Cincinnati Jewish Film Festival returns with documentaries, drama, and comedy

Cincinnati's Jewish and Israeli Film Festival returns this month with a lineup meant to please a wide range of interests.

"These stories, they're universal themes. There's something for everyone to find a point of connection," says Frances Kahan of the Mayerson Jewish Community Center.

The festival was born more than 35 years ago at Cincinnati's Jewish Federation. In recent years, its home base has been Mayerson, where, as director of cultural arts and engagement, Kahan oversees the program.

"Film is a really important medium," she says. "It offers a low barrier for engagement."

Frances KahanScreening sites include the 20th Century in Oakley and Union Terminal. Some movies will be shown online only. With that approach, "We sort of bring the JCC
out of our walls and into the community. It's an opportunity to see films that you
wouldn't otherwise."

This year's program includes comedy, drama, and documentaries. Many screenings will offer short films as well. Some will include companion events, such as expert speakers discussing issues covered in the movies.

An upsurge in antisemitic attacks in recent years highlights the value of the festival, Kahan says.

"There are scary things in the world. Right now, we're at a time of heightened heat and anger, which is unfortunate. Our mission is to educate, engage, and
entertain. It is to foster connection and community within and beyond the Jewish community.

"Everyone's welcome," she says. "It's really a festival for the entire community. The goal is to break barriers and build bridges."

The festival boasts a corps of committed volunteers -- including a group that picks which movies to showcase. Following are some highlights:

Opening night feature: "One More Story," a romantic comedy. Jan. 28, 7:30 pm. 20th Century Theater. Includes a dessert reception.

"The Conference," a historical drama. Jan. 29, 7:30 pm. A re-enactment of the notorious Berlin-Wansee meeting, where Nazi leaders planned the mass murder of European Jews. Experts speaking after the film include Miami University historian Erik Jensen.

"On This Happy Note," a documentary. Feb. 2, 7:30 pm. Mariemont Theatre. An Israeli playwright faces the end of her life with grace and wit.

"1341 frames of love and war," a documentary. Feb. 13, 7:30 pm. Cincinnati Skirball Museum, Mayerson Hall at Hebrew Union College. Profile of famed Israeli photojournalist Micha Bar-Am made entirely with images from his work.

"Greener Pastures," a comedy. Feb. 15, 7:30 pm, Online.The tagline begins, "When cannabis, love and crime come into play ... "

Closing night feature: "Farewell, Mr. Haffman," a drama. March 1, 7:30 pm, Union Terminal. A World War II drama set in Paris during the Nazi occupation.

The festival includes six in-person and five virtual film offerings. Passes good for all festival events cost $130-$160. Tickets to individual films are $10-$46. Tickets to virtual showings will be good for 48 hours. The films are not rated; all are recommended for mature audiences. All non-English language films are subtitled.

For more information, the full schedule, and links to buy tickets to each event, you may go to the film festival website.

A printable PDF program with more details is available here.

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Read more articles by Margaret A. McGurk.

Margaret A. McGurk is a freelance writer, editor and media consultant. She was film critic for The Cincinnati Enquirer from 1995 to 2005.