Hamilton Jewish Film Festival screens thought-provoking and timely films

March 2024

Helaine Ortmann

The Hamilton Jewish Federation is proud to present the 2024 Hamilton Jewish Film Festival from April 7 to 9 at the Ancaster Memorial Arts Centre's Peller Hall.

Now in its sixth year, the Festival stays true to its mandate to bring relevant and thought-provoking feature films and documentaries to engage the broadest spectrum of the Jewish community, as well as provide an opportunity for the greater Hamilton community to learn about Jewish culture, Israel and Jewish history.

The festival opens at noon on Sunday, April 7 with a reception with light refreshments; followed at 1 p.m. by the screening of Hope without Boundaries (Israel 2023). Amidst the war in Ukraine, an Israeli field hospital is established to care for those affected by the conflict. The medical teams face challenges as they treat Ukrainian patients who have lost everything. The film highlights the intersection of history, culture, and compassion as the Israeli teams, some descended from Holocaust survivors, offer help and hope to those in need. This film is a touching portrayal of humanity illustrating the power of small acts of kindness to bring people together.

The second screening at 2:30 p.m. is March 1968 (Poland 2022). Set against the backdrop of the volatile Communist era of 1960s Poland, this coming-of-age story pits romance against politics. Hania, a Jewish theatre student, falls in love with Janek, a student at the University of Technology. When her parents lose their respective jobs due to Wladyslaw Gomulka’s antisemitic purges, Hania opts to stay in Poland instead of emigrating with them. Politics soon catch up with the young lovers. At 4:30 p.m. local author Wade Hemsworth will interview Kalman Weiser, associate professor Silber Family Chair of Modern Jewish Studies, York University and Piotr Wrobel, Polish-Canadian historian and expert specializing in Polish history and Central and Eastern European history. 

The Festival continues on Monday, April 8 at 6:30 p.m. with the screening of Women In Sink (Israel 2015); the documentary/drama of a small hair salon in the heart of the Christian Arab community in Haifa where director Iris Zaki goes to work, shampooing clients. Placing her camera above the wash basin where the clients enjoy a head massage, Iris chats with Arab and Jewish women from different generations and backgrounds on a variety of topics  from politics and war to love. Through this unique interaction, the candid stories of these women reveal what life is like in Israel from a personal and often unexpected point of view.Following the film is a pre-recorded Question and Answer session with director Iris Zaki.

At 8:15 we will screen the film Children of Nobody (Israel 2022), the recent recipient of the Best Film Award from the prestigious Kolkata International Film Festival. When tragedy strikes their loving surrogate mother Margalit, a community of troubled at-risk boys must band together to save their shelter, a shabby house on Tel Aviv’s outskirts. It falls to “big brother” Jackie to save their home from corrupt property developers and the principled oversight of a social worker. Inspired by a true story, this compassionate drama gives voice to those on the periphery, often unnoticed and uncared for.
On Tuesday, April 9 at 6 p.m. we will screen The Boy, (Israel 2023). The New Yorker magazine has called The Boy "a hauntingly beautiful short that captures the dissonance of life along the Israel-Gaza border. The film’s main character, Barak, a young adult in Kfar Aza, is unable to ignore the reality of life for his Palestinian neighbors ... Winner offers a commentary on life along that Israel-Gaza border that’s subtle but unflinching. Halfway through the film, an alarm roars, “RED ALERT,” to warn of an incoming rocket from Gaza. The kibbutz residents, familiar with this aspect of life on the border, rush to the nearest bomb shelter. Barak stays put in the cafeteria. He is grappling with an idea that his fellow community members would rather ignore: as long as the two million residents of nearby Gaza aren’t able to live in safety, too, then life can come crashing down with one errant rocket."

The closing film of the festival is at 6:40 p.m. with the screening of the Man in the Basement (France 2021), a suspenseful psychological thriller and a timely exploration of antisemitism. Parisian couple Simon and Hélène Sandberg are relieved when they find a trustworthy buyer for the basement in the apartment building they own. Only after the deed is signed do they discover that he is not the benign former teacher he initially portrayed himself to be, but a Holocaust denier who spreads his lies on the internet. As the couple struggles to rescind the sale, the increasingly menacing buyer insinuates himself into the orbit of their teenage daughter, turning the family’s idyllic world upside down. At 8:45 p.m., there is a pre-recorded Question and Answer session with director Philippe Le Guay.

Festival tickets are available at the door for $20 each (no student discount applied). Bundle passes for all six films are available to purchase for $60 (student price $40). For tickets and information, call 905-648-0605 or visit jewishhamilton.org/film-festival