This year’s Nashville Jewish Film Festival continues through Nov. 11, with six eye-opening films including one that’s co-sponsored by the Vanderbilt University’s Holocaust Lecture Series and has been described as a comic book within a documentary.
That film, “Monsieur Mayonnaise,” tells how the Australian comics artist and filmmaker Philippe Mora investigates his father’s role in the French Resistance during World War II and his mother’s extraordinary escape en route to Auschwitz. The film will be shown in London later in November at the UK Jewish Film Festival. It was an official selection at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival.
If you are wondering how a film about someone’s family history came to be called “Monsieur Mayonnaise,” suffice it to say that the garlicky French condiment plays a starring role, preventing Nazi border guards from discovering what members of the Resistance had stashed inside fragrant, mayo-soaked baguettes.
Nashville audiences can see “Monsieur Mayonnaise” on Thursday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m. at the Belcourt Theatre. Special guests at the screening are Ari Dubin, executive director of Vanderbilt University Hillel, and Rev. Mark Forrester, Vanderbilt University chaplain and director of religious life.
Four of the remaining five films are documentaries, and at least one, “Keep Quiet,” seems to echo recent headlines.
“Keep Quiet,” directed by Sam Blair and Joe Martin, is the story of Csanad Szegedi, who rose through the ranks of Hungary’s far-right extremist party and built a career out of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. His world is rocked when he learns a family secret: His maternal grandparents were not only Jews but survivors. Is his conversion from prejudiced denier and provocateur to devout Jew real?
The film will be shown on Wednesday, Nov. 1, at the Belcourt Theatre at 7 p.m. Special guest will be Shaul Kelner, associate professor of sociology and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt University.
New this year is the Thursday matinee at the Gordon Jewish Community Center. On Nov. 2 at 12:15 p.m., “Scandal in Ivansk” will be featured.
When descendants of the Jews of the Polish village Ivansk return to restore the plundered Jewish cemetery, they erect a plaque that includes the word ‘collaborator,’ unleashing a national scandal. This documentary, directed by David Blumenfeld and Ami Drozd, explores why much of Poland won’t accept this one word to describe Poles who aided the Nazis.
Special guest is Steven D. Reese, founder and CEO of the Matzevah Foundation, whose purpose is to aid in the restoration of Jewish cemeteries in Europe.
“Body and Soul,” to be screened on Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. at the Belcourt, explores the link between American Jewish pop composers and the black musicians who brought these compositions into the jazz canon. A prime example is “Body and Soul,” by Jewish songwriter Johnny Green, introduced on Broadway by Jewish torch singer Libby Holman, and first recorded as a jazz piece by Louis Armstrong. The film won the Best Music Documentary Award at the San Francisco Black Film Festival.
Our special guest will be H. Beecher Hicks III, president and CEO of the National Museum of African American Music.
“Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” will be shown on Tuesday, Nov. 7 at the Belcourt at 7 p.m. It’s hosted by the Nashville Kosher Hot Chicken Festival. (Caution: For mature audiences/Nudity)
Hedy Lamarr may be best known as a beautiful actress of the 1940s, but she was also a top-flight inventor. Her fans never knew that she developed a ‘secret communications system’ that helped the Allies in World War II and led to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. She also was Jewish.
Our special guest is Hedy’s daughter, Denise Loder DeLuca.
Last but not least, a special program is set for closing night, Saturday, Nov. 11, at the GJCC at 6:30 p.m.
The evening starts with a catered kosher dinner (Bavarian pretzels, chicken schnitzel, leek and mushroom strudel, German potato salad, cucumber salad and apple dessert, wine, beer and coffee with a gluten free option). The film, “The Exception,” follows at 8 p.m.
It stars NJFF favorite Christopher Plummer and Lily James (Cinderella). When searching for a suspected spy in the staff of exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II, Nazi Captain Stephen Brandt finds himself drawn into a romance with one of the Kaiser’s chambermaids, who harbors a secret identity. (Caution: The film is for mature audiences and contains nudity.)
For more information, visit www.nashvillejff.org. •