CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Jewish Film Festival (CJFF) has partnered this year with Charlotte Pride, with its Reel Out Charlotte film fest, and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte for a special screening of “Family Commitments.”
The directorial debut of German filmmaker Hanno Olderdissen, the comedy centers on the relationship between David and his boyfriend Khaled (Maximilian von Pufendorf and Omar El-Saeidi), who are engaged to be married.
The taboo of a Jewish man marrying a Muslim man is explored, with the intensity turned up by David’s overbearing mother and Khaled’s homophobic father. If that wasn’t enough drama, and fodder for satire, in walks an old acquaintance claiming to be pregnant with David’s baby.
When the festival screening committee chose the film, Director of Cultural Arts at the CJFF and Levine Jewish Community Center, Susan Cherin Gundersheim told qnotes she “was thrilled and a little surprised.”
“Our film committee watches probably 50 films…and then we choose a slate of ten to 15 films,” Gundersheim shared. “One of our secondary goals over the last five years has been to expand the type of films that we’re looking at to include films that would give us the opportunity to interface with other micro communities.”
“We won’t choose a movie that’s not good in order to do that,” she continued, “but it’s been a very diverse group of organizations over the last, let’s say five to six years, and a very diverse group of partners.”
That has included Reel Out Charlotte and the Gay Men’s Chorus in the past as well.
Last year, the CJFF screened the documentary “Who’s Gonna Love Me Now,” about an ex-Israeli paratrooper who attempts to reconcile with his religious family in Israel after finding out that he is HIV-positive.
The Gay Men’s Chorus sang after the screening, which they will also do after the screening of “Family Commitments.”
“The screening committee voted on putting that film [“Who’s Gonna Love Me Now”] in the festival hands down, which to me was a huge turning point. Because I really wasn’t sure,” Gundersheim shared.
“Typically, we have an older demographic, and we have people who have served on the screening committee since the inception of the film festival,” she explained.
She said that while there was no pushback or backlash whatsoever on the choice to screen “Who’s Gonna Love Me Now,” there were conversations that took place among the committee that showed there was still room for education on these important issues.
“It was very clear based on some of the conversation that this was a really great opportunity to, again, share time, and space, and art with the communities, so there can be learning and experiences,” she said.
Those conversations need to take place now as much as ever, she stressed.
“In the recent times, we have seen a huge rise in antisemitism,” she said, noting that the Charlotte Jewish Community Center had been the victim of bomb threats on more than one occasion last year alone.
“Through that, I think we’re even more motivated and inspired to reach out to other communities who are marginalized and discriminated against, and show support, and educate, and expose, and share time, and share food, share space,” she added. “Because the bridges across those communities gives us an action step, something we can do in the day to day feeling of helplessness that there has been.”
“Agency wide, it’s a concept that we’re not free until we’re all free,” she added. “And that’s an agency wide initiative in everything that we’re doing. The arts obviously really lend itself to those opportunities, which is a great thing.”
Other films spotlighted as part of this initiative this year include the Sammy Davis Jr. documentary “I’ve Gotta Be Me,” and the romantic comedy “Keep the Change,” about two adults on the autism spectrum who fall in love.
“Charlotte Pride is excited to continue our partnership with the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival in 2018. By co-presenting important films with our community partners, we are able to showcase and highlight the diversity of the LGBTQ community and its stories and faces,” said Charlotte Pride Programs and Events Manager Jerry Yelton.
“Family Commitments” will screen at Regal Ballantyne Village Stadium Theaters, 14815 Ballantyne Village Way, Charlotte at 7:15 p.m. on Mar. 3. Tickets are $11 and can be purchased online at bit.ly/2obRr7f.