January is Jewish Film Festival Month in region

Itzhak Perlman at home (courtesy Greenwich Entertainment)

Film Festival season has arrived, with the Mobile Jewish Film Festival celebrating its 18th anniversary with an ambitious lineup of 10 films over two weeks in January.

Organized in 2002, Jewish Cinema Mississippi in Jackson celebrates has its 17th season, while the Baton Rouge Jewish Film Festival, which started in 2006, returns to the Manship Theatre.

In Mobile, the festival kicks off with a free film at the Mobile Museum of Art, “The Invisibles.” Though there is no charge, reservations to the Mobile Area Jewish Federation office are still required.

In addition to the regular festival, the Julien E. Marx Holocaust Student Film Series reaches about 2,500 students in the Mobile area.

The Baton Rouge festival also has an emphasis on Holocaust education. The festival provides funding for teachers in the area to attend the Belfer National Conference for Educators, an internationally renowned conference held yearly at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

There is also an annual Holocaust education program for junior high and high school students, with a Holocaust-themed film accompanied by a speaker who is a Holocaust survivor.

This year, the festival is also raising funds through T-shirt sales, using a quote by Rabbi Shmuel ben Nachman, “We Don’t See Things As They Are, We See Things As We Are.” The shirts are $29, of which $15 goes to the initiative.

A highlight of the Jackson festival is “G.I. Jews,” with free admission to veterans or current military with ID.

A Bag of Marbles

The true story of brothers Joseph and Maurice, ages 10 and 12, who are forced to flee Nazi-occupied France in 1941, relying on each other to make their way to the demilitarized zone in a quest to reunite with their family. Mobile, Jan. 23.

The Band’s Visit
The musical version of this film swept the Tony Awards last spring. A band comprised of members of the Egyptian police force arrives in the middle of the Israeli desert to play at the inaugural ceremony of an Arab Arts Center only to discover they have taken the wrong bus to the wrong destination. An exploration of how “enemies” are “ordinary people.” Mobile, Jan. 17, dessert reception follows.

Big Sonia
In her 90s, Sonia Warshawski runs a tailor shop six days a week, the only thriving business in a mostly-abandoned Kansas City mall. She does it to keep busy, when she isn’t serving as the only Holocaust survivor in the community who speaks publicly about her experiences at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Baton Rouge, Jan. 16.

The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story

The writers of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “Wan’na Be Like You” and “It’s A Small World (After All),” among others, brothers Robert Sherman and Richard Sherman defined Disney musicals for decades. But this documentary shows that behind the facade, after some early success together, they cranked out a catalog of iconic songs while being completely estranged from each other and living separate lives. The acclaimed film includes a lot of their music and a wide range of interviews. Mobile, Jan. 13, followed by wine and cheese dessert reception and Disney singalong.

Bye Bye Germany
In 1946 Germany, David Bermann and several Jewish friends have survived the Nazi regime and want to get to America as fast as possible — but how do they put together money to do that? They sell bed linens door to door, but questions from Bermann’s past start catching up to him. Jackson, Jan. 24.

The Cakemaker
For mature audiences, “The Cakemaker” won Best Picture, best Director and Best Actress in the Israel Academy Awards. Thomas is a pastry chef in Berlin. After Oren, Thomas’s married business-traveler lover, dies in a car accident at home in Jerusalem, Thomas travels to see the life Oren left behind, assuming a false identity and infiltrating the life of Oren’s widow, Anat. Mobile, Jan. 16.

Nahman Ruzumni lives on the fringes of the ultra-Orthodox community in B’nei Brak. As a “Driver” he takes beggars to wealthy people’s homes, and helps them find the right way to tell their story in order to inspire philanthropy. For his services he gets a cut of the money, and records their stories in his notebook. He spends the rest of his nights in makeshift casinos and dining halls where the more questionable members of this pious society spend their nights. But when his wife leaves suddenly, Ruzumni is faced with the responsibility of his nine year old daughter. Baton Rouge, Jan. 20

GI Jews
“GI JEWS: Jewish Americans in World War II” tells the profound and unique story of the 550,000 Jewish men and women who served in World War II. Through the eyes of the servicemen and women, the film brings to life the little-known story of Jews in World War II, as active participants in the fight against Hitler, bigotry and intolerance. Jackson, Jan. 27 

Humor Me
Nate Kroll is an award-winning playwright who suddenly finds himself wifeless, jobless and homeless. With literally nothing else to lose, he moves in with his eccentric father, Bob, and gets a job at an old folks home where he helps the elders put on a new play. Stars Jemaine Clement and Elliott Gould. Mobile, Jan. 19, with optional deli dinner preceding.

