Arts & Culture

Jewish Film Festival to spark cultural dialogue

Hoping to spur debate over Jewish ‘identity,’ coordinators select award-winning films

Senior Staff Writer
Friday, January 31, 2014

Brown’s first Jewish Film Festival, complete with three award-winning movies, food and a forum for cultural, spiritual and academic discussion hits theaters near you — the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts and Wilson Hall — next week. Brown/RISD Hillel is sponsoring the free festival, which will feature a different film at 7 p.m. each night  Monday through Wednesday next week.

The films “Footnote,” “Arranged” and “Live and Become” compose the three-day festival.

“We hope (the festival) will raise different questions on campus regarding Judaism and Jewish life,” said Laura Katz ’14, one of the three student coordinators.

The films are not connected thematically past a common Jewish cultural narrative. This was done on purpose, as each night is intended to spark its own conversation, Katz said.

“Footnote,” which will play Monday, “deals with familial issues in Judaism,” said David Sasson ’16, a student coordinator. “Arranged,” slated for Tuesday, touches on issues regarding “women’s roles in religious life,” while “Live and Become” confronts themes of “Jewish identity,” Sasson said.

Promoting the opportunity for debate on unique topics forms the backbone of the festival, said Alisa Kotler-Berkowitz, director of engagement at Hillel, adding that she hopes the refreshments following the film will facilitate discussion.

“Brown students learn from each other,” Kotler-Berkowitz said, adding that all the coordinators agreed speakers would not be necessary to promote conversation at the event.

All three films come from the last decade, a feature designed to add “relevance” and “broad appeal” to the event for the Brown community, Katz said.

Feedback has been “incredibly positive,” Kotler-Berkowitz said. The coordinators have received enthusiastic responses from the seven sponsors of the event and the broader community, including members of the Providence Jewish community and Hillel.

The goal is to turn the festival into an annual occurrence with possible additional screenings at the Rhode Island School of Design next year, Kotler-Berkowitz said. Future festivals would retain a similar structure with opportunities  to explore more themes surrounding Jewish life, said Gabrielle Guadalupe ’15, a member of the coordinating group.

The coordinating group formed out of the Engagement Internship program at Hillel, where Guadalupe and Katz worked together last semester. The internship requires students to come up with an initiative specifically related to Jewish life to share with the larger community, said Kotler-Berkowitz.

For Katz, a fan of cinema, a film festival presented itself as a project worth undertaking, she said.

Once Sasson, who met Guadalupe on Taglit-Birthright Israel last summer, joined the group, they faced the task of choosing which films to show — the goal being to raise interest and promote discourse.

“They watched a lot of movies,” Kotler-Berkowitz said.