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Monday, May 20, 2024

UF Center for Jewish Studies unveils annual film festival

Twelve films will be showcased at the Gainesville Jewish Film Festival 

The UF Bud Shorstein Center for Jewish Studies, at the Hippodrome State Theatre and Oak Hammock, will present its 13th annual Gainesville Jewish Film Festival throughout March. It will feature 12 film screenings about the Jewish experience and culture around the world.

The festival has been spearheaded by Jack Kugelmass, the former director of the Bud Shorstein Center for Jewish Studies, for the last 13 years. He curates its selection of films from those shown at the Jerusalem Film Festival

“I wanted to bring (those films) to the campus community,” Kugelmass said.

Kugelmass selects films that have been released in the last three years, focusing on the most current releases. Some years he selects films with a common theme, he said, while other years are more varied.

“The strong point of the festival is to speak to the diversity of the Jewish experience over space and time,” Kugelmass said. “It is not just religious types and it is not just secular types.”

All the films are followed by discussions with the audience. Each film will be facilitated by a UF faculty member whose specialty is aligned with the theme of the film, most of whom are professors from the Bud Shorstein Center.

Norman JW. Goda, a UF professor and director at the Bud Shorstein Center, is moderating the discussion of the festival's first film. He said he anticipates the audience to respond impressively to the caliber of the selection of films.

“It is one of the best Jewish film festivals in the country because it chooses provocative films from all over the world, intended to bring discussion aside from just entertaining,” Goda said. “Filmmakers have said this.” 

Roy Holler, an assistant UF professor of Israel studies, is a film specialist who designs and teaches Israeli film classes. He will be leading the discussion for the documentary, “1341 Frames of Love and War,” March 26. 

“The conversations at the end of the screenings are always fascinating,” Holler said. “We always have knowledgeable people in the audience who are able… to give another perspective.”

Holler looks forward to coming to the film festival every year with his family. He appreciates both the diversity of the film selection and the audience it attracts, he said.

“There's always an exciting selection that brings a plethora of Jewish identities, Jewish cultures, Jewish languages and ethnicities,” Holler said. “[The festival] sees a microcosm of the Jewish community in Gainesville, students who are interested in Jewish Studies and film lovers.”

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One film, “The Partisan with A Leica Camera,” uncovers the story of Mundek Lukawiecki and his wife Hannah Bern, who were commanders of a Polish partisan group during the Holocaust. It is the 2023 Best Documentary under 60 Minutes award nominee at the Israeli Film Academy.

Ruth Walk, Israeli cinematographer and the film’s director, said she was inspired by a still picture of Lukawiecki taken on his camera. She unveiled the story with the couple’s 65-year-old son Simon, who only discovered his parents’ past when researching it for the film.

“It's important to us in the present to know those heroes,” Walk said. “This feeling of heritage is very important — especially for us.”

Walk collaborated with Yael Perlov, Israeli award-winning film producer and editor, on this project and many others during the past 20 years. As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, Perlov felt it was an important story to tell.

“I believe this film can make a big difference because it's a very special character… and an original story,” Perlov said. “It's important to understand what it means to be the second generation (to Holocaust survivors).”

All the film screenings are free and open to the public. Nine will be presented at Hippodrome State Theatre and three at Oak Hammock. Seatings are limited and on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Contact Molly Seghi at Follow her on X @molly_seghi.

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Molly Seghi

Molly Seghi is a first-year journalism major at UF and a Fall 2023 Avenue Reporter. When not writing or journaling, she can be found at a live music event or working on her podcast “An Aural Account.”

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