Jewish Film Festival Appeals to Broad Interests

Jamie Lyons

The Arts and Humanities Council of Tuscaloosa County and Temple Emanu-El will present the Eighth Annual Jewish Film Festival this weekend. The opening reception and food festival begin at 6 p.m. Saturday, and the festival concludes with a film screening on Tuesday, March 2 at 7:30 pm. All events will take place at the Bama Theatre.

Ticket information is available online at . A $25 festival pass will grant entrance to all films and the opening reception. Tickets to individual screenings will be available at the Bama Theatre box office one hour prior to showtime.

Kevin Ledgewood, director of publicity for the Arts Council, explained that the idea for this festival originated at Temple Emanu-El but was exactly the type of event that the Arts Council is eager to support.

“Members of the Temple approached the Council with the idea for a Jewish film festival, similar to those that take place in major metropolitan areas,” Ledgewood said. He also said the Bama Theatre was also a great venue for this type of event.

The films are centered around themes relating to Judaism, but are valuable to all audiences because of the aspects of culture that are presented, Ledgewood said.

The main purpose of the festival is “to increase cultural awareness and social understanding,” Ledgewood said. “It’s not just a lesson in religion, but a broad exposure to a different culture.”

During the festival, a total of four films will be screened. The films were selected by a committee of six people, ranging from students to faculty to community members.

Paul Horwitz, associate professor of law at the University, was a member of the selection committee for this year’s festival. He said the committee watched a large number of films, both from major studios and those that specialize in Jewish-themed films, and collaborated to determine the best films to show at the festival.

“We look for the films that are the most interesting and most entertaining, and those that appeal to a variety of interests,” Horwitz said. “Most reveal something about Jewish experience and also tell universal stories.”

Horwitz added that the films would appeal to a broad audience and are examples of talented filmmaking.

“Anybody who wants to see a broader variety of films would be interested in the festival,” Horwitz said. Although the films have Jewish themes, they would be interesting to any audience.”

One of the films is a comedy called “A Matter of Size,” which Horwitz said is “the type of comedy that anyone could appreciate.” The film is based in Israel and is in Hebrew with English subtitles.

The film being screened on Saturday night as a part of the opening reception, “A Serious Man,” was written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen and has been nominated for the 2010 Golden Globe award for Best Picture. The Coen Brothers previously won two Golden Globes for their 2007 film, “No Country for Old Men.”

The festival is especially excited about this film, said Joanna Jacobs, assistant managing editor at University of Alabama Press. This screening is the film’s Tuscaloosa debut, as the film has not been played previously in any Tuscaloosa theater.

Jacobs was previously on the film selection committee for the festival, but this year she is volunteering at the opening reception. The reception on Saturday will feature music and a variety of Jewish food, donated by members of the community.

“Members of the Jewish community in Tuscaloosa donate different types of Jewish food, from different tradition, different holidays and different countries,” Jacobs said, “We will have all types of food that has been associated with Judaism throughout the centuries.”

Jacobs added that the food festival is limited to the first 200 people who buy a festival pass or a ticket to the opening night’s events. The film screening that night is not limited in attendance.

The music will be provided by a Klezmer band, which Jacobs explained as “traditional Jewish music that comes from Russian and Eastern European music.” The band is named “The Promised Band,” and is made of community members who came to play together just for this occasion.

Jacobs added that there are a few students involved with the festival, but more volunteers and audience members are always welcome.