Entering the sophomore year of its phoenix-like rise from the ashes of the erstwhile North Carolina Jewish Film Festival, the Triangle Jewish Film Festival has high cause for optimism.
Despite a year-long hiatus between the end of the festival's six-year stint at Durham's Carolina Theatre and its move to the Galaxy Cinema in Cary, a change in organizational support, and scaling back from its former three-day schedule, last year's one-day event sold more than 800 tickets and surpassed expectations in the process.
According to Barry Schwartz of the Raleigh-Cary Jewish Federation, the move to Cary has gone exceptionally well. "The Galaxy was already an independently run multiplex specializing in more culturally diverse cinema with a customer base to match. This, along with its accessibility to Interstate 40 and plentiful parking, makes it an ideal home."
Nonetheless, the bevy of volunteers now steering the festival in conjunction with the Raleigh-Cary and Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish Federations are still cutting their eyeteeth on the managerial and marketing responsibilities of running a film festival. Therefore, the 2007 festival, which takes place Sunday, June 10, seeks to build upon last year's success more by replication than expansion. The format remains relatively unchanged but for the addition of an extra film to the rotating series of screenings throughout the day. What also remains constant is the strength of the festival's schedule and its unwavering mission, in the words of Festival committee chairman Sydney Miller, "to offer educational and cultural opportunities through the medium of film."
To the extent there are headliners among the well-rounded slate of films, a couple of documentaries top the bill. Director Freida Mock's Wrestling with Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner is a sentimental, freewheeling hagiography of the titular Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning playwright spotlighting his AIDS activism and the influence of his Jewish heritage on his professional accomplishments. The Ritchie Boys is the untold story of a group of young Jewish men who fled Nazi Germany only to return and fight as U.S. soldiers during World War II.
A newly added kid-oriented film, Little Heroes, screens three times and may end up as the festival's biggest draw. In it, a group of youngsters coping with their own adversities go on an expedition to rescue two injured teenagers stranded in the Israeli desert.
Two of the most highly regarded movies among festival organizers are Three Mothers and the family dramedy Wondrous Oblivion. Written and directed by the award-winning Paul Morrison and starring Delroy Lindo, Oblivion is a heart-warming story set in 1960s London that combines the sport of cricket with racial tolerance. In Three Mothers, 60-something-old triplets living together in Israel recount their intertwined lives and reveal deep secrets.
In addition to the array of films, various Jewish organizations will be on hand during the festival with informational displays and booths. And, Sabra Kosher and Israeli Store of Durham will sponsor an outdoor deli.
Both Schwartz and Miller are hopeful about the festival's future, including the possibility of expanding to multiple days and venues throughout the Triangle. And, Miller would like to see the area Jewish federations pool their resources to fund a full-time staff person overseeing the festival's planning and marketing. Still, says Schwartz, "We're in a wait and see mode. We would like to expand, but we need to proceed carefully the first few years and see how it goes."