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Mark Kirchhoff
Community Engagement and Education

While we are awaiting the renovations on our own JCC Theater, the 18th Annual Omaha Jewish Film Festival moves into local theaters this year. The alluring smell of freshly-popped popcorn will be wafting in the lobbies. In some cases, recliner seats will enhance the comfort of your viewing experience, and the film projections will be state of the art. The festival opens with the showing of Shoelaces on Monday, Nov. 4, 7 p.m. at the Aksarben Cinema, 2110 S 67th St. Advanced tickets will be available online through the Aksarben ticket office (www.aksarbencinema.com) beginning Oct. 21 at the festival price of $8 per ticket. We anticipate a large turnout, so you are encouraged to obtain tickets early.

Shoelaces tells the story of a complicated relationship between an aging father, Ruven, and his special-needs son, Gadi.  Bewildered in how to relate with his son, Ruven abandoned his wife and Gadi while Gadi was still a young boy. With the death of Gadi’s mother, father and son are uncomfortably back together again. As their relationship develops, Ruven learns that his kidneys are failing and Gadi wants to donate one of his own to help save his father’s life. As if life were not challenging enough for him, Gadi learns that he is facing more than one obstacle in making the donation. The story unfolds with warmth and compassion. Audiences embrace Gadi from the moment he appears on screen. The father/son relationship that unfolds gives pause for all to learn something about themselves.

This year’s film selection committee members are (alphabetical order), Helen and Tuffy Epstein, Jordana Glazer, David Golbitz, Dora Goldstrom, Margie Gutnik,
Heidi Neeldeman, Gloria Kaslow, Ron Lugasy, Ophir Palmon, Amanda Ryan, Marty Shukert and Nancy Wolf.

“It seems that every year we comment that the high number of quality films from which to select makes the task challenging,” said Jennie Gates Beckman, Director of Community Engagement and Outreach. “The committee looks at the strength of Jewish themes, the interest level of the topic, the skills of writing and acting, and the production value – including the clarity in which the subtitles are presented.”

Amanda Ryan added, “We also read professional reviews. From those we generally find as many ‘thumbs up’ as ‘thumbs down’ for every film, so it becomes our individual assessments that mean the most. I think the strongest guideline is, ‘What do we think will appeal to our audiences?’”

The initial list of approximately 65 films was parsed to about 25 for reviews of trailers. The 10-12 that emerge from that group received critical appraisal through viewing the entire film. The comments and recommendations of the committee members were combined; and from those, the final selections were made.

The Holocaust-themed film was chosen by the Institute for Holocaust (IHE) staff and their film review committee.

According to Scott Littky, Executive Director of the IHE, “We know that this is an important topic for Jews and non-Jews alike. We keep this in mind as we make our choice. We look very carefully to assure that there is both value and educational purpose in the message expressed in the film. This year’s selection, The Samuel Project, meets these requirements. We are confident that it is an excellent choice.”
The additional films and locations for this year’s festival are listed below. All showings are at 7 p.m. Admission is $8 with the exception of the Film Streams movie for which their standard prices apply.

Nov 12 Tel Aviv on Fire at Film Streams, Ruth Sokolof Theater
Nov. 18 Leona at Village Pointe Cinema
Nov. 25 The Samuel Project at Marcus Majestic Cinema of Omaha

We have a special bonus for those patrons who attend all four films. Bring your ticket stubs from the first three showings to the Nov. 25 showing and purchase your ticket for only $5. If you purchase online, we will have a stack of $1 bills and will gladly give you three of them. We’ll have a record of on-line purchases for the Nov. 25 film, but bring your proof of purchase just to make sure.
We extend our thanks to the generous sponsors of this year’s film festival. They are The Henry Monsky Lodge of B’nai B’rith, and the following Jewish Federation of Omaha Foundation funds: Klutznick/Creighton Custodial Fund, Kenneth Ray Tretiak Memorial Fund, Ruth Frisch & Oscar S. Belzer Endowment Fund, Avy L. & Roberta L. Miller Film Fund, Samuel & Bess Rothenberg Memorial Endowment Fund, and Special Donor-Advised Fund.