The eighth annual Maine Jewish Film Festival returns to Portland with screenings of 21 films that relate to the Jewish experience, including Giddi Dar’s critically acclaimed Israeli drama, “Uzhpizin” (2004), and Joe Fab and Elliot Berlin’s Holocaust-themed documentary, “Paper Clips” (2004). The event is distinctive in many ways, not the least of which is the fact that it’s held in the smallest city in the country to support an independent, professional Jewish film festival.
For the first time, the festivities will run for three extra days — nine in all — and a second weekend has been added. Executive director Bess Welden stressed the significance of the expansion: “It’s a testament to our community up here that the relatively small city of Portland cannot only support this kind of festival, but… that our festival needs to grow,” she said. “The demand is there, the people want more of these films, [and] our festival has become the centerpiece for arts and culture in this city and [in] the surrounding northern New England region.”
The film festival kicks off with the French film “Local Call” (2004), a story about a man who gives away his dead father’s overcoat to a homeless man and subsequently receives a phone call from beyond the grave, triggering a sequence of events that raise questions related to issues of grief, family relationships and the Jewish Diaspora. Writer and director Arthur Joffé, who is based in Paris, will hold a question-and-answer session after the screening.
The event has been honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its Women Filmmakers Forum, and it continues its appreciation of women filmmakers with the presentation of Israeli filmmaker Danae Elon’s “Another Road Home” (2005). The documentary follows Elon’s attempts to reconnect with the Palestinian caretaker who helped raise her, and with whom she lost touch during the years of the intifada.
Other films scheduled for screening include Dani Levy’s “Go for Zucker” (2004), Erik Greenberg Anjou’s “A Cantor’s Tale” (2004) and Jim Brown’s “Isn’t This a Time! A Tribute Concert for Harold Leventhal” (2004).
Maine Jewish Film Festival, March 18-26; most screenings will be at The Movies, 10 Exchange St., Portland; for schedules and further information, call the listed number or visit the Web site. (207-831-7495 or www.mjff.org)