Live screenings return for JCC’s annual film festival in Marblehead

Movies also are available to watch online

Jérémie Renier and François Cluzet in a tense moment in the French thriller, “The Man in the Basement.”

By Shelley A. Sackett

MARBLEHEAD — The Jewish Com­munity Center of the North Shore International Jewish Film Festival is celebrating both its ninth year and its return to in-person screenings with a diverse menu of 12 films inspired by Jewish history, culture, and humor.

All in-person screenings will be shown at the Warwick Cinema in Marblehead. Films also are available to view virtually for those who choose to watch at home.

The festival runs from April 24 through May 5 and includes prerecorded and live Zoom conversations with filmmakers. Fran Levy-Freiman and Izzi Abrams are cochairs. The festival is sponsored by Sharon and Howard Rich and Leslie and Bob Ogan and is partnering with the Central Mass International Jewish Film Festival at the Worcester JCC.

Opening night presents the tense, psychological thriller, “The Man in the Basement,” a French film about a Parisian couple who sells their basement apartment to a seemingly well-mannered former teacher. Their world is turned upside down when they discover he has hidden his secret life as an antisemitic conspiracy theorist, leading to a sinister standoff.

Two historical dramas set in 1942 recount the plight of Jews living in France during the Nazi occupation.

Rebecca Marder and Cyril Metzer star in the French historical drama, “A Radiant Girl.” Photo Credit: Jérôme Prébois

Set in Paris, “A Radiant Girl” is the charming story of a 19-year-old aspiring actress whose carefree life and indomitable spirit are put to the test by the growing Nazi threat to her entire world, especially her close-knit family.

“Valiant Hearts,” starring Camille Cottin, tells the true story of six Jewish children forced to take refuge among the Louvre Museum artworks hidden in the Chateâu de Chambord. This story of exceptional bravery is suitable for the whole family.

Another family choice is “Alegria,” a dramady centered around a matriarch who returns to her native Melilla in Spain for the Sephardic wedding of her niece. Along the way, she reunites with her estranged daughter and reconnects to her roots, illuminating Melilla’s multiculturalism and the richness of her relationships with the women in her circle.

In “Plan A,” a newly released mystery/drama, a Jewish Holocaust survivor meets a radical group of Jewish resistance fighters in 1945. They, like him, have lost hope for their futures after their families were killed by the Nazis. They hatch a revenge operation that takes the concept of “an eye for an eye” to a new level. They will kill six million Germans – one for every Jew slaughtered.

On a lighter note, “The Specials” is an uplifting story about two friends – one an ultra-Orthodox Jew, the other a Muslim – who join forces to advocate for autistic teens that have been rejected by state-run hospitals.

Menachem Begin addresses a crowd in the documentary, “Upheaval: The Journey of Menachem Begin.”

Rounding out the dramatic offerings is the Israeli film, “Greener Pastures,” a comedy about a widowed man obsessed with escaping the nursing home his family has placed him in against his will – until he discovers potentials provided by legal medical cannabis the residents all enjoy and rely on.

Five documentaries complete the lineup. “The United States of Elie Tahari” chronicles the life of fashion designer and mogul Elie Tahari, from his childhood in Israel to his arrival in New York City in 1971 with $100 in his pocket to his fashion empire, worth over a $1 billion today.

Israeli-born filmmaker Becky Tahel grapples with her understanding of religion, love, and identity after her younger sister marries a non-Jew in her introspective film, “American Birthright.” Her quest leads her on an extraordinary journey of self-discovery.

The Israeli film, “Yerusalem: The Incredible Story of Ethiopian Jewry,” describes the brave Ethiopian Beta-Israel immigrants and the people who risked their lives to help them make Aliyah between 1977 and 1985. Despite their long history of observing Jewish traditions and the trauma of a tumultuous exodus, the Beta-Israelis can’t shake their outsider status in Israel, where they still struggle to prove their Jewishness and earn a legitimate place in Israeli society.

“Upheaval: The Journey of Men­achem Begin” portrays the life and essence of the brilliant and proud man who never compromised when the survival of Israel and the Jewish people were at stake.

Finally, closing night (May 5) showcases the film “The Automat,” a valentine to the iconic 100-year food chain, Horn & Hardart. Featuring an original song written and performed by Mel Brooks, the movie includes interviews and reminisces of such notable former customers as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Howard Schultz, Colin Powell, and others. The in-person screening will be introduced live by Richard J.S. Gutman, America’s leading diner expert.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit jccns.org/film-festival-2022.

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