September 28, 2023

Movie goers gathered March 1 to watch three Jewish films and experience the culture at the Seventh Annual Riverside Jewish Film Festival, presented and funded by Temple Beth El, a Jewish synagogue in Riverside.

The event, held at the Mission Grove Theater, had members of temples from Riverside, Ontario, Temecula and Redlands celebrating their heritage and culture by reflecting on the Jewish religion through the context of film.

Rosalie Anderson, co-chair and founder of the Riverside Jewish Film Festival, said she enjoys watching movies and regularly attends film festivals in Palm Springs.

“Seeing a picture on the big screen catches you so much more than on the little screen,” Anderson said. “I thought it would be wonderful to have some films available here.”

Anderson applied for a grant from Temple Beth El’s Legacy Fund, a program that supports Jewish life. After her request was approved in 2009, Anderson said the festival took off.

This year, three films were screened throughout the day, including “Hava Nagila,” a documentary focused on a style of dance and song that is part of the Jewish culture.

“I remember once being down in South America and listening to someone play a record outside and hearing ‘Hava Nagila,’” Anderson said. “I thought this was a particularly good film version because it told you the history of it.”

The feature explores the concept of identity through dance and how the movement is tied to Jewish culture.

“What’s good about it is the whole thing is 150 years old,” said Jerry Gordon, film festival attendee. “It really is a song of happiness and when you consider (what) the Jewish people have gone through (with) so many problems, this song kind of fills in the whole thing.”

The second film featured at the festival was “Mr. Kaplan,” a 2014 comedic drama film that is an Uruguay Oscar competitor for the Best Foreign Language Film award. The film is in Spanish and is centered on a man who has a suspicion that the gentlemen who owns a restaurant on his beach is a Nazi.

“I thought the film was funny, and I understood the movie better because it was in Spanish,” said Juana Lopez, freshman pre-nursing major at California Baptist University. “Mr. Kaplan was set on this idea that `I am going to send the Nazi back,’ and he thought justice was going to be served.”

The final film featured was “Restoration,” a movie about a man trying to save his furniture restoration business after one of his partners dies. The Israeli film won the World Cinema Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011.

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