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The ‘Cinebuds’ guide to this year’s Milwaukee Jewish Film Festival

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JHR Films / Health Point Productions / Menemsha Films

Every week, Kristopher Pollard from Milwaukee Film and Radio Milwaukee’s Dori Zori talk about movies — because that’s what you do when you’re Cinebuds.

Milwaukee is the City of Festivals. That usually conjures images of warm-weather shindigs at Henry Maier Festival Park or one of the many neighborhood throwdowns around the area. But Milwaukee’s also very lucky to have festivals that play out on the big screen throughout the year, including the upcoming Milwaukee Jewish Film Festival.

This year’s event is the 26th installment and features two components: cinema screenings at Marcus North Shore Cinema in Mequon from Oct. 15-19 and stream-at-home viewings that run through Oct. 29. Included in the lineup are five films centered on Jewish traditions, culture and history that connected to modern-day experiences and audiences.

The festival is one of the programs offered by the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center (JCC) and is truly global in nature, with selections from the United States, France, Germany, Israel and Italy. For this episode of Cinebuds, Dori sits down with JCC director of special events Micki Seinfeld to give you a preview of this year’s event, which includes the screenings and discussions with special guests at the theater immediately following.

You can hear their chat using the player at the top of the page and check out the movie lineup below. Tickets for in-person screenings are $12 per person, and stream-at-home viewing is $12 per household. A VIP package is also available that provides access to all showings and platforms. For more info or to buy tickets, visit the event webpage or the JCC table located inside the Marcus North Shore Cinema beginning one hour prior to each movie.

The Path
7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15
Director: Tobias Wiemann
100 minutes | German with English subtitles 

Set in 1940, the film centers on German journalist Ludwig, who is on the run from the Nazis, and his 12-year-old son Rolf. They’re trying to travel to New York, where Rolf’s mother is waiting for them, but are stranded in Marseille. The only route to freedom is a dangerous path over the Pyrenees to Spain. Nuria, a girl only slightly older than Rolf, offers to guide them along the path.

When Ludwig is caught, Rolf and Nuria are left on their own. Rolf’s dog is the children’s only companion on the journey that teaches them to rely on one another and stick up for each other. Shown in cooperation with the Nathan & Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center (HERC)

Where Life Begins
7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16
Director: Stéphane Freiss
101 minutes | French/Italian with English subtitles

Set in the bucolic Calabrian countryside, this intimate and elegantly rendered romantic drama about family, faith and freedom is the directorial debut of veteran French actor Stéphane Freiss.

An ultra-Orthodox family has arrived in the south of Italy from their home in eastern France to assist with the annual harvest of the citron fruits used during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Among them is Esther, a rabbi’s daughter who is increasingly dissatisfied with her life, chafing at the bonds of her religious upbringing and resentful of her imminent arranged marriage.

When she meets and feels a growing attraction for the farm’s owner, Elio, she dares to imagine a different, potentially happier path for herself. Where Life Begins is an intelligent and honest depiction of the pain of questioning one’s faith and community that offers no easy answers. Shown in cooperation with the Israel Center of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation

Farewell Mr. Haffmann
7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct.17
Director: Fred Cavay
101 minutes | French with English subtitles

After the Nazi occupation of Paris, talented jeweler Joseph Haffmann fears the worst and arranges for his family to flee the city, offering his employee François Mercier a chance to take over his store until the conflict subsides. His own attempts to escape are thwarted, however, and Haffmann is forced to seek his assistant’s protection.

It’s a risky proposition for both men, and one that Mercier’s wife Blanche is skeptical of. As the couple move into the Haffmann home, the agreement turns into a Faustian bargain, one that will forever change the fate of all. Shown in cooperation with the Nathan & Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center (HERC)

Remembering Gene Wilder
Director: Ron Frank
7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18  
130 minutes

He was born Jerome Silberman to an assimilated Milwaukee Jewish family, and his childhood buddies called him Jerry. But the world would come to know Gene Wilder (1933-2016) as an endearing comic genius through an extraordinary string of film roles.

From the timid Leo Bloom in Mel Brooks’ The Producers to the strange and magical title role in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, from his inspired on-screen partnership with Richard Pryor in movies like Silver Streak to the comedy classics of Blazing Saddles, The Frisco Kid and Young Frankenstein, Wilder’s performances seem to grow deeper, funnier and more humane with time.

Now, in Ron Frank’s affectionate and touching biographical documentary, the full measure of Wilder’s gifts is on display — not only as a comedic actor, but as a writer, director and a mensch. Told in part through Wilder’s own voice (he recorded the audiobook of his memoir, which serves as narration), Remembering Gene Wilder is a treat to watch with its generous helpings of film from across Wilder’s career.

This film is available for in-person screening only and is shown in cooperation with Tapestry: Arts & Ideas from the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish JCC.

7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19
Director: Erez Tadmor
98 minutes | Hebrew with English Subtitles 

Moti Bernstein is the son every mother wants, a student every Rabbi loves to teach, the ideal Yeshiva Bucher, the perfect match for every bride. He has it all: a good family, a brilliant mind, and he is not bad looking either.

In search of a wife, he will meet the best girls in the Jewish orthodox world but will fall for the one girl he can never have. The only one he wants. Against everything he knows and every value he holds dear, Moti will be forced to go out on a limb in the most unexpected and unusual of ways. Who will win? The system or the inner voice? Shown in cooperation with the Israel Center of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.