Rochester Jewish Film Festival goes virtual!

Rochester Jewish Film Festival goes virtual!

7/5/20. The William and Mildred Levine Building, 1200 Edgewood Avenue [Photo: David Kramer] The Rochester Jewish Film Festival will not be seen at the JCC. It’s gone virtual!

Rochester Jewish Film Festival goes virtual!

by Sid Rosenzweig

With movie theaters across the country (and around the world) currently closed for obvious reasons, film festivals, like concerts, operas, plays, and other performances, have gone virtual.

So, what would have been the special 20th anniversary edition of one of Rochester’s most popular, widely attended film events, the JCC Ames Amzalak Rochester Jewish Film Festival, will instead be a virtual “mini-fest at home.”  It includes six films available for viewing on-line, plus three “film talks,” live discussions via Zoom.

Each year, the festival committee screens a large number of films and chooses the best two dozen or so for the festival. The committee was well into this process when the virus hit, and the six in the mini-fest are among those selected for the now-postponed full festival. Post-film discussions – a chance to meet and talk with people who made a film or are subject experts – are one of the ingredients that makes a film fest special.  The virtual fest will include three of these.

7/5/20. Cinema Theater. 957 S Clinton Avenue. [Photo: David Kramer] The Rochester Jewish Film Festival will not be seen at The Cinema. It’s gone virtual!

You can find complete information on the schedule, ordering tickets, etc., at RJFF.ORG , but here are the most important facts.

The mini-fest begins on July 5.  Buy tickets via the above website.  Then you’ll get an e-mail with a link 1 hour before the film is available to watch. You’ll have 48-hours to watch once each film becomes available. Films can be streamed on any “smart” device: a smart TV, a desktop or laptop computer, a tablet, or even a smart phone. The fest website has all the easy instructions you’ll need.

7/5/20. Little Theater. 240 East Avenue. [Photo: David Kramer] The Rochester Jewish Film Festival will not be seen at The Little Theater. It’s gone virtual!

The films and viewing schedule are:

PICTURE OF HIS LIFE    Sunday, July 5, 4pm – Tuesday, July 7, 4pm

Director: Yonatan Nir, Dani Menkin | Israel | 2019 | 72 min | English, Hebrew, Inuit (w/ subtitles) | Documentary

World renowned wildlife photographer Amos Nachoum has one final photographic dream remaining – to photograph a Polar Bear underwater, while swimming alongside it. The film, produced by Nancy Speilberg and directed by award winning filmmakers Yonatan Nir and Dani Mankin, follows Amos in the Canadian Arctic as he prepares for his ultimate challenge. As the journey unfolds, so does an intimate and painful story of dedication, sacrifice and personal redemption.

Winner Best Audience Award – San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 2019

ZOOM FILM TALK  Monday, July 6, 8pm

Director Dani Menkin in conversation with Rochester’s own Jack Garner

Rochester’s own Jack Garner announcing raffle winners at RoCo’s 2016 6X6 raffle from Tall friends come in handy at RoCo’s 6X6 raffle [Sadly, on Sunday evening, 7/5/20, we learned that Jack passed away at the age of 75.]

A link to join this Zoom webinar will be sent with the film link.

 INCITEMENT    Monday, July 6, 4pm – Wednesday, July 8, 4pm

Director: Yaron Zilberman | Israel | 2019 | 123 min | Hebrew (w/ subtitles) | Narrative

This psychological thriller dramatizes the political and personal motivations behind Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin’s assassination in 1995 by Jewish extremist Yigal Amir. In a carefully researched portrayal, the unsettling tragedy is told through the perpetrator’s eyes.

