The Gershman Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival, one of the oldest film festivals in Philadelphia, kicked off on November 3—and you don’t want to miss out. A total of 39 films from 12 different countries will be shown, running until November 18.
With venues in Center City, Old City, the Philadelphia suburbs, and even on Penn’s campus, the festival caters to a diverse array of Philadelphians. It will also feature special guests like The Office’s Paul Lieberstein and director Jennifer Prediger in a "Master Class" event at Fisher–Bennett Hall on campus. Festival creators hope to “educate and engage diverse Philadelphia communities, Jewish and non–Jewish alike, by presenting world–class film premieres, repertory cinema, and associated programs that are inspired by Jewish history, heritage, and values.” Read on for the must–see films showing this year.
Ali, an old translator, seeks out the Nazi who murdered his parents. Instead, however, he meets his son Georg. The two travel to Slovakia together, with Ali as the interpreter, in order to investigate the past demons of Georg’s father. Their clashing personalities result in bumps in the road, but ultimately their connection begs a question of generational responsibility and fate. The Interpreter is the opening night film, and will feature special guest Peter Simonischek, the actor who plays Georg.
Showing Information: Philadelphia Film Center—Saturday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Director: Martin Šulík
Reuven is uninvolved in the life of his adult special needs son Gadi. However, when Gadi’s mother passes away, everything changes. Reuven takes on the daunting responsibility of parenting, which is both harder and more rewarding than he expected. Reuven hopes to bond with his son as he realizes he was remiss as a father for a significant portion of Gadi’s life.
Showing Information: The Gershman Y– Sunday, Nov. 4 at 7:00 p.m.
Director: Jacob Goldwasser
Box For Life
Box For Life is a documentary film that follows Noah Klieger, a Holocaust survivor, educator, veteran, and journalist. Klieger takes viewers through his experiences surviving Auschwitz thanks to champion boxers, getting Jewish children to safety in Switzerland, fighting in the Israeli War of Independence, covering the trials of Nazi criminals, and his mission to educate today.
Showing Information: The Gershman Y– Sunday, Nov. 4 at 2:00 p.m.
Director: Uri Borreda
Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas
This film explores the unexpected history of Jewish songwriters’ influence on Christmas music, from “Rudolph the Red–Nosed Reindeer” to “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Director Larry Weinstein delves into his childhood experience with the holiday while exploring this phenomenon in the setting of a 1960 Chinese restaurant. The musical comedy–esque film examines the Jewish perspective of the iconic holiday.
Showing Information: The Gershman Y— Sunday, Nov. 18 at 5:00 p.m.
Director: Larry Weinstein
Inspired by true events, this “found footage” style film explores the investigation of a government cover–up by five former Israeli Defense Force Soldiers. All of them received an anthrax vaccination, which they believe to be responsible for disconcerting side effects they experience. As their health worsens, the team races against the clock to solve the case before it’s too late.
Showing Information: Lightbox Film Center—Monday, Nov. 5 at 7:00 p.m.
Director: Shai Scherf
In this psychological thriller, Lena arrives at the home of Anselm, an old ex–Nazi, and his daughter Maria. She is hellbent on seeking vengeance for her grandmother. Through shocking twists it is revealed that nothing is what it seems, and the line between right and wrong is blurred.
Showing Information: Ambler Theater— Sunday, Nov. 4 at 7:00 p.m.
Director: Astrid Schult
Red Cow is a coming–of–age drama that explores LGBT issues. At a settlement in Jerusalem, a red cow, the symbol for the coming of the Third Temple, is born. Benny’s religious father asks her to look after the cow. Behind the scenes she rebels, exploring her sexual identity and experimenting with activities her father would deem inexcusable.
Showing Information: The Gershman Y— Monday, Nov. 5 at 2:00 p.m.
Director: Tsivia Barkai
Who Will Write Our History
This documentary, executive–produced by Nancy Spielberg, investigates how Jewish intellectuals cope with injustice during the Holocaust. Historian and activist Emanuel Ringelblum decides the only way the Jewish side of history will be remembered is if he writes everything down before it’s too late. With the help of other Jewish intellectuals, he documents his time in the Warsaw Ghetto and as part of the Oyneg Shabes resistance movement.
Showing Information: National Museum of American Jewish History— Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 7:00 p.m.
Director: Roberta Grossman
The Syrian Patient
A testament to lives lost during the Syrian Civil War, The Syrian Patient documents Arab–Israelis working in hospitals to treat Syrian Refugees. The refugees must seek support from the admirable medical professionals and from those they love as they come to terms with their circumstances.
Showing Information: Ohev Shalom of Bucks County— Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 7:00 p.m.
Director: Racheli Schwartz
Assi must complete court–ordered community service in the form of teaching juvenile delinquents film–making skills. He ultimately finds community and friendship, specifically with Eden, who comes to see him as a role model. Assi encounters challenges when he realizes he is not equipped to help Eden with all of her troubles. This film is nominated for nine Ophir Awards and is inspired by true events.
Showing Information: The Gershman Y—Thursday, Nov. 15 at 2:00 p.m.
Director: Eliran Elya
You can purchase tickets for the Gershman Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival here.