The Milman-Kover Jewish Film Festival of Sarasota-Manatee combines advocacy with artistry.
The festival, held March 8 to 16, has grown from a singular event in 2010 at the Jewish Federation Campus on McIntosh Road to an eight-day festival spread over the greater Sarasota area. The festival’s geographical growth reflects the depth and variety of the eight films that will be screened across the city. But that growth isn’t limited to location and film programming. It also is reflected in the organization’s cultural inclusion.
“One of the major goals of the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee is outreach,” says Roz Goldberg, chairwoman and founder of the Jewish Film Festival. “Our vision is a vibrant, inclusive Jewish community in which everyone can participate ‘Jewishly’ in whatever manner he or she may find most meaningful.”
Goldberg defines “Jewishly” as anyone in the community who engages and enjoys media tied to Jewish culture or heritage. Goldberg says the festival’s purpose is to familiarize Jews and non-Jews with the Jewish Federation’s mission and Jewish cultural heritage through quality films.
This year’s eight films represent a wide spectrum of the Jewish experience. The opening-night film at the Hyatt Regency is John Lollos’ documentary, “Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem.”
The documentary examines 20th century Jewish folk culture through the works of author and playwright Sholem Aleichem and actor Theodore Bikel. The former was an instrumental author in the revival of the Yiddish language and Jewish short story; one of his characters, Tevye the Dairyman, inspired the popular Broadway musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”
The latter is an acclaimed actor and musician who produced several albums of Jewish folk songs, was a co-founder of the Newport Folk Festival and is an Academy Award-nominated actor in numerous films, including “The African Queen,” “The Defiant Ones” and “My Fair Lady.”
Onstage, Bikel played Captain Von Trapp in the original production of “The Sound of Music” and, in relation to Aleichem, has performed the author’s Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” more than any other actor — 2,000-plus performances.
“Our vision is a vibrant, inclusive Jewish community in which everyone can participate ‘Jewishly’ in whatever manner he or she may find most meaningful.”
– Roz Goldberg, chair and founder of the Jewish Film Festival
The two artists’ creative connection symbolizes the mission of the film festival. It shows the pervasiveness of Jewish art. And, as an added bonus, Bikel will attend the opening-night screening and will introduce the film, conduct a Q&A session and perform renditions of rich Jewish folk songs.
“We have gotten such an incredible response since we’ve started this festival,” says Goldberg. “Film is an effective form of outreach. It’s a way to reach everybody. We feel we’ve reached a lot of people. We have exposed them to things they didn’t know and struck intellectual and emotional chords.”