JCC’s annual Jewish Film Festival returns

By Samantha Smith 

Jewish Community Center of Youngstown has been presenting films since the beginning of October in honor of its annual Jewish Film Festival.

Each film’s purpose is to show the audience different depictions of Jewish history and culture. From documentaries to dramas, the festival allows the audience to learn about the culture.

Michael Shepherd, chair of the selection committee, said the annual event has taken place for about 20 years. The screening committee meets during the spring to discuss which films will be presented in the fall.

During the screening process, the committee evaluates different movies for roughly 10 days. After watching multiple films, the committee votes on which films make the cut by following guidance from the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation and a loose criteria. This includes questions such as, “How relevant is this to a Jewish audience?” and whether it is possible to include a guest speaker for the film.

“We always throw a couple of documentaries in, and that’s one of the questions, that if we can come up with a speaker, then it is arranged,” Shepherd said. “A few years ago, we showed a film from Albania. There’s an Albanian consulate in Cleveland, so we had a consular officer — from their consulate — come to Youngstown and talk to the audience.”

Shepherd described the festival as an event for everyone to come together to watch films that show different situations with similar motivations.

“That’s what we try to bring to our audiences. Everybody’s circumstances worldwide are different, but everybody’s dreams are the same,” he said. “It’s just kind of cool to see how other cultures and other countries show their view of life on the screen.”

In total, the festival has seven films up for showing. The last film, “Broken Mirrors,” will be shown Nov. 7 at the JCC in its multi-purpose room.

As described on the JCC website, the film’s description says, “Shadowed by a strict, military father who inflicts severe methods of punishment as a form of discipline, 17-year-old Ariella commits a grave error that her father isn’t willing to punish her for.” 

Individual tickets are $7. The center usually provides free popcorn and water for all audience members.

For more information on the Jewish Community Center and the film festival, visit its website at jccyoungstown.org