The films Melting Away and Hitler's Children, both from Israel, won the Audience Awards for Best Feature and Best Documentary, respectively, from the 24th annual Boston Jewish Film Festival.
The awards, voted on by those attending the festival, culminated a 13-day film festival marked by increased attendance, diverse crowds, and the utilization of new theaters, festival organizers said.
"We were thrilled with the turnout and response to the festival," said Executive Director Jaymie Saks in a press release. "People have so many choices for their entertainment time, but we had a substantial increase. The crowds were more diverse from young families to young adults. We tried new venues, which worked out really well and gave the festival even more energy. Bottom line--we were thrilled with the festival."
According to the festival, Melting Away, from director Doron Eran, marks the first time in Israeli cinema that a feature film depicts parents learning to deal with a transgender child. The film stars Chen Yanni, who was nominated for an Ophir (Israeli Oscar) for best actress.
Hitler's Children, from Israeli director Chanoch Ze'evi, examines the lives of the offspring of the most notorious Nazis. Among them was Bettina (Goering) Sellers, Hermann Goering's great niece, who attend the Boston screening.
"It's a great honor for me to receive the Audience prize," Ze'evi said in the press release. "In Hitler's Children, I tried to bring to the viewers a new point of view to the very same story--to tell the story of the Holocaust from a new angle--and by doing this, to preserve the memory of the Holocaust. I feel blessed the audience gets the message and finds this film interesting and important."
The filmmakers received Avid film editing software for the honor.
Attendance at the festival was approximately 9,000 for 42 screenings at 10 locations. The per-screening average attendance increased 24-percent from 2011, and was almost a five-percent increase in total attendance from 2011, according to the festival.
"This is significant because we had more total screenings in 2011, but increased overall attendance in 2012," Saks said.
Films came from 11 countries: Israel, the United States, Canada, South Africa, Russia, Argentina, France, Germany, England, Austria, and Nigeria. Many films were from first-time directors, including the opening-night film Life in Stills, an Israeli documentary by Tamar Tal.
David, the Brooklyn-based feature film about Muslim-Jewish friendships and identity among kids, drew 400 people at Showcase Cinema de Lux Patriot Place in Foxborough. The Coolidge Corner screening of David attracted more than 350 people, including a large percentage of families.
The festival moved into three new venues this year: the Somerville Theatre, Theatre 1 at Revere Hotel Boston Common, and Cinema Salem.
The Somerville Theatre hosted the Short Films Competition, which drew an overwhelmingly young adult audience of more than 350 people. B-Boy won the top honor ($1,500) among seven finalists, with Music Man Murray coming in second ($1,000) in audience voting. Four of the filmmakers were on hand for a lively discussion about their films.
Theatre 1 at Revere Hotel Boston Common hosted two screenings, including the second screening ever of the documentary Koch, with debut director Neil Barsky in attendance. Koch and Paris-Manhattan were the two Surprise Screenings announced only weeks before the festival began, and both drew excellent crowds.
Cinema Salem hosted the well-received documentary Dressing America: Tales from the Garment Center.
This year's festival marked the debut of new artistic director Amy Geller, who selected the films shown. As part of the festival, Geller devised the Favorite Films from the Famous program with Robert Brustein, founder of the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, introducing The Producers and Not a Doctor, Not a Lawyer Series with four documentary films.
For more information about the Boston Jewish Film Festival, visit www.bjff.org.
Laura Franzini can be reached at email@example.com.