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Jewish Film Festival Starts March 28 In Kc
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Reviewed on 2009-03-22
The Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle present the 11th annual Kansas City Jewish Film Festival March 28 through April 4 at the Glenwood Arts and Rio theaters in Overland Park.

A festival pass, which covers admission to all seven films including opening night, is $50. Individual tickets are $16 for opening night, which includes a post-show reception, and $8 for all other films. Tickets are available at the front desk of the Jewish Community Center, by calling 327-8000, online at or at the theater 30 minutes before show time.

“A Secret” is the opening night film. It will be shown at 8:45 p.m. Saturday, March 28 at the Glenwood Arts.

This subtitled feature film from France is a multi-layered family drama that takes place in three distinct time periods. It is based on the European best-selling autobiographical novel “Memory” by psychoanalyst Philippe Grimbert.

The film personalizes the names and faces of those who suffered tragedy, grief and loss from the devastation of the Holocaust.

A Parisian husband and wife hide many facts from their only child along with the guilt and shame they feel inside. They are haunted by an illicit love affair, the ghost of a lost child and a devastating betrayal dating back to the Second World War.

The movie was named one of the five best foreign language films for 2008 by the National Board of Review. This is my choice as the best film of the festival. My Sun rating: 3½ stars.

All of the other films in the festival will be shown at the Rio Theatre, 7204 W. 80th St. (two blocks west of Metcalf).

“Holy Land Hardball” is the 1 p.m. matinee on Sunday, March 29. This documentary follows the formation of the Israel Baseball League, the first-ever professional baseball circuit in the Middle East. From tryouts to opening day, the organizers’ challenging task is to draw spectators to America’s pastime after a drought of 5,767 years. Borrowing from the famous line in “Field of Dreams,” this movie asks “If we build it, will they come?”

The documentary “Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh” will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 30. This gripping, dramatic and heartbreaking story was on the short list of Oscar nominees. It features the voice of three-time Academy Award nominee Joan Allen. Hannah Senesh is considered a “modern-day Joan of Arc.” Her heroic martyr status in Israel was achieved when she volunteered for a dangerous mission to rescue Jews in her homeland of Hungary. She left the safety of Palestine and parachuted behind enemy lines into Yugoslavia. She wrote poems and kept a diary much like the more well-known Anne Frank. My Sun rating: 3 stars.

The documentary “Leaving the Fold” will be screened at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 31. This documentary is about leaving the world you grew up in and dealing with the consequences that unfold. It shows the ostracism from the world left in the rear view mirror and the baffling range of endless choices in a secular environment. The struggles of those who left and their loved ones are tinged with pain and unexpected humor.

A profoundly moving documentary “Praying with Lior” is set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 1. It follows the journey of Lior Liebling (“the little rabbi”), a spiritual savant with Down syndrome, toward his bar mitzvah. It won audience awards at Jewish film festivals in Boston, Washington, Seattle, Vancouver and San Diego. It was chosen by the State Department to screen at embassies around the world as an “ambassador” of American culture and filmmaking, and shown on Capitol Hill to support legislation that passed to aid mothers carrying babies with Down syndrome. It was also screened at the Special Olympics in Idaho. A guest speaker will lead a post-film discussion.

The Israeli documentary “Praying in Her Own Voice” will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 2. It concerns a group of women who meet at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on the second day of every Hebrew month, wearing prayer shawls and reading from the Torah. Under Jewish law, their acts are allowed, but they are opposed by many Orthodox authorities.

The closing film “Sixty Six” from the United Kingdom will be screened at 8:45 p.m. Saturday, April 4. Bernie Rubens cannot wait for his bar mitzvah day to arrive. Unfortunately, it coincides with the 1966 World Cup Final to be held at Wembley Stadium in London and England’s bid for the prestigious soccer title. The ensemble cast includes Helena Bonham Carter (“Sweeney Todd,” “The Wings of the Dove” and the “Harry Potter” movies), Eddie Marsan (“Happy-Go- Lucky” and “Vera Drake”) and Stephen Rea (“The Crying Game”). You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this infectious comedy. The blind rabbi has some of the funniest scenes. My Sun rating: 3 stars.

For more information about this year’s programming lineup, visit

By Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"

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