Baltimore Jewish Film Fest: Drama, Comedy, Mystery and Laemmle

From “The Light of Hope.” (Photo provided)

Over the three decades since its inception, the William and Irene Weinberg Family Baltimore Jewish Film Festival has brought area audiences engaging, uplifting and entertaining films, and this year that tradition continues.

The 2019 film fest, which kicks off March 23 and runs through April 16 at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts in Owings Mills, offers a 10-film slate that runs the gamut from a contemporary Israeli social drama about sexual harassment to a Jerusalem rom-com to a documentary about a Hollywood mogul who rescued hundreds of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.

Sara Qureshi, arts and culture program director at the Gordon Center, is impressed with the diversity of this year’s offerings.

“There’s something for so many different tastes and interests,” she said. “Among the 10 films, there are a number of Maryland premieres. Most can’t be seen through streaming services or in other area theatres, so this festival is a chance to experience the great storytelling these films have to offer. ”

In addition, special guests will be introducing four of the films for a more in-depth experience.

“The Last Suit” (Photo provided)

First out of the gate is “The Last Suit,” March 23, at 8:30 p.m. The 2017 Argentinian/Spanish production traces the around-the-world odyssey of 88-year-old retired tailor Abraham Bursztein, who leaves Buenos Aires to return to his native Poland and fulfill a promise to a friend who helped nurse him back to life after World War II. It is directed by Pablo Solarz.

On March 26, at 7 p.m., the festival screens “And Then She Arrived,” a 2017 Israeli rom-com about unexpected love. When protagonist Dan, set to marry his longtime girlfriend, meets a Jerusalem waitress, things get complicated. It is directed by Roee Florentin.

“Budapest Noir” (Photo provided)

Step over to the dark side with “Budapest Noir,” on March 28, at 7 p.m., a pre-World War II period thriller following crime reporter Zsigmond Gordon as he investigates the murder of a girl found with a Jewish prayer book in her purse in 1936 Hungary. The film has “a distinct resonance with the country’s direction today under Viktor Orbán, and to [director Eva] Gárdos’ credit, she wants those parallels to be felt loud and clear,” wrote Variety film reviewer Jay Weissberg. A guest speaker at the event is Stevenson University film professor Christopher Reed.

Thursday, April 4, at 7 p.m., brings mystery/thriller “Winter Hunt,” a complex revenge drama about vigilante Lena and her armed confrontation with a former Auschwitz guard. The story, set in 2014, revolves around events from 1944. Astrid Schult is the director.

The festival offers its Israel Expo on Sunday, April 7.

“We’re showing two Israeli films that day for our mini-Israeli film festival,” Qureshi said. “For the hour before each film, we invite audiences to join us as we celebrate Israeli culture with partner organizations and food and arts vendors.”

“Among the 10 films, there are a number of Maryland premieres. Most can’t be seen through streaming services or in other area theaters, so this festival is a chance to experience the great storytelling these films have to offer.” — Sara Qureshi, arts and culture program director at the Gordon Center.

Trapped in an abandoned UNEF Sinai desert post following the June 1967 Israeli/Egyptian Six Day War cease-fire, an Israeli sergeant, downstairs, and an Egyptian soldier, upstairs, play a cat-and-mouse survival game in the 2017 Israeli actioner “Azimuth,” showing April 7 at 1 p.m. It is directed by Mike Burstyn.

“Shoelaces” offers filmgoers an emotional and touching award-winning family drama April 7 at 4 p.m. The film dissects the lives of special needs adult son Gadi and his estranged father, Reuven, after Gadi moves in following his mother’s death. While emotional clashes ensue, the two learn to appreciate each other and grow closer. It is directed by Jacob Goldwasser.

“The Light of Hope.” (Photo provided)

For Jewish refugees and others fleeing the Nazi invasion, Red Cross nurse Elisabeth Eidenbenz, founder of a French maternity hospital, was a literal lifesaver. “The Light of Hope,” showing April 9 at 7 p.m., is a 2017 film based on Eidenbenz’s story, tracing the struggles of the nurse and refugees as they ward off attempts by the Vichy government to close down the villa-turned-safe-haven. It is directed by Silvia Quer. UMBC history professor Rebecca Boehling is the guest speaker.

Taking place during a single day, “Fractures,” which screens April 11 at 7 p.m., offers an Israeli #MeToo movement drama focusing on a well-known professor accused of sexual harassment and how the charge impacts his family, the accuser and the community. It is directed by Arik Lubetzky.

“Carl Laemmle” (Photo provided)

Out of the drama and into the documentary world, the film fest offers up “Carl Laemmle,” April 14 at 3 p.m. The 2018 German film traces Laemmle’s immigrant experience, his rise as a Hollywood mogul to head Universal Pictures, his fight against anti-Semitism and his subsequent support of Jewish refugees following World War II. Linda DeLibero, of Johns Hopkins University, is the guest speaker.

The festival wraps up on April 16 at 7 p.m., with docudrama “The Invisibles,” directed by Claus Räfle. The film recounts the stories of survivors of Joseph Goebbels’ 1943 declaration that Berlin was “free of Jews.” Film critic Rex Reed wrote for The Observer, “It’s harrowing to watch innocent people in constant danger of being detected and arrested by the Gestapo, and even more nerve-wracking to see how both Christians and Communists alike risked their own lives to protect them.” Goucher College associate professor of language, literature and culture Uta Larkey is the guest speaker.

“The Invisibles” (Photo provided)

A special free screening at North Oaks retirement community of “Mamboniks” is set for March 31, at 3 p.m., a documentary about the cross-cultural phenomenon of Jewish life and Latin music, featuring Tito Puente, Celia Cruz and mambo king Pérez Prado.

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