2014 Miami Jewish Film Festival

Celebrating its 17th anniversary, the Miami Jewish Film Festival (MJFF) runs January 23 through February 3.  MJFF is considered the preeminent film festival for showcasing Jewish cinema in Florida. A gathering of more than 11,000 local and international audience members, this worldwide convening of film aficionados brings the finest in films right to South Florida. During the week, movies will be screened at O Cinema Miami Shores, Miami Beach Cinematheque, Regal Cinemas South Beach, Frank Theatres Intracoastal and the Bill Cosford Cinema at UM.

I was sent a screener of “Our Big Time”, an Austria-Germany-Romania made film with English sub-titles. The film explores how the Nazi movement affected children inside Germany during World War II.

At first, I was expecting a retread of countless other films, but was soon pleasantly surprised to see a fresh story and a well written, acted and directed movie about two close friends who go from innocent youth to having to deal with some pretty mature issues in a short amount of time.

Alex and Ferry are choirboys who families endure near daily air raids in Germany. When Ferry’s mother signs him up for the children’s evacuation program (basically a military camp), Alex can’t stand the thought of being separated. Unbeknown to even his parents, the boys secretly get Alex into the evacuation program.

And timing turns out to be perfect, as the Nazis discover Alex has Jewish heritage and confronts his parents asking to take Alex in exchange for their freedom.  By then, Alex has already left for the camp.

At camp, their singing helps them avoid military training. Instead, they are selected to join the prestigious camp choir. The rest of the film shows the compassion of a select few and the sheer luck that allows Alex to survive.

Beyond “Our Big Time”, the MJFF will be showing 24 full-length films and 6 shorts. Many are premieres of some sort, including the world premiere of “Felix Tikotin: A Life Devoted to Japanese Art”. You can review schedules and events at http://miamijewishfilmfestival.net