Jewish Film Festival on MLK Day at Laidlaw

By: Hayden Cordova | Lifestyle Editor

On Jan. 20, the Mobile Area Jewish Federation hosted its annual Mobile Jewish Film Festival at the Laidlaw Performing Arts Center. The festival, which runs from Jan. 16 through Feb. 2, has held numerous showings at Laidlaw in their twelve-year history of viewings; however, this marks the first time that the Jewish Film Festival has hosted their event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

The Federation marked the occasion with the showing of the 2017 film Marshall, which covers the early legal career of Thurgood Marshall prior to his successful argument before the Supreme Court on Brown v. Board of Education. The film was chosen for the festival due to Josh Gad’s role as Jewish lawyer Sam Friedman, as well as the portrayal of social prejudice against Jewish-Americans and African-Americans at the time.

Open to the public for a small admission fee, many of the people in attendance hold longstanding support of the festival and the federation. Janet Bridges spoke enthusiastically about her history with the festival.

“I’ve been coming to these for years,” said Bridges.  “I’ve had a heart for Jewish issues, and African American issues as well, for a long time.  I’ve got every one of the showings on my calendar, and I’m planning on going to as many as I can.”

The showing of Marshall was followed by an open discussion with South faculty Dr. David Meola, Director of Jewish Studies, and Kern Jackson, Director of the USA African-American Studies Program. The two gave insight into a range of topics, from the historical events of the film to the longstanding relationship between Jewish-Americans and African-Americans.

“I love the Jewish Film Festival for many reasons,” said Meola. “One is simply the diversity of the films. As a professor of Jewish Studies and Jewish History at South, having the opportunity to support this endeavor with the Jewish Foundation tells a lot about the longstanding ties between the university and the Jewish community, which go back to the university’s founding. I love being a part of it, it’s something that I look forward to every year.”

Regarding the future of the event, particularly the hosting of the event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Meola expressed a sincere desire to continue opening up a dialogue about the issues presented in the film. 

“I think this is definitely something that can be done more often in the future, bringing us all together to watch a film that resonates with both communities,” said Meola.  “The choices that the filmmakers made in presenting the movie, discussing what was historically accurate and what was added in; it’s a great way to talk about both the events themselves as well as the greater points of racism and anti-Semitism.  I think that Dr. Jackson and I speaking tonight is a great way to begin something: perhaps a new tradition, or perhaps many further engagements off-campus and with the entire Mobile community.”