Jewish Film Festival celebrates 20 years

By: Maddie Forshee | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published April 13, 2018

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — This year, there is something for everyone at the 20th annual Detroit Jewish Film Festival. 

The Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit will present its annual film festival April 15-26. 

The festival was scheduled to open Sunday afternoon with the feature “Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me,” followed by “Wendy’s Shabbat” and “Humor Me.” 

The opening evening was slated to mark a speaker event with playwright Paula Vogel after a viewing of the film adaptation of the Broadway play “Indecent.” 

“We have a few special events,” said Eric Lumberg, chair of the film festival. “We are showing a filmed version of a Broadway play, and the playwright is coming to talk about it. It’s an amazing play. ... It feels like you’re watching a stage show.” 

Lumberg said that films will be shown in new locations as well. For example, “Doing Jewish: A Story from Ghana” will be shown at Repair the World in Detroit to expand the community watching the films.

“We’ve been trying to expand a little every year and try to attract new people,” he said.

The film festival will host a retro night with a screening of “Blazing Saddles” at 9:30 p.m. April 21.

The festival will feature foreign films, dramas, comedies and more that everyone in the community can enjoy, as well as “talkbacks” and discussions with actors, producers and directors, organizers said.

“This is a chance to see some amazing movies that will not be available any other way,” said Lumberg. “A few of them might be available on some services, but the majority are never going to be (available otherwise).” 

This year, the festival will offer a subcategory, the “Taste of Reel Abilities,” two movies about disabilities brought to the festival by the Opening the Doors special-needs program at the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit.  

“No Ordinary Hero: The SuperDeafy Movie” and “At Eye Level” both deal with the topic of disabilities, and both film showings will host the lead actors for discussions after the screenings.

“The actors or the storyline is dealing with people with disabilities in different situations,” said Ellen Maiseloff, director of the Opening the Doors program. “(The movies) try to celebrate the character who has these abilities and how they want to be treated like everyone else and share the same human experience. It’s all about embracing, celebrating and engaging an audience so they have a better understanding and better awareness of the topic.” 

John Maucere, who plays SuperDeafy in “No Ordinary Hero,” will speak after the film screening at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 22. Jordan Prentice portrays Tom in “At Eye Level,” which will be shown at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 26; a discussion will follow that screening. 

“This is an opportunity to see something very different and new, something that’s really compelling and interesting,” said Lumberg. 

Tickets for the Detroit Jewish Film Festival cost $10 for non-JCC members and $8 for members. Screenings will be held at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts, 6600 W. Maple Road in West Bloomfield, unless otherwise noted.

Ticket information, a lineup and more can be found at www.detroitjewishfilmfestival.com.