Film Festival Gears Up for Finale

“Rock in the Red Zone” will be featured on April 23. (Provided)

The Baltimore Jewish Film Festival wraps up on Sunday, April 30, but three highly acclaimed films remain to be screened over the next week.

The festival, put on by the Gordon Center for Performing Arts at the JCC of Greater Baltimore, is in its 29th year and is one of the oldest Jewish film festivals in the country. When the curtain falls on April 30, nearly 20 short and feature films from around the world will have been screened with special guests and the always popular question-and-answer sessions.

The Maryland premiere of documentary “Rock in the Red Zone” will be shown this Sunday at 3 p.m.

The festival’s website describes the film as follows: “Despite being pummeled for years by homemade missiles, the people of Sderot persevere in raucous Moroccan celebrations and embrace newcomers. And in underground bomb shelters, they create music — a unique Sderot sound that has transformed Israeli music by injecting Middle Eastern influences into Western rock.”

Continuing to film while fleeing from rockets proved challenging for Laura Bialis, a Santa Barbara, Calif., native who lived in Israel for 10 years while filming and producing the documentary.

“There were times that the rockets fell right across the street from our house,” Bialis previously told the JT. “But since the most intimate stuff was just me and my camera and these people, I felt like I needed to be there. I became friends with all of these people, and it changed the film, making it what it is today.”

Bialis will be in attendance at the screening and will host a Q-and-A session following the film.

“Hanna’s Sleeping Dogs” will be screened on April 25. (Provided)

On Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., a cinematic drama, “Hanna’s Sleeping Dogs,” will premiere on the East Coast. The film, directed by Andreas Gruber, is in German with English subtitles.

The festival’s website provides some background on the story portrayed in the film: “Nine-year-old Johanna is growing up in the 1960s as a good Catholic girl in a provincial Austrian town. When her blind grandmother Ruth tells her the secret about their Jewish past … Johanna doesn’t want to hide. To show her pride in her family heritage, Johanna changes her name to Hanna.”

Dr. Uta Larkey, an associate professor of German at Goucher College specializing in modern languages, literatures and cultures, will be a special guest at the event.

The final film of the festival is a drama called “The Women’s Balcony.” Sponsored by North Oaks, the film is based around an Orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem in which the women’s balcony collapses and leaves the rabbi’s wife in a coma.

Initially, the incident is blamed on bad architecture. However, according to the film’s description, “a charismatic young rabbi warns that the tragedy was a message to the men of the community, who haven’t done enough to ensure the modesty of their women. Rifts ensue, putting faith, marriages, friendships and traditions to the test.”

The film’s Maryland premiere is on April 30 at 3 p.m. At the same event, a short film entitled “Torah Treasures and Curious Trash” will also air.

“In this exhilarating film,” according to the website, “the 88-year-old outsider artist/ feminist/Jewish thinker Jo Milgrom scavenges Jerusalem garbage dumpsters for choice junk that she combines with worn-out Jewish ritual objects rescued from synagogues and funeral homes. … You will never look at trash — or Torah — the same way again.”

Tickets and more information about the Baltimore Jewish Film Festival are available online at

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