The State of Israel will turn 75 in 2023, and Jewish organizations in the Milwaukee area are planning to start the year of celebration with a mini-film festival, throughout the month of January.
The Harry & Rose Samson Family JCC and Milwaukee Jewish Federation will present the “Faces & Voices of Israel” film event. It will feature three films produced in Israel.
The three films are “Karaoke,” which will show on Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. at Marcus North Shore Cinema in Mequon; “Concerned Citizen,” which is set for Jan. 12 at 7 pm., also at Marcus North Shore Cinema, and “Let It Be Morning,” which will screen on Jan. 26 at 7 p.m., at the Harry & Rose Samson Family JCC in Whitefish Bay. All three are free, but RSVPs are required to attend.
All three films will be followed by group discussion, hosted by Uria Roth, the Milwaukee community shaliach at the Israel Center of Milwaukee Jewish Federation, who is facilitating the programming.
“What we’re doing is, we’re officially starting the celebration of Israel’s 75th birthday,” Roth told the Jewish Chronicle. “We gathered, I think, three of the best films that have come from Israel in the last year. Each one of them brings a different dimension of contemporary Israel, and everyday life. And I think they’re not just good films, but they bring a good discussion around things that are happening in Israel right now.”
“Karaoke,” released in Israel last year and on the Jewish film festival circuit of late, was directed by Moshe Rosenthal, and stars Sasson Gabay and Rita Shukrun as an older couple whose lives are turned upside down by the arrival of a new, libertine neighbor (Lior Ashkenazi.)
“Concerned Citizen,” from director Idan Haguel, deals with issues of gentrification in Israel, as a man (Shlomi Bertonov) plants a tree in his neighborhood and sets off a cascade of events.
Roth called that film “a little bit about the LGBTQ community, but also a little bit about a gay couple trying to bring a child to this world… it’s a little bit about gentrification and about issues that Israel has been going through lately.”
“Let It Be Morning,” based on a novel by Sayed Kashua, deals more directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict, as Eran Kolirin’s film tells the story of a family that gets trapped in an Arab village in Israel, due to a military blockade. “Let It Be Morning” played at the Cannes Film Festival last year and was Israel’s entry for the Academy Awards’ Best International Feature Film.
Roth called “Let It Be Morning” “a brilliant film that, in a sense, does talk about the conflict, or about relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, and Jews and Muslims in Israel…. it’s a little bit of a comedy, and a little bit of a drama, and a little bit of everything.”
Roth keeps tabs on Israeli films that should be on his radar, both for the annual fall Milwaukee Jewish Film Festival and for special events like January’s, including by following what’s happening at other Jewish and Israeli film festivals around the world.
The movies are well tied to any particular message, Roth said. “There’s a story, and there’s a good story, and whatever comes out of that story is what we talk about.”