Female trailblazer of the 1970s featured in Charlotte Jewish Film Festival
Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sandra Day O’Connor — these are some of the more recognizable names of women who’ve had a major impact in the U.S. political sphere.
But have you heard of Bella Abzug? She was one of the first women elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1970 as a representative of Manhattan’s West Side, and earned the nickname “Battling Bella” for her fierce and oftentimes brash support of civil rights, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights.
She’s also the subject of a new documentary “Bella!” by filmmaker Jeff Lieberman playing this Sunday at Shalom Park as part of the 20th annual Charlotte Jewish Film Festival.
“She’s not well known today, so they’ve made this movie about her,” said Jeff Turk, the film festival’s chair. “And in the documentary are some really prominent folks that (Lieberman) was able to get on record, including Gloria Steinem, Shirley MacLaine and Barbra Streisand.”
The daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Abzug earned recognition for championing bills that promoted government transparency, environmental protection, and equal rights for women and minorities. She also introduced the first bill to protect gay people from discrimination in U.S. history, though it failed to get support from her colleagues.
Lieberman is flying to Charlotte to attend Saturday’s screening and to lead an audience talkback after the film’s conclusion.
There are many other films Turk is excited about in this year’s film festival, which runs through March 3. On Valentine’s Day, Shalom Park will screen “Matchmaking,” described as an entertaining romantic comedy that gives a light Orthodox twist to “Romeo and Juliet.”
On Feb. 21, the festival will screen a documentary titled “The Catskills” exploring the rise and fall of the Borscht Belt — a colloquial term for the summer resorts of the Catskill Mountains that were popular havens for Jewish immigrants and families from the 1940s through the 1980s.
Other films selected by the film festival’s committee this year include a documentary on the life of Gene Wilder, a dramatic love story set in Italy on the brink of WWII, and a documentary about the political consultant Arthur J. Finkelstein. The festival has a full lineup on the Jewish Community Center’s website.
All of this year’s films were curated by the film festival’s committee, Turk said, with the aim of “illuminating the global Jewish experience, and that could include Jewish culture, religion, stories about Israel and highlighting Israeli films as well.
“Whether you’re Jewish or not Jewish, you will come out being enlightened and having better understanding.”