Movie goers of all faiths and ages will have the opportunity to see six films over ten days in five different venues during the annual Virginia Festival of Jewish Film, presented by the Simon Family JCC, Alma and Howard Laderberg and Patricia and Avraham Ashkenazi. It includes The Samuel Project, starring Hal Linden and Ryan Ochoa (iCarly) who will be in town January 27 for the showing, along with an appearance by former NY Mets player, Ty Kelly, at the showing of Heading Home: A Tale of Team Israel.
The festival begins Monday January 21 (6:00 p.m.) at the Roper Performing Arts Center with An Act of Defiance. It chronicles the trial of Nelson Mandela in 1963 apartheid South Africa and the Jewish attorney, Bram Fisher, who defended him and ten others, all charged with conspiring to commit sabotage and violent acts. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Day, An Act of Defiance and a post film discussion will be presented in partnership with the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Community Relations Council and Hands United Building Bridges (HUBB) multi-faith group. Attendance is free by completing an RSVP at https://federation.jewishva.org/arts-ideas/film-festival.
On Thursday January 24 (7:15 p.m.) at the Cinema Café Kemps River in Virginia Beach will be two episodes of When Heroes Fly,a hit Israeli series, heralded at the CanneSeries Festival, that comes to Netflix in English this spring. Inspired in part by a book of the same name by the late Amir Gutfrend, When Heroes Fly follows four friends and Israel Defense Forces (IDF), veterans of a special commando unit, who survived the Second Lebanon War with both physical and psychological scars. Local military can attend free by presenting their ID.
On Saturday evening January 26 (7:15 p.m.) at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach will be the headliner movie of the Festival, Heading Home: A Tale of Team Israel. It tells the remarkable story of a group of American Jewish players, some like former NY Met Ike Davis with major league experience, who came together to be Israel’s squad in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Exploring their Jewish identity for the first time, they defeat four more highly rated teams (Cuba, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Netherlands), surprising themselves and the world. Heading Home director Seth Kramer and one of the players, former NY Met Ty Kelly, will attend. A reception will follow.
The next day, Sunday January 27 (2:00 p.m.) at the Roper, Hal Linden, who starred in the ABC sitcom Barney Miller (1975-1982) and Ryan Ochoa, from the Nickelodeon series iCarly (2005-12), will be in Norfolk to introduce and discuss The Samuel Project. In the film that parents and grandparents can enjoy with their children, Linden portrays Samuel, a grandfather reconnecting with his grandson (Eli, portrayed by Ochoa) when he is made the subject of a high school project. Eli discovers that his grandpa, a Jewish dry cleaner, was heroically saved from Nazi capture in Germany. After some hesitation, Samuel agrees to tell his story for the project—one he hasn’t related in more than 75 years.
On Monday January 28 (7:15 p.m.), at the Naro Expanded Cinema, popular local film critic Mal Vincent, who has partnered with the Film Festival for ten years, introduces Cast a Giant Shadow and then “dishes” about the actors. Featuring an all star cast led by Kirk Douglas and Angie Dickinson, and with cameos by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne, Cast a Giant Shadow is a Hollywood account of American army expert David “Mickey Stone” Marcus’s role in helping the fledgling Israeli Defense Forces in 1948. Douglas stars as Marcus, who finds love, but tragically never learns Hebrew while organizing the young Israel Defense Forces into a military that can defend and supply a foothold in Jerusalem.
The last film in the Festival will be Budapest Noir on Wednesday January 30 (7:15 p.m.) at the Cinema Alehouse. In this Hungarian film with English subtitles, doggedly inquisitive Zsigmond Gordon (Krisztián Kolovratnik), who feels things are not what they seem, follows murky clues that lead to a shadowy world of pornographers, brothels, crime syndicates, communist cells, and the highest echelons of power, just as Hungary’s fascist-leaning government prepares to align with Hitler.
A full festival pass is available for $70. Tickets for just Heading Home at the Sandler Center are $35, $18 for persons under 21. Cost is $10 per ticket for all other films. They should be purchased in advance at www.jewishva.org/filmfestival or by calling 747-321-2338. Special group pricing is available by contacting Callah Terkeltaub at email@example.com.