2016 Maine Jewish Film Festival Had Something for Everyone!

Posted by Leah on 3/21/2016 9:48:51 AM

        It’s official! The 19th annual Maine Jewish Film Festival is in the books. The week long festival showed some 30 films across 7 venues throughout the state of Maine, featured 5 special guests and included numerous discussion panels.

                Having never been to a specialty film festival, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I wasn’t sure if, because I’m not Jewish, I would feel excluded, or if the films wouldn’t appeal to me, or be relatable overall. It turns out I had nothing to fear. When I took my seat in the Portland Museum of Art for my first film of the festival, the festival’s motto was displayed prominently on the screen,“When it comes to great films, we all speak the same language!” That motto alone allowed me to feel at ease and to throw any preconceptions out the window.

                Unfortunately, because Portland is an hour and a half or so drive for me, I didn’t get to see as many films as I’d hoped, (never mind making it to any of the satellite locations!). I ended up attending the screenings of four films across two days. Now I know at this point you’re probably thinking, “Four films couldn’t possibly give you any sort of real sense of what MJFF is about!” Here I think you’d be both right and wrong. You’d be right in the sense that it’s true; I didn’t get to experience ALL that MJFF had to offer, (especially since I missed both the opening and closing ceremonies, which usually set the tone for a festival as a whole). You’d be wrong in the sense that I did get a decent taste and some real perspective of what the festival is all about.

The four films I was able to see varied from dramedy, to straight drama, to documentary to docudrama. Two were from England, two were Israeli.  One, Sabena Hijacking: My Version detailed and dramatized the 1972 account of the hijacking of Sabena Flight 571 from recently found tapes made by the pilot of the flight, after the ordeal. The film included testimonies of many of the people that were involved in the both the resolution of the hijacking, and the hijacking itself, including Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu and even two of the hijackers themselves! Having been born after the event occurred, I had never heard of it, but now that I’ve seen the film I can’t believe it hasn’t been made into a movie before.

The documentary I saw was The Green Park: Tales from a Jewish Hotel. Its focus was the forty year history of The Green Park Hotel in England. According to the film’s website, www.GreenParkMemories.com,“The hotel was owned by the charismatic Ruby Marriott, his wife Sarah, and her four unmarried sisters. They all lived together in a single flat opposite the hotel. Knowing that Jews had a great capacity to eat and to complain, they made sure that both the food and the service were of the highest standard. They created an environment where, even for a weekend, their guests were able to touch Jewish life, go to synagogue, eat, sing, dance and, most importantly, laugh, with people of the same faith, culture and background.” To me the saddest part about the film was that the historic hotel was torn down in order to build apartment buildings. It seems that the tearing down of historical structures in the name of “progress” isn’t only an American problem, but a worldwide problem, and that really hit home for me.

I will have complete reviews of the other two films I saw, The Farewell Party and Orthodox, for you soon, so stay tuned!

I hope that my experience with MJFF has emboldened you to check out more specialty film festivals, including this one next year. If not you are depriving yourself of the countless terrific films other countries and cultures have to offer. And remember, as MJFF says, “When it comes to great films, we all speak the same language.”

For more information about the Maine Jewish Film Festival, click here. For information about the upcoming New Hampshire Jewish Film Fest click here,  and  for the Boston Jewish Film Festival click here.