Film fest brings Jewish-themed movies to Northern Virginia

Above and Beyond tells of American Jewish pilots who flew for Israel in 1948. Photo courtesy of Katahdin Productions
Above and Beyond tells of American Jewish pilots who flew for Israel in 1948. Photo courtesy of Katahdin Productions

Events in Paris and around the world shape the theme of identity at this year’s Northern Virginia Jewish Film Festival, a program of the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia.

However, on a local level, the 15th annual event is forming its own identity that is increasingly intertwined with the Angelika Film Center & Café – the state-of-the-art boutique cinema in Fairfax’s Mosaic District that is hosting the fest for the third straight year.

“We are so lucky. It is fantastic to be at Angelika,” said festival Director Dan Kirsch, who is also cultural arts director at the JCCNV. “The vibrancy of the area and being so close to the JCC is incredible. It is a very lucky partnership.”

Kirsch described Angelika as an advantage over previous venues. He said the cinema is located near Metro and the Beltway, and that moviegoers appreciate Mosaic’s active community that includes restaurants and other amenities.

The festival’s 15 feature films offer an opportunity to explore Jewish identity today and ask questions about what this identity will look like in the future, according to Kirsch. Given the rise in anti-Semitic attacks in Europe, he cited the French drama 24 Days, which screens March 26 at 7:30 p.m., as being particularly timely. The film is based on a true story about the 2006 anti-Semitic kidnapping, torture and murder of 23-year-old Ilan Halimi in a Paris suburb. A discussion about current events in France will follow the screening.

The festival will kick off at 7:30 p.m. March 19 with the documentary Above and Beyond, directed by Roberta Grossman and produced by Nancy Spielberg. It tells the story of a group of Jewish American pilots who volunteered to fight for Israel in the 1948 War of Independence and created the Israeli Air Force.

“It’s a fantastic film,” said Kirsch. “It seems like every year there is one film that our entire committee is gung-ho on, and I’m very pleased it was Above and Beyond.”

There will be a post-screening question-and-answer session with Bruce Lichtman, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot whose father, Gideon Lichtman, is featured in the film. The younger Lichtman served as a resource in the making of the film, helping to provide his family history to Grossman and Spielberg.

Storytelling group SpeakeasyDC is partnering with the festival for a storytelling event on March 25 at 7:30 p.m. that examines the past and present of Jews in cinema. “From the Marx Brothers to the Coen Brothers: My mazel tov to Jewish film and filmmakers” will feature SpeakeasyDC regulars plus JCCNV members.

The Northern Virginia Jewish Film Festival unspools March 19-29. For ticket and other information, visit

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