Jewish Film Festival plans events for July and August

Sonia Warshawski (left) and her granddaughter (and filmmaker) Leah Warshawski stand outsidae the Capitol in Washington, D.C., in April 2018 for Holocaust Remembrance Day. Members of Congress watched Leah’s documentary ‘Big Sonia’ at the Capitol on April 12.

The St. Louis Jewish Film Festival continues its 23rd year with two events at the Jewish Community Center’s Arts & Entertainment Building in July and August.

At 4 p.m. Sunday, July 15 the festival will screen “Big Sonia” — a documentary about Sonia Warshawski, who spent her teenage years shuttled between concentration camps and is one of the last Holocaust survivors in Kansas City. 

The vibrant 91-year old shares her story with students and prisoners. Even as she seeks to inspire others, she faces eviction from a dying shopping mall. Her first-person narrative is illustrated with animations inspired by her drawings. 

The film was co-directed by Warshawski’s granddaughter, Leah Warshawski, a St. Louis native.

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St. Louisan Debbie Warshawski, a daughter of Sonia, will introduce the film at the Jewish Film Festival event. The film screening is sponsored by the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center of St. Louis and the Feldman Family Education Institute of the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center.

At 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19, the festival will screen “An Act of Defiance.” This powerful and captivating film take place is South Africa in 1963; 10 men — some black, some Jewish — are arrested for conspiring to commit sabotage against the apartheid state and its government. 

Led by fellow defendant Nelson Mandela and represented by courageous lawyer Bram Fischer, the group pleads not guilty, shifting attention to the corrupt and grossly unjust political system. The thriller is filled with courtroom intrigue and explores the little known involvement of South African Jews in condemning apartheid. 

Introducing the film is Stephen Cohen, who was born in South African and is currently vice president of special projects at Jewish Federation of St. Louis.

These films will screen at the J’s Arts & Entertainment Building, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. Tickets are $13; student tickets (for those age 16 and under) are $8. Call the 314-442-3179 to purchase by phone or visit