Israel’s Best Foreign Language film submission – 2020 Academy Awards

Winner Best Film  – 2020 Ophir (Israeli Oscar) Awards


THE CROSSING Tuesday, July 7, 4pm – Thursday, July 9, 4pm

Director: Johanne Helgeland | Norway | 2019 | 90 min | Norwegian (w/ subtitiles)

A WWII story suitable for kids and family viewing?  Sounds impossible, but The Crossing shows how to do it. Led by ten year old Gerda, four Norwegian kids, including her brother Otto and their Jewish friends Sarah and Daniel, must escape to neutral Sweden on their own. But German soldiers are close behind, and Otto has been mesmerized by Nazi propaganda. Exciting, involving, and beautifully photographed in actual locations, The Crossing is both a classic suspense story and an ode to the imagination, resilience, and courage of children.

FIDDLER: MIRACLE OF MIRACLES  Wednesday, July 8, 12:01am – Friday, July 10, 11:59pm    

Director: Max Lewkowicz | USA | 2019 | 90 min | English | Documentary

STOP!   Don’t read this title and say “I’m all Fiddlered out; I don’t need anymore.” That’s what the Festival Committee thought – until they saw the film and, without exception, said “It must be shown.”  Extraordinarily entertaining and informative, it proves how much more there is to the Fiddler story, from the complexity, richness, and relevance of its themes (such as feminism, racism, refugees) to the struggle to get it produced, to what a pain Jerome Robbins could be, to the unexpected universal popularity of this “most Jewish” of shows (it’s been a hit all over Asia).  Upbeat, joyous, just what’s needed now, this is an absolute “must see.”

Audience Choice Award – Toronto JFF 2019

Opening Night Film – San Francisco JFF 2019

ZOOM FILM TALK    Wednesday, July 8, 8pm

JCC CenterStage Artistic Director Ralph Meranto, CenterStage, 10/17/16 [Photo David Kramer from Once again, charmed and challenged at the JCC CenterStage: Church and State

Rochester Native Bruce Sabath (Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish) in conversation with JCC CenterStage Artistic Director Ralph Meranto.

Rochester native Bruce Sabath WILL BE PARTICIPATING, unlike the 1964 elections that Bruce sat out. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Wed, Nov 04, 1964

A link to join this Zoom webinar will be sent with the film link.



Director: Dr. Shari Rogers | USA | 2020 | 95 min | English | Documentary

Protecting life and doing justice are central to Judaism. That’s why, early in the 20th century, Jewish Americans and African-Americans forged a bond to fight for civil rights for all. Through interviews, archival footage, and dramatic narration, this film digs deeply into that relationship, from its birth with the founding of NAACP in 1909, through the turbulent 1960s, to the challenges facing it today.  Obviously timely, this powerful, important documentary must be seen.

ZOOM FILM TALK   Monday, July 13, 8pm

Director Shari Rogers and Producer Lisa Weitzman, moderated by Jack Garner

A link to join this Zoom webinar will be sent with the film link.


DOUZE POINTS   Monday, July 13, 12:01am – Wednesday, July 15, 11:59pm

Director: Daniel Syrkin | Israel, France | 2019 | 90 min | Hebrew, French, English (w/subtitles) | Narrative

We all need a comedy, and this one’s hilarious.  Ingredients: a proud, gay Muslim singer fulfilling his dream of representing France in Europe’s biggest song contest being held this year in Tel Aviv; a bunch of ISIS nogoodniks hellbent on blowing up the show; and crack Mossad agents desperately trying to foil the plot. The result: suspense, laughter, and a chance to sing-along!

Tickets for each show are $12 per household.  But you can also pay $15, which includes $3 donation to Brighton Food Cupboard, or $25, which includes $3 donation to Brighton Food Cupboard and $10 donation to the Rochester Jewish Film Festival.


Full Disclosure Note: Sid Rosenzweig has been on the RJFF committee since its very first year and often introduces films and leads those post-film discussions.

7/5/20. The Dryden Theater is located in the George Eastman Museum at 900 East Avenue. [Photo: David Kramer] The Rochester Jewish Film Festival will not be seen at the Dryden. It’s gone virtual!


Sid Rosenzweig on jacket writing

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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