Home November 2014 25 Years of Jewish Film

25 Years of Jewish Film

What started as a modest film festival twenty-five years ago has developed into a premier film festival, presented by University Synagogue with support from Temple Beth Emet, Temple Bat Yahm, Temple Beth Tikvah and Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’a lot, that showcases some of the finest Jewish films from around the world.  Twelve feature films and nine documentaries comprise the 2014-2015 season.
“We are one of the oldest international Jewish film festivals around,” says Gene Alterman, who has been the driving force behind the festival for the past 13 seasons. He is quick to add that a big part of the success can be attributed to Rabbi Arnold Rachlis of University Synagogue and to Dr. Michael Berlin, who has served as host and guest lecturer for the past 25 years.
“Rabbi Rachlis had a vision, and what we are doing is actualizing that vision,” says Alterman. “He wanted to develop a cultural and educational event for the Jewish community in Orange County.”
“We start six months before the first film is to be screened,” says Alterman. “Many times I am on the phone at 3:00 in the morning to places like Uzbekistan or Prague trying to get in touch with the filmmakers.” Alterman has developed close relationships with distributors of Jewish films all over the world. Many of the films are not screened at other Jewish festivals; often they are films that have not been previously released. “The Green Prince,” for example, was shown first to the film festival audience on September 3, before it was released to the general public.
Committee members may screen up to 100 films just to select a handful for each season. “They must be of high quality, with good direction, acting and writing,” Alterman emphasizes.
Alterman is particularly excited about the February 15 screening of Woody Allen’s classic “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” to be followed by a live discussion with actor Martin Landau, and the documentary “The Outrageous Sophie Tucker,” to be screened on December 10.
“This year we are very fortunate to have other synagogues participating with us,” comments Alterman. In addition to Temple Beth Tikvah, a longtime partner, Temple Bat Yahm, Shir Ha-Malat, and Temple Beth Emet are joining forces with University Synagogue.
University Synagogue continues to defray the cost of the film and theater rentals, commentator, bagel breakfast and marketing. While the film festival as such is not a fundraising event, synagogues can benefit both financially and with increased exposure throughout the county.
Feature films are screened on Wednesdays and Sundays at the Regal Westpark 8 Theatre, 3735 Alton Parkway, Irvine. Sunday mornings include a bagel breakfast at 8:30 a.m., with the film at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday evening screenings are at 7:00 p.m. Documentaries are shown during the evening at University Synagogue and its partner synagogues.
For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.universitysynagogue.org.

Florence L. Dann, a fourth-year rabbinical student at the Academy for Jewish Religion in L.A., has been a contributing writer to JLife since 2004.

Movie Dates
MAMELE November 5
University Synagogue
3400 Michelson Dr., Irvine
Screening at 7:00 p.m.
ZERO MOTIVATION November 9
Westpark 8 Cinemas
3735 Alton Parkway, Irvine
Bagel breakfast from 8:30 a.m. Film at 9:30 a.m.
FOR A WOMAN November 19
Westpark 8 Cinemas
3735 Alton Parkway, Irvine
Introduction at 7:00 p.m.

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