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Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival Returns April 4-18

Layout 1PIONEER VALLEY – A pharmacist dispenses Woody Allen film therapy along with customers’ medications; a deadly search for a long lost Michelangelo art work turns friends into enemies; Muslims take dangerous measures to shelter Jews; a stirring Romeo and Juliet tale reaches across a divide of hate and history; Israeli and Palestinian teens switched at birth confront their values and beliefs; and a cult classic coming of age tale takes us back to summer in the Catskills.
This year’s Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival (PVJFF) will once again take audiences on the most unexpected adventures. The Festival, now in its eighth year, offers a menu of 20 award-winning international films carefully selected from new releases as well as audience favorites from top films festivals around the world, most of which would never be screened locally.  For two weeks, in eight towns, Valley audiences can expect to be entertained, educated, and inspired by some of the best in contemporary Jewish cinema.
The festival offers more than just movies. Twelve films will be accompanied by introductions, panel discussions, and conversations with local scholars and content experts, including:
A masterful tale of The Other Son (April 6 at Smith College and April 9 at Western New England University);
Documentary double-header, profiling two masters of the graphic novel form in The Art of Spiegelman and Joann Sfar Draws from Memory (April 4 at Mt. Holyoke College);
Besa: The Promise (April 16 at Elms College in Chicopee), not only records the fascinating history of Albanian Muslims who rescue Jewish neighbors but also an unexpected personal drama during the filming of a documentary.  An interfaith panel discussion follows;
The stirring feature film, Melting Away, the first by an Israeli filmmaker to address issues of transgendered people and their families (April 16 at the Academy of Music);
Investigative documentary, Portrait of Wally, will be introduced by an authority on provenance—the ownership history of stolen art during WWII (April 14 at the Springfield Museums);
A panel presentation following Two Who Dared, the dramatic account of a Unitarian minister and his wife who undertake a dangerous assignment to help save thousands during WWII (April 17 at Yiddish Book Center).

The Festival also has several special events planned during its season:
A commemoration of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, will be held with two screenings of Orchestra of Exiles (April 7 in Northampton and April 8 in Springfield).  Smith College Hillel students will conduct a brief ceremony at the earlier screening and student musicians at Springfield College will perform before the second show in Springfield.
One of last year’s audience favorites, David, returns as an afternoon matinee (April 7, Northampton). A kosher buffet lunch before the film will be available for sale starting at 12:00 along with games and post-film discussion and activities to engage kids ages 8 and up.
A “Friends of the Festival” benefit party will follow the sneak preview screening of Hava Nagila (The Movie). A higher priced ticket will include admission to the 2 pm matinee (April 14 at Amherst Cinema) and entry to the party.
The Festival offers several opportunities to schmooze over food. Receptions accompany Life in Stills (April 13 in Longmeadow), and the Midfest Celebration screening of Paris-Manhattan at the Basketball Hall of Fame on April 11.  Both films at Greenfield Cinemas will offer a pre-film nosh at 6:30 before those films start at 7 pm (Bottle in the Gaza Sea on April 8 and Paris-Manhattan on April 18).
By popular request, seven films will be shown twice in different locations to accommodate audiences’ interests: A Bottle in the Gaza Sea (Longmeadow, Greenfield), Hava Nagila (Amherst, Springfield), Life in Stills (Longmeadow, Northampton), My Best Enemy (Springfield, Amherst), The Other Son (Northampton, Springfield), Paris-Manhattan (Greenfield, Springfield), and Orchestra of Exiles (Northampton, Springfield).
Other films to be screened at the festival include Hollywood-style thriller, My Best Enemy; the delightful documentary and audience favorite world wide, Life in Stills; the riveting story of Jews who remain in Germany after the war, Jealous of the Birds; 1980s cult classic Dirty Dancing; and the story of an unlikely friendship in the award-winning German feature Kaddish for a Friend.
Collectively, the films showcase the rich diversity in the global Jewish community, and offer the audience an opportunity to reflect on universal themes as viewed through the lens of Jewish story-telling. There is something for everyone in this year’s festival: thoughtful documentaries about faith, art, and history; nail-biting action; moving dramas; and distinctive coming-of-age stories. PVJFF presents films from France, England, Austria, Poland, Germany, and Israel, as well as half a dozen American offerings.

