Posted by Larry Gleeson
On a day that honors Veterans, the Boston Jewish Film Festival will screen an inspirational documentary about fighters pursing peace.
“I often ask myself where are the peacemakers,” said Jaymie Saks, executive director of the film festival. “This film celebrates people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict who are able to overcome their differences to come together for peace.”
Featuring former Israeli soldiers and former Palestinian political prisoners, “Disturbing the Peace” is one of 38 documentary, feature and short films that will be shown through Nov. 21 at theatres in Boston, Cambridge and the suburbs.
In its 28th year, this year’s film festival has a strong focus on films about prejudice, anti-Semitism and justice, thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Cummings Foundation. Identified as part of the Cummings Social Justice Film Series, these films reveal personal, social and political change in a troubled world.
Films on these topics have always been a crucial piece of our festival, but this time we had our eye out specifically for films that touch on these subjects,” Saks said.
Selecting films from Israel, Argentina, Hungary, Poland, France, Germany and other counties, the festival gives audiences opportunities to hear directors and actors speak and answer questions at screenings. About 12,000 people are expected to attend.Many films have a lighter focus, such as “On the Map,” the story of the 1977 Israeli basketball team that beat the Soviets and won the European Cup. It’s appropriately shown just outside Gillette Stadium at Showcase Cinema in Patriot Place.
“It’s called the “Miracle on Hardwood,” Israel’s version of the “Miracle on Ice,” Saks said. “They were the underdog and it’s an exciting story not just about basketball but about Israel.”
Winning awards at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and the Jerusalem Film Festival, the comedy “One Week and A Day” is about a father who copes with the death of his son by smoking his medical marijuana.
And the film “The Last Laugh” features Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman and other comedians exploring the Jewish sense of humor and will be followed by a conversation with the director and Robert Edwards, author of “The Big Book of Jewish Humor.”
The festival also has series on family friendly films, Israeli television hits, and short works about innovative risk-takers.
In the Cummings Social Justice Film Series, the documentary “Freedom to Marry” tells the story of the long fight for marriage equality, specifically in Massachusetts. In another film on inequality, “Sand Storm,” a young Bedouin woman in Israel struggles to define herself within her traditional family.
Many feature and documentary films offer a new look at the Holocaust. “Cloudy Sunday” tells the little-known story of what happened in Greece, through a fictionalized love story, and another, “A Grain of Truth” is a murder-mystery that reveals the history of Polish anti-Semitism.
“It’s important to keep talking about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism in new ways with a contemporary lens,” Saks said.
That is literally what happens in “Germans and Jews,” a documentary about the evolution of facing the truth about the Holocaust.
Other films reveal unexpected heroes and villains, as truths get revealed about the roles people played in the Holocaust.
In the feature “Origin of Violence,” a young French professor has his world turned upside down when he discovers a truth about his father while on a research trip to Buchenwald. In the documentary, “Keep Quiet,” an anti-Semitic Holocaust denier radically changes when he discovers his grandmother was an Auschwitz survivor. And in the documentary “Kozalchic Affair,” a Jewish collaborator turns out to be more complicated than he seems.
Revealing deep courage and conviction, the documentary “Karski and the Lords of Humanity” is the story of a Polish underground courier, who risked his life to visit the Warsaw Ghetto and a Nazi transit camp in order to deliver eyewitness accounts to the Allied powers. As described in the festival program guide, “His testimonies are some of the most important accounts we have today – and his efforts stand as an example of heroism in the face of atrocity.”