To prepare you for 21st year of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, completely virtual-for-the-first time as you’ve never seen before, we bring you 21 previews spotlighting the breath of films offered for your home viewing. The films, which represent more than half of those in the AJFF lineup Feb. 17-28, include classics, intimate family dramas, upbeat comedy and historic documentaries. Sit back and relax as the AJFF brings us together through film.
The ancient ghetto of Rome dates back to the 16th century. A papal bull required the Jewish community, the oldest in the world outside the Middle East, to live together in oppression. The ghetto returned to its infamous roots during World War II when, like the Warsaw Ghetto, it served as a containment area for Jews. Today, the Roman Ghetto is a four-square block area, a favorite haunt of Romans and foreign tourists alike, drawn to its many kosher and kosher-style restaurants. Located near the popular Trastevere district, most significantly, the ghetto houses the Great Synagogue of Rome, a staid old reminder of the original residents of the community. And it’s the young residents of the ghetto who are at the heart of this lovely, warmhearted film.
“Starry Sky” opens with a black-and-white scene set during Black Saturday, 1943, the day that the Nazis came to the ghetto, rounded up the Jews, and took them to concentration camps.
Now in present-day Rome, a high school student, Sofia, and her friend Valentina discover a letter addressed to a Sarah Cohen and a photograph of a young girl from the 1940s. Who wrote the letter to Sarah? Is Sarah still alive?
Part detective story, part high school drama, part interfaith love story and part plea for religious tolerance, “Starry Sky” is a film for all ages, especially teens and other young adults. Moving seamlessly between past and present, the film’s young protagonists, both Jewish and Christian, team up in their search for Sarah Cohen with the help of a rabbi and nuns from a nearby convent.
Their remarkable discovery and the people they meet along the way set the stage, literally, for a satisfying and warm conclusion: a play that the kids write and stage honoring Sarah and the many others affected by the roundup of Jews during the war. All in all, un buonissimo film indeed.