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Scene Here | local films, festivals, and faces

At Jewish film festival, an expanding universe

“Bulgarian Rhapsody,’’ set in the summer of 1943, is among the festival offerings.
“Bulgarian Rhapsody,’’ set in the summer of 1943, is among the festival offerings. (Boston Jewish Film Festival)

Among the 44 films in the 27th annual Boston Jewish Film Festival are Jewish-themed films in a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction genres, including dramas, comedies, thrillers, and even horror. Not only are some 15 countries represented in this festival, which runs Nov. 4-16 at multiple area venues, but many films depict Jewish life in uncommon places around the globe. Director Ivan Nichev’s “Bulgarian Rhapsody” (Nov. 7 and 8) re-creates Bulgarian Jewish culture in a story of first love and friendship set in the summer of 1943. Director Bazi Gete’s “Red Leaves” (Nov. 7, 8, and 15) is a mostly Amharic-language film that offers a rare look at a contemporary Israeli-Ethiopian community.

“We’ve seen, over the years, in addition to a range of Jewish life through film, a range of Jewish filmmaking,” says the BJFF’s new artistic director, Ariana Cohen-Halberstam. She cites “Jeruzalem,” a horror film from directors Yoav Paz and Doron Paz, about a pair of vacationing American girls who enter one of the “gates of hell” in Jerusalem (it screens Nov. 7 as part of the Coolidge After Midnite series), as a film with appeal for younger audiences. Other offbeat entries in this year’s BJFF include “How to Make Enemies” (Nov. 9 and 16), director Gabriel Lichtmann’s mystery from Argentina about a man who tries to uncover information about the female stranger who stole from him, and “The Man in the Wall” (Nov. 9 and 14), Israeli director Evgeny Ruman’s psychological thriller centered on a couple’s unraveling marriage.

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The BJFF opening-night feature at the Coolidge Corner Theatre is “Apples From the Desert,” directed by Matti Harari and Arik Lubetzky. Moran Rosenblatt stars as Rebecca, a woman who leaves her strict Orthodox home and must re-establish a relationship with her family. Based on the short story by Savyon Leibrecht, it’s part of the BJFF’s People of the Book series of films connected to the written word.

Another film in that series is “Natasha” (Nov. 7 and 12) from Canadian writer-director David Bezmozgis, who will attend the festival. This coming-of-age story about a 16-year-old boy who discovers that his uncle’s 14-year-old stepdaughter led a troubled life in Moscow is based on Bezmozgis’s own debut short story collection.

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Other notable entries in this year’s festival include Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes’s debut film, the Cannes prize-winner “Son of Saul” (Nov. 7). It’s about Saul Auslander (Geza Rohrig, making his screen debut), a Hungarian prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkinau in 1944 and a member of the Sonderkommando, a select group forced to assist the Nazis in the machinery of large-scale extermination. Director Atom Egoyan’s “Remember” (Nov. 7) stars Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau as friends on a cross-country mission to hunt down the sadistic guard who killed their families in Auschwitz and fled Germany after the war.

Writer-director Joey Kuhn will attend the festival with his debut “Those People” (Nov. 8), a coming-of-age tale about a young painter (Jonathan Gordon) on Manhattan’s Upper East Side who’s secretly in love with his childhood best friend (Jason Ralph), the son of a Wall Street criminal (Daniel Gerroll) who’s less-than-accepting of his son’s sexuality. Director Robert Mullan will be in attendance with “Gitel” (Nov. 11) about a beautiful and gifted violinist (Marija Korenkaite) haunted by memories of the murder of her family by Nazis during her childhood in Lithuania.

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The closing-night selection on Nov. 15 at the MFA is “Once in a Lifetime,” French director Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar’s fact-based feature about a history teacher at an inner-city Paris high school who battles student apathy by challenging her class in a national competition on the theme of child victims. Screenwriter and actor Ahmed Dramé will attend and participate in a post-screening discussion.

For more information go to www.bjff.org

Not just for kids

One of the newer local film events, the third annual Boston International Kids Film Festival presented by Filmmakers Collaborative, takes place Nov. 6-8 at the Seaport World Trade Center. Programmed for all ages, the festival offers nearly 80 fiction features, documentaries, shorts, and student-made films from around the world. It kicks off with a block of student films followed by a discussion with the filmmakers. The event also includes workshops in animation and a “Social Media Bootcamp for Parents.”

For more information go to www.filmmakerscollab.org


Loren King can be reached at loren.king@comcast.net.