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For those just jumping into the 2021 Virginia Festival of Jewish Film, there’s plenty of food left — plus lots of humor and a story of redemption.
The 28th annual festival looks different this year. In pre-COVID days, movies inspired by Jewish and Israeli history and heritage would play over a few days. This year, organizers with the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater stretched the cinematic array from January to June, with most events happening during the next three months with a couple of outdoor events and interactive activities.
Robin Mancoll, chief program officer of the UJFT, said the event has always been about bringing people together. That’s been nearly impossible during a pandemic. Organizers had to be creative in devising socially distanced programming, but they have always selected movies that have a universal appeal.
“While it’s called the Jewish Film Festival is not just for Jews, it’s for the community,” she said. “Without the community, we wouldn’t be here.”
One of the highlights is the late April showing of “Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles.” It follows Yotam Ottolenghi, an award-winning Israeli chef, who was approached by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art with a delectable idea: create a show of desserts inspired by the Palace of Versailles in France. Ottolenghi assembled some of the world’s finest patissiers who still faced a hefty portion of stress and mishaps as they created exquisite edible art.
The film festival selected the movie to work with the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art and its “Nourish” show. “Nourish” paired 12 artists with food-connected organizations and people like dietitians, environmentalists and anti-poverty advocates. They collaborated to produce art that reflected how food feeds us beyond eating.
With the film festival partnership, families pay $12 per household to access “Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles” from April 26 through 28. The ticket includes a packaged box of kosher sweets that families can pick up on April 28, at Virginia MOCA. While there, they can tour “Nourish.”
That night at 8, they can log into a virtual discussion that will include professor Deborah Krohn, Ottolenghi’s academic guide, and Betsy DiJulio, one of the “Nourish” artists.
Brad Tuggle, director of audience development for Virginia MOCA, said the museum was honored to play a role in the festival.
“You have a movie that’s about Jewish culture, food and museums,” he said. “So, it’s perfect. It’s like they made the movie just for us.”
Sunday, April 18: “Aulcie”
The movie is presented to mark Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. It begins the evening of Wednesday, April 14, and ends the following evening.
“Aulcie” chronicles the basketball career of Aulcie Perry. In 1976, Perry was spotted playing basketball in the famed Rucker Park of New York and was recruited to play for the Maccabi Tel Aviv team. He led the team to its first European championship the following year. He eventually became an Israeli citizen and converted to Judaism. Perry’s journey was not an easy one, though. This film carries a parental advisory; it contains mature themes and is appropriate for adult audiences only.
8 p.m., Sunday, April 18. Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus, 5000 Corporate Woods Drive, Virginia Beach. It will be a drive-in movie and people must stay in their cars, per COVID restrictions. Ticketholders will be notified via email if the film is rescheduled due to inclement weather. The ticket includes Israeli movie snacks.
The cost is $12 per person if viewed at the Sandler campus. $12 per household if viewed online. Reservation required.
6:30 p.m, parking opens; 7:30 p.m, cars must be in place for film; 8 p.m, film starts; 9:15 p.m, pre-recorded conversation with “Aulcie” director Dani Menkin.
Monday, April 26 — Wednesday, April 28: “Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles”
Virtual Screening: Monday, April 26 through Wednesday, April 28. The movie can be viewed during a 72-hour window.
$12 per household. Reservation required. Tickets bought by Friday, April 23, will include a box of kosher sweets to be picked up between 2:30 and 5 p.m. at Virginia MOCA, 2200 Parks Ave., Virginia Beach. 757-425-0000 or virginiamoca.org
8 p.m. Virtual discussion.
Tuesday, May 4 — Thursday, May 6: “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.”
Interviews with people older than 90 about the secrets to their vitality. It includes discussions with the likes of actors such as Betty White, who turned 99 in January, and 105-year-old track star Ida Keeling. Several interviews are conducted by comedian Carl Reiner, who died last year at the age of 98.
Virtual Screening: Tuesday, May 4, through Thursday, May 6. Movie can be viewed during the 72-hour window.
$12 per household. Reservation required.
Virtual community discussion at noon Thursday, May 6, included with ticket.
Thursday, June 24. “Keeping Up with the Steins.”
Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus, 5000 Corporate Woods Drive, Virginia Beach.
It will be an outdoor picnic. 6:30 p.m., picnic starts; 8 p.m., film starts
$12 per person. Children 12 and younger, free. Reservation required.
Visit federation.jewishva.org/arts-ideas/film-festival for tickets and information or call 757-965-6100.
Denise M. Watson, 757-446-2504, firstname.lastname@example.org