10 (movies) for 10 (years)

JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival celebrates milestone anniversary

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Still from Haute Couture (photo courtesy of Roger Do Minh)

The JCC Chicago Film Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year with a showing of, aptly, 10 new Jewish films. 

Over the past decade, the festival has showcased more than 250 films to nearly 60,000 viewers.

For the second year, the festival's films will be offered both at theaters and online. Many screenings will include post-film conversations with filmmakers and scholars, included with the ticket price.

"We are both proud and excited to have emerged on the other side of COVID, with a wealth of interesting new Jewish films to consider," said Ilene Uhlmann, JCC Chicago's Director of Community Engagement, and Festival Director. 

"Before the pandemic, we had been doubling our audience every year," she noted. "But having to adapt to a hybrid structure helped broaden our audiences."

Hillary Wenk, JCC Chicago's Manager of Operations, co-runs the festival. "We were poised, pre-pandemic, to have our best year ever," she said. "But now, we are reaching those who would never drive into Chicago for a movie--people as far away as Urbana-Champaign." 

Movie lovers can now enjoy films year-round with 75 of the festival's past selection available for streaming.

Still, Wenk welcomes the return of in-person screenings: "It circles back to bringing the community together," she said. "I love to talk to people about a film and learn what they got out of it."

The fall films will run from Nov. 17-20; three will be Chicago premieres. The first, Love Gets a Room , is about a musical being staged in the Warsaw Ghetto. Haute Couture chronicles a Jewish clothing designer's unlikely mentorship of the woman who stole her purse. And in iMordecai , Judd Hirsch's grumpy old man gets a technological upgrade, and an attitude adjustment, from a high-tech saleswoman. These three films will show on Nov. 20-- at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 4 p.m. respectively--at Landmark's Renaissance Place Cinema in Highland Park.

The winter offerings--running the weekend of Jan. 26-29--will focus on social justice. Films will also be shown Feb. 23-25, 2023. 

At the conclusion of the 10th Anniversary Festival, still more films will be shown in conjunction with Violins of Hope. This exhibit is comprised of 70 violins that survived the Holocaust, each with its own story. The J will bring instruments to Illinois in April for performances, demonstrations, and educational opportunities. The films that accompany Violins of Hope, with messages of resistance and resilience, will be shown at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.

The festival's stated mission is "to showcase culturally diverse, Jewishly-inspired films that will entertain, educate, and inspire audiences of all generations." Thanks to the adaptability of the festival's leadership, that will happen for many more people, in more places, than ever before. Not a bad way to begin the festival's next decade.

Find details and tickets for the 10th Anniversary JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival at jccfilmfest.org. Tickets are $15 per person, for either virtual or in-person screenings; a limited availability $100 Festival Pass will be offered to screen all 10 movies. For information on Violins of Hope, visit: jccchicago.org/violins-of-hope  


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