Poignant ‘Here We Are’ featured in first annual Hanukkah Film Festival


Menemsha Films/Spiro Films Resamont

Dan Buffa, Special to the Jewish Light

One of the silver linings of the pandemic is the access to film festivals for movie fans across the country and globe.

Instead of having to jet across a few states and cities to see the freshest slate of cinema, 2021 featured the option in several festivals for the film critics and lovers to view it from home. Presented by Menemsha Films, the first annual Hanukkah Film Festival continues that trend of all-access cinema.

Starting Sunday, Nov. 28 and concluding Dec. 5, the festival offers 11 new films to the Jewish community celebrating Hanukkah. If you’re unable to leave home for the theater, this festival brings the goods to your living room.

The unique factor about these movies are the varying lengths. On the first night, “The Broken Candle” will kick the festivities off. It’s a nine-minute tale about a broken Hanukkah candle that gets to become the shamash on the final night of the Festival of Lights.

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Next, Stacey Ravel Abarbanel and Jeff Swimmer present an hour-long feature about Pancho Villa’s army in the 1916 raid of Columbus, N.M.

Night Two debuts with “Kiss Me Kosher,” a story about two Israeli women who fall in love with a German woman and a Palestinian man. Shirel Peleg’s film delves directly into the dichotomy of love and loyalty to family, questioning the limitations placed on what nationality a soul can seek out to spend their life with.

Night Three kicks off with a 21-minute film titled “The Tattooed Torah.” Narrated by the late Ed Asner, the movie follows the search and restoration of a small Torah in Czechoslovakia. Instead of merely depicting the Holocaust as an event of destruction, Marc Bennett’s film tries to find redemption in the evil chaos of war.

“Leona” kicks off Night Five, telling the story of a Jewish woman struggling with her own romantic choices: Mexico City is once again the setting for a woman having to come to terms with her family’s history and the needs of her own heart. It is best suited for ages 14 and up, running 95 minutes.

“The Crossing” navigates World War II as four kids in the resistance trying to survive in the woods. Their goal is to get to Sweden and home safe to their families, but obstacles stand in the way. Johanne Helgeland’s film plays on Night Six.

But if I had to tell you about one film playing in this first annual Hanukkah Festival, I would urge you to await the eighth and final night for “Here We Are.” Shai Avivi’s lead performance as the father of an autistic young man is heartbreaking and poignant.

Those two ingredients carry the tale of Avivi’s Aharon struggling to come to terms with his son’s transition to a specialized home, broken off from their carefully- onstructed daily routine. Here’s our review of the film from the Jewish Film Festival in June.

Click this link for more information and a special limited time price for the entire festival. Eight films in 11 nights for $36.