The Jewish Cinema Mississippi film festival makes its return this week, after going on a COVID-induced hiatus after the last festival held in 2019.
It will also be the first time the festival will be held at the Capri Theater in Jackson.
“It’s worked out beautifully since the synagogue is in Jackson and the theater is centrally located for folks all over the metro area,” said Abram Orlansky, co-chair of Jewish Cinema Mississippi and President of Beth Israel Congregation, sponsor of the festival and the capital city’s only synagogue. “It’s a single screen theater, so that means everybody going in and coming out into the lobby will have seen the same films together. It’s a more communal experience.”
Capri owner-operator David Pharr says hosting the festival fits his vision of the Capri being a true community-oriented theatre.
“We are excited that Jewish Cinema Mississippi chose the Capri as the venue for this year’s festival,” he said. “In addition to first-run and classic movie exhibition, the Capri hosts local filmmakers and festivals whenever possible. It has become difficult for a single screen theatre to accommodate all of those uses but as a key part of the vision for restoring this iconic place, we’re committed to it.”
Established in 2002, the festival was founded to bring Jewish-themed and Israeli independent films to local audiences. This year’s selections continue that mission, offering the opportunity to see four diverse features that can currently only be seen on the festival circuit.
“I would hope that everybody can find at least one of these four films that piques their interest,” Orlansky said. “And it’s a rare opportunity to see foreign films in Jackson. Three of the four films are subtitled, which I think audiences have gotten better at enjoying in the era of Netflix.”
The festival’s opening film Finding Hannah (March 19, 2 p.m.) was written and directed by veteran filmmaker Sidney J. Furie (The Ipcress File, The Entity). It tells the story of an Auschwitz survivor searching for a lost love from his teenage years and is the festival English-language feature. Co-producer/editor Stephen Eckelberry will be in attendance.
“The Jewish experience in the 20th century centers so heavily around the Holocaust and the founding of Israel that you can make the joke that you can’t have a Jewish film festival without at least one film that is in some way Holocaust-related,” Orlansky said. “It was such a traumatic, seminal before and after event for worldwide Jewry that it keeps being explored in film from different angles. Finding Hannah, for example, doesn’t take place in the ‘40s, but it’s about characters who survived the Holocaust and are elderly now trying to reconcile what happened to them as teenagers.”
The next film, Farewell Mr. Haffmann (March 20, 7 p.m.), deals with how lives were torn apart at the beginning of WWII. Set in Paris, 1941, the film concerns a jeweler who attempts to flee the city during the Nazi occupation who must rely on his assistant to protect his business and family. This French language feature is from the producers of the Best Picture Oscar-winning CODA.
Matchmaking (March 21, 7 p.m.), is an Israeli comedy that put an Orthodox spin on the Shakespeare classic Romeo & Juliet. It was directed by award-winning Israeli filmmaker Erez Tadmor and is in Hebrew with English subtitles.
Closing out the festival is Greener Pastures (March 22, 7 p.m.), an Israeli comedy about a 70-something widower in a nursing home who starts dealing cannabis he gets from his fellow tenants to buy back his home. In Hebrew with English subtitles, the film was nominated for 12 Israeli Film Academy Awards.
“The Israeli film industry is sort of surprisingly prolific for the size country that it is,” Orlansky said. “Many of the movies made there aren’t going to get a wide American release ever. The festival is a great opportunity to check out interesting films like Matchmaking and Greener Pastures that might not otherwise be available.”
For more information on the festival, visit jewishcinemams.com.