NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–October 29 marks the kick-off of Rutgers University’s 18th annual Jewish Film Festival.

The film festival is open to everyone, with screenings taking place at the AMC Loews Theater in New Brunswick and the Princeton Garden Theater.

“You don’t have to be Jewish to come and enjoy this festival,” emphasizes the festival’s director Karen Small. “Anyone can come, and we want people to have a good time. That’s why we are hosting the festival at regular movie theaters. We want people to feel comfortable.”

The  festival is sponsored by the Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life, and a yearly grant presented by the Karmazin Foundation.

Since its inception, the festival has grown to include a diverse range of films and speakers, all committed to providing perspectives on Jewish life.

“When we first started, we had six films, and about 1600 people in attendance,” said Small. “Since then, it has become one of the community’s most popular and loved public events.”

This year’s festival, which will take place between Friday, October 29 and Sunday, November 12, includes 15 films, with a total of 28 screenings.

Several films will be screened multiple times, with morning, afternoon, and evening time slots available to accommodate schedules. Select screenings will be followed by question and answer sessions with scholars, screenwriters, and cast members.

“We want to appeal to a diverse and wide range of audiences, including teenagers and college students,” said Small. “I think the discussion is brought to a higher level when you include speakers and actors. Viewers will get to see a behind the scenes look at the film and story.”

Tickets are available for individual films, as well as a patron pass that provides VIP access to all film screenings in the festival.  A $55 discount pass is also available, which allows access to five films of the buyer’s choice.

Additionally, students have the option of purchasing individual tickets for $6 each, Film subjects and themes include everything from politics and religion to romance and family life, so there is something for every taste.

“We want to bring in new audiences, and help people see Jewish life in a different way,” Small noted. “Art and film reflect society and we hope that people learn something new about Jewish history, the history of immigrants, our community and how we came here and were accepted.”

Films of note include opening night’s Harmonia, as well as the dramas 1945 and Dimona Twist, and the more light-hearted comedies Keep the Change, and The Wedding Plan.

Each has won a variety of awards recognizing acting, costume design, screenplay writing, and directing.

“We started with 150 films to preview and narrowed it down to fifteen. These are the best ones,” reflected Small.

“There are films with heavy topics like how our community rebuilt after the Holocaust, but we also wanted to include some fun ones too, ones that were charming and hopeful.”