The 5th Annual JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival will present more than 31 films, from comedies to documentaries, featuring many local filmmakers.
The JCC Chicago festival is partnering with ArcLight Cinemas and Cinemark Theatres to show movies in theaters in Chicago and suburbs including Glenview and Evanston as well as special screenings at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie. The movies will be shown on weekends from March 1 through March 18.
“There are films about Jewish life, films told through a Jewish lens and films that honor Tikkun Olam, meaning to repair the world,” said Ilene Uhlmann, director of the JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival.
For example, Shot in the Dark is a documentary about the Orr Academy basketball team in Chicago. Producers Daniel Poneman and Dustin Nakao-Haider graduated from Evanston Township High School. The film deals with murder and how the players seek refuge on the basketball court.
“Though we’ve all read about the Orr basketball team in the news, when you watch a film that’s made by a local filmmaker who really cares about the community, it puts a human face on the issues that affect us all,” said Uhlmann.
Audiences will have an opportunity to chat with the filmmakers and the subjects of Shot in the Dark during a special Q&A following the screening on Sunday, March 18 at 2 p.m. at ArcLight Chicago. Participants include Dustin Nakao-Haider, award-winning director (graduate of ETHS); Daniel Poneman, producer and basketball scout (graduate of ETHS); Tyquone Greer, subject of the film; Ben Vogel, cinematographer (graduate of ETHS); Coach Lou Adams, subject of the film; and Marquise Pryor, subject of the film.
“At the JCC Chicago, we’re about building community and enriching lives for the Jewish community as well as the broader community, so the film festival reflects that,” said Uhlmann.
Local filmmaker Julie Smolyansky, president and CEO of Chicago-based LifewayKefir, produced two of the other film festival features that have a social justice theme.
The Hunting Ground addresses sexual violence on campus and encourages viewers to start a conversation, said Uhlmann. Smolyansky’s second film, Home Stretch, follows three homeless teens.
“We have a preconceived notion of why a teen might be homeless, but this movie is stunning,” said Uhlmann. “It’s interesting because the teens compare themselves to characters in Shakespeare’s plays and you don’t usually think about homeless teens and Shakespeare.”
For those who prefer lighter fare, Humor Me is a comedy with Elliott Gould about a struggling playwright who is forced to move in with his joke-telling dad in a New Jersey retirement community.
“The film festival is trying to reach a broad audience by showing many genres,” said Uhlmann “For non-Jewish people who come to the film festival, it’s an opportunity to connect. There’s more that we have in common than what divides us, and the film festival brings that to life.”
Uhlmann explained that last year the festival showed a film about a city in Poland where an atrocity was committed after the war. The filmmaker and protagonist were not Jewish, but JCC Chicago brought them in from Warsaw.
“It’s about Jewish values and that what connects us to the human condition,” she said.
For baseball lovers, the film festival is proud to present, Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel, which follows a team of current and former Jewish Major League Baseball players on their first trip to Israel and their journey to capture Israel’s first baseball championship.
Uhlmann said viewers will see the connection the players make to the land and to the people. She’s especially excited that this sports documentary will be shown in Chicago, as it’s a “huge baseball town.”
Uhlmann told DailyNorthShore about the student filmmaker competition that began three years ago. The list was narrowed to 11 films that were submitted from high school, college and post-college filmmakers. A panel of judges will determine the winning 10-minute or less film, and the students will receive an award.
The underlying theme for all of the films remains the same: “The premise of the Chicago Jewish Film Festival is human interest and inspiring conversation,” said Uhlmann. “We want to encourage people to leave the theater talking.”
In addition to playing at theaters in the city and suburbs, films will be shown at these North Shore theaters on weekends from March 1 through March 18:
- Cinemark Theatres in Evanston
- ArcLight Cinemas in Glenview
Tickets, times and schedules will be available at www.jccfilmfest.org
Shot in the Dark
Shot in the Dark