Houston Jewish Film Festival entertains, educates audiences
Tuesday, March 3, 2020

From gripping dramas to fascinating documentaries to a Sesame Street episode about Passover, the 16th Houston Jewish Film Festival (HJFF), will entertain film buffs of all ages. The Evelyn Rubenstein JCC of Houston (the J) brings the annual festival showcasing Jewish and Israeli culture to the Houston community this spring from March 21 to April 1, 2020.

On Sunday, March 22 at 10 a.m., the J’s Mishpacha and Me, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston’s PJ Library, present It’s Passover, Grover! for young children and their families. The Shalom Sesame production will engage and entertain viewers while imparting Passover traditions and Jewish values. Snacks and craft activities will follow the screening.

Also on Sunday, March 22 at the J, the documentary Golda, which features former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, will screen at 4 p.m. The film includes interviews with people who knew Meir and captures an intimate conversation she had on film shortly before her death. When she was interviewed for Israeli television, the journalists kept the cameras rolling after the shoot. In the footage, Meir, the first and only female Prime Minister of Israel, chronicles the five turbulent years that secured her place in history. At 7 p.m. on March 22, also at the J, filmgoers can see the documentary Aulcie. The film tells the tale of Aulcie Perry, who in 1976 was playing basketball in Harlem when scouts from Maccabi Tel Aviv spotted and signed him. A year later, Perry led the team to their first European Championship, converted to Judaism, and become an Israeli citizen. Audiences might remember Perry from Dani Menkin’s film, On the Map , which was the Audience Choice Winner at the 2017 Houston Jewish Film Festival.

On March 25 at 7:30 p.m., It Must Schwing! will be shown at the J. The film is festival chair Nada Chandler’s “Chair’s Choice.” It tells the tale of two friends and German immigrants, Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, who founded the legendary jazz label Blue Note Records in New York in 1939. The record company discovered and produced jazz greats including Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Thelonious Monk and Quincy Jones. Blue Note records respected Afro-American musicians as artists and equals at a time when they were discriminated against and ostracized in the United States. Live music from the Blue Note Record label will be performed from 6:30 p.m. to 7:20 p.m. in the main lobby of the J.

Crescendo will be screened at the J on Saturday, March 28 at 8:30 p.m., as the second part of a double-header movie night (following a re-screening of Leona). Crescendo is a drama filmed in both German and English and directed by Dror Zahavi. The film follows a world-famous conductor who tries to create an Israeli-Palestinian orchestra. It takes all the conductor’s skills and resources to overcome the discord between the musicians as he encourages them to play in harmony. As he does, tensions rise and the film explodes into an emotional finale.

What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael will be screened at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 29. The documentary portrays Pauline Kael, an influential film critic for the New Yorker who transformed film appreciation into an art form. A discussion with members of the Houston Film Critics Society will follow the screening.

This year’s festival concludes on Sunday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the J with Standing Up, Falling Down, starring Ben Schwartz and Billy Crystal. The funny and touching film follows failed comic Scott Rollins (Schwartz) who’s failing at accomplishing his stand-up comedy dreams in Los Angeles. When Rollins heads home to his parent’s house on Long Island to regroup, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with eccentric, alcoholic dermatologist Marty (Crystal), who has regrets of his own. Together, the two come to face their failures. Visit for a full festival guide.

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