Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival Returns April 4-18, 2013


Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival Returns– April 4-18, 2013


Pioneer Valley—A pharmacist dispenses Woody Allen film therapy along with customers’ medications; a deadly search for a long lost Michelangelo art work turns friends into enemies; Muslims take dangerous measures to shelter Jews; a stirring Romeo and Juliet tale reaches across a divide of hate and history; Israeli and Palestinian teens switched at birth confront their values and beliefs; and a cult classic coming of age tale takes us back to summer in the Catskills.


This year’s Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival (PVJFF) will once again take audiences on the most unexpected adventures.     The Festival, now in its eighth year, offers a menu of 20 award-winning international films carefully selected from new releases as well as audience favorites from top films festivals around the world, most of which would never be screened locally.  For two weeks, in eight towns, Valley audiences can expect to be entertained, educated, and inspired by some of the best in contemporary Jewish cinema.


The festival offers more than just movies!  Twelve films will be accompanied by introductions, panel discussions, and conversations with local scholars and content experts, including:

·         A masterful tale of The Other Son (April 6 at Smith College; April 9 at Western New England University);

·         Documentary double-header, profiling two masters of the graphic novel form in The Art of Spiegelman and Joann Sfar Draws from Memory (April 4 at Mt. Holyoke College);

·         Besa: The Promise (April 16 at Elms College in Chicopee), not only records the fascinating history of Albanian Muslims who rescue Jewish neighbors but also an unexpected personal drama during the filming of a documentary.  An interfaith panel discussion follows;

·         The stirring feature film, Melting Away, and the first by an Israeli filmmaker to address issues of transgendered people and their families (April 16 at the Academy of Music);

·         Investigative documentary, Portrait of Wally, will be introduced by an authority on provenance—the ownership history of stolen art during WWII (April 14 at the Springfield Museums);

·         A panel presentation following Two Who Dared, the dramatic account of a Unitarian minister and his wife who undertake a dangerous assignment to help save thousands during WWII (April 17 at Yiddish Book Center).


The Festival also has several special events planned during its season, including:

·         A commemoration of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, with two screenings of Orchestra of Exiles (April 7 in Northampton; April 8 in Springfield).  Smith College Hillel students will conduct a brief ceremony at the earlier screening and student musicians at Springfield College will perform before the second show in Springfield.

·         One of last year’s audience favorites, David, returns as an afternoon matinee (April 7, Northampton, 1:00pm).  A kosher buffet lunch before the film will be available for sale starting at 12:00 along with games and post-film discussion and activities to engage kids ages 8 and up.

·         A “Friends of the Festival” benefit party will follow the sneak preview screening of national sensation Hava Nagila (The Movie).    A higher priced ticket will include admission to the 2:00pm matinee (April 14 at Amherst Cinema) and entry to the party.


The Festival offers several opportunities to schmooze over food.  Receptions accompany Life in Stills (April 13 in Longmeadow), and the Midfest Celebration screening of Paris-Manhattan at the Basketball Hall of Fame on April 11.  Both films at Greenfield Cinemas will offer a pre-film nosh at 6:30 before those films start at 7:00pm (Bottle in the Gaza Sea on April 8 and Paris-Manhattan on April 18).


By popular request, seven films will be shown twice in different locations to accommodate audiences’ interests:  A Bottle in the Gaza Sea (Longmeadow, Greenfield), Hava Nagila (Amherst, Springfield), Life in Stills (Longmeadow, Northampton), My Best Enemy (Springfield, Amherst), The Other Son (Northampton, Springfield), Paris-Manhattan (Greenfield, Springfield), and Orchestra of Exiles (Northampton, Springfield).


Other films to be screened at the festival include Hollywood-style thriller, My Best Enemy; the delightful documentary and audience favorite world wide, Life in Stills; the riveting story of Jews who remain in Germany after the war, Jealous of the Birds;  1980s cult classic Dirty Dancing; and the story of an unlikely friendship in the award-winning German feature Kaddish for a Friend.


Collectively, the films showcase the rich diversity in the global Jewish community, and offer the audience an opportunity to reflect on universal themes as viewed through the lens of Jewish story-telling. There is something for everyone in this year’s festival: thoughtful documentaries about faith, art, and history; nail-biting action; moving dramas; and distinctive coming-of-age stories. PVJFF presents films from France, England, Austria, Poland, Germany, and Israel, as well as half a dozen American offerings.


Five film programs are free thanks to the underwriting by the hosts of those programs. Tickets to all events can be purchased at the door, as available. Tickets to some events may be purchased in advance in person or by phone at the Springfield JCC (1160 Dickinson Street, Springfield; 413-739-4715). Tickets at Amherst Cinema and Greenfield Cinemas are only available through those theaters’ box offices. Most films are $9; student/senior price is $7.  Four-packs and patron passes available. Check the website for details:


PVJFF is co-presented by the Springfield Jewish Community Center and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, with the support of the following major sponsors: Consulate General of Israel to New England; Create a Jewish Legacy; Davis Financial Group; Massachusetts Cultural Council and the local cultural councils of Amherst, Buckland, Chicopee, Longmeadow, Northampton, Shelburne, South Hadley, and Springfield; Sapirstein & Sapirstein, Attorneys at Law; Totsy Foundation. Media sponsors include: The Daily Hampshire Gazette, The Jewish Ledger, Reminder Publications, The Republican, The Valley Advocate, and radio sponsors NEPR/WNNZ and WRSI/WHMP.

Photo courtesy of taken from Woody Allen; A Documentary.