Boca Raton Jewish Film Festival brings variety of films from documentaries to short films to local big screens this month

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Staff report

Movie buffs will be able to catch 55 different films during the Levis JCC Sandler Center’s 4th annual Judy Levis Markhoff Boca Raton Jewish Film Festival.

The line-up includes 55 films from 22 countries that will be screened at the Cinemark Palace 20 Theaters in Boca Raton, Movies of Delray and in the Beifield Auditorium at the Levis JCC Sandler Center.

The festival runs March 8-March 29 and is considered one of the top 10 Jewish Film Festivals in the country. Films, shorts and even television series cover topics including the Jewish experience, culture, history, identity and topics relevant to Jewish life.

Festival artistic director Wendy Honig said there are options for everyone.

“The Festival has become one of the most-anticipated events of the year in the Boca Raton community and we could not be prouder,” she said.

 Opening night will kick off at 7 p.m. on March 8 with the Florida premiere of “I’ll Find You.” The film takes audiences back to 1939 during the German invasion of Poland.  Two young lovers, Robert, a Catholic opera singer and Rachel, a Jewish violin virtuoso, dream of one day performing together at legendary Carnegie Hall. When they are torn apart, Robert vows to find Rachel, no matter what the war may bring. His search leads him on a life-threatening journey through the heart of Nazi Germany. Director Martha Coolidge (former President of the Directors Guild) and Producer Fred Roos (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) will be making special guest appearances, and will host a post-screening discussion.

Films scheduled for the first two weeks will be screened at Cinemark Palace 20 Theaters in Boca Raton and then at Movies of Delray the third week. Some films will be shown at the JCC.

Since the festival is spread out over three weeks, you could catch all 55 films, “If you’re really ambitious,” said Lesley Rich, festival program and production director.

Honig and Rich estimate about 15,000 people will attend the films while the festival is going on.

“We started with 21 films in this festival and it has grown to be 55 films,” Honig said. “We have grown the number of places where we show films. Our audience has grown and our patrons have grown. The festival is so popular that our phone is ringing off the wall before we open up for ticket sales.”

And while the festival is only around for a few weeks, Rich said putting it on is a year-round commitment.

“We really enjoy film,” he said. “We are constantly seeking out films and we try to stay on the cutting edge.”

The goal is to create a destination film festival.

Some highlights of the festival:

 Stand! – East Coast Premiere of a musical inspired by a true story. 1919 Stefan and his father Mike fled Ukraine for the New World, where they struggle to earn enough to re-unite the family. Stefan is instantly smitten with the Jewish suffragette neighbor, Rebecca – but Rebecca’s brother Moishe and Mike oppose the would-be Romeo and Juliet. Returned soldiers, angry at the lack of jobs after the war, violently threaten the city’s immigrants, including Emma, the refugee from racial persecution in Oklahoma. When a movement develops for workers to leave their jobs in protest, AJ Anderson, a wealthy lawyer, pits all against each other in a dramatic and inspirational final stand.

Incitement – This rigorous psychological thriller by American-Israeli director Yaron Zilberman depicts the lead-up to the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin through the worldview of his assassin, Yigal Amir. Photo by Yael Ilan.

Golden Voices – Southeast U.S. premiere – Victor and Raya Frenkel were the golden voices of the Soviet film dubbing. In 1990, with the collapse of USSR, they decide to immigrate to Israel, just like hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews. Victor and Raya’s attempts to use their distinctive talent in a country that doesn’t need it, will turn the beginning of the new chapter of their life into an amusing, painful, and absurd experience.

Radical Obsession – U.S. premiere – A documentary about the unholy truth about Iran and terrorism.

The closing day will take place at 1 p.m. on March 29 at Zinman Hall where a works-in-progress feedback screening of “The Automat” will be shown. The film transports movie-goers to a time when Americans once sipped coffee and ate pie around communal tables, sharing their struggles and dreams with strangers at Horn & Hardart’s iconic Automat. More than just entertainment, The Automat is a parable of how Americans once dined happily together before turning to the isolated experience offered by fast food.

The documentary is directed by Lisa Hurwitz and stars Mel Brooks, Elliott Gould, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Colin Powell, Carl Reiner, Bruce Vilanch, Ed Rendell, Wilson Goode, Stephen Tobolowsky and Howard Schultz.  The screening will be preceded by an Automat-themed party commencing at 12:30 p.m.

For a full schedule and ticket information, visit http://bocajff.org/the-festival/2020-films/