Returning for its 23rd year, the Denver Jewish Film Festival just announced the largest lineup to date, with a focus on international film and women filmmakers. Running February 6 through the 18 at the Elaine Wolf Theatre, the DJFF’s expansion this year not only includes more films of varying genres, it also is branching out and partnering with other powerhouses in the indie film scene in Denver, like Alamo Drafthouse Sloan’s Lake and the Sie FilmCenter. As with most film festivals, the DJFF’s screenings will be followed up by talkbacks and filmmaker Q&As, to enrich the viewers’ experience of the often subtitled movies.
During the nearly two week festival, there’s a chance to catch 44 films, including documentaries, narratives, shorts, television episodes and even web series. There will be 30 Colorado premieres, 10 Denver premieres and eight films by first-time filmmakers. Of the 44 films, 13 come from women filmmakers who tackle everything from Hasidic volunteer ambulances in Brooklyn (93Queen) to a movie about autism with a cast of non-professional actors with autism (Keep the Change).
During the first weekend, two films — one a feature length and the other a short preceding it — on Friday night are by women filmmakers that touch on stories associated with the Holocaust. The feature-length documentary is Nana by 25-year-old director Serena Dykman, who sets out on a journey with her mother to retrace the steps of her grandmother — a survivor of Ravensbruck, Malchow and Auschwitz. Dykman’s grandmother not only survived, but she was also forced to translate for notorious “Angel of Death” Josef Mengele. Nana, although it will be premiering in Denver for the first time during the DJFF, has won 15 audience and documentary awards at other international festivals before coming to Colorado. The short film before Nana shares some traits with the feature-length documentary, in that the filmmaker’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor with a captivating and horrifying story. Oma is directed by Daniella Rabbani and stars the ever-lovely Lynn Cohen (Walden, Sex and the City).
Altogether, the DJFF represents 18 countries with nine award-winning films — which means that viewers have the opportunity to watch films that may never stream on Netflix or Hulu. And these films aren’t just weird indie films (well, not all of them at least), they are movies that continue to change the perception of “going to the movies” from mindless entertainment to deeply-moving cinematic arts. Beyond the scope of cinema, the DJFF also presents viewers with a variety of takes on Jewish culture, Jewish history and how both of those intertwine to create the vastly different landscapes of contemporary Jewish life.
Among those from outside the US, there are four featured films in the festival that were submitted as Foreign Language Films for the 2019 Academy Awards — Sobibor (Russia), The Cakemaker (Israel), The Waldheim Waltz (Austria) and The Interpreter (Slovakia). These screenings are especially the right way to catch films you may hear about but never actually see for rent or screening at your typical movie theater.
The opening night of the festival on Wednesday, February 6 includes a VIP reception at the JCC Mizel Arts and Culture Center starting at 6 p.m., with The Last Suit screening after. That film follows an older Jewish tailor who travels to his original birthplace of Poland after living in Buenos Aires. After that, all screenings of films are available for individual purchase or through a festival-long pass.
“The Denver Jewish Film Festival provides an opportunity for anyone in the greater Denver community – people of all faiths and backgrounds, film lovers and international film buffs – to watch a variety of one-of-a-kind movies that are not available in other theaters in Colorado,” said Steve Wilson, executive artistic director of the JCC Mizel Arts and Culture Center. And at this time in our country, a couple weeks of unity despite faith, background or political stance might be just what the doctor ordered.
For more information, the full festival lineup and to purchase tickets, go here.