If you’re a big movie buff, you won’t want to miss a fascinating film festival March 12–16. It will screen a mix of documentary and feature films and although differing on topics, all 15 are focused on the same ancient religion and culture.

Photo courtesy St. Louis Jewish Community Center

By Peg Cameron Gill

The St. Louis Jewish Community Center (The J) will host the 28th Annual St. Louis Jewish Film Festival from March 12–16. For the first time, the festival will be held at the Marcus Des Peres Cinema, and will be co-sponsored by Cinema St. Louis.

Unlike the True/False Film Fest held in Columbia, the St. Louis Jewish Film Festival will screen both documentaries and feature films from around the world. While all the films depict a piece of the Jewish experience, the themes are universal and are meant to appeal to all, regardless of faith.

“This is going to be a festival our past patrons won’t want to miss and my hope is that they will invite extended family and friends to join them in the experience,” says John Wilson, Director of Cultural Arts.

The festival will kick off on Sunday, March 12 with Farewell Mr. Haffman. The film is about François Mercier, an ordinary man in 1942 Paris who only aspires to start a family with the woman he loves, Blanche. But he’s also the employee of a talented jeweler, Mr. Haffmann. Faced with the German occupation, the two men will have no other choice but to conclude an agreement with consequences that will upset the fate of these three characters.

The festival will continue through March 16 with 14 films, from a variety of countries including Israel, South Africa, Russia, Portugal, and Austria.The films cover a broad range of topics, everything from the life of Leonard Bernstein, to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, to a Chicago swim tutor who returns to Israel to bury his father.

Bernstein’s Wall explores the work of Leonard Bernstein, known for his work as a conductor, pianist, educator, author, and humanitarian, and most popularly, as the composer of West Side Story. The film highlights his struggle to balance his complex personal life with his career.

The Levys of Monticello tells the story of Uriah Phillips Levy, a Jewish officer in the US Navy who purchased Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in 1826. Over the course of the next 90 years, the Levy family not only owned Monticello but saved it from ruin on two different occasions. All the while, they endured the brunt of antisemitism, and Monticello’s stain of slavery that existed before the Civil War.

In America, an Israeli swimming tutor living in Chicago returns to Israel after a 10-year absence to bury his father. An encounter with a beloved childhood friend and his newly engaged girlfriend will set a series of events in motion that will affect everyone’s lives.

The festival concludes on March 16 with Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen. Follow director Norman Jewison in his quest to recreate the lost world of Jewish life in tsarist Russia and reimagine the beloved stage musical Fiddler on the Roof as a wide-screen film epic. This documentary features behind-the-scenes footage and never-before-seen stills, as well as original interviews with the Fiddler on the Roof cast and crew. Jeff Goldblum narrates.

Photos courtesy St. Louis Jewish Community Center

For a full list of the festival films, trailers and information visit stljewishfilmfestival.org.

For hundreds more events, visit Missouri Life’s Event Calendar.