With awards season on every movie lover’s brain right now, it is important to remember that there are a many more films to see besides the handful of nominees that dominate the current conversation. The Savannah Jewish Federation is hosting its 16th Annual Joan and Murray Gefen Memorial Savannah Jewish Film Festival and offers a selection of intriguing, international films, covering many genres, that promote and celebrate “the diversity of Jewish history, culture and experience through film.”


“I think it’s important to keep the tradition of Jewish cinema alive, especially here in Savannah being that we have a very old Jewish community,” said Abigail Stevens, Community Programming Coordinator at Savannah Jewish Federation. “It’s something that Jewish communities in larger cities across the nation are continuing to do, so we hope it continues to thrive here. I think Savannah is particularly well situated because of all the artists and filmmakers, the large college population, obviously SCAD, so knowing we have all these creative folks in our area makes it a great place to be.”


One of the appeals of the festival is that instead of traditional movie fare like popcorn and soda, audiences can enjoy a specially prepared Kosher meal before each screening by chef Bryan Graves of Mickve Israel Synagogue. “He has worked with us for a long time,” said Stevens. “He has catered a lot of events for us and has always done a great job.”


Opening night will begin with an opening reception with heavy hors d’oeuvres before a screening of “The Keeper” directed by Marcus H. Rosenmüller. The drama is about a romance that develops between a German POW/soccer player and an English woman in post-WWII England during still-simmering hostilities and prejudices.


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Jan. 23 will begin with a classic Italian luncheon followed by a screening of the documentary “Egg Cream,” about the popular chocolate soda treat, and then “The Last Resort”, a documentary about Jewish retirees in a paradise-like 1970’s Miami, Fla. There will even be egg creams served for dessert afterwards.


In the evening, a salmon dinner will precede a screening of the short films “Refuge” and “Nobody Wants Us.” “Refuge” is about a Jewish-American woman in Vienna who experiences the reminders and inherited traumas of the Holocaust and then finds a connection with a Syrian family of refugees. “Nobody Wants Us” follows three teenagers who try to come to America after escaping Nazi Germany. The screenings will be followed by a panel discussion with the writer/producer of “Refuge,” Michael Hofstein and its lead actor David Wurawa, as well as producer/directer Laura Seltzer-Duny of “Nobody Wants Us.”


Friday, Jan. 24 will offer a traditional chicken schnitzel paired with screenings of several short films that celebrate the Jewish community including “Wendy’s Shabbat,” “Gefilte,” “L’Dor, V’Dor,” and “Absolutely No Spitting.” Then on Saturday evening the festival will offer a free dessert reception with two films about Fiddler on the Roof, one an animated short called “The Fiddle (Der Fidl)” and the other a behind the scenes look at the making of the hit Broadway musical.


The closing night will feature a meatloaf dinner with the film “Cresendo” about a conductor who takes on the fraught task of putting together an Israli-Palastinian orchestra.


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It should be noted that those who want to participate in the special meals need to make reservations 48 hours in advance. Screenings will take place in the Jewish Educational Alliance auditorium and festival passes or individual tickets can be purchased at www.savj.org.