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The Jewish experience

This week's Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival offers something old, something new.

By SHERYL KAY, Times Correspondent

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 8, 2001

Movie fans can once again view unique, didactic and mostly entertaining films as the fifth annual Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival starts tonight at Tampa Theatre.

"It's an opportunity for Jews and non-Jews to come together to be exposed to a medium of Jewish culture that normally is not available to us here in the Tampa Bay area," said Mike Eisenstadt, cultural program coordinator for the Tampa Jewish Community Center/Federation, which sponsors the festival.

"It's not every day we can go into a local movie house and see something Jewish in nature."

However, those chances are increasing. A separate film festival, unrelated but also seeking to present Jewish cinema, will be held in October at Tampa's Channelside 9.

The Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival begins today with the 7:30 p.m. showing of From Swastika to Jim Crow, a documentary about Jewish professors who are Holocaust survivors, and who find teaching positions at predominantly African-American colleges across the United States. The film recently was shown on public television.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Roy Kaplan of the National Conference on Community and Justice, joined by James Tokely, poet laureate of Tampa, and Rabbi Richard Birnholz of Tampa's Congregation Schaarai Zedek.

The festival continues Saturday at 8 p.m. with The Personals, Keiko Ibi's Oscar-winning short documentary on growing old in America, which depicts a group of senior citizens in Manhattan as they rehearse and perform in a play. The Personals was screened last year at both Jewish film festivals.

Next up is Kippur, an autobiographical movie by Amos Gitai, a harshly realistic view of Israel's 1973 Yom Kippur war. Many scenes from the film are based on rescue missions in which Gitai participated.

Saturday evening's films will be followed by a dessert reception and music on the Franklin Street mall.

Sunday's lineup begins at 1 p.m. with Into the Arms of Strangers, a Holocaust documentary that chronicles the journeys of 10,000 children who constituted the Kindertransports, train loads of young Jewish refugees who were taken from their parents in Hitler's Europe and whisked to safety in Britain.

At 4 p.m., viewers can enjoy Molly Picon, icon of the Yiddish theater, in the 1936 musical Yidl Mitn Fidl. Presented in Yiddish with English subtitles, the romantic comedy follows the escapades of a father-daughter musical team.

The festival ends with the airing of the Cannes Film Festival's Prix de la Jeunesse, Voyages. A trilogy of related stories, the movie depicts the lives of senior citizens who are Holocaust survivors trying to reconcile the past with modern experiences.


The Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival, today through Sunday (see story for schedule). Tickets for tonight's film and any single film on Sunday are $7.50 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens. Saturday's presentation and dessert reception are $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors. An all-day pass for Sunday is $14 for adults, $10 for students and seniors. A pass covering the entire festival is $25 for adults, $20 for students and seniors.

For information on the festival, call the Tampa Jewish Community Center/Federation at (813) 264-9000.

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