The Charlotte Jewish Film Festival (CJFF) is celebrating its Bar Mitzvah year, says Jeff Turk, chairman of the CJFF steering committee and curator of films. The 13-year-old festival, held every February, has grown so big and popular, there is now a “little brother” festival in the fall.

While the films are by Jewish directors, two of whom will be in town for the screenings, and focus on Jewish culture, their appeal is universal.

All films are screened at the Ballantyne Village Stadium Theater.

A quick synopsis of four fall films to catch with Charlotte Jewish Film Festival:

“My Hero Brother” In this award-winning Israeli documentary, a group of young people with Down syndrome hike through the Indian Himalayas along with what the film description describes as their “typical” brothers and sisters. The difficult climb results in the hikers forming exceptionally strong bonds – and in the audience becoming collectively verklempt. Director Yonaton Nir will hold a Q&A session after the screening of his little film that packs an emotional punch during its 78 inspiring minutes. Bring tissues. Saturday, Oct. 28 at 7:15 p.m.

“Past Life” – Inspired by a true story, Ari Nesher’s feature film gives viewers a glimpse into what it might be like to be the child of a haunted Holocaust survivor. Two Israeli sisters discover the devastating truth about how their father endured WWII in a film that is part drama and part mystery. The sins of the father are not just visited upon the sons. Saturday, Nov. 4 at 7:15 p.m.

“There Are Jews Here” – This film tackles the notion that Jewish people are clustered in big cities. There are a handful of Jews living in towns like Laredo, Texas and Dothan, Alabama. Documentary filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein examines dwindling Jewish communities in some unlikely and, at times, inhospitable places. According to Turk, in each of the four small towns featured, we get a sense of “people working hard to hang on” and “an understanding of how important a sense of community is.” Lichtenstein will hold a Q&A session after the screening. Saturday, Nov. 11 at 7:15 p.m.

BONUS film! “Jewish American Soldiers: Stories from WWII” – This locally produced documentary tells the stories of Charlotte-area Jewish American World War II veterans who wore the uniform and fought for the Allies, all while often being ostracized because of their religion. One soldier recalls being called ‘Jew Boy’, instead of his real name, by a member of his own company – So much for the band of brothers. Charlotte’s Glenn Fishkin directed the 57-minute documentary about a few good men. It premieres Veterans Day weekend. Sunday, Nov. 12 at 3 p.m.

The three films in the mini-series are each $10, and tickets are available online in advance. Tickets for the fourth (bonus) film are free, but should be reserved in advance.

Learn more at charlottejewishfilm.com. Mark your calendar now for the 14th annual Charlotte Jewish Film Festival. Fourteen films will be screened as part of the festival from Feb. 10 through March 4.  

Photos: CJFF

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