The 14th Chattanooga Jewish Film Series opens Oct. 6 with a diverse lineup of a half dozen domestic and foreign films. The annual event has grown to become one of the centerpieces of Jewish social and cultural life in Atlanta’s neighbor city.
Chattanooga’s Jewish Federation is the presenting sponsor of both the weekly live screenings and the virtual showings, which run through the week of Nov. 11.
The screenings will take place at the Federation’s Jewish Cultural Center, which has served as the long-time home for the series. Last year, it also hosted a series of critically acclaimed documentaries with Jewish themes.
Sanford Winer, a retired CPA, is the founder and chair of the series. He points out that it has become one of the most important events featured on Chattanooga’s small Jewish community calendar each year.
There are only about 1,400 Jews in Tennessee’s fourth-largest city, out of a total population of 186,000. For that reason, Winer is grateful for all the non-Jewish support the series has received.
“One-third of our audience is not Jewish. Which, for us, is necessary. So, we’ve had a good response there. We started the festival after a community relations meeting at the Federation, where we talked about how we could reach out to the community. That was 14 years ago. We saw what Atlanta was doing and we thought we would start our own and we did.”
Part of the community-building that the series has helped to facilitate, according to Winer, was evident at an event that was created following the fatal attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh three years ago. Winer estimates that as many as 700 people showed up in support of the city’s Jewish community.
One of the highlights of the festival is “Neighbors,” a film produced in France by the Swiss-Kurdish filmmaker Mano Khalil. It tells the story of life in a small village on the Turkish-Syrian border through the eyes of a six-year-old Kurdish child, Sero, during his first year of school in the early 1980s.
The young boy is caught up in the town’s radical transformation by the sudden arrival of a new teacher from Damascus whose abrasive diatribes against “Zionism” and “imperialism” clash with the peaceful atmosphere of religious and ethnic co-existence.
The moving drama, in Kurdish with English subtitles, was a prize winner in Europe and walked off with the Film Critics Award at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the largest such event in the country.
One San Francisco critic advised festival goers to bring a good supply of tissues to deal with the film’s more emotional moments.
The Chattanooga event is also showing one of Ed Asner’s last films, “Tiger Within,” which was produced shortly before the famed actor’s passing in August at the age of 91. The film is about the friendship that develops on the streets of Los Angeles between a homeless teen and a Holocaust survivor, played by Asner. One Jewish critic praised Asner’s performance and called it “a redemptive story about the power of forgiveness and unconditional love to transform lives and overcome ignorance, fear and hate.”
Opening night features “Kiss Me Kosher,” which also opened this year’s Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. It’s an amusing romantic comedy that centers around what happens when two families — one Israeli, one German — come together to plan a same-sex wedding. The film is in German and Hebrew, with English subtitles.
Also on the schedule are three other films that were a part of the AJFF this year. Two are about Jews living in Italy, “Thou Shalt Not Hate,” and “Starry Sky Above the Roman Ghetto.”
The other is the critically acclaimed Israeli film “Here We Are,” about a father and his adult autistic son, which was nominated for nine Ophir Awards — Israel’s top film honor — last year. It also claimed the Narrative Film Jury prize at the 2021 AJFF.
Each film will be available virtually on the series’ website for 72 hours, beginning Tuesday Oct. 6.
For more information go to www.jewishchattanooga.com/programs/chattanooga-jewish-film-series-2021.
- Bob Bahr
- Arts and Culture
- Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
- Kurdish films
- Kiss Me Kosher
- Israel films
- “Tiger Within”
- Ed Asner
- Here We Are
- Sanford Winer
- Elaine Winer
- Italian films
- Chattanooga Jewish Film
- Chattanooga Jewish Federation
- Jewish Cultural Center
- Jewish Themes
- Jewish community calendar
- Tree of Life Synagogue
- Mano Khalil
- Film Critics Award
- San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
- homeless teen
- Holocaust Survivor
- same-sex wedding
- “Starry Sky Above the Roman Ghetto"
- Ophir Awards
- Narrative Film Jury prize
- Thou Shalt Not Hate