Five film programs are free thanks to the underwriting by the hosts of those programs. Tickets to all events can be purchased at the door, as available. Tickets to some events may be purchased in advance in person or by phone at the Springfield JCC (1160 Dickinson Street, Springfield; (413) 739-4715). Tickets at Amherst Cinema and Greenfield Cinemas are only available through those theaters’ box offices. Most films are $9; student/senior price is $7.  Four-packs and patron passes available. Check the website for details: www.pvjff.org

PVJFF is co-presented by the Springfield Jewish Community Center and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, with the support of the following major sponsors: Consulate General of Israel to New England; Create a Jewish Legacy; Davis Financial Group; Massachusetts Cultural Council and the local cultural councils of Amherst, Buckland, Chicopee, Longmeadow, Northampton, Shelburne, South Hadley, and Springfield; Sapirstein & Sapirstein, Attorneys at Law; Totsy Foundation. Media sponsors include: The Daily Hampshire Gazette, The Jewish Ledger, Reminder Publications, The Republican, The Valley Advocate, and radio sponsors NEPR/WNNZ and WRSI/WHMP.

BottleGazaSeaA Bottle in the Gaza Sea
7 p.m., Bay Path College Mills Theater, Carr Hall, Longmeadow, FREE SCREENING
Tal, a 17-year-old French woman living in Jerusalem and frustrated by the hatred between Israelis and Palestinians, slips a note it into a bottle and tosses it into the sea. Weeks later, the mysterious Gazaman, a young Palestinian named Naim, begins an email exchange and turbulent but tender long-distance friendship that navigates a shared destiny both are trying to change.
Co-Sponsor:  Bay Path College
Kaleidoscope Series

JoannSfarJoann Sfar Draws from Memory
7 p.m., Mt. Holyoke College, South Hadley. Shown with “People of the Graphic Novel” and “The Art of Spiegelman”
Guest Speakers:  N. C. Christopher Couch, Senior Lecturer, Program in Comparative Literature, UMass Amherst; Sam Ball, Director, Joann Sfar Draws from Memory (invited); and Professor Lawrence Fine, MHC Program in Jewish Studies
The camera follows Sfar, an artist who has published 150 graphic novels, around his adopted home of Paris—him at work and capturing his thoughts on family life, creativity, his  Algerian and Eastern-European Jewish heritage,  his improvisatory method, and his dislike of being pigeonholed as a “Jewish” artist. Co-sponsor:  Mt. Holyoke College Jewish Studies Department and Film Studies Program

ArtSpeigelmanPeople of the Graphic Novel: Guest
Speakers:  N. C. Christopher Couch, Senior Lecturer, Program in Comparative Literature, UMass Amherst; Sam Ball, Director, Joann Sfar Draws from Memory (invited); and Professor Lawrence Fine, MHC Program in Jewish Studies
Sam Ball provides a look at the birth of the comics, and you may be surprised at who gave birth to Clark Kent and how the funnies went from thrilling pulp to respected graphic novel. (Shown with Joann Sfar Draws From Memory and The Art of Spiegelman)

The Art of Spiegelman
Post-film Discussion Guest Speakers:  N. C. Christopher Couch, Senior Lecturer, Program in Comparative Literature, UMass Amherst; Sam Ball, Director, Joann Sfar Draws from Memory (invited); and Professor Lawrence Fine, MHC Program in Jewish Studies
Art Spiegelman is the man behind Maus, the Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel about the Holocaust as filtered through a contentious father-son relationship.  Co-sponsor:  Mt. Holyoke College Jewish Studies Department and Film Studies Program. (Shown with Joann Sfar Draws From Memory and The People of the Graphic Novel)

Saturday, April 6
8:30 p.m., Basketball Hall of Fame, Auditorium, Springfield
Victor Kaufmann, the son of wealthy Jewish gallery owners in Vienna, and Rudi Smekal, the son of the Kaufmanns’ housekeeper, have been friends since childhood. But when the Nazis annex Austria, Rudi enlists and betrays the Kaufmanns. A twist of fate leads Rudi and Victor, now a prisoner of the Germans, to swap identities. Both are vying to recover a priceless stolen Michelangelo, promised as a gift from the Führer to Mussolini, and for the beautiful Lena, who must choose between the two.

TheOtherSonThe Other Son
8:30 p.m. Smith College, Stoddard Hall, Northampton, (Guest Speaker: Lily B. Perkins, LICSW, Clinical Social Work/Family Therapist and Merle Feld, Poet, Educator, and facilitator of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue)
As he prepares to join the Israeli army for his national service, Joseph discovers he is not his parents’ biological son, but was inadvertently switched at birth with Yassin, the son of a Palestinian family from the West Bank.  This revelation turns the lives of these two families upside-down.
Co-Sponsor:  Smith College Jewish Studies Program

Sunday, April 7
Family Program noon-1 p.m., Activities and food for purchase, 1 p.m.: Film (with Introduction), Lander Grinspoon Academy, Auditorium, Northampton
The only son of a devout imam, 11-year old Daud juggles the high expectations of his father against feelings of isolation. One day he’s mistaken for a Yeshiva student and befriended by a group of Jewish boys. Unable to resist the camaraderie and freedom, Daud becomes David. The ruse soon unravels, however, leaving the conflicted boy struggling to find his place in the world.

