The 2024 Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema

Take in films that highlight Israeli art

Arts Israeli Film Fest image
Opening Night film: Israel’s entry to the 2024 Academy Awards, Ayelet Menahemi’s Seven Blessings (Sheva Brachot)

Out of the darkness of October 7th comes much needed light, emanating from the big screen of a movie theatre: films that give us a cinematic campfire to gather around, illuminate important truths about our history, and dazzle us with their incisive scripts, and visual virtuosity.

This is what you will experience at the 19th Annual Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema.

The festival leads with an important initiative on Opening Night, April 4, the Israel Repair Fair . Representatives from seven local and national organizations--JUF, Jewish National Fund, Israel Bonds, StandWithUs, American Friends of Israel War Disabled, Northwestern University's Israel Innovation Project, and Hadassah--will invite audience members to their tables to explain how they help Israel rebuild.

The fair will be followed by the Chicago Premiere screening of Ayelet Menahemi's Seven Blessings , about a big Moroccan-Israeli wedding and the family secrets that spill during the week of dinners that follow. (The film, based on true stories, sold out at this year's Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Many films explore what "family" means. Erez Tadmor's feature Children of Nobody is about young boys who have fallen through society's cracks and call a group facility in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood of Tel Aviv home. Eitan Green's My Daughter My Love, stars Sasson Gabay (who played The General in The Band's Visit on film and Broadway) as a father who flies to Paris to help his daughter, baby, and troubled marriage. Gwyneth's brother Jake Paltrow's June Zero , takes place in 1962 Israel; a group of Jewish factory workers, immigrants from Europe and Arab lands, collaborate to build a crematorium after Adolf Eichmann is convicted at trial and hanged.    

Duki Dror and Yossi Bloch's Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre was made from real-time phone videos at the gathering near Kibbutz Re'im, plus filmed interviews with survivors and their loved ones. It is a remarkable record of how young people celebrating peace, love, self-expression, and a beautiful sunrise were attacked and murdered on October 7. It is a definite must-see. 

For history buffs, Roman Shumanov's documentary Generation 1.5 gets up close and personal with several Israeli adults in their 30's and 40's (including actress Ania Bukstein) who made aliyah with their families from the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s… and now look back. Laura Bialis' Vishniac recalls episodes in the life of the legendary photographer of A Vanished World as well as family members from Eastern Europe many of us lost in the Shoah.

Also headlining the festival are two family-centric documentaries with special guests. In Back in Berlin , director Bobby Lax--here in person-- discovers a suitcase full of letters. His father wrote them to his parents after he boarded the first Kindertransport from Germany to the UK in the late 1930s. Bobby travels to Berlin with his German-speaking childhood pal, Manuel, with a surprising revelation that threatens their friendship. In Call Me Dancer , professional performing artist Manish Chauhan-also appearing in person, defies his Indian parents' wishes, moves to Mumbai, and is taken under the wing of an Israeli ballet master.

On the lighter side: Avi Nesher's latest feature, the catch-me-if-you-can caper The Monkey House ; Adar Shafran's Running on Sand , a case of mistaken identity that catapults an Eritrean refugee to star status on a struggling soccer team; and Gudis Schneider's Elik & Jimmy , about two army acquaintances, one glam, the other shlubby, who, can't quite shake their attraction to one another.

All LIVE screenings will take place at the Landmark Theatres in The Glen, Glenview, except Elik & Jimmy , playing at the Landmark Century in Chicago. For schedule, synopses, and tickets, visit For Festival sponsors, go to  

Cindy Stern is the Executive Director of the CFIC.

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