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28th Annual Phyllis Hoffman Hartford Jewish Film Festival to Unveil Spectacular Opening Weekend

The Phyllis Hoffman Hartford Jewish Film Festival begins Oct. 14 at the Mandell JCC in West Hartford.


The Phyllis Hoffman Hartford Jewish Film Festival is proud to announce an exciting transformation of its 28th annual event. This year’s festival has been reimagined as a series of monthly screenings from October to March, featuring the same outstanding programming that has made the annual event an audience favorite. Spread across weekends throughout these months, the festival promises to captivate audiences with a diverse lineup of films and enriching post-film discussions featuring esteemed guests.

Tickets and Passes

Tickets for the opening weekend screenings and discussions can be purchased at HJFF.org.  Early bird discounts on money-saving festival passes are available through October 17. Reserve your seats now to be part of this cinematic celebration.

Opening Weekend Highlights

Kicking off this extraordinary six-month cinematic journey, opening weekend features two outstanding films and post-film programs.

Saturday, Oct. 14

Film: Bella! This Woman’s Place Is in the House

Time: 7 p.m.

Venue: Mandell JCC, Herbert & Evelyn Gilman Theater

Bella! is a powerful documentary that traces the life and legacy of Bella Abzug, a trailblazing figure in American politics. Long before there were powerful female congressional leaders like Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, there was the indomitable Bella, fighting for civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, and across-the-board inclusivity. Following her all-too-brief career in the U.S. House of Representatives, she continued to press for justice and women’s empowerment on the global stage. The film will be followed by a live Q&A session featuring Bella’s daughter, Liz Abzug, and Rabbi Debra Cantor, offering unique insights into Bella’s remarkable journey.

The journey of bringing “Bella!” to the screen has been marked by controversy, as highlighted in a recent New York Times article. A dispute between Liz Abzug and filmmaker Jeff L. Lieberman has raised important questions about authenticity and integrity in documentary filmmaking. Although Mr. Lieberman could not attend the screening, Liz Abzug will be present to share her perspective. 

Sunday, Oct. 15

Film: A Pocketful of Miracles, A Tale of Two Siblings

Time: 1 p.m.

Venue: Mandell JCC, Herbert & Evelyn Gilman Theater

A Pocketful of Miracles, A Tale of Two Siblings, directed by award-winning, Berlin-born filmmaker Aviva Kempner, presents a moving narrative of her mother and uncle, the Polish-born Hanka and Dudek Ciesla, siblings who survived the Holocaust and reunited after the war to build remarkable lives in America. The film provides an intimate glimpse into their experiences and achievements as painter Helen Ciesla Covensky and Hartford businessman and philanthropist David Chase. Following the screening, a live Q&A session will feature the filmmaker in conversation with Cheryl Chase and Arnold Chase, offering the audience a deeper understanding of this family’s extraordinary story of survival and resilience.

The film had its world premiere at the DC Jewish Film and Music Festival where it earned the Audience Prize for Best Documentary.

For more information about the 28th Annual Phyllis Hoffman Hartford Jewish Film Festival, including trailers, schedule of films and discussions, please visit HJFF.org

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