The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t only changed the way film festivals screen their films for audiences, but the kinds of films they want to highlight. When getting the programming in place for the 25th Annual JCC Mizel arts and Culture Center’s Denver Jewish Film Festival, powered by The Chotin Foundation, Amy Weiner Weiss, Denver Jewish Film Festival Director faced that very challenge.
“Even though it wasn’t going to be in person, we knew the appetite for content was just as strong as ever. People want to stay engaged and having a shared experience helps people feel connected and gives a sense of normalcy,” Weiner Weiss said. “We went looking for films that could be a little more light-hearted, a little more playful – something audiences could get excited to watch. We’re leaning into the at-home, virtual festival experience.”
The resulting festival on demand, which runs from Monday, Feb. 8 through Wednesday, Feb. 17, features 21 feature films and 10 shorts that focus on Jewish and Israeli cinema from 14 countries. In addition to the movies there will be numerous question-and-answer sessions with filmmakers.
Tickets to each film cost $12 per household and most are available for the entirety of the festival. There are also ten-pack passes and all-access passes available for those who want to increase their viewing opportunities. Films can be streamed on a computer, by Chromecasting to a TV, or via the Eventive Smart TV apps for Roku or Apple TV.
A particular point of pride for this year’s festival is that female filmmakers are responsible for 15 of the films, including “A Call to Spy,” “Shiva Baby” and the documentary, “‘Til Kingdom Come.” And in the spirit of providing something a bit more relaxing for audiences there are numerous films centered around the culinary arts.
But a lighter focus shouldn’t be misconstrued to mean that the films are without substance. The festival is offering numerous films with a social justice theme, like the documentaries “Shared Legacies: The African-American Jewish Civil Rights Alliance,” and “Healing from Hate: Battle for the Soul of a Nation.”
“The quality of films is a strong as ever this year, and I know viewers appreciate how we flow our films,” Weiner Weiss said. “This year we have films that are really buyout and run the gamut of styles and subjects. We tried to figure out what films being currently released speak to what consumers want.”
While home viewing will never replace the feeling and community that gets built by seeing movies together in a theater, there are some positives to the virtual festival experience.
“The beauty of a festival like this is we’re so niche that you can’t see many of these films anywhere else, but if you can’t make it to the screening, you miss it,” Weiner Weiss said. “We still are offering the quality of films and engagement that audiences have come to know and love.”
For more information and tickets, visit www.jccdenver.org/film.
DAM explores 19th century art
The Denver Art Museum, 100 W. 14th Ave. Parkway, is unveiling a new exhibit, The 19th Century in European and American Art, on Feb. 7. About 85 artworks from the museum’s own holdings will be on view in new galleries designed for these works, according to provided information. The exhibit includes paintings, sculptures and works on paper by, among others, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas and many more.
The exhibit focuses on works ranging from the late 1700s through the early 1900s. The new installation will include “bilingual artwork labels, interpretive elements and content designed to engage visitors of all ages and backgrounds.”
For ticketing and more, visit www.denverartmuseum.org.
Clarke’s Concert of the Week – Waxahatchee livestream
Katie Crutchfield’s musical project Waxahatchee is responsible for some of the most sharply written, infectious and all around most dynamic indie rock of the last decade. Somehow the group has released five unassailably great albums in just 10 years, and their latest, “Saint Cloud,” was one of 2020’s most acclaimed releases. It takes Crutchfield’s sterling indie rock talents and blends them with country and folk styles.
Waxahatchee will be performing a livestream concert at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 11. To get a ticket visit www.bandsintown.com.
Streaming style – ‘The Seventh Seal’ with discussion
Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 classic “The Seventh Seal” is one of those films every cinema lover needs to see at least once. If you’ve ever seen the image of Death playing chess in popular culture, it can probably be traced back to this film – the image is that iconic.
As part of his Saturday Matinee series at the Denver Public Library, film critic, author and teacher Walter Chaw will be livestreaming a discussion on this classic film with actress, writer and director Natasha Lyonne (who you might know from “Orange Is the New Black,” “Russian Doll” and more).
Clarke Reader’s column on culture apears on a weekly basis. He can be reached at Clarke.Reader@hotmail.com.