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October 1, 2014

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Jewish films: Not just stories, links to heritage

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NATIONAL (U.S.) ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION

From the film “The Rape of Europa” to be shown at the Jewish Film Festival on Jan. 27: Adolf Hitler presents Hermann Goering with “The Falconer,” by Hans Makart.

The Films

Summerlin Library Theater

  • “Naked Among Wolves (Nackt Unter Wolfen),” 7 tonight, East Germany, 1963, German with English subtitles, free
  • “My Father My Lord,” 7 p.m. Thursday, Israel, 2007, Hebrew with English subtitles, free
  • “Nina’s Home,” 1 p.m. Friday, France, 2005, French with English subtitles, free
  • “Yippee: A Journey to Jewish Joy,” 7 p.m. Saturday, United States, 2006, free
  • “Aviva My Love,” 1 p.m. Sunday, Israel, 2006, Hebrew with English subtitles, $10
  • “Sweet Mud,” 4 p.m. Sunday, Israel, 2006, Hebrew with English subtitles, $10
  • “Yiddish Theater: A Love Story,” 7 p.m. Sunday, United States, 2006, English and Yiddish with English subtitles, $10

UNLV Student Union Theater

  • “De Bassarabia a Entre Rios,” 1 p.m. Jan. 27, Argentina, 2006, Spanish with English subtitles, free
  • “Rape of Europa,” 4 p.m. Jan. 27, United States, 2006, $10

IF YOU GO

What: Seventh Annual Jewish Film Festival

When and where: Tonight through Sunday at Summerlin Library Theater, 1771 Inner Circle Drive, and Jan. 27 at the UNLV Student Union Theater, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway

Admission: Five of the films are free, but seating is limited and early arrival is suggested; the others are $10

More info: 794-0090; http://desertspace.org/film_festival or 794-0090

For six years, the Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival has drawn capacity crowds to the Century 16 theaters at the Suncoast.

After a change in corporate ownership at Century forced a hunt for a new venue, the festival found a new home at the Summerlin Library. The venue is beautiful, said festival founder Joshua Abbey, though it seats just 300 to the Century’s 400.

And as late as Monday morning, Abbey was scrambling to rent a 15-by-27-foot screen capable of accommodating the festival’s nine films, which will be projected in DVD format.

Oy.

“We tried to find one to rent locally,” he said. “But I got lucky and found this incredible company called The Screen Works from Chicago. Because we’re a nonprofit organization they’re going to give me the whole week for a one-day rental,” Abbey said. He called the people at The Screen Works “supermensches.”

Even with the loss of the festival’s familiar venue, Abbey said he is confident all the screenings will be filled to capacity. Five of the nine films being shown are free, including tonight’s “Naked Among Wolves,” which tells the true story of Buchenwald concentration camp prisoners who risked their lives to hide a young Jewish boy from their Nazi captors.

Free on Saturday is Academy Award-nominated director Paul Mazursky’s “Yippee: A Journey to Jewish Joy,” which observes an expression of spiritual ecstasy by Hasidic Jews who travel to a small Ukrainian town each year to visit the burial place of revered Rabbi Nachman.

“This year, because we were in transition,” Abbey said, “I encouraged presenting sponsors to find individuals to underwrite the costs and offer it for free, just to keep the energy high and to make sure that we didn’t lose any attendance by going to a different venue.”

Presented by Abbey’s Desert Space Foundation and the Jewish Community Center of Southern Nevada, the Las Vegas event is one of at least 65 Jewish film festivals around the world. And the concept, he said, is a growing phenomenon.

“I look at it as part of an intergenerational passing down of the culture through the oral tradition, like how parents will pass their heritage on to their children, keeping the faith and the traditions alive by telling stories,” Abbey said. “In this way, by watching these films with Jewish content, you’re able to get an international scope of personal stories. It personalizes the Jewish experience in a way only film can do.”

Abbey, who is chairman of the Las Vegas Arts Commission, estimates the local Jewish population at 65,000, and notes that it is one of the fastest-growing Jewish communities in the country.

“Maybe a quarter of that population is pretty active -- what they call ‘affiliated,’” he said. “That means they are a member of a temple or participate in supporting one Jewish cause or another, and take an interest in museums and symphony orchestras and so forth.”

One of the goals of the Jewish Film Festival, Abbey said, is to reach out to the large population of Jews in the Las Vegas community “who are ‘unaffiliated.’ Across the country, Jewish film festivals have been very successful at reengaging the unaffiliated and given them a gateway to reengage or participate.

“Jewish film festivals are referred to as the high holidays of the unaffiliated. It’s a way to reconnect with their identity, with their Jewish heritage.”

What makes the Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival unique, Abbey said, is that local synagogues, Jewish agencies and organizations are invited to sponsor individual films. “Each of those pay a participation fee, and they get to keep all the box office proceeds,” Abbey said. “Historically they’ve all been able to generate a profit from participating, and they’re able to promote themselves.”

Two films in the series -- the 2006 Argentine documentary “De Bassarabia a Entre Rios” (1 p.m.) and the 2006 Academy Award shortlisted American documentary “Rape of Europa,” about Nazi plundering of European art treasures, will be shown Jan. 27 at the new UNLV Student Union Theater.

“We got an enormous amount of feedback from people in the Green Valley/Henderson area who wanted to know if it was possible to have a satellite venue for the festival closer to where they live,” Abbey explained, noting that these screenings are presented by Midbar Kodesh Temple and Congregation Ner Tamid and co-sponsored by UNLV Hillel.

“This is a way for their congregants not to have to schlep all the way across town,” Abbey said. “Which for most Las Vegans seems to be a big concern.”

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