By Susan Schiffman
(Edmonton) – What do an Israeli border guard, a Mexican mural painter and an Indian conductor have in common? They are all characters you will meet at the 23rd Annual Edmonton Jewish Film Festival. Good films bring us characters, stories, and places that come alive in our minds and remain vivid, long after we leave the theatre. This year’s EJFF lineup of films will do just that.
On opening night, in the film Shoelaces, you will be totally charmed by a Gadi, a young Israeli man with special needs, who is struggling to adapt to the loss of his mother and to life with a father he barely knows. Gadi will make you laugh and cry and give you renewed faith in humanity.
On the second night of the festival, in the documentary From Cairo to the Cloud, you will be overcome by the power of history when you “meet” Solomon Schechter and travel with him to Cairo as he discovers the geniza, the extraordinary treasure-trove of Jewish documents hidden for centuries in a synagogue storeroom.
The following week, Ariela, the beautiful Jewish mural artist in the Mexican film Leona, is likely to evoke a mixed response from viewers. While some of you will be drawn to her creativity, curiosity and independence, others will despise her for falling in love with a non- Jewish man, and defying her family and her faith. In contrast, on the next night, Kurt Waldheim, in the film The Waldheim Waltz, will evoke a universal reaction of hatred and revulsion. The wily former Nazi, who, with the help of the Austrian political elite, posed as a world leader and peacemaker, will make everyone’s skin crawl and ears smoke. Yet, with the renewal of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, the film has a very timely warning message that will ring loud and clear to all those who watch it.
Fast forward to the closing night, and you will be joyful again when you see the film Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds. In this film, Zubin Mehta, the boy from Bombay who became Israel’s beloved conductor and musical ambassador, will sweep you away as he heals the world through music. Though Mehta will be present on screen only, you will have the opportunity to meet Alexander Prior, Edmonton’s very own prodigy conductor, in person. Mr. Prior, himself a musical power-house and real-life charmer, will speak after the film and stay for a special dessert reception.
Don’t miss the chance to get to know all of these characters, real and imagined, and many more not mentioned above. Come to the EJFF which runs from May 21 to 30 at the Landmark City Centre Cinemas. Tickets are $12. Sponsorships start at $200.
For the full schedule, go to Jewishedmonton.org.