axelrod pacOcean Township, NJ –The ninth annual Israeli Film Festival opens Sunday, July 8, 2018 at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, NJ. This year’s festival features eight award-winning films from Israel and the United States, covering topics as diverse as espionage, love, family, hidden secrets, the founding of Israel, and the Holocaust. The festival's mission is to spotlight outstanding new films created by Israeli and/or Jewish filmmakers that celebrate the personal, political, and/or cultural experience of being Jewish.

Opening the festival is The Wedding Plan by writer and director Rama Burshtein. This poignant and funny romantic comedy stars Noa Koler and tackles subjects like love, marriage and faith in life’s infinite possibilities. Nominated for nine Israeli Academy Awards, The Wedding Plan took top honors for Best Actress and Best Screenplay and claimed a Best Actress award at the Haifa International Film Festival. The film will be preceded by a special reception at 6:00 PM for series pass holders featuring an archival photo exhibit titled: Sephardic Wedding Traditions presented by the American Sephardi Foundation.

Yariv Mozer's documentary Ben Gurion, Epilogue is a revealing portrait of David Ben-Gurion, the founder of Israel and one of modern history's political giants. Based on never-seen archival material, it offers critical insights about Israel's future. Ben Gurion, Epilogue is the winner of the 2017 Israeli Film and TV Academy Award for Best Documentary.

Based on the true love story between actress Pnina Gary and Eli Ben–Zvi, the son of Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (the second president of Israel), An Israeli Love Story is an exploration of love and independence. Set in turbulent pre-state Palestine, Eli and Margalit are torn between their love for each other and where they see their own futures in the Jewish state. In the budding theater world of Tel Aviv and the kibbutzim, Margalit finds her place in the spotlight. Eli is drawn deeper into the armed struggle for Jewish independence from the British.  Their love wins, but Israel's harsh reality intervenes.  

Winner of Best Israeli Feature Film at the Haifa Film Festival, https://youtu.be/S2Rs9mYgqVg manages to avoid the familiar tropes of Holocaust movies and to provide a surprising viewpoint. Director Amichai Greenberg weaves a tense drama about the ambiguity of truth in the fallout of the Holocaust. The main character, Yoel, is an international expert in Holocaust research. While undertaking a new research project on a massacre that took place in Austria during the final days of the war, he discovers classified documents that suggst his survivor mother is living under an assumed identity. The further he plunges into his research, the more he doubts his mother's Jewish identity. Yoel is willing to risk everything to discover the truth.

Filmed in black and white, two mysterious men show up in a small town in Hungary in Ferenc Torok's feature film 1945. Fearing the worst, the town clerk believes the men may be heirs of the village's deported Jews. He expects them to demand their wartime-acquired property back. The film is a riveting story of secrets, suspicion, and fear set in the wake of the Russian occupation of Hungary.

Unwittingly united in grief by a closet affair, a gay German baker and weary Israeli widow seek mutual catharsis in The Cakemaker, a compassionate meditation on the human urge for connection. The emotionally distant Tomas (Tim Kalkhof) leads a lonely life as a German pastry chef, until starting a passionate tryst with Oren (Roy Miller), a married Israeli businessman. When his lover is killed, Tomas seeks solace in Oren’s hometown, Jerusalem, taking a job at a struggling café run by his dead lover’s unsuspecting wife Anat (Sarah Adler). As business flourishes with Tomas’ baking talents, the bereaved pair forges a bond that blurs lines of nationality, religion and sexuality.  

Left to fend for themselves in Nazi-occupied France, two Jewish brothers must rely on their courage and cunning to escape Nazi barbarism and avoid capture in the lavish, family-friendly adventure A Bag of Marbles. In 1941 Paris, with the merciless persecution of Jews underway, young Joseph and Maurice are forced to flee their home and make their way south to the demilitarized zone, which is their best hope of survival. Aided only by their own ingenuity and the occasional kindness of others, the boys set off on a dangerous mission, overcoming extraordinary odds in hopes of one day reuniting with their family. This suspenseful and heartwarming adaptation of a classic novel is based on a true story and features stunning scenery, immaculate period detail, and an ensemble of outstanding performances.

In the Israeli espionage thriller Shelter, two women—a Mossad agent and a Lebanese informer—find themselves trapped in a labyrinth of deception, paranoia and intrigue. Naomi is an Israeli special agent assigned to protect Mona, a Hezbollah turncoat recovering from identity-changing plastic surgery. Holed up for two weeks in a Hamburg safe house, they form an unexpected, but fragile bond over a shared sense of loss and their difficult ties with maternity. As geopolitical and psychosexual tensions rise, both women begin to question their beliefs, loyalties and identities. Veteran filmmaker Eran Riklis directs this nail-biting, neo-noir potboiler featuring penetrating performances by award-winning lead actresses, and a standout supporting role by Israeli star Lior Ashkenazi.

Made possible by a grant from the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey, the Axelrod Israel Film Festival runs Sunday, July 8 through Sunday, July 18 (excluding Friday and Saturday). Individual movie tickets for films are $10. There are two different series passes: $58 includes all eight films (allows entrance to films in all three locations), the $72 series pass includes the eight films plus special events (dates to be announced). For the complete schedule, and to purchase individual tickets or series passes, visit www.axelrodartscenter.com or call 732-531-9106, ext. 14.

Films are also being shown at the Forum Theatre (314 Main Street, Metuchen, NJ), Jewish Heritage Museum (310 Mounts Corner Drive, Freehold, NJ), Monroe Senior Center (12 Halsey Reed Road, Monroe, NJ), and B'Nai Tikvah (100 Finnegans Lane, North Brunswick Township, NJ). Details are on the APAC website at www.axelrodartscenter.org.