By G. Michael Dobbs
GREATER SPRINGFIELD The Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival will present a wide variety of films during its run that begins March 23.
The festival will present documentaries, dramas and comedies in venues from Greenfield to Northampton to Springfield.
I had the opportunity to preview two of the films offered this year and both were outstanding documentaries that present very different, but equally compelling stories.
I watched "Surviving Hitler: A Love Story" first. Running at just about an hour, the film covers ground that might seem familiar at first: the unsuccessful plot against Hitler that was presented in the recent film "Valkyrie."
The movie also presents a story of love and survival in Nazi Germany.
Despite topics and themes that have been portrayed in previous productions, "Surviving Hitler" stands apart because of the first person narration of Jutta, the woman who fell in love with Helmuth.
The romance is pretty normal at first, but is complicated by the war and Helmuth's choice to join the army.
Told through a contemporary interviews and vintage home movies taken of Jutta and her family by Helmuth, we learn how he is shocked by the realities of the war while on the Russian front.
At the same time, Jutta and her family struggled to maintain a normal existence despite their Jewish heritage.
When Helmuth was assigned to the staff of Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, one of the leaders of Operation Valkyrie, the plot to kill Hitler and end the war, he became part of the resistance group.
The film is riveting because it takes historic events and brings them to the level of real people.
The film will be shown April 7 at 7 p.m. at the Fuller Arts Center at Springfield College.
Tickets will be available in advance at the Springfield Jewish Community Center (JCC), 1160 Dickinson St., or at the door.
I also viewed "My So-Called Enemy," which also exceeded my expectations.
The film runs an economical 89 minutes, but tells a sprawling story of a group of young women and their attitudes toward peace between Israel and Palestine over a seven-year period.
In 2002, 22 teenage girls from Israel and Palestine came to the United States to participate in the Building Bridges for Peace program.
The concept behind the program is that these young women might not actually agree on the many issues between the two groups, but will begin to communicate with one another, opening the possibility of an on-going dialogue back home.
Now, if you think this is going to be a film with a lot of hugs, tears and epiphanies, you would be one-third right. The footage at the program is only the tip of the iceberg in this story.
The bulk of the film shows over the next seven years how these young women change and whether or not they take the role of being a peacemaker to heart.
Director Lisa Gossels wisely put the story of these women within the context of the major conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians. Seeing this news footage gives the changes in the women's attitudes additional weight.
The outcome of this film is a realization of how complicated the matter of having a homeland for both Jews and Palestinians really is.
The film will be shown March 27 at the Springfield JCC's Neal Webber Building. There will be a 5 p.m. reception for teens only with Melodye Feldman, the facilitator of Building Bridges for Peace, featured in the film, followed by the screening of the movie at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets will be available at the Springfield JCC and at the doors.
Other films offered include:
• "Anita," a film from Argentina about a young Jewish woman with Down Syndrome;
• "For My Father," in which Tarek, a Palestinian forced on a suicide mission to redeem his father's honor, is given a second chance when the fuse on his explosive vest fails to detonate;
• "A Hebrew Lesson," a movie which presents the story of a multicultural Hebrew language class in Tel Aviv.
• "Srugim" (season one, episodes one through three), a television show in which the question is asked, "Where in Israel do you go to find a social scene when you're a single, 30-something Orthodox Jew?"
For more information about the schedule and ticket prices most films are $9 for general admission and $7 for students and seniors go to http://pvjff.org.
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