Here Are the Films Coming to Baltimore for the Baltimore Jewish Film Festival


May is approaching, and with it comes the William and Irene Weinberg Family Baltimore Jewish Film Festival. Every year, the Gordon Center for Performing Arts compiles a selection of films from around the world made by Jewish filmmakers and focusing on Jewish characters and narratives.

Throughout the month this year, the center will be screening four films from Germany, Hungary and Israel that encompass several different genres.

This year’s film festival is the 36th, marking the double-chai anniversary of the event.

Because of the festival’s long lifespan, the Gordon Center has developed relationships with several film distributors specializing in Jewish and foreign films, which help select a slate of movies for the year’s festival. At other times, the festival’s organizers have been contacted by independent filmmakers about screening their work, or members of the planning committee have recommended movies they had seen.

“This devoted group has some members who remember the very early years of the festival,” said Sara Shalva, the JCC of Greater Baltimore’s chief arts officer. “The films [chosen] are not available on streaming services and can only be seen in theaters.”

The planning process for this year’s festival began in the summer of 2023. While the events of Oct. 7 did not influence the creation of any of the selected films, which were all completed before the selection process began, the tragedy likely did have an impact on what films were selected.

“There’s a large committee of around 25 volunteers, who certainly discussed their own personal responses when they were having conversations and discussion about films,” explained Sara Qureshi, special consultant for film programs at the Gordon Center.

This year’s film festival also coincides with Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s independence day. The Gordon Center will be holding a special reception for the holiday on May 14, followed by a screening of the Israeli film “Seven Blessings.” The dramedy, which centers on a Jewish-Moroccan family in the ‘90s, is notable for sweeping the 2023 Ophir Awards, which honor Israeli movies. “Seven Blessings” won 10 of the 12 awards it was nominated for, including Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Director for Ayelet Menahemi. It was also submitted to the 2024 Academy Awards for Best International Feature Film, though it did not make the cut.

The reception will feature a performance from the musical group Trio Sefardi, as well as Moroccan-Israeli refreshments. “Seven Blessings” producer Ronen Ben Tal will be speaking after the screening via Zoom.

This year’s film festival is notable for being the first to be held entirely in person since the COVID-19 pandemic. It was previously held virtually, and then with a hybrid model with some movies being screened at the Gordon Center and others being screened online.

“Movie theaters across the country are closing. In a post-COVID, streaming-service world, people are watching movies from home,” Shalva said. “As a strategy to maintain our loyal audience, we decided to focus on wrap-around programming to really enhance the screening experience to entice people to buy tickets to all four films.”

Festival regulars may notice that there are far fewer movies selected this year than in previous years. This was an intentional decision by the committee to cut the festival from 10 films to four, which will be spread out throughout the month.

“The values of the film festival are really to celebrate Jewish history, heritage and culture through the art form of film,” Qureshi said. “I would hope that anyone who is interested in exploring those themes will find something of interest to them across the four films. While there are four films being shown, they represent a lot of diversity in origin, genre and subject.”

The three other films being screened are the German “Martha Liebermann: A Stolen Life,” which centers on a wealthy Jewish widow trying to escape the Gestapo; “All About the Levkoviches,” a Hungarian comedy about a boxing coach and his son who reunite after a death in the family; and “Children of Nobody,” an Israeli drama inspired by the true story of a shelter for displaced youths in Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv. All of these screenings will feature talks from guest speakers, including historians, filmmakers and social workers who will speak on the films’ subjects.

“We hope people come away from the festival with a deeper sense of Jewish pride and connection to community as well as a broader understanding of the complexity and creativity alive in Jewish moviemaking and find joy in this immersive arts and culture experience,” Shalva said.

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