Annual Milwaukee Jewish Film Festival hits disparate topics, opens Sept. 15

The annual Milwaukee Jewish Film Festival is to include works tied to a smorgasbord of disparate topics – Sigmund Freud, special needs, the origin of “Fiddler on the Roof,” a kidney transplant, Israeli politics, a Nazi occupation, and former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.

Included in the line-up is “Golda’s Balcony, The Film” featuring a multi-camera shoot from the original run of a play starring Tovah Feldshuh. The tale focuses on Meir, the former Wisconsinite. It will be accompanied by a live talk-back from the Broadway play’s original producer, David Fishelson. The film has won 10 “audience favorite awards” on the 2019-20 Jewish film festival circuit and it may not be available for years through streaming or other methods, according to Producer Dave Fishelson,

What pulls all these films together for the Sept. 15-19, 2019 film festival, to be held at Marcus North Shore Cinema in Mequon, is that all were selected by a local committee as films worthy of a spotlight for the community.

General admission tickets for individual films are $12; various multi-film and VIP packages are also available. Tickets may be purchased through Micki Seinfeld at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, 414-967-8235, online at JccMilwaukee.org/FilmFestival, or at the JCC desk located inside the Marcus North Shore Cinema, 11700 N. Port Washington Road, beginning one hour prior to each movie. Tickets are not available for purchase directly through the theater. For more information, visit Jccmilwaukee.org.

The Milwaukee Jewish Film Festival is a program of the JCC, with support from Marcus Cinemas. 

Beyond Golda Meir, other topics this year include a woman’s rescue of Jewish children during the Nazi occupation and a complicated relationship between an aging father and his special-needs son.

Here’s the line-up:

‘Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles’

Sunday, Sept. 15, 7:30 p.m. (Note: An incorrect time was listed in our print edition. The 7:30 p.m. time is correct.)

2019, United States; English, 92 minutes; director: Max Lewkowicz.

Since 1964 when “Fiddler on the Roof” opened, not a day’s gone by where it hasn’t appeared on a stage somewhere in the world. There is much about this beloved classic that until now has been unknown. Weaving together insightful interviews with notables such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Stephen Sondheim, Itzhak Perlman, and Harvey Fierstein, along with clips from various productions of Fiddler from around the world, this film chronicles Fiddler from its beginnings on the stage, to the film adaptation, to the current productions — including the film in Yiddish. Sponsored by the Shel and Danni Gendelman Endowment Fund.

‘The Tobacconist’

Monday, Sept. 16, 1:30 p.m.    

2017, Germany; German with English subtitles, 108 minutes; director: Nikolaus Leytner.

Seventeen-year-old Franz journeys to Vienna to apprentice at a tobacco shop. There, he meets Sigmund Freud, a regular customer, and over time the two very different men form a singular friendship. When Franz falls desperately in love with the music hall dancer, Anezka, he seeks advice from the renowned psychoanalyst. As political and social conditions in Austria dramatically worsen with the Nazis’ arrival in Vienna, Franz, Freud, and Anezka are swept into the maelstrom of events. Each has a big decision to make: to stay or to flee?

‘Shoelaces’

Monday, Sept. 16, 7:30 p.m.    

2018, Israel; Hebrew with English subtitles, 90 minutes; director: Jacob Goldwasser.

After his ex-wife’s untimely death, surly mechanic Reuven reluctantly takes Gadi in, his exuberant adult special-needs son who he abandoned when Gadi was a young boy. It takes a while for Gadi and Reuven to adjust to their new life together as Reuven searches for another living situation for Gadi. Ultimately, Gadi returns home to Reuven and they fall into a routine of work, restaurant and a small circle of friends. Complicating this arrangement is Reuven’s health issue, which requires a kidney transplant. As the caregiver roles reverse, Gadi faces new challenges while attempting to navigate a medical system and the transplant committee. They view Gadi as someone without the intellectual capacity to act as a live donor, and fear that Gadi is being manipulated by his father, who is now his legal guardian. Thoughtful and poignant, “Shoelaces” explores the complex dynamics of adult parent-child relationships through the delicate lens of its special-needs hero. In cooperation with the JCC Center for Inclusion and Special Needs.