3 p.m., Smith College, Stoddard Hall, Northampton
In this Oscar-nominated film, a father-son relationship is put to the test through academic rivalry. Both are Talmudic professors, and when one of them is about to be awarded a highly coveted prize, a mix-up about the winner — is it father or son — puts everything on the line – loyalty, identity and integrity.

OrchestraExilesOrchestra of Exiles
7 p.m. Smith College, Stoddard Hall, Northampton; Guest Speaker and Holocaust Remembrance Day Observance led by Smith College Hillel Students
Featuring Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, Pinchas Zukerman, Joshua Bell and others, Orchestra of Exiles is the suspenseful chronicle of how one man helped save many of Europe’s premiere Jewish musicians from obliteration by the Nazis during WWII.
Co-Sponsors: Smith College Jewish Studies Program, Smith College Hillel, and the synagogues of Northampton and Amherst: Beit Ahavah, Congregation B’nai Israel, and Jewish Community of Amherst

Monday, April 8
A Bottle in the Gaza Sea
7 p.m., Garden Cinema, Greenfield; Pre-Film Nosh – 6:30 p.m.
(See April 4 for film description)
Co-Sponsor: Greenfield Garden Cinemas

Orchestra of Exiles
7 p.m. Springfield College, Marsh Chapel, Springfield; Performance by High Strung Ensemble led by Anne-Marie Messbauer; Co-Sponsors: Springfield College Holocaust Committee and Spiritual Life Center
(See April 7 for film description)

Tuesday, April 9
HavaNagilaHava Nagila (The Movie)
1 p.m., Jewish Community Center, Springfield
From the Ukraine to YouTube, this lively documentary romps through the history, mystery, and meaning of “Hava Nagila,” the great Jewish standard played at millions of weddings and bar mitzvahs, sports events and even the Olympics.

Life in Stills
7 p.m., Smith College, Stoddard Hall, Northampton; Guest Speaker:  Ira Bryck, UMass Amherst Family Business Center
This delightful, prize-winning documentary features the remarkable 96-year old Miriam, widow of Israeli photographer Rudi Weissenstein, as she and her grandson
Ben defend their family’s Tel Aviv photo shop from demolition. An official photographer of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, Weissenstein documented the country’s political and daily life until his passing in 1992.
Co-Sponsors: Create a Jewish Legacy of Western Massachusetts, Smith College Jewish Studies

The Other Son
7 p.m., Western New England University, Springfield; Guest Speaker: Lily B. Perkins, LICSW, Clincial Social Work/Family Therapist; Co-Sponsor: WNEU Spiritual Life Department
(See April 6 for film description)

Wednesday, April 10
JealousOfTheBirdsJealous of the Birds
7 p.m. Springfield College, Marsh Chapel, Springfield; Guest Speaker:  Professor Jonathan Skolnik, UMass German Studies and Judaic & Near Eastern Studies and former Fellow at the U.S. Holocaust Museum’ Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies
Some 15,000 Holocaust survivors remained in Germany after WWII. How could they stay? Filmmaker Jordan Bahat begins this quest, wishing to understand the choices made by his own grandparents. In interviews with survivors, their children and other Germans, Bahat explores what it means for victims to live among perpetrators and for children of those perpetrators to deal with the guilt borne from the crimes of their parents.
Co-Sponsors: Springfield College Holocaust Committee and Spiritual Life Center

Thursday, April 11
120 INTER.inddParis-Manhattan
7:30 p.m., Basketball Hall of Fame, Auditorium, Springfield; Mid-fest Celebration! Pre-film Reception at 6:30 pm
Under constant pressure to marry from her increasingly anxious Jewish parents, Alice fills prescriptions alongside her father at their family-owned pharmacy.  Rather than dating, she seeks refuge in the world of Woody Allen, engaging in imaginary conversations and surrounding herself with images of the iconic filmmaker, continually quoting his trademark witty Woody-isms, and even prescribing her customers DVDs of his movies to help alleviate their ailments. Will a chance encounter with handsome Victor finally bring her happy ending?

Saturday, April 13
Dirty Dancing
8:45 p.m., Pothole Pictures, Memorial Hall, Shelburne Falls; Live 50s and 60s Music by Shakin’ All Over – 8 p.m.
Set in 1962 —a  college-bound teen named Baby heads off to summer in the Catskills with her family, where she meets and falls in love with bold and sexy dance instructor Johnny.  Baby’s burgeoning feelings for Johnny, and her sharp awakening to the burdens of class differences, mix with youthful romance, and yes—dirty dancing.

