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Boston Jewish Film Festival stands up to antisemitism


The Boston Jewish Film Festival, returning Wednesday with in-person programming, has gotten an inadvertent boost from  Kanye West’s headlines and censure for antisemitic remarks and rants.

“This year we’re bringing people back to experiencing films together,” said newly appointed artistic director Lisa Gossels of this hybrid festival, with films in theaters: Nov. 2-9 and virtual Nov. 10-13.

“Absolutely our goal at the festival as citizens is to stand up to injustice and antisemitism – and here we go with Kanye! Antisemitism. White supremacy. These are daily events. Through Kanye these conversations, something we all care about, get more elevated.”

This BJFF has 16 film programs. “We will have 30 guests –filmmakers, actors and what I call participants or film subjects and 22 will be in person,” Gossels said.

Two films in their centerpiece section “directly confront antisemitism and standing up to hate.”

Oscar nominee David Strathairn’s remarkable tour de force performance drives “Remember This” while “Repairing the World: Stories from the Tree of Life” tracks the fallout from the mass shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue four years ago.

“Remember This” chronicles real-life figure Jan Karski, a Catholic courier in the Polish Resistance who befriended leaders of the Jewish Resistance.

“He got to see what was happening in Poland, all the devastation from the Warsaw Ghetto. He was tortured by the Nazis and survived that,” Gossels said, “and risked his life to carry the news about the extermination of 1.8 million Jews in Poland to world leaders, including FDR [President Franklin Delano Roosevelt], [Supreme Court] Justice Felix Frankfurter and also Winston Churchill. Unfortunately, those warnings weren’t heeded.

“What’s so powerful about this film is there are two chairs on the set and at one point Karski is inviting us to sit down to listen – and then to stand up and take a stand.”

Co-writer and director Derek Goldman grew up in Brookline and Boston. “This is a very big homecoming for him,” Gossels noted, adding that Strathairn will also be present.

“Repairing the World” filmmaker Patrice O’Neill followed the Tree of Life community over three years.  “You really feel politicians, clergy, sports figures (professional and not), kids from middle school on, people from every community coming together, learning: How do we come say No to hate?

“It offers a model for communities.  And how to document hate crimes for the Dept. of Justice.

Two guests from the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh will join the filmmaker for the Q&A.

Information, tickets:

Stories from the Tree of Life," playing at the Boston Jewish Film Festival. (Photo courtesy Boston Jewish Film Festival)
Stories from the Tree of Life,” playing at the Boston Jewish Film Festival. (Photo courtesy Boston Jewish Film Festival)


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