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Charlotte Jewish Film Festival Launches 12th Season

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Annual fest gains audience, recognition with high quality films, value added programming, and cross cultural appeal.

Kicking off their 12th season, the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival launches into 2016 with a slate of a dozen films and in-person filmmakers helping create an appeal to a broad audience beyond a traditional ethnic base.

Niche film festivals tend to be tightly scripted affairs, serving targeted audiences with narrowly themed offerings. CJFF breaks the mold in this regard, presenting films with universal themes such as social justice, family relationships, and love, connecting with people of all faiths and beliefs.

“While we stay true to the mission of the CJFF, illuminating the global Jewish experience,” said Jeff Turk, film selection committee chair and past CJFF director. “Our programming offers an element of surprise that broader audiences have come to expect from us. This might be a story that they are unfamiliar with or the opportunity to meet directly with filmmakers, producers, and even cast members through our value added programming.”

High quality films

Turk noted the consistent quality of the films selected is appealing to CJFF film goers.

“Our committee began screening in June and viewed close to 80 films by the time we selected the final 12 in November,” he said. “These films are new releases, not available on streaming services, and can’t be found elsewhere. I’m particularly proud of our lineup this year as we have some truly special films such as ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ the directorial debut of Oscar nominee, Natalie Portman. Our opening night film, ‘Dough,’ features award winning actor Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones). It is a wonderful story that touches on Jewish/Muslim relations and we will have actor Jerome Holder from the film on hand afterward for a discussion.”

Benjamin Schwartz, director of the CJFF, says filmgoers can expect movies that “make you laugh, cry, and think” from the series.

“We have struck upon the perfect formula for a great cultural event,” said Schwartz. “We have high quality films specially vetted to offer variety not only in terms of genre and narrative but also style and form. Festival goers are also treated to interesting speakers offering insight to the filmmaking process, and multiple access points for our films appealing to those interested in the art form, educational aspect or sheer entertainment – we have it all.”

Dramatic growth

Schwartz noted that the festival has grown in size and scope dramatically over the past 12 years.

“What started with three screenings with 150 attendees has grown to 28 screenings with more than 5000 in attendance last year,” said Schwartz. “Over time the festival has evolved to year-round programming offering the core series beginning in February, a spring offering at Sensoria, fan appreciation screening in the summer and our FallFlicks screenings in the fall.”

Schwartz noted the festival has become so popular with movie lovers that he’s fielded calls from those waiting for the festival dates to be set so they can avoid scheduling vacation for fear of missing the event.

“One super busy couple I know specifically looks forward to the festival for an unbreakable series of date nights,” said Schwartz. “They love sharing the experience together and look forward to it all year long.”

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