24th Toronto Jewish Film Festival | May 4-14, 2017



 Now in its ninth year, FilmMatters is a film education program offered free of charge to schools across the GTA that focuses on issues of racism, diversity and acceptance. FilmMatters gives teachers a unique opportunity to utilize film as a powerful teaching tool and to engage students in the study of important and relevant issues. Each film is accompanied by a detailed study guide including lesson plans in order to explore themes and encourage discussion of the film.

 One of the most difficult tasks for teachers of younger students is introducing them to the subject of war. While many of the films in the FilmMatters programme relate to the Holocaust, it is difficult to find appropriate films for younger audiences that broach the subject without overwhelming them. This year, we have brought back a film in our student programme that deals with WWII in a manner that offers teachers an entry point to discussing such dark material. For his film adaptation of Belle and Sebastian, director Nicolas Vanier has reset it to 1943 in a remote village in the French Alps. Young Sebastian lives with his adopted grandfather and aunt. The tranquility of the town is threatened with the arrival of the Nazis charged with capturing the Resistance fighters who have been secretly smuggling Jewish refugees to Switzerland. Soon Sebastian has a secret of his own, a wild dog that he shelters. When the grandfather is injured, Sebastian and his dog are recruited to help smuggle the refugees. Without explicitly addressing the atrocities from which the Jews are escaping, the film focuses on acts of bravery and moral courage in the face of danger.

 Once in a Lifetime addresses the Holocaust through the perspective of contemporary teenagers living in a working class suburb of Paris. Self-absorbed and angry at a society that discriminates against minorities, it is only when their history teacher enters them in a national competition about children in the Holocaust that they start to realize that their experiences are not unique.

ASL translation now offered at FilmMatters screening events.

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