Q&A with Olha Onyshko and Sarah Farhat. A Jewish man whose family chose to save the life of its worst enemy. A Ukrainian woman who endured the theft of her children to save her country. A Polish priest who risked everything to end the sectarian hatred that tore at his parish. They all came from a land where the Second World War never ended and where children grow up with the burden of fighting the battles of their grandparents. The land was called Galicia. The people who lived there were Jews, Ukrainians and Poles. When the Second World War erupted, Galicia was caught in the ruthless struggle between Hitler's Third Reich and Stalin's Red Army. In their quest to rule the world, those two empires made use of the ethnic jealousies between Ukrainians, Jews and Poles, and fueled some of modern history's worst ethnic conflicts. But in the midst of evil, where trust had lost its meaning and human life had no value, there were those who were willing to risk what little they had left to do what was right instead of what was easy. In the epic settings of the events that changed the course of modern history, Three Stories of Galicia reveals the intimate stories of three courageous individuals who took it upon themselves to preserve the dignity of the human spirit. (2010, Courtesy of Olha Onyshko and Sarah Farhat.)

8:00 PM to 9:30 PM
T-FS5  "Jews and Baseball" (91 min.) Jews and Baseball portrays the contributions of Jewish major leaguers and the special meaning that baseball has had in the lives of American Jews. More than a film about sports, this is a story of immigration, assimilation, bigotry, heroism, the passing on of traditions, and the shattering of stereotypes. The story is brought to life through Dustin Hoffman's narration, and interviews with dozens of passionate and articulate fans, writers, executives, and especially players including Al Rosen, Kevin Youkilis, Shawn Green, Bob Feller, Yogi Berra, and a rare interview with the Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax. Fans including Ron Howard and Larry King connect the stories of baseball to their own lives, and to the turbulent history of the last century. Their stories are inter-cut with dramatic and never-before-seen film clips and photos of great Jewish players, unforgettable games, and the broad sweep of American history. (2010, Courtesy of 7th Art Releasing.)

Wednesday, August 17

9:30 AM to 10:45 AM
W-FS1  "The Tree of Life" (76 min.) Los Angeles based director Hava Volterra tries to come to terms with her father's death by traveling to Italy, the land of his birth, to trace the roots of his family tree. With the help of her feisty 82 year old aunt, her father's sister, she travels relentlessly from city to city, digging through ancient manuscripts and interviewing a wide range of quirky scholars, to piece together the fascinating and humorous stories of her Italian Jewish ancestors. As Hava continues her journey, her aunt begins to come to terms with her own past, and plans a trip to find and thank the family who did her and Hava's father during WWII. Using both Monty Python-style animation and CGI enhanced marionettes, along with music from Golden Globe nominated composer Carlo Siliotto, the film tells the story of Jewish mystics, money lenders, scientists and politicians, while reflecting on how our parents and their roots affect our sense of belonging, identity, and self-worth. Both utterly hilarious and emotionally gripping, The Tree of Life is a fresh look at history in the most immediate of ways. (2008, Courtesy of Ruth Diskin Films.)

11:00 AM to 12:15 PM
W-FS2  "Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg" (92 min.)  Followed by Q&A with director Aviva Kempner. From Aviva Kempner, maker of The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, comes this humorous and eye-opening story of television pioneer Gertrude Berg. She was the creator, principal writer, and star of The Goldbergs, a popular radio show for 17 years, which became television's very first character-driven domestic sitcom in 1949. Berg received the first Best Actress Emmy in history, and paved the way for women in the entertainment industry. Includes interviews with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, actor Ed Asner, producers Norman Lear (All in the Family) and Gary David Goldberg (Family Ties), and NPR correspondent Susan Stamberg. (2009, Courtesy of Aviva Kempner and The National Center for Jewish Film.)

2:15 PM to 3:30 PM
W-FS3  "The Forgotten Refugees" (49 min.) Produced by The David Project and Isra TV, The Forgotten Refugees explores the history, culture, and exodus of Middle Eastern and North African Jewish communities in the second half of the 20th century. Using extensive testimony of the former refugees from Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, and Morocco the film recounts the stories that nearly one million individuals have carried with them for so long. The film weaves personal accounts with dramatic archival footage of rescue missions, historic images of immigration and resettlement, and analyses by contemporary scholars to tell the story of how and why the Jewish population in Arab countries declined from approximately 850,000 in 1948 to several thousand today. The Forgotten Refugees has raised awareness about this important period of Jewish and world history; an issue which has been largely ignored in the media, world politics, and educational programs. The film has been screened at over twenty international film festivals, a dozen of television stations, conferences, and numerous synagogues, churches and universities around the world. It won the award for Best Documentary at the 2007 Marbella International Film Festival and the Best Feature Documentary Award at the 2006 Warsaw Jewish Film Festival. (2005, Courtesy of The David Project.)

3:45 PM to 5:15 PM
W-FS4  "Wherever the Migrant" (23 min.) & "He Who Saves a Single Life" (25 min.)  These HIAS films are presented by Valery Bazarov. Directed by Martin A. Bursten for HIAS, Wherever the Migrant follows a family of refugees-a man, wife and their child in an unidentified European country-who are prohibited to work and ordered by the authorities to emigrate. A landlord threatens to evict the family, if they do not pay rent. Two families go to the HIAS branch and the representative takes their data to send to the HIAS headquarters in New York, where HIAS locates an uncle who is willing to sign an affidavit. The other family is accepted by Brazil. The two families are shown on the various stages of arrangements to emigrate, and their arrival in the new countries.   Narrated by actor Theodore Bikel, He Who Saves a Single Life examines the history of Jewish immigration to the United States, and the role of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. It movingly and graphically shows scenes of early arrivals at Ellis Island, through WWI, the dark days of the Nazi persecutions, the deportation camps, post-WWII migration, Hungarian refugees, Egyptian and North African Jews in flight, and Cuban refugees.

