The annual film festival put on by Denver’s Jewish Community Center is for everyone.
This is something that Richard Cowden wants to stress. The Denver Jewish Film Festival is open to everybody, not just Jewish people.
“We want to attract more non-Jews,” said Cowden, general manager of the Mizel Arts and Culture Center at the Staenberg-Loup Jewish Community Center. “We’d love to have people from other cultures want to come in and see films that are by Jewish people or about a topic from Jewish history or current affairs.”
The 27th annual Denver Jewish Film Festival takes place March 11-19 at the JCC Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia St. in Denver. A streaming on demand option for the festival will be available from March 20-29.
Independent films are growing. This year, the festival received more than 300 submissions and is presenting about 40 films from 14 countries, including full-features, nine shorts and one TV mini-series.
“It makes you realize that the film world we see is just the tip of the iceberg relative to the amount of content that’s being presented every year,” said Cowden, who’s in his third year of working on the festival. “Ours is but a sliver of the films that are made.”
Films go through a rigorous screening process, watched by a pre-screening committee, then a film selection committee. And they watch a ton of films before choosing the festival lineup, with submissions from all over the world.
“It’s surprising, the growth of films by people in Israel and internationally, the amount of attention that is paid to Jewish films and stories,” Cowden said. “There’s a lot out there.”
Cowden mentioned a few of his favorites.
“Farewell Mr. Haffmann,” opens the festival at 8 p.m. on March 11. The film is set in Paris in 1941 under German occupation. An employer, Mr. Haffmann, and his employee Francois “are forced to strike a deal which, over the following months, will upend the fate of all concerned,” states the printed program.
“Haffmann has been winning rave views and awards from festivals all around the world,” Cowden said.
Another is a Polish film called “The Wedding Day.” It takes place in contemporary times and involves the daughters of a meatpacking magnate. The film splits into two realities, Cowden said. Some of it is present-day, some visits the dark past of this Polish village.
“There’s a lot of going back and a lot of flash forward. Eventually, they become one,” Cowden said. “If people are looking for something day, it’s really fascinating.”
Cowden also points out “The Swimmer,” which takes place in a parallel reality, where a young Israeli competes for an Olympic spot.
“It’s very fascinating, especially in the category of gay films,” Cowden said. “It’s an interesting film because it’s not like a documentary about an Orthodox kid who realizes he’s gay. It’s got an ending that’s unforgettable.”