Viewing my religion

Bride and groom in chairs in <i>Hava Nagila: The Movie</i>.

Bride and groom in chairs in Hava Nagila: The Movie.

Photo courtesy of Jenny Jimenez

Crest Theatre

1013 K St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 476-3356

I have a lot of traumatic memories from my upbringing as a Chinese Jew. From being called “wonton” (because I’m half-Chinese, and it rhymes with my Hebrew name Yonatan—get it?), to watching boring and sometimes horrifically violent films during Sunday school. Nevertheless, the good films—which included a 1981 television special called The Wave and Shoah, a 1985 French documentary about the holocaust—certainly helped the time pass along faster. Strangely, one of the films that best helped me understand my Jewish roots was a 1986 Steven Spielberg-produced animated film about a mouse called An American Tail.

This year’s Jewish Film Festival, happening from March 7 to March 10, at the Crest Theatre (1013 K Street), offers plenty of flicks to bring back those Sunday school memories. In this 16th iteration of the annual event, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region, the festival features films, documentaries and shorts that highlight the Jewish experience and issues in the Jewish community.

The three-day festival program includes Deaf Jam, which tells the story of a deaf Israeli immigrant teen in New York City who teams up with a Palestinian slam poet to perform as a duo (7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 7); The Matchmaker, about an Israeli matchmaker who takes on a teen apprentice (7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 9); Portrait of Wally, a documentary about the legal battle over a painting (1 p.m. on Sunday, March 10); and Hava Nagila: The Movie, an exploration into the history of the traditional Jewish folk song (3 p.m. on Sunday, March 10). Visit for more details.