Jewish Film Series back at Oldcastle

Congregation Beth El presents third edition of cultural film initiative.


BENNINGTON — Third time's a charm, right?

Actually, the first two times for the Bennington Jewish Film Series went pretty, well, too.

After a successful inaugural run in 2017, a popular local celebration of culturally-oriented movies is making a comeback with a new set of films, and the same goals of both entertainment and education.

The 3rd Annual Jewish Film Series, formerly named the Jewish Film Festival, will premier this Saturday at Oldcastle Theatre Company with the classic Academy Award-winning "Yentl."

The series is sponsored by Congregation Beth El, and all showings will be hosted at Oldcastle. The four films chosen will all run at 7:00 p.m. on the designated Saturdays shown below.

All movies will be shown free of charge. Free will donations, however, are welcome from audience members, but not required. This year, a cash bar will also be available.

Oldcastle artistic director Eric Peterson lauded the continuation of the series into its third year, and said that it has become an integral part of Oldcastle's hosting of year-round programming.

"Oldcastle Theatre is thrilled to have the Jewish Film Series back for its third year after two successful seasons in 2017 and 2018," Peterson said. "The series has become a popular fixture in late winter and early spring and has attracted a diverse audience as one would expect from such a culturally-rich offering."

Al Bashevkin, a member of the series' organizing committee, added that education and appreciation are both at the heart of the series' success, and what have made it worthy of a comeback this year. Bashevkin credited fellow committee members Shelli DuBoff, Sharon Yorke, and Tony Eprile with final movie selection.

"Times change and we no longer live in the segregated communities of our ancestors, and living in America has opened many doors for the Jewish people," Bashevkin said. "With our assimilation a reality here in Vermont, we hope that the culture and roots of our ancestors will not be forgotten, so that we may continue in our quest to help humankind cope with the challenges we face in the 21st century. History teaches us a lot, and that should not be forgotten."

The slate of films will be presented starting this Saturday. Each film will be followed by an audience discussion facilitated by a committee member. Discussion attendance is voluntary.

Jan. 19: "Yentl," 7 p.m.

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This 1983 romantic musical drama integrates humor and music to tell the story of an Ashkenazi Jewish girl in 1904 Poland who decides to dress and live like a man so that she is educated in Talmudic law — the realm of men only — after her father dies. Her thirst for knowledge is the central driving force of the movie. The cultural crossing of gender lines experienced by Yentl has since found a medical term known as Yentl Syndrome. Starring: Barbra Streisand, Mandy Patinkin, Michael York, and directed by Bob Fosse. Academy and Golden Globe winner. Discussion facilitator: Shelli DuBoff.

Feb. 23: "Crossing Delancey," 7 p.m.

Isabelle works at a New York bookstore in this 1988 romantic comedy. Author Anton Maes comes to the bookstore for a public reading of his work, and takes a fancy to her. Isabelle is also fascinated by the intellectual world, one that is very different from her traditional Jewish upbringing. Her grandmother, though, asks a old-school marriage broker to enter the scene. Starring: Amy Irving, Peter Riegert, Jeroen Krabbe, Sylvia Miles and directed by Joan Micklin Silver. Based on the play of the same title by Susan Sandler. Golden Globe nominee. Discussion facilitator: Al Bashevkin.

March 23: "A World Apart" 7 p.m.

This 1988 drama is set in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 1963, Molly Roth, a 13-year old, has her life torn apart when her father, a member of the South African Communist Party, flees into exile. Her mother, an anti-apartheid activist, is further detained. Their relationship is challenged by adversity and political bullying as her family's relationships with blacks come to the forefront. Starring: Barbara Hershey, David Suchet, Jeroen Krabbe, Tim Roth and directed by Chris Menges. BAFTA and Cannes winner. Discussion facilitator: Tony Eprile.

April 27: "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis," 7 p.m.

This is a 1970 Italian film with subtitles. In the late 1930s, with Mussolini's fascism on the rise, coupled with growing anti-Semitism, a group of young friends meet to play tennis and otherwise socialize. Banned from most tennis clubs, they go to play at the grand, walled garden of the Finzi-Continis, a well-to-do, intellectual and cultured Jewish family. Starring: Lino Capolicchio, Dominique Sanda, Helmut Berger and directed by Vittorio de Sica. Academy and Golden Bear winner. Discussion facilitator: Sharon Yorke.

In considering the movie selection for this year's series, committee member and marketing coordinator DuBoff said that the feedback from the past two years of the series has been very positive.

DuBoff emphasized that the movies deal in widespread themes and "cannot be dismissed as just entertainment. They make you think."

"You didn't have to be Jewish to love [them]," DuBoff said. "The theme[s] of family, friction between generations, tradition and faith [are] something every culture could relate to. Today [the] themes of emigration, assimilation, repression, and prejudice still ring true. We feel that the films we show are not just Jewish films, but universal."

For information on the 2019 Bennington Jewish Film Series, call Congregation Beth El at 802-442-9645, or Oldcastle Theatre Company at 802-447-0564.

Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias at, Twitter: @TellyHalkias


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