Jewish identity across generations and continents is a hallmark of the Boston Jewish Film Festival, which celebrates its 31st year Nov. 6-17 at venues throughout the city. Several films offer looks both comedic and dramatic at younger people as they wrestle with Jewish identity, past and present.
Actor Justin Long and writer-director Daniel Schechter will be in attendance on opening night for a conversation following their ensemble dramedy, “Safe Spaces” (7 p.m., Coolidge Corner Theatre). It focuses on the messy lives of the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of a beloved matriarch (Lynn Cohen) who is dying in a New York hospital. Between bedside visits, Josh (Long), who teaches creative writing at a local college, deals with the fallout from his in-class comments about a student’s work and ongoing squabbles with his siblings (Kate Berlant and Michael Godere) while their divorced parents (Fran Drescher and Richard Schiff) face their own difficulties in letting go and moving on.
The struggles of third-generation Jewish families figure prominently in “My Polish Honeymoon” ( Nov. 7, 7 p.m., Brattle Theatre; Nov. 9, 6:30 p.m., Museum of Fine Arts) about a Parisian couple, Anna and Adam (Judith Chemla and Arthur Igual), who travel to Poland for a ceremony commemorating the destruction of Adam’s grandfather’s village during the Holocaust. As a hoped-for romantic getaway slowly turns into a journey of self-discovery, the film examines uneasy relationships with the past — Anna complains that her own Polish grandmother never revealed anything about what she went through — as they visit markets that sell kitschy, Jewish-themed souvenirs. Both screenings will be followed by a conversation with director Elise Otzenberger.
The thoroughly modern teenagers in “Flawless” (Nov. 9, 6:30 p.m., Emerson Paramount) deal with their identities in many complicated ways, including pervasive online versions of themselves. Transgender student Eden (Stav Strashko), a new arrival at a Jerusalem high school, gradually befriends two other 17-year-olds, Mika (Netsanet Mekonnen) and Keshet (Noam Lugasy), whose quest for popularity, “perfect” bodies, and prom dates leads them into an online scam to sell their organs on the black market. Filmmakers Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit manage an original coming-of-age cautionary tale that’s sharp-witted and provocative.
Finding dark humor in unexpected places is also the strength of director Aliza Rosen’s documentary “Latter Day Jew” (Nov. 12, 7 p.m., Somerville Theatre) about gay comedian, ex-Mormon from Missouri, and cancer survivor H. Alan Scott. At 34 he decides after a lifelong interest in all things Jewish to convert to Judaism. Scott joins a group of 12-year-olds as he prepares for his bar mitzvah, travels to Israel, and talks about his decision with family and friends, including comic Judy Gold. The film humorously and movingly examines questions about faith and identity. Scott and producer Kelly Woyan will be on hand for a post-screening discussion.
Not just for kids
Viewers of all ages are welcome to enjoy the more than 80 films made by, for, or about kids in the seventh annual Boston International Kids Film Festival, running Nov. 15-17 at the Capitol Theatre, in Arlington, the Somerville Theatre, and Lesley University College of Art and Design. Besides numerous short films screening in blocks for various age groups, the BIKFF presents several notable features, including “Under Pressure” (Nov. 17, 3:30 p.m., Somerville). Created by the 2019 senior class at Four Rivers Charter Public School, in Greenfield, the 45-minute documentary explores the aftermath of the Columbia Gas explosion in the Merrimack Valley in September 2018.
Director Ryan Gielen’s “My Beautiful Stutter” (Nov. 16, 1 p.m., Somerville) follows five kids, ages 9 to 18 from all over the United States, who stutter. After experiencing years of bullying and stigmatization, they connect with other youth at an interactive arts-based program, the Stuttering Association for the Young, in New York.