"Here We Are" tells the story of a protective father and his young adult son with autism Photo provided by Menemsha Film

Film School

The Charleston Jewish Film Festival, hosted by the College of Charleston and Savannah Jewish Federation, is returning in 2021 with a focus on films that can educate and entertain in equal amounts. 

“I think that just by showing these movies and showing history, and how history has affected what’s going on now … We can show an appreciation of why it’s important to look at history, why it’s important to look at the backstory of what people are going through, and really listen to each other,” festival director Sandra Brett said.

To keep participants safe from the ongoing pandemic, the festival will be online instead of at its usual haunt, the Terrace Theater. While Brett acknowledged she’ll miss seeing the films on the big screen, she noted the festival has used the struggles to grow.

This year, the festival will stream films for several days, then host a virtual program with a speaker to elaborate and talk about some of the movies’ topics. “Since we’re streaming the movies first, we have a good hour on Zoom or whatever platform we use to discuss the movie more in depth,” Brett said. 

Past Jewish Film Festivals have had speakers after screenings, but discussions have been over shorter lengths of time.

Featured films this year will include an array of genres: documentary, short films, drama and romance. “We don’t have a huge budget, but we do have as much variety as possible,” Brett said, adding that the festival is trying to focus on films that can educate.

The festival will commence with a discussion on 1969 award-winning romantic-comedy Goodbye, Columbus. The talk, hosted by Jewish studies professor Ezra Cappell, will cover some of the film’s themes like the sexual revolution and cultural assimilation.

Kiss Me Kosher and several other Israeli films will be featured in the Jewish Film Festival
Photo provided by Fireglory Pictures

Kiss Me Kosher, a film about two Israeli women falling for a Palestinian woman and a German man, will stream online Feb. 25-28. Among the list are several Israeli films, including one of Brett’s favorites, Here We Are. The movie tells the story of a protective father running away with his autistic son instead of taking him to a special needs boarding school. 

“I think it really speaks to you on a level of family relationships, talking about family relationships outside of whatever issues that family is dealing with,” she said. “It brings home the complexity of a family relationship.”

Four short films from students at the Sam Spiegel Film School in Israel will be streamed March 1-10. The students will give insight into their work and discuss the films they made on March 7. Brett coordinated the screening by “cold-calling” the Sam Spiegel Film School, she said. “I thought it would be interesting to get a perspective of students in Israel and get them to talk to American students.”

The final film on the line-up is Shared Legacies: The African-American Jewish Civil Rights Alliance, a documentary about the collaboration between Black and Jewish Americans during the civil rights movement. Director Shari Rogers will discuss the movement in the ‘60s with Charlestonians who lived through it on March 9.

“We’re really just trying to educate in general about civil rights,” Brett said. “I think we’re trying to delve into the issues behind each of these movies in a way that will appeal not to just the Jewish community, but the larger Charleston community.” 

The Charleston Jewish Filmfest will begin at 7 p.m. Feb. 18 with a program about Goodbye, Columbus. Head over to jewish.cofc.edu/events/ for the full schedule and to pre-register for each film discussion.