7:30 PM to 9:00 PM
W-FS5  "Candyman: The David Klein Story" (75 min.) It's time to spill the beans: This is the incredible true story of how David Klein created Jelly Belly jelly beans. Candyman tells the amazing true story of David Klein, an eccentric candy inventor from LA, who in 1976 had a once in a lifetime epiphany and came up with the concept of Jelly Belly jellybeans. These colourful beans came in numerous shockingly realistic flavours and were a radical new product. They became a pop culture phenomenon and revolutionised the candy industry. It didn't hurt that no less a personage than Ronald Reagan, president of the USA, proclaimed Jelly Bellies as his favorite sweets. David's eccentric personality and peculiar sense of business led him to give up the business just as it was about to explode. He has struggled with bitter regrets ever since. Jelly Belly has grown into a billion dollar enterprise, and the company has deliberately erased him from its history. There is no room for an eccentric genius like this in the modern corporate world. The movie is all about both sides of the American dream. It tells how Klein lost his beans, but kept his soul. (2010, Courtesy of IndiePix.)

Thursday, August 18

9:30 AM to 10:45 AM
Th-FS1 "Settlement" (55 min.) Twelve years after the release of his landmark film Shtetl, Emmy Award-winning director (and Holocaust survivor) Marian Marzynski, a pioneer of European cinema verite, returns to one of his favorite subjects - the mystery of survival during the Holocaust. Settlement, the most recent of Marzynski's critically-lauded autobiographical films, benefits from the director's highly personal approach to filmmaking and his subject. A welcome discovery draws Marzynski back to Poland, to the shtetl house of the Kushner family. With the Holocaust came the destruction of the Kushners, whose few survivors fled to the corners of the globe. Sixty years after World War II, Marzynski explores what became of them. Traveling to Poland, the United States, Israel, and a West Bank settlement, Marzynski visits the past-his past-but arrives at the future, to a family he never knew existed. (2008. Courtesy of The National Center for Jewish Film.)

11:00 AM to 12:15 PM
Th-FS2 "The Green Dumpster Mystery" (50 min.) Traveling on his scooter through Tel Aviv, filmmaker Tal Haim Yoffe finds a discarded box of old photographs in a green dumpster. This docu-detective film, slowly unwinds a family history, beginning in Lodz, Poland, and traveling through the Siberian Gulag, a Samarkand sugar plant, a Ha'apala ship and the battlefields of the Sinai Peninsula. Like Daniel Mendelsohn's bestseller The Lost and David Ofek's film No.17 is Anonymous, this tightly-paced tour de force vividly evokes the now-extinguished lives of an anonymous-but typical-Israeli family. "I think there are thousands of families with not exactly the same story but families with Holocaust survivors as grandparents and great-grandparents, with IDF soldiers who got killed. It's a typical family, and a tragic family. Everything that could have happened to them, happened to them. Director Tal Haim Yoffe (2008, Courtesy of The National Center for Jewish Film.)

12:30 PM to 2:20 PM
Th-FS3  "Clementine" (48 min.) Clementine is an intensely personal and fascinating documentary, using the search for family roots to talk about what we want to pass along to our children. Tal and Ravit are expecting their first child. At the same time, Tal's grandmother is dying of cancer. These two bookends - birth and death - motivate the filmmaker to search out his family stories, so that he can preserve them for his unborn daughter. Intertwining the personal and the national narratives, and using lots of family photos and much archival footage, he tells the story of his and his wife's ancestors, going back a few generations to grandparents and great-grandparents, linking their stories to the history of the Zionist enterprise in Israel. Tal and Ravit's ancestors came to Palestine at the beginning of the 20th century and through their lives we get a glimpse at the history of Israel: one grandfather creates an orchard near Kfar Saba; another is among the founders of Kibbutz Maoz Haim in the Beit Shean valley. We learn about Tal's father, and his grandparents, the parents of his father, with whom he was very close growing up. All of Tal and Ravit's ancestors come alive as their dedication, commitment and contributions to our national history is memorialized for the new generation. (2009, Courtesy of The National Center for Jewish Film.)

2:15 PM to 3:30 PM
Th-FS4  "In Heaven, Underground" (90 min.) Here is an enchanting journey into history that celebrates life and the immortality of memories. North of Berlin's noisy city centre, surrounded by a jungle of trees and lush foliage, lies the peaceful and secluded 130-year-old Weissensee Jewish Cemetery, the oldest Jewish cemetery still in use in Europe. Its one hundred acres hold 115,000 graves and a meticulous archive record. The cemetery has never closed, and was one of the few institutions to remain in Jewish hands during the Nazi regime. Award-winning director Britta Wauer's charming portrait creates a serene experience following a delightful array of characters from around the world: mourners, tourists, a young family residing at the cemetery, a third-generation gravedigger and an ornithologist studying rare birds of prey. (2011, Courtesy of 7th Art Releasing.)

3:45 PM to 5:00 PM
Th-FS5 "From Shtetl to Swing" (52 min.) Between 1880 and 1924, 2.5 million Jews fled persecution in Russia and Eastern Europe, kissed the shtetl goodbye and migrated to America. Turning a fresh, playful eye to the cultural attitudes and musical styles that proliferated throughout this extraordinarily rich period, from Yiddish theater to musical extravaganza, from klezmer to ragtime, from symphonic jazz to swing — all the way from the Bowery to Tin Pan Alley to Broadway to Hollywood — From Shtetl to Swing recounts the ebullient, screaming-to-be-told story of a musical metamorphosis born in darkest Russia only to blaze across the sky of the Great White Way. (2005, Courtesy of 7th Art Releasing.)

 

 
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