The JCC of the North Shore’s International Jewish Film Festival will be celebrating its diamond anniversary in style, according to Sara Ewing, the JCC’s adult program director.
“This truly is our best festival yet,” said Ewing, who also oversees the festival’s selection committee. “We have an incredible lineup of excellent films from Israel, the U.S. and France.”
Spanning three weeks, the International Jewish Film Festival features 10 thoughtfully chosen films from around the world, all inspired by and exploring Jewish history, culture and values.
From moving and intimate documentaries to sweeping historical dramas and giddy, slapstick romantic comedies, there’s something for everyone, Ewing promised.
The Jewish Film Festival opens Tuesday, May 2 with the apt and winning documentary, “Only in Theaters,” which explores a fourth-generation, family-run movie theater in Los Angeles that screens high-quality foreign films.
The festival closes May 24 with the stirring “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song.”
This year, the Jewish Film Festival will be situated exclusively at Cinema Salem.
“We are hoping that being in a larger city like Salem will bring in a bigger audience,” Ewing said. “Cinema Salem is a much larger and newly renovated space boasting brand new, comfortable seats.”
In addition, some films will have speakers present for post-screening Q&A sessions, and seven of the films will be available for streaming.
The closing night film also offers an ice cream sundae reception and a discussion led by Rabbi Michael J. Schwartz of Temple Sinai in Marblehead.
“One of the missions of the JCC is to create community and bring Jewish-themed cultural events to the North Shore,” said Karen Robinson, director of public relations and marketing for the JCC of the North Shore. “This is a popular, signature event, and we get great crowds which bring together all people — Jewish and non-Jewish.”
Ewing nodded in agreement.
“Our numbers for the film festival attendance are always very high. Film is a very accessible art form. It’s a low barrier: All you need to do is show up,” Ewing said. “You don’t have to read a book. It’s a great way to start important conversations. Some films are provocative, but that’s OK because it provides a platform for discussion and that’s what our festival is all about.”
Robinson added, “If you bring people together and create a community around the film, it’s a community that wouldn’t have normally come together otherwise. We have found that some of our movie participants will go out for coffee afterward and talk about what the film meant to them. And we love that about the festival.”
In an effort to attract a younger demographic, the screening committee selected a film geared toward “the 50-and-under crowd,” said Ewing.
“Typically, we have films that appeal to older crowds,” she said. “This romantic comedy, ‘Israel, Our Story,’ screening Saturday, May 13, will hopefully bring in a younger crowd. We want to groom the next generation of moviegoers and supporters of the film festival to keep it going.”
Putting together an annual film festival is no small feat, Ewing and Robinson agree. During the COVID years, they moved the entire festival online. As life slowly returns to normal after the devastation of a two-year global pandemic, Robinson and Ewing are hopeful that people will return to the festival.
“We want to bring everyone back in person this year,” Ewing said. “Post-COVID, it’s harder to bring people out to sit in movie theaters together once again.”
Asked what qualities the winning 10 films share, Ewing responded, “We are looking for diversity in films — comedies, documentaries, history, films that look at the Holocaust — and appeal to different audiences, older and younger generations, some lighter, some heavier. Some with subtitles, some without. Some with music, like the Leonard Cohen documentary. We try to close the festival with an uplifting film that has some kind of relationship to Jewish history, art and culture.”
The JCCNS 10th Annual International Jewish Film Festival runs Tuesday, May 2, through Wednesday, May 24, at Cinema Salem and streaming. For tickets, film descriptions and information, visit JCCNS.ORG.