Jewish Film Festival draws 2,500


The St. Louis Jewish Film Festival wrapped up its “bar mitzvah” year with 15 films at Plaza Frontenac.

More than 2,500 people attended the 13th Annual Jewish Film Festival, which featured a total of 15 films — all of which had their St. Louis premiere at the festival, held at the Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema.

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Zelda Sparks, cultural arts director at the Jewish Community Center, which sponsors the annual film fest, said for the festival’s 13th year the planning committee went with a bar mitzvah theme, with the festival’s opening and closing films (Sixty-Six and Praying With Lior) about bar mitzvahs along with the Bar Mitzvah Bash Premiere Party.

Although around 15 protesters with anti-Semitic slogans and a flag with a swastika showed up outside of Plaza Frontenac during the opening night premiere party, police reported there were no further incidents or protests during the rest of the festival.

Sparks said this year’s festival committee selected and was able to present a lineup of extremely high-quality films this year.

“In any given year, you try to get the best films possible and this year, there was a lot to choose from. And that’s not the case every year,” she said. “Most of the films got ratings of fours and fives, our highest ratings, on our audience response cards.”

This year, the festival sold out tickets to Sixty-Six (which showed in two theaters with two showings each), A Secret and Champagne Spy, and sold enough tickets to require an extra screening of Arranged and a second theater for Praying with Lior.

Sparks said around 50 volunteers work on the film festival.

“The searching out of the films for the festival and the PR, and so much of the work for the festival is done by the volunteers on the committee. They’re really fantastic. And Jack and Dee Berman, the co-chairs of the Film Festival were just outstanding,” she said.

Dee Berman said the feedback she received from film festival patrons was very positive, with high praise for the films. She said the committee started screening films back in December. “We looked at a lot of films,” she said. “We try to find a broad range of films from different countries, with different subject matter, and with an appeal to different age groups,” Dee Berman said.

During the premier party on June 22, Jack Berman told the audience he had been asked whether being co-chair was a lot of work.

“I said it’s really a lot of fun, and that’s really what we are having. Dee and I have had such a good time with this whole thing. I think we must have seen 60 movies, and I really think we’ve got an outstanding group of films,” he said.

The festival committee also continued its tradition of bringing in local speakers to introduce or discuss films being shown.

Local attorney Sandy Pomerantz, who was an and All-American high school and college basketball player, spoke at The First Basket, a documentary about basketball and American Jewish history.

Rebbetzin Paula Rivkin, with the Jewish Council Against Family Violence, led a discussion after Out of Sight. Other speakers Michael Shapiro, president of Ohr Atid; Milton Movitz, Jewish Light board president; attorney David Rubin and Dr. Sylvia Ginsparg a local psychotherapist and member of the Jewish Film Festival committee.