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Two-Day Jewish Film Festival Scheduled for Feb. 21-22

Published: February 16, 2009

CSULB’s Jewish Studies program will co-sponsor a two-day film festival on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 21-22, in the campus’ University Theater, presenting four features from all over the world dealing with various aspects of the Jewish experience. Admission is $12 per screening or a $40 festival pass.

The Jewish Film Festival opens on Saturday, Feb. 21, at 7:30 p.m. with the Israeli feature “The Secrets” in which a mysterious woman seeks redemption for a past filled with abuse. The film is in Hebrew and French with English subtitles. “The Secrets” has been strongly praised by the New York Times, the Hollywood Reporter, and the Village Voice, and was nominated for eight Israeli Film Academy awards. It has not yet been theatrically released in the United States.

“We tried to find the best films we could,” said one of the festival organizers, Jeffrey Blutinger, co-director of CSULB’s Jewish Studies program and a Long Beach resident who joined the university in 2004. “We wanted a variety that included at least one documentary and at least one film in English. These films depict and explore the variety of Jewish life. They move from South America to North America to Israel and to China. This is subject matter that spans the globe. Also, these are films most people wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else but here.”

The program continues on Sunday, Feb. 22, at 10 a.m. with the English-language documentary titled “Yiddish Theater: A Love Story.” The film follows a prominent Yiddish actress who escaped the Nazis and is struggling to keep alive the last Yiddish theater in New York City. At 12:30 p.m., the festival screens the Chilean film “To Life,” which focuses on a 20-something photographer who visits her estranged father’s first family as he celebrates his much-delayed Bar Mitzvah. The series closes at 3 p.m. with “Noodle,” involving an El Al flight attendant who suddenly finds herself the caretaker of an abandoned little Chinese boy. The dialogue is in Israeli, Hebrew and Mandarin with English subtitles.

“You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy the Jewish film festival,” said Blutinger. “We chose films that would be accessible and enjoyable just as films and not only as Jewish films. These are films that are accessible to any audience. For instance, in the case of the Chilean film ‘To Life,’ the protagonist is not Jewish but an outsider who asks herself how she relates to this community. Does she want to make it her family? And does this community wish to include her? The Jewish experience is universal.”

The film series’ continued success is a reflection of cooperation between CSULB’s Jewish Studies and the surrounding community, Blutinger believes. “Other sponsoring bodies include the Alpert Jewish Community Center, the Jewish Federation, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, and Beach Hillel,” he said. “This series is a way of bringing together the campus and the entire community. I hope this series helps the neighborhood to see CSULB as more and more a part of the greater Long Beach community. Once our neighbors are on campus and can see the opportunities available to them here, the better it is for us.”

Blutinger encourages film lovers to make sure they engage with the series. “Here is your chance to see four interesting and diverse films,” he said, “each one of which captures a difference facet of the human experience.”