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Valerie Z. Written by Valerie Z.
May. 10, 2011 | 11:28 PM

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Inspiration at the Jewish Film Festival

Last night, I went to the James Bridges Theatre at UCLA to attend a night of inspirational films.  First, there was a showing of “A Simple Act”, a film by Jennifer Arnold.  This was actually the second time that I had seen the film.  It is the story of Hilde Back, a Holocaust survivor living modestly in Sweden, who became a teacher.  One day, she is offered the opportunity to anonymously sponsor a young Kenyan boy’s education, changing the course of his impoverished life.  For just $15 a month, Chris Mburu, her student, has become a Harvard-educated human rights lawyer, working for the U.N.  He is so eternally grateful for Hilde’s generous gift that he returns to his impoverished village in Kenya to set-up his own sponsorship program, which he has named The Hilde Back Foundation.

We meet three prospective students from his village and witness their struggles as they live in huts, made of grass and mud, study by candlelight because they have no electricity, and have to help support their families, which makes them fall behind in their studies.  For girls, it is even tougher as they are more likely to become pregnant by the time they are 15 or 16 years old without a much needed education, thus stuck in the cycle of abject poverty.

The story is uplifting in the end as the students, all get sponsored: one, a boy, by Mburu’s foundation and the other two, who are girls, become sponsored by the film makers!  I gave the film a 5 out of 5 for the Audience Award.

The second film was the Oscar winning Documentary Short Subject film titled “Strangers No More”.  Another exceptional story about a school located in Tel Aviv filled with students from 48 different countries who are refugees.  In a few cases, these children have witnessed the murders of their parents and other family members right before their eyes, and are now taken in by loving, caring, teachers and school administrators.  In the beginning, some of the children are so shy as they do not speak Hebrew and/or have never been to school before.  During the school year, we see them blossom as they become happier, learn the language, and make friends with other students.  Again, I gave it a 5 out of 5 for the Audience Award.

The pairing of these two films made for a wonderful evening.  Other films screened at the festival include a documentary: “Jews and Baseball:  An American Love Story”, the Los Angeles Premieres of “He’s My Girl” , and The Socalled Movie”, and the documentary “Mending the Torn Curtain”.  There are some shorts worth mentioning too: “A Reuben by Any Other Name” and “Shofar Calling”.  The closing night film is “Who Do You Love” which will screen at the Laemmle’s Town Center in Encino at 7:30 pm on Thursday, May 12.

For more information visit or email  Keep this film festival on your ‘radar’ for 2012 too.

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