The Second Annual Multifaith Film Fest, which will take place March 8-11 at the Bender Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Rockville, Maryland, aims to build bridges among local faith communities. The film fest, presented in partnership with the Israeli American Council and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, will feature six films, selected for their focus on identity, discovery, and common values.
“This initiative came to life during the early months of 2017, when a wave of hatred and intolerance was spreading across our community and the country. Nothing like this festival had ever been offered in our community and it was the perfect way to unite the many faith communities in the Greater Washington area during a time that begged for greater understanding and camaraderie among all people,” said Jennifer Smith, director of arts and culture at the Bender JCC. Approximately 450 people attended the inaugural film fest last year, which featured four films.
“The festival was crafted to promote peace, understanding, and friendship among all faith communities in the Montgomery County, Maryland, area,” Smith explained. As a result of the interfaith relationships built last year, the Islamic Community Center and multiple local churches have advertised this year’s event in their newsletters. Several of this year’s screenings will include discussion sessions or related activities to build upon the themes of the films and help nurture this spirit friendship and understanding.
The opening night of the film fest will feature a screening of “A Heartbeat Away,” an Israeli film featuring dialogue in Hebrew and Swahili with English subtitles. Following the documentary, which is about an Israeli pediatric cardiologist who is sent to Africa to perform lifesaving operations for children in Tanzania, there will be a Q&A with Rabbi David Litwack, executive director of the Save a Child’s Heart Foundation.
After the screening of “Gaza Surf Club,” there will be a panel discussion that exemplifies the goal of uniting communities and building bridges. The panel will include Matt Olsen, founder of the Gaza Surf Club; Aziz Abu-Sarah, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem who lost his brother in battle with the Israel Defense Forces; and Elkana Bar-Eitan, an Israeli who lost his brother-in-law in a terror attack two years ago. A German documentary, “Gaza Surf Club” explores the surf community of Gaza City and features Arabic, English, and Hawaiian dialogue with English subtitles. Despite strict sanctions, about 40 surfboards have made it into Gaza over the years, giving surfers “an opportunity to experience a small slice of freedom.”
While tickets for most of the films cost $10 each, the screening of “Jews and Buddhism: Belief Amended, Faith Revealed,” an English-language PBS film about the surge of interest among American Jews in the spiritual teachings of Buddhism, is free, as is the yoga class following the screening. The three other films that will be screened this year are “An Act of Defiance,” “Precious Life,” and “Holy Air.”
For tickets, screening times, and more information, go to www.benderjccgw.org/film-fest.
By Malka Goldberg
Malka Goldberg is the Community News editor for Kol HaBirah.