Thirteen-years ago, an optimistic group of Temple Beth Torah members recognized the need in Ventura County for a Jewish Film Festival. They hoped that if they created a special festival, presenting movies not normally shown in commercial venues, people would attend. The beginning was modest, but through these past thirteen years, as word has spread, moviegoers who appreciate art house films and feature documentaries look forward to the annual March festival. This year’s major festival sponsors are Sandra and Jordan Laby.
Opening night, Saturday, March 5, 7 PM, at Ventura’s Regency Theater, will feature the English film, Dough, a heartwarming tale of an aging baker played by Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones) who forms an unlikely friendship with his young Muslim apprentice.
On Sunday, March 6, at 7 PM at Temple Beth Torah, The Festival will offer the West Coast premiere of Raise the Roof. This remarkable documentary chronicles an ambitious ten-year artistic project to reconstruct a 17th century synagogue, destroyed in WWII. Special guest speakers The honorable Counsel General of Poland in Los Angeles, Mariusz Brymora, and local artisan, Al Geller, will discuss the restoration and commemoration of 1000 years of Jewish history in Poland.
The Farewell Party, filmed in Israel, combines comedy and drama in the unlikely setting of an old age home. When a terminally ill friend prevails upon Yehezkel, a mechanical genius, to build a Kevorkian-like suicide machine, the trouble begins. The film provides a thoughtful yet entertaining starting point for discussion of the ethical and humane questions of euthanasia. Following the film, which will be shown at the Regency on Tuesday, March 8, at 7 PM, a lively discussion of the issues raised by the film is anticipated with guest speaker Dr. James Hornstein.
Also screening at the Regency, on Thursday, March 10, is the Dutch-language film (with English subtitles), The Price of Sugar. In the mid-eighteenth century, in the Dutch colony of Suriname, there existed a thriving population of Jewish sugar-plantation owners, descended from Portuguese refugees of the Spanish Inquisition. One of the plantation’s African slaves recounts the story of her life. She and her mistress, born the same day, share a father. Her half-sister, the beautiful daughter of privilege, descends into cruel narcissism when jilted by the man she expects to marry. Filmmaker, Dutch-African Jean Van de Velde’s historic drama, based on a novel by Surinamese writer, Cynthia McLeod, explores the island’s tragic experience of African slavery, with an unsparing look at the savagery, violence and sexual abuse that accompanied it.
From France comes director Alexandre Arcady’s drama, 24 Days, that retells the story of the kidnapping of a young French-Jewish man by a Muslim gang who hold him for ransom. The beautifully made and skillfully acted film illuminates the serious nature of the current wave of European Anti-Semitism. The film will be screened on Saturday afternoon, March 12, at the Regency Theater, at 4 PM.
For more information on The Ventura County Jewish Film Festival, please visit the festival website VCJFF.org.