South Charlotte

Jewish Film Festival offers themes for all faiths

Jeff Turk with Jena Coen. Turk is film selection committee chair for the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival.
Jeff Turk with Jena Coen. Turk is film selection committee chair for the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival.

The Charlotte Jewish Film Festival launches into 2016 with a slate of a dozen films and in-person filmmakers helping create an appeal to a broad audience.

This is the event’s 12th season.

Niche film festivals tend to be tightly scripted affairs, serving targeted audiences with narrowly themed offerings. The Charlotte Jewish Film Festival breaks the mold by presenting films with universal themes such as social justice, family relationships and love – themes that connect people of all faiths and beliefs.

“While we stay true to the mission of the CJFF, illuminating the global Jewish experience, our programming offers an element of surprise that broader audiences have come to expect from us,” said Jeff Turk, film selection committee chair and past CJFF director. “This might be a story that they are unfamiliar with or the opportunity to meet directly with filmmakers, producers and even cast members through our value added programming.”

Turk said the consistent quality of the films is appealing to CJFF film viewers.

“Our committee began screening in June and viewed close to 80 films by the time we selected the final 12 in November,” he said. “These films are new releases, not available on streaming services, and can’t be found elsewhere.

“I’m particularly proud of our lineup this year as we have some truly special films such as ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ the directorial debut of Oscar nominee, Natalie Portman. Our opening night film, ‘Dough,’ features award winning actor Jonathan Pryce (“Game of Thrones”). It is a wonderful story that touches on Jewish/Muslim relations and we will have actor Jerome Holder from the film on hand afterward for a discussion.”

Benjamin Schwartz, director of the CJFF, said filmviewers can expect movies that “make you laugh, cry, and think.”

“We have struck upon the perfect formula for a great cultural event,” Schwartz said. “We have high quality films specially vetted to offer variety not only in terms of genre and narrative but also style and form. Festival goers are also treated to interesting speakers offering insight to the filmmaking process, and multiple access points for our films appealing to those interested in the art form, educational aspect or sheer entertainment – we have it all.”

Schwartz said that the festival has grown dramatically over the past 12 years.

“What started with three screenings with 150 attendees has grown to 28 screenings with more than 5000 in attendance last year,” Schwartz said. “Over time the festival has evolved to year-round programming offering the core series beginning in February, a spring offering at Sensoria, fan appreciation screening in the summer and our ‘FallFlicks’ screenings in the fall.”

Schwartz said the festival has become so popular that he’s fielded calls from those waiting for the festival dates to be set so they can avoid scheduling vacation.

“One super busy couple I know specifically looks forward to the festival for an unbreakable series of date nights,” Schwartz said. “They love sharing the experience together and look forward to it all year long.”

Michael J. Solender is a freelance writer:

Want to go?

The Charlotte Jewish Film Festival will be Feb. 20-March 13. South Charlotte venues are Shalom Park’s Temple Israel and Regal Ballantyne Village Stadium Theaters. Lake Norman area screenings are at Our Town Cinemas in Davidson.

Tickets: $10- $25. Details: .