Arts & Culture

Atlantic Jewish Film Festival brings people together through religion in film

Universal themes draw in diverse crowds to Atlantic Jewish Film Festival

written by Alex Rose
November 10, 2017 5:22 pm

From October 19 to 22, the Atlantic Jewish Commission put on the fourth consecutive Atlantic Jewish Film Festival. Lynn Rotin, the chair of the festival, has been working on it since its first year, and she says it’s a fun way to teach people about Judaism.

“I think it’s a really good idea to inform and educate while you entertain,” she said. “So that people can learn about Jews, the culture, the people, and so that was the basic premise.”

Rotin says the first three years had all gone really well, selling out about two-thirds of the films. And it wasn’t just Jewish people who came to see the shows either.

“All types of people, all religions, all backgrounds. A real good mix, which was really exciting to see,” she said.

This year, the festival showed films from around the world, including a Saturday night feature from Germany: Family Commitments. The movie is about a Muslim man and a Jewish man who are in a romantic relationship with each other, and the issues their relationship creates in their respective families. And, after the film, the festival hosted a wedding-themed gala, to match the matrimonial theme of the film.

“We’re going to have a chuppah (a traditional Jewish canopy that covers the bride and groom at the altar,) and we’ve got a photo booth with top hats, and a video for the people,” Rotin said. “And we’re handing out kippahs [a traditional Jewish head covering] in colours like hot pink and turquoise and we’ll have hors d’oeuvres… it should be a lot of fun.”

Local talent feaured for the first time

For the first time this year, the film festival included work by a local artist. Lubin, from Chelm, a short children’s film that played on the Sunday afternoon, featuring illustrations by local painter Alisa Snyder.

“I had never illustrated anything before, so I was initially reluctant to do it, but I thought, well, it would be a good opportunity,” Snyder said. “I did the drawings in bamboo pen and ink, just on sketchbook paper, and then I would have them scanned.”

Once scanned, Snyder emailed the drawings to David Yang, the artistic director and narrator of Lubin, From Chelm. The short film told the story of Lubin, a young man who lives in Chelm, the fabled city of fools in Jewish lore. One day, Lubin’s mother sent him out of the house to work. What started with Lubin losing his pay on the way home the first day ends with Lubin carrying a donkey down a road, and the hand of the mayor’s daughter in marriage.

The 11-minute film was ostensibly aimed at children, but it was enjoyable for all age groups. The timeless humour of Jewish folk tales shone through Yang’s narration and Snyder’s illustrations.

Overall, Rotin is very happy with the film festival, and its role in the community.

“Even though the themes are Jewish, they’re universal. And people are people, no matter where they live, where they’re from. They have the same feelings, the same desires. So it’s really just a way of sharing, and a search for acceptance too. The more people know about other ethnicities and other people, the more understanding and accepting they are,” she said.