Yesterday, I went to movie at the 10th Ames-Amzalak Rochester Jewish Film Festival. I went on yet another one of these very long beautiful summer days where I have hours of time all to myself.
Just like last week’s “too much kid free time on my hands” list, I did do some cooking and some heavy-duty cleaning of my kids bedrooms. Then, I heard the voice of Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society in my head: “Seize the Day.”
At some point, I did rationalize away the indulgent thought of going to a movie, in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day, all by myself. My husband was working hard in his windowless office all week. Who am I to go out and enjoy a film, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week? After all, any movie shown at the Festival, between now and August 2, I can eventually see on a DVD rental.
But I went. And I enjoyed.
The movie, an Israeli film called Eli & Ben, was set in Hezliyah. Here is the first reason why you should go to a film festival. These movies are hand-picked by diversely populated committees that sift out the best films : Film festival films offer the opportunity to learn about the geography and culture of another part of the world.
How many movies do you know that are set in Herzliya, a coastal town in Israel? How much do you know about Israel outside what you hear on the news? Because of the Jewish Film Festival, I have seen movies set in the mystical city of Tzefat, hip Tel Aviv, a kibbutz, or spiritual Jerusalem.
Foreign film festivals allow you to improve language skills. After viewing enough movies in Hebrew, I start to recognize sentence and verb structure that I hadn’t thought about since college. I only wish that when I visit Israel everyone can walk around with subtitles.
But the main reason is the communal feeling you get from going to the theatre. Remember how I said I went alone? I really wasn’t alone. As I settled into my seat at the JCC, I was flanked by two friends that I had met there by complete chance. It couldn’t have worked out better if it was planned. Unlike going to a commercial theatre, film festival theatres are filled with the pre-film chatter and schmoozing and catching up with friends. The film was then personally announced by the festival’s chairperson. Sometimes, the director himself may be present to introduce the film or answer questions afterwards. During the film, I sat with an audience completely engaged with what was on the screen. Our emotions played off one another as we laughed, sighed or gasped in unison. If I Netflixed the same film, I most likely would have zonked out on the couch before it was even over.
Here is a list of movies I have enjoyed at Jewish Film Festivals through the years. True, most people, even pass holders, are not fortunate to see all of them on film. Whatever ethnic, racial or other niche you find yourself in, go see a good film in the company of others.
Here is a list of just some of the films I have seen thanks to the Rochester Jewish Film Festival. To see descriptions of these movies, or an archive from past film festivals, go to www.rjff.org
- Ben & Eli
- Walk on Water
- The Syrian Bride
- A Late Marriage
- Live and Become
- Lemon Tree
- Close to Home
- The Case for Israel