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Uniquely Jewish stories: Film Festival weaves colorful fabric of stories with wide appeal

Six films.

Each one has a different point of view of the Jewish experience.

“Who Will Write Our History” tells the stories of a group of scholars, journalists and community leaders who conducted a secret effort to document the fate of the 450,000 Jews caught in the Holocaust sealed within capsules so that the truth would survive, even if they did not.

Those films will begin to screen as part of the Jewish Film Festival, which begins on Sunday, July 14.

The selected films are all recently released and New Mexico premieres, and are put on by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque. The festival is in its sixth year.

“Each year, the fest endeavors to weave a colorful fabric of uniquely Jewish stories with wide-ranging appeal, that come to us through movies from around the world,” says Phyllis Wolf, director of Art, Culture & Education at the JCC. “The fest curators research current films showing at film fests worldwide to select a representative line-up of the finest films for Albuquerque audiences to enjoy. This year, that was an arduous task because not only has the roster of Jewish films grown substantially, but also the quality of the films has equally progressed. Even though the task was daunting, it was truly a labor of love screening and reviewing documentaries, dramas, comedies and all the territory in between from Denmark, Germany, France, Hungary, Belgium, Mexico, Russia, Israel, India and the U.S.”

The opening film will be “Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem,” which is a documentary that tells the story of two beloved icons – Sholom Aleichem and Theodore Bikel.

Bikel’s charismatic storytelling and masterful performances are invaluable windows into pre-war Eastern European Jewish life.

It will screen at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 14, at the JCC Auditorium. Also in attendance is Aimee Ginsburg Bikel, who will introduce the film and provide commentary about the legacy of Bikel’s life as a singer, actor, linguist, and social activist.

On Thursday, July 18, the documentary “93Queen” will screen at 7 p.m. at Regal High Ridge.

It follows Rachel ‘Ruchie’ Freier, a no-nonsense lawyer and mother of six, leading a group of tenacious Hasidic women determined to smash the “boys’ club” in their community by creating the first all-female volunteer ambulance corps.

The Mexican film “Leona” will screen at 7 p.m., July 20, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

The film tells the story of a young Jewish woman from Mexico City who finds herself torn between her family and the love of her life – who isn’t Jewish.

On Sunday, July 21, at High Ridge, the Israeli film “The Unorthodox” will screen.

It follows the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, which challenged the dominant Ashkenazi establishment and their grassroots movement to transform elections in Israel.

“Who Will Write Our History” will screen at 7 p.m. July 25, at High Ridge. The film tells the stories of a group of scholars, journalists and community leaders who conducted a secret effort to document the fate of the 450,000 Jews caught in the Holocaust sealed within capsules so that the truth would survive, even if they did not.

Closing the festival is “The Mamboniks” at 2 p.m., July 28, at the NHCC.

It is set in New York, Havana, Miami Beach and the Catskills, and features a lovable, zany collection of dancers from the 1950s.

“I want to have films with historical significance and films that show the Jewish experience in other countries,” Wolf says. ” ‘Who Will Write Our History’ is ground-breaking in the way that this is something new. These documents and mementos were deliberately buried in and around the Warsaw Ghetto because the people knew they would likely perish. They wanted their history to be told with a first-hand account.”

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