Gene Wilder fans, rejoice: When the Denver Jewish Film Festival returns for its 28th year this weekend (March 9–17), the bash will kick off with an opening night tribute to the world’s beloved Willy Wonka. After the cocktail hour, attendees will enjoy a screening of Remembering Gene Wilder, a documentary about his life featuring rare audio clips the actor recorded while penning his memoir, Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art, which will be on sale at the event. The opening-night homage to one of America’s most treasured comic actors is part of a larger effort from the Mizel Arts and Culture Center to diversify the festival’s programming.

“This year we really tried to program a wide variety of films,” says Emily Diaz Brenes, patron services and arts programming coordinator for the Staenberg-Loup Jewish Community Center. “We have musical comedies, romantic comedies, and several types of documentaries.”

That means that film buffs can catch an array of flicks, all of which either highlight Jewish culture or are created by filmmakers who identify as Jewish or Israeli. Also new this year: After each screening, viewers will get the chance to rate the movie. The five films with the highest ratings will be accessible online ($17 per movie) following the in-person fest.

To help guide your itinerary for the week, we asked Brenes to spotlight six more notable films you’ll want a front-row seat for at the festival.

The Soap Myth

When: Sunday, March 10, 10:30 a.m. at Elaine Wolf Theatre
First developed in 2009 by playwright Jeff Cohen, The Soap Myth highlights the conflict between first-person narratives and factual information. The play follows a young journalist as she tries to verify horrifying Holocaust survivor accounts of Nazis making soap out of human remains with little evidence. This recording of the 90-minute play performed by a New York cast explores who has the right to document history, and how the refusal to acknowledge first-person narratives fuels antisemitism and Holocaust deniers.

Last Man Standing: The Chronicles of Myron Sugerman

When: Monday, March 11, 5:30 p.m. at Elaine Wolf Theatre
“This is a documentary about a topic that most people don’t think about: Jewish mobsters,” Brenes says. The documentary follows second-generation gangster Myron Sugerman, who stood up to American Nazis and later became an important ally to Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. Even more intriguing: You can pick the mobster’s mind when Sugerman himself joins the festival virtually for a Q&A session after the showing.


Maor Schwitzer, Liana Ayoun, and Amit Rahav in Matchmaking (2022). Photo courtesy of Denver Jewish Film Festival

When: Tuesday, March 12, 5:30 pm at Elaine Wolf Theatre
This comedic twist to Romeo and Juliet has a little less death and a lot more laughter. Matchmaking follows protagonist Moti Bernstein on his search for a wife. Bernstein is seemingly the perfect guy from a lovely Ashkenazi family, but when he falls for his sister’s best friend, family tensions rise. Bernstein tries to woo his crush in all sorts of hilarious ways, much to the dismay of his matchmaker and his family.

“How to Make Challah”

When: Thursday, March 14, 7:30 p.m. at Phillips Social Hall
This 12-minute short follows two women as they bake challah, a braided bread typically eaten on important Jewish holidays, and reflect on what they will pass on to the next generation. Part of the film includes footage from the director’s aunt’s grandmother baking challah back in 1975, and later, the director’s aunt, who made challah for the first time in 2022. You’ll even learn how to braid challah yourself as you watch the film.

Simone: Woman of the Century

When: Friday, March 15, 1 p.m. at Elaine Wolf Theatre
French director Olivier Dahan is known for his poignant biopics (see 2007’s La Vie en Rose and 2014’s Grace of Monaco), but his latest project focuses on one of the 20th century’s most influential women. Simone Veil was not just a Holocaust survivor, she also pushed for abortion rights in France as the country’s minister of health and, ultimately, became the first female president of the European Parliament. In this film, viewers follow Veil’s early life and political career, and witness her personal triumphs and tragedies.

The Rhapsody

When: Sunday, March 17, 5:30 p.m. at Elaine Wolf Theatre
Closing night of the festival means live music and an epic tale, of course. The Rhapsody follows composer Leo Spellman, a Polish Holocaust survivor, who sets out on a journey in search of artistic liberation at the age of 98. Through the use of animation, a secret diary, and a long-lost musical masterpiece, Spellman’s story is told as a grand finale to his legacy. The film will be accompanied by live performances.

Tickets to the film festival can be purchased online and are sold either individually ($17 for adults, $15 for students and seniors) or as passes (starting at $140).

Barbara O'Neil
Barbara O'Neil
Barbara is one of 5280's assistant editors and writes stories for 5280 and