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Festival brings foreign films to town

by Amy Kingsley

The Triad Jewish Film Festival committee, Deborah Kintzing says with a smile, is a good panel to serve on… if you like movies.

This cheery assessment was tested last February when Kintzing, the director of campaigns and community relations for the Greensboro Jewish Federation, traveled to Jewish Cinema South and engaged in a marathon version of what is usually a much more leisurely pursuit. At the convention, which brought together representatives from Southern cities that host Jewish film festivals, Kintzing surveyed all or part of 40 films during a three-day stretch. From the moment she took her first cup of coffee until she entered her hotel room at night, Kintzing watched or talked movies.

Fortunately for Greensboro film fans, Kintzing and the other committee members will not be demanding such endurance for the 5th annual Triad Jewish Film Festival. Kintzing, along with committee chair Ellen Samet and Rachel Wolf and a slew of volunteer screeners, narrowed dozens of options down to four films to be shown over two weekends. Under the banner of “Diversity,” the committee assembled a black comedy, two dramas and one uplifting Holocaust film, all of which would be unlikely to otherwise grace Greensboro movie screens.

“It really is an opportunity to see well-made foreign films,” Kintzing says.

The festival will open on Feb. 15 with The Aryan Couple, a 2004 film shot on location in Poland starring Martin Landau. Landau plays a Jewish industrialist who barters with the Nazis to ensure his family’s safe passage out of Hungary.

The next film in the series is Live and Become, a critically-acclaimed drama about an Ethiopian boy who disguises himself as a Jew so he can be airlifted out of his famine-stricken homeland. The film is based on historical events; in 1984 the Israeli government evacuated tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews during “Operation Moses.” The resettlement of Africans into an country that was at that time largely settled by Jews of European descent caused significant social upheaval and controversy, all of which are dealt with in the film. Live and Become won the top prize at the Copenhagen International Film Festival in 2005.

Another prizewinner, Go for Zucker will follow on the drama’s heels and is a black comedy that won six Lola awards, the German equivalent of an Oscar, in 2005. The Syrian Bride, a drama about a Druze woman’s impending nuptials, will close the festival on Feb. 24.

Committee members are pleased with the final lineup, Kintzing says, but are also disappointed that the festival could not accommodate more films on different formats.

“There were some sad faces when we voted out some films,” Wolf said.

Community interest in the festival has been strong, Kintzing says. The Greensboro Jewish Federation has already sold almost 100 tickets to The Aryan Couple. The federation does not make any money off the festival, Kintzing says, and is lucky to break even.

“We like doing something for our community,” Kintzing says. “This is just something, culturally, we can do for our community.”

In the past the community has engaged with the festival. One elementary school started a Holocaust memorial inspired by the documentary Paper Clips, a Miramax film which had its Southern premiere at the festival several years ago.

This year there are no formal agreements with schools, but the organizers say they hope the films will start a dialogue.

Inside the walls of the Greensboro Jewish Federation, they already have.

“It was really interesting to see how subjective viewers’ responses to the films were,” Kintzing said. “One person would bring in a movie and say ‘I can’t get past the first two minutes,’ and another would say, ‘You have to, I loved that movie!'”

To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at amy@yesweekly.com

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