‘87 Children’

Tuesday, Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m.    

2017, Ukraine, Georgia Russian with English Subtitles, 92 minutes; director: Akhtem Seitablaev.

Nazi-occupied Crimea, 1944. A boy named Itzhak turns to Saide Arifova, a local Tatar Muslim woman, for help, explaining that he and a group of other Jewish orphans are hiding from the Nazis. Arifova faces a moral dilemma: should she try to help them or save herself by refusing? Despite the impending danger, she decides to protect the children by hiding them in plain sight, and disguising them as Tatars and adopting them into the local community. Based on an incredible true story. In cooperation with the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center, a program of Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

‘Those That Remained’ (Someone to Live For)

Wednesday, Sept. 18, 1:30 p.m.         

2019, Hungary; Hungarian with English subtitles, 83 minutes; director: Barnabás Tóth.

Having survived the camps, 42-year-old Aldo lives a solitary life as a doctor in Budapest. Sixteen-year-old Klara lives reluctantly with her great-aunt, holding on to hope that her father and mother will return. She meets Aldo, and soon the two of them find something in each other that they’ve been missing for years. As they grow closer, the joy in both of their lives slowly returns. But as the Communist Party and the Soviet Empire take over in Hungary, their pure and loving father-daughter relationship is misunderstood and frowned upon. In cooperation with Tapestry: Arts & Ideas from the JCC.

‘Unorthodox’

Wednesday, Sept. 18, 7:30 p.m.

2018, Israel; Hebrew with English subtitles, 92 minutes; director: Eliran Malka.

Inspired by the improbable beginning of Shas… It’s 1983 and Yaakov, a printer in Jerusalem, is just a regular guy with no knowledge, no money, no connections and no political experience. When Yaakov’s daughter is expelled from an Ashkenazi school due to her Sephardic heritage, he decides to fight back. What he lacks in experience, he makes up for in passion. Yaakov, along with other Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews sharing the same belief that all ethnicities should be treated equally and fairly, start the first ethnic political party in Jerusalem. They don’t know how to play the political game, so they make it all up as they go along — setting off on one of the oddest, most surprising, and moving election campaigns Israel has ever known. In cooperation with the Israel Center of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

‘A Fortunate Man’

Thursday, Sept. 19, 1:30 p.m.

2018, Denmark; Danish and German with English subtitles, 168 minutes; director: Bille August.

Seeking to reject his strict religious upbringing and fulfill his dreams, a pastor’s ambitious son hopes to wed into a wealthy Jewish family and find success in 19th century Copenhagen. “A Fortunate Man” is a sweeping romance from Danish Academy Award-winning filmmaker Bille August. Based on Danish writer Henrik Pontoppidan’s Nobel Prize-winning novel, “A Fortunate Man” features moving performances, dazzling cinematography, and sumptuous costume design and period detail.

‘Golda’s Balcony, The Film’

Thursday, Sept. 19; 7:30 p.m.            

2019, United States; English, 86 minutes; director: Scott Schwartz.

The rise of Golda Meir from Russian schoolgirl to American schoolteacher to a leader of international politics as the fourth Prime Minister of Israel is one of the most thrilling and amazing stories of the 20th Century. Much of the focus of this stage play, starring Tovah Feldshuh, is on the period surrounding the 1973 Yom Kippur War when Israel was attacked by Egypt and Syria. A rare, multi-camera shoot from the play’s original run was recently unearthed and assembled into a riveting motion picture. In this film, Meir’s life has been transformed into a cinematic event of overwhelming power and inspirational triumph. Over 500 performances both on and off Broadway were sold out, making this not only the longest-running, one-woman show in Broadway history, but earning accolades far and wide. The film will be accompanied by a live talk-back from the Broadway play’s original producer, David Fishelson. In cooperation with Tapestry: Arts & Ideas from the JCC.