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Miami Jewish Film Festival Presents Short Film Showcase on YouTube

Still from 70 Hester Street.
Still from 70 Hester Street.
Photo courtesy of Casimir Nozkowski
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Already watched every funny cat video? Too broke to pay for Netflix and HBO? The Miami Jewish Film Festival hopes to provide stuck-at-home cineastes a free streaming alternative, in the form of its Short Film Showcase.

Every Monday, Miami Jewish Film Festival will unveil a new video playlist on its YouTube channel, offering a selection of short films from a past festival. The first playlist includes shorts from the 2014 fest. Next Monday, April 13, the playlist will cull from 2015, and so on, until 2020's shorts are uploaded.

"More than 100 short films from 25 countries will be featured as part of our virtual showcase, including many festival favorites and award winners," executive director Igor Shteyrenberg says.

Shteyrenberg is excited to show off all the movies the fest is presenting, but he thinks audiences will be surprised by the high quantity and quality of the animated works.

"The most dazzling films may be the collection of animated films that have been featured at the festival over the years, from the whimsical (Lost & Found), experimental (A Love Letter to the One I Made Up), personal (Journey Birds), solemn (I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors), and even documentary (Stitching a Life) — these animated shorts will make your heart skip a beat and fill you with awe and wonder," he says.

New York-based filmmaker Casimir Nozkowski was excited to have his documentary short, 70 Hester Street, chosen to appear in an online showcase. The inclusion is a bit of good news for the filmmaker, who saw the premiere of his feature-film directorial debut, Outside Story, delayed by the pandemic.

"It was going to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, but that got postponed," Nozkowski says. "It felt like a great omen for the future when Igor reached out to me. I feel honored to get to continue to show 70 Hester Street."

The documentary takes its name for the address of Nozkowski's Manhattan childhood home. To say it had a unique history is an understatement. Before Nozkowski's artist parents rented the space in the late 1960s, it had housed a synagogue, a whiskey still, and a factory. In 2012, when the building was sold and his parents were forced to move out after 45 years, Nozkowski knew he had to pick up his camera. Throughout the ten-minute film, he focuses more on the physical property than the people who turned it into a home. That, he says, was intentional.

"If I made it about my parents being kicked out, it might have become too sentimental. A good way out was to keep their faces out of it. I tried to approach it journalistically and focus on what was interesting about the building to me," Nozkowski says.

Even though his childhood home experience was incredibly specific, the personal nostalgia the film evokes is universal. "The movie is a reminder of simpler times that makes a lot of people think of their own childhood homes. So many people after seeing it come up to me to tell me about where they grew up."

And what about the filmmaker's parents, who play an irreplaceable supporting role in 70 Hester Street?

"I think they loved it. I had to twist their arms to interview them — that was infuriating," Nozkowski says. "They weren't happy at all about being on camera. But when it had its premiere, I remember during the Q&A looking out and seeing them beaming in the audience."

Miami Jewish Film Festival Short Film Showcase. Mondays on youtube.com.

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