It’s Film Festival Season

by Apr 1, 2022Events, North Brunswick

Wilmington Jewish Film Festival features six movies and several shorts between April 24 and May 5.

The Automat, a 5-star rated documentary featuring funnyman Mel Brooks, may be the most anticipated film at the 8th annual Wilmington Jewish Film Festival (WJFF) this spring. The short film contains the most notable names in this year’s offerings.

The six feature films and shorts selected for the festival cross the scope of drama to comedy and will be viewed at Thalian Hall between April 24 and May 5.

Film-selection committee co-chair Mimi Kessler believes historians, especially those from the Northeast, where Automats were popular, will love the film that revisits the unique cafeterias that were once a staple in New York City. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Kessler explains: “Several big cities had these cafeterias with rows of food in glass compartments on the wall where you would go with a nickel or dime and select food such as sandwiches, burgers, pie, or coffee for about 10 cents to a quarter.”

2022 Wilmington Jewish Film Festival

The Horn and Hardart Automats began in 1902 in Philadelphia, and they grew to have about 180 vending-style cafes in the North and were featured in a few films. That Touch of Mink with Cary Grant and Doris Day shows several minutes of Automat footage.

Kessler thinks the Wilmington crowd will enjoy this look back at Americana.

“I think it is going to be a favorite at the festival for anyone over 60, and there are so many people here from the northeast who may remember them,” she says.

Kicking off the festival is Persian Lessons, a thriller set in 1942 and filmed in German with English subtitles. The film employs an ingenious trick to keep a man alive, but will the teacher be caught out?

WJFF 2022

The film Greener Pastures takes a comedic look at the use of medicinal marijuana in a retirement home. It is filmed in Hebrew with English subtitles.

Kessler says the film-selection committee aims to provide a broad offering of films to entice the greater Wilmington viewing public.

Some films have A-list stars, some European stars, and as in The Automat, not all content is Jewish, but has nostalgic sentiment.

“Our attendance is growing; Wilmington has plenty of people who love film,” Kessler says. “Most of our festival films have won international awards. Not all are subtitled; there are some in English.”

Love and Mazel Tov

The other feature films include a romantic comedy; a documentary of a 98-year-old holocaust survivor who survived three concentration camps; and a documentary of a man’s transformation from Mormon to Jew.

Proceeds from the WJFF help to underwrite future festivals and an outreach program in the community. In the past, WJFF has shown a film of historic reference to high school students. The films often show the courage of young people facing overwhelming odds, as in Fanny’s Journey, a true story based on Jewish children hoping to reach neutral Switzerland.

Want to go?
Wilmington Jewish Festival 2022 Showcase:
Sunday, April 24 at 3 pm Persian Lessons (drama)
Monday, April 25 at 7 pm Greener Pastures (comedy)
Wednesday, April 27 at 7 pm I Am Here (biographic documentary)
With bonus short Ismail’s Dilemma (drama)
Sunday, May 1 at 3 pm The Automat (documentary)
Sunday, May 1 at 7 pm Love and Mazel Tov (romantic comedy)
With bonus short The Shabbos Goy (comedy)
Monday, May 2 at 7 pm Latter Day Jew (documentary)
Bonus Film Online: May 3 to 5 1947 Exodus (PBS documentary)

Tickets are sold for individual shows through Thalian Hall Box Office. A complete festival pass for all six shows may be purchased at a discount for $54 through the Jewish Film Festival website:”jff. The bonus film celebrating Israel Independence Day, 1947 Exodus, will be accessible online for 72 hours and is free for anyone. Visit the WJFF site for full descriptions of the films and a link to movie trailers.