The Interpreter
An 80-year-old translator, armed with a pistol, sets off to Vienna to look for the SS man who may have killed his parents, but the only person he encounters is the man’s 70-year-old son Georg. Together they set out on a road trip through Slovakia, each with his own agenda, and each trying to come to terms with the past. Mobile, Jan. 22, reception follows.

The Invisibles
In June 1943, Germany infamously declared Berlin “free of Jews.” But at that moment there were still 7,000 Jews living in the Nazi capital, of whom only 1700 made it to liberation. “The Invisibles” tells the stories of four survivors, bringing edge-of-the-seat suspense to their years spent underground. Mobile, Jan. 10, introduction by Deborah Velders of the Mobile Museum of Art. Reception follows.

“Itzhak” is an enchanting documentary about Itzhak Perlman, a polio survivor whose parents emigrated from Poland to Israel, who struggled to be taken seriously as a music student when others could not see past his disability. The film focuses on the mensch behind the music, through archival footage, often-irreverent interviews and a lot of input from his wife, Toby. Baton Rouge, Jan. 19. Mobile, Jan. 27, with violin and piano mini-concert and dessert reception following.

The Last Suit
A winner of Audience Awards at numerous Jewish film festivals, “The Last Suit” is about 88-year-old Buenos Aires tailor Abraham Bursztein, whose kids are moving him into a retirement home. Instead, he plans a secret one-way trip to Poland, where he plans to fulfill a promise to find the Christian who saved him from certain death at Auschwitz. Mobile, Jan. 15, with introduction by David Meola. Jackson, Jan. 26.

Mossad: Imperfect Spies
Over the nearly seven decades of its existence, the Mossad has cultivated its image as a daring, all-powerful intelligence agency for which no ‘mission impossible’ exists, while remaining tight-lipped about its activities. “The Mossad: Imperfect Spies” brings to the screen for the first time the stories of 24 former spy-chiefs and operatives, and with them a first-person perspective of the personal and operational challenges they overcame, the ethical dilemmas they faced and the personal price they were forced to pay for the rest of their lives for their chosen career path.
Exploring missions past and present, successes such as the capture of Adolf Eichmann and the failures including a botched 1997 assassination attempt on a former Hamas leader are described in a wide exploration of Israeli history.
For filmmaker Duki Dror, it was a major challenge just getting into Mossad circles, let alone convincing the interviewees to sit down with him.
The film is a shorter version of a series that aired on Channel 8 in Israel in 2017. Baton Rouge, Jan. 17; Mobile, Jan. 24 as the annual Reita Franco Memorial Film, with a reception following.

A Quiet Heart

After failing to gain traction as a classical pianist, a secular Tel Aviv woman played by Ania Bukstein of “Game of Thrones” moves to a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem to discover herself. She meets an Orthodox boy from a neighboring family and a charismatic Italian monk, becoming embroiled in the religious-secular divide. Baton Rouge, Jan. 29

Mobile Jewish Film Festival
Tickets: $8, $6 for students and seniors,
available here.

Thursday, Jan. 10, 1:30 and 6 p.m.
“The Invisibles”
Mobile Museum of Art, free

Sunday, Jan. 13, 3 p.m.
“The Boys”
Ahavas Chesed. Dessert reception and singalong

Tuesday, Jan. 15, 7 p.m.
“The Last Suit”
Laidlaw Center, USA.

Wednesday, Jan. 16, 7 p.m.
“The Cakemaker”
Laidlaw Center, USA.

Thursday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m.
“The Band’s Visit”
Laidlaw Center, USA. Dessert reception follows.

Saturday, Jan. 19, 6:30 p.m.
“Humor Me”
Springhill Avenue Temple. Optional deli dinner precedes ($15)

Tuesday, Jan. 22, 7 p.m.
“The Interpreter”
USA Fairhope campus. Reception follows.

Wednesday, Jan. 23, 7 p.m.
“A Bag of Marbles”
Ben May Library.

Thursday, Jan. 24, 7 p.m.
“Inside The Mossad”
Ahavas Chesed. Reception follows.

Sunday, Jan. 27, 3 p.m.
Springhill Avenue Temple. Followed by mini-concert and dessert reception.

Baton Rouge Jewish Film Festival
Manship Theatre at Shaw Center
Tickets: $8.50, available online.

Wednesday, Jan. 16, 7 p.m.
“Big Sonia”

Thursday, Jan. 17, 7 p.m.

“Inside The Mossad”

Saturday, Jan. 19, 7:30 p.m.


Sunday, Jan. 20, 3 p.m.


Jewish Cinema Mississippi
Malco Grandview
Tickets: $10, or $35 for festival pass, available here.

Thursday, Jan. 24, 7 p.m.
“Bye Bye Germany”

Saturday, Jan. 26, 7 p.m.
“The Last Suit”

Sunday, Jan. 27, 2 p.m.
“GI Jews”

Tuesday, Jan. 29, 7 p.m.
“A Quiet Heart”