On Feb. 20th, the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival kicks off their 12th season with a slate of a dozen films screening in multiple venues over three weeks. Maturing from their humble origins of 3 screenings and a weekend attendance of 150, the CJFF has burgeoned with 28 screenings and more than 5,000 in attendance last year.

Five reasons to go:

(1) There will be rare, high quality films not available elsewhere.

Our films are new releases, not available on streaming services, and can’t be found elsewhere,” says Jeff Turk, CJFF film selection committee chair. “I’m particularly proud of our lineup this year as we have some truly special films such as “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” the directorial debut of Oscar nominee, Natalie Portman.”

(2) You will experience an eclectic, complimentary film grouping selected to illuminate. 

Film festivals are offered with the idea that the assemblage should equal considerably more than the sum of their individual parts. “Our committee began screening in June and viewed close to 80 films by the time we selected the final 12,” said Turk.

The tagline of the festival is, “Films that will make you laugh, cry and think.” A broad spectrum of films help illuminate the Jewish experience, the festival mission. Comedies like “Serial Bad Weddings” show the lighter side of interfaith marriage while “Surviving Skokie” is an intensely personal documentary about the impact of a proposed neo-Nazi march in a Chicago area neighborhood, home to 7000 Holocaust survivors.

(3) There will be superb value-added programming supplementing films.

Festival goers will be treated to pre- or post-film discussions with writers, directors, actors or those otherwise associated with several of the festival’s films. “Rock in the Red Zone’s” star, Avi Vaknin, will be on hand to perform live after the Feb. 21 film screening and also discuss the unlikely confluence of events that led him to forming a Rock band in the middle of a war-torn Israeli border town.

Documentary filmmaker Eli Adler will be on hand for an audience talk after the Feb. 24 screening of “Surviving Skokie.”

Breakfast at Ina’s” director Mercedes Kane and star Ina Pinkney invite you to join them for noshes made from Ina’s own recipes after the Feb. 28 showing.

Breakfast at Ina’s Movie Trailer from Daisy May Films on Vimeo.

 Check the full schedule of events here.

(4) Films are great date opportunities.

“One super busy couple I know specifically looks forward to the festival for an unbreakable series of date nights,” said Benjamin Schwartz, CJFF executive director. “They love sharing the experience together and look forward to it all year long.”

(5) You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy.

Do you eat Chinese food? How about Thai, Italian or Ethiopian food? I think you get my point. In capturing the Jewish experience, these films are emblematic of the human experience. With regards to fundamental human values such as family, security, belonging and freedom of religion, the Jewish experience is akin to that of many other faiths and peoples.

Photo: Peter Safir

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