Life in Stills
7 p.m., Smith College, Stoddard Hall, Northampton (FREE SCREENING Post-Film Dessert Reception – Dining Hall Atrium)
(See April 9 for film description)
Co-Sponsor:  Create a Jewish Legacy of Western Massachusetts and Bay Path College Kaleidoscope Series

Sunday, April 14
Hava Nagila (The Movie)
2 p.m., Amherst Cinema, Amherst; Post-Film “Friends of the Fest” Benefit Party; RSVP Required (Guest Speaker: Sheryl Shakinovsky, great-granddaughter of “Hava Nagila” creator Avraham ZviIdelsohn) Co-Sponsor: Davis Financial Group
(See April 9 for film description)

PortraitWallyPortrait of Wally
2 p.m., Springfield Art Museum, Davis Auditorium, Springfield; Guest Speaker:  Henriette Kets de Vries, Manager, Cunningham Center of Prints, Drawings and Photographs,  Smith College Museum of Arts, and former researcher, Provenance Index, Getty Museum.
In 1939, Nazis seized control of Austrian art collector Lea Bondi’s beloved Egon Schiele painting “Portrait of Wally.” For 70 years the Bondi family fought to reclaim the painting in a battle that pitted them against the likes of the Austrian government, billionaire art collectors, MoMA, and NPR.
Co-Sponsor:  Springfield Museums

Monday, April 15
My Best Enemy
7:30 p.m., Amherst Cinema, Amherst “Friends of the Fest” Benefit Party; RSVP Required
(See April 6 for film description)

Tuesday, April 16
BesaBesa: The Promise
7 p.m., Elms College, Library Theater, Chicopee; Interfaith Panel Discussion
This documentary weaves the incredible courage of Albanians during WWII through the contemporary journeys of two men: Rexhep Hoxha – who is trying to return a set of Hebrew books to the survivor his family sheltered over 60 years ago and Norman Gershman—an American photographer determined to shed light on this long forgotten piece of history.
Co-Sponsors: Elms College Office of Diversity Support Services and the Mary Dooley Lecture Series

MeltingAwayMelting Away
7 p.m., Academy of Music, Northampton; Guest Speakers: JM Sorrell, SAGE Western Massachusetts, Jayne Guberman, Keshet  Parent & Family Connection Program
Filmmaker Doron Eran and his partner, screenwriter, Bili Ben Moshe, were inspired to make this film upon hearing reports of parents who refused to visit their injured children in the hospital after a deadly attack at the Tel Aviv LGBT Youth Center. The first Israeli film to address the issues of transgendered people and their families, Melting Away follows a family drawn into crisis when the parents learn that their son is a secret cross-dresser. Years later, as the father is dying, his wife tracks down their estranged son, only to find a lovely woman Mature subject matter, recommended for high school and above.
Co-Sponsors:  Noho Pride, SAGE Western Massachusetts

Wednesday, April 17
TwoWhoDaredTwo Who Dared: The Sharps’ War (formerly The Minister’s War)
7:30 p.m., Yiddish Book Center, Amherst; FREE SCREENING Post-Film Panel Discussion
After 17 ministers declined the Unitarian Association’s request for relief volunteers in Europe, Waitstill and Martha Sharp were the 18th call. When they committed to the dangerous undertaking, they left their young children in Wellesley to travel to Czechoslovakia at the onset of WWII. In the clandestine transportation of refugees, they combatted political and social blockades, broke laws to get exit visas and laundered money on the black market. They are two of only three Americans to be honored as Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem.
Co-Sponsor: Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival

Thursday, April 18
KaddishKaddish for a Friend
Post-Film Discussion 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Amherst College, Stirn Auditorim, Mead Art Museum, Amherst; FREE SCREENING; Guest Speaker: Christian Rogowski, Amherst College Professor of German and Department Chair.
When 14-year-old Ali escapes a Lebanese refugee camp with his family and lands in public housing in Berlin, he tries to impress his Arab friends by vandalizing the apartment of his elderly, feisty Russian Jewish neighbor. That’s hardly an auspicious start for a friendship, but the relationship that blossoms between the old man and the teenager is as warm as it is unlikely.
Co-Sponsors:  Amherst College Department of German and Office of the Jewish Religious Advisor

7 p.m., Garden Cinema, Greenfield; Pre-Film Nosh – 6:30 p.m.
(See April 11 for film description)
Co-Sponsor:  Greenfield Garden Cinemas

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