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Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 12:01 am

Award-winning films highlight Jewish Film Festival

Actor Jules Sitruk plays Joseph Silberg in The Other Son.


Opportunities are springing up all over town to view entertaining and engaging foreign and independent films on the big screen. Here’s one that focuses on Jewish and Israeli culture.

Springfield Jewish Film Festival begins Sunday, March 2, and takes place every Sunday in March at 4 p.m. in Brookens Auditorium, UIS. Four award-winning films will be screened during the month including a documentary, a comedy and two dramas.

The first film, shown March 2, is the English documentary Imaginary Witness, narrated by actor Gene Hackman. Filmed in 2004, it looks at how Hollywood films during the past 6o years have treated the subject of the Holocaust and how that characterization has influenced public perception. Director Daniel Anker, who had family members perish in the Holocaust, uses film scenes, news clips, interviews and official military newsreel footage to tell the story. The film won Best Documentary Audience Award at the Hamptons International Film Festival and won an award at the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival.

Melanie Laurent stars in The Concert.

March 9, the uplifting 2009 French comedy The Concert, directed by Radu Mihaileanu, will be shown. Starring Golden Globe nominee Melanie Laurent, it tells the touching story of a famous conductor for the Bolshoi Orchestra who is fired by the KGB for hiring Jewish musicians only to, 30 years later as a janitor at the same theater, discover “his” orchestra is sought for a performance. He schemes to have his “old” orchestra take its place. Subtitled, the film was shot in Moscow and Paris.

Next in the lineup is The Other Son. Produced in 2012, this subtitled drama was directed by Lorraine Levy, who won Best Director Award at the 2012 Tokyo International Film Festival. It shows at Brookens on Sunday, March 16. The premise is of babies being switched at birth. Joseph Silberg is old enough to join the Israeli Defense Forces but during routine blood tests he discovers that he is not Israeli, but Palestinian.

And finally on March 23, the charming 2009 Five Hours from Paris wraps up the festival. In this film set in Tel Aviv, an unaccomplished Israeli taxi driver and an underachieving Russian immigrant music teacher form an unlikely relationship. The drama is directed by Leonid Prudovsky. Dror Keren, who plays the lead character Yigal, was nominated for Best Actor by the Israeli Film Academy and the film took Best Film at both the Haifa and Napoli Film Festivals.

The documentary Imaginary Witness.
Put on by the Jewish Federation of Springfield, the group has been working hard to put a film series together for years. Says Josephine Datz, executive director of JFSI, “We want to enhance the offering of art movies in Springfield and thereby contribute to the cultural and arts scene in Springfield.”

What helped to make this festival a reality is the increase in the award-nominated and-winning Jewish themed and Israeli-made films, says JFSI. They add, “The content of the films is not religious in nature and is intended for a wide audience who enjoys foreign art films.”

Tickets are $7, $5 for students with ID. Festival passes are available for $25. Purchase tickets at the door or phone 217-787-7223, extension 11 or email sjf@shalomspringfield.org.

Signs will direct attendees to Brookens Auditorium. Easiest access to the auditorium is through the lower level Public Affairs Building located between parking lots C and D but one can also enter through Brookens Library lobby and take the stairs down to the lower level.

Sponsors include Bank of Springfield, Green Mazda, Lori Hammel with Coldwell Banker, Honig-Bell, Holley Rosen and Beard Attorneys at Law and the Metnick Family. Visit the JFSI online at www.shalomspringfield.org.

Contact Anita Stienstra at astienstra@illinoistimes.com.


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