Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
Cloudy
53°
Cloudy
Hi 52° | Lo 46°

‘A season of cultural opportunity’ Jewish Film Festival opens for two-week run in Valley

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL<br/>"Footnote" will be shown April 7, 3 p.m. in Stoddard Hall at Smith College in Northampton.

    PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
    "Footnote" will be shown April 7, 3 p.m. in Stoddard Hall at Smith College in Northampton.

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL<br/>"Hava Nagila" will be shown April 14 at 2 p.m. at Amherst Cinema. There will be a post-film benefit party.

    PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
    "Hava Nagila" will be shown April 14 at 2 p.m. at Amherst Cinema. There will be a post-film benefit party.

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL<br/>"Kaddish For a Friend" will be shown April 18, 4 and 7:30 p.m. in Stirn Auditorium in the Meat Art Museum at Amherst College. Free<br/><br/><br/><br/>

    PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
    "Kaddish For a Friend" will be shown April 18, 4 and 7:30 p.m. in Stirn Auditorium in the Meat Art Museum at Amherst College. Free



  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL<br/>"The Other Son" will be shown April 6 at 8:30 p.m. in Stoddard Hall at Smith College in Northampton.

    PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
    "The Other Son" will be shown April 6 at 8:30 p.m. in Stoddard Hall at Smith College in Northampton.

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL<br/>"Two Who Dared" will be shown April 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst. Free.<br/><br/>

    PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
    "Two Who Dared" will be shown April 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst. Free.

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL<br/>"Joann Sfar Draws from Memory"

    PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
    "Joann Sfar Draws from Memory"

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL<br/>"David" will be shown April 7 at 1 p.m. at the Lander Grinspoon Academy in Northampton. There will be a kosher lunch for sale at noon. This is a family event, appropriate for ages 8 and up.

    PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
    "David" will be shown April 7 at 1 p.m. at the Lander Grinspoon Academy in Northampton. There will be a kosher lunch for sale at noon. This is a family event, appropriate for ages 8 and up.

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL<br/>"Footnote" will be shown April 7, 3 p.m. in Stoddard Hall at Smith College in Northampton.
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL<br/>"Hava Nagila" will be shown April 14 at 2 p.m. at Amherst Cinema. There will be a post-film benefit party.
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL<br/>"Kaddish For a Friend" will be shown April 18, 4 and 7:30 p.m. in Stirn Auditorium in the Meat Art Museum at Amherst College. Free<br/><br/><br/><br/>
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL<br/>"The Other Son" will be shown April 6 at 8:30 p.m. in Stoddard Hall at Smith College in Northampton.
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL<br/>"Two Who Dared" will be shown April 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst. Free.<br/><br/>
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL<br/>"Joann Sfar Draws from Memory"
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PIONEER VALLEY JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL<br/>"David" will be shown April 7 at 1 p.m. at the Lander Grinspoon Academy in Northampton. There will be a kosher lunch for sale at noon. This is a family event, appropriate for ages 8 and up.

Films, fun and festivities for everyone: Dyan Wiley, director of the Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival (PVJFF) says the festival that runs for two weeks in locations across the Valley, is for anyone, Jewish or not, who loves independent filmmaking.

Now in its eighth year, PVJFF offers 20 newly released and classic international and independent films, entries in top film festivals around the world, Wiley says. It will be held in 16 venues in eight Pioneer Valley communities, including locally, in Amherst, Northampton and South Hadley. The festival runs through April 18.

Festival director Wiley, a college intern and three staff members from the Springfield Jewish Community Center put their heads together each year to choose the films.

“We look for high quality and award-winning films with stories that have universal appeal,” Wiley said in a phone interview last week. Organizers also partner with local organizations and businesses to identify films of mutual interest that celebrate the best in Jewish cinema, Wiley says.

For example, the film “David,” that includes a program of activities for families, opens in Northampton on April 7 at the Lander Grinspoon Academy (LGA) Auditorium and is co-hosted by Camp Semesh, a summer day camp in Amherst for children ages 6 to 12. Cara Michelle Silverberg, the camp director, will lead children in discussions about the film following the screening.

Festival volunteer Phoebe Shaw of Hyadenville, who organized the screening of “David” and the associated activities, said the event will be a fun and educational experience for the whole family.

Activities and food will be available starting at noon on April 7 in the LGA Auditorium followed by the screening of the film at 1 p.m.

“David” is the story of a lonely Muslim boy in Brooklyn who is inadvertently immersed in the world of Orthodox Judaism. The only son of a devout Imam, the worship leader of a mosque and the Muslim community, 11-year-old Daud juggles the high expectations of his father against feelings of isolation.

One day he’s mistaken for a Yeshiva student and befriended by a group of Jewish boys. Unable to resist the camaraderie and freedom, Daud becomes David. The ruse soon unravels, however, leaving the conflicted boy struggling to find his place in the world.

While David learns valuable lessons about growing up, living in a city and answering difficult questions, his father is faced with questions of tolerance, acceptance and adaptation. The movie doesn’t end on a clear note.

“It leaves the audience with question marks,” says Silverberg, who will lead two educational activities (one drama-based; the other art-based) after the screening to help children process the film. Both groups will discuss themes identified by the movie, such as, “Have you ever felt left out?” and “Have you ever felt like you’re different?”

“We wanted to screen something engaging, with good questions about belonging, religious and cultural identity, and friendship,” said Shaw, who helped put together the “David” program. She and her children (ages 8 and 11) had the opportunity to pre-screen “David.”

“My younger child was able to follow the story and both were completely drawn into the burgeoning friendship between these boys who were not supposed to be friends,” Shaw said.

Finding inspiration

Wiley says there are some 30 to 40 Jewish film festivals in North America, including ones in Boston and Hartford, Conn., and she and her team track the larger ones to get inspiration for their festival’s annual themes. This year, Wiley says, there are three themes, including “family ties,” which is represented by the film “Life in Stills.” It will be screened April 9 at 7 p.m. at Stoddard Hall on the Smith College campus in Northampton.

The film is about a 94-year-old woman and her grandson who are trying to save their family business.

A second theme, about the search for identity, is represented by “The Other Son,” which will be shown April 6 at 8:30 p.m. at Stoddard Hall at Smith College in Northampton and, simultaneously at the Basketball Hall of Fame Auditorium in Springfield.

It is the story of two teenagers who discover they were accidentally switched at birth.

The third theme is about taking risks. An example, “The Two Who Dared: The Sharps’ War” that will be screened April 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the Amherst Yiddish Book Center, tells the story of a Unitarian minister and his wife who, just days prior to the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia, left their young children in Wellesley to help save thousands being persecuted in Eastern Europe.

Unique partnerships

Wiley said the partnerships between PVJFF and area groups are unique.

“You won’t find this with other film festivals,” Wiley said. “We have anywhere between 12 to 20 partnerships every year with whom we collaborate on final film selections.” The partnerships encourage businesses and learning institutions to help shape the festival according to their specific interests and goals that can be addressed through film.

For example, on April 16, the festival will show “Melting Away,” a new feature film from Israel, about a transgender woman who is estranged from her parents. The film will be shown in partnership with SAGE Western Massachusetts, a services and advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults and Northampton Pride, a LGBT organization.

“It’s a great chance to feature Jewish ideas and culture and it’s especially helpful to others who might want to learn more about those things,” Wiley said. “It’s a special time and wonderful season of cultural opportunity.”

Legacy Comments0
There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.