Hartford Jewish Film Fest Features West Hartford Actress, New Haven Baseball Player

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect snow postponements on Tuesday, March 13.

Years ago, Hall High in West Hartford presented a production of “Only in America.” It was one of the earliest acting accomplishments for Pamela Dubin.

Dubin went on to the Mark Twain Masquers in Hartford, Hole in the Wall Theater in New Britain and productions at Syracuse University and Bates College. Stage and screen performances followed, including playing Mrs. Cratchit in Hartford Stage’s “A Christmas Carol.”

Her latest acting accomplishment can be seen at this year’s Mandell JCC Hartford Jewish Film Festival. The festival runs March 8 to 18 in Hartford, West Hartford and Simsbury. Dubin is the romantic female lead in “Abe & Phil’s Last Poker Game.” It will be shown Saturday, March 17, at 7:30 p.m. at Herbert Gilman Theater, Mandell JCC, 335 Bloomfield Ave. in West Hartford. Dubin will be present.

The film tells the story of Abe Mandelbaum (the late Martin Landau, in his last role), a retired oncologist who moves into a nursing home so his wife, who has dementia, won’t be alone there. He befriends a fellow resident (Paul Sorvino) and casts his eye on a much younger hospital volunteer, played by Dubin.

The movie was directed by Howard Weiner, a 72-year-old neurologist, in his feature debut. In a phone interview, Dubin says she loves the film’s emphasis on the lives of middle-aged and elderly people.

“It’s about aging at every level. She deals with age. He deals with age. It’s about how our society does not deal with age,” Dubin says. “In the film they talk about things that people don’t discuss. People don’t talk about older people being sexual in any way, about intimacy or loneliness.”

Dubin compares elderly people to kintsugi, a Japanese pottery style in which cracks in the surface of the vessel are repaired using melted gold.

“In Japan, they respect people who have had a history or a struggle. All those cracks are filled with gold,” she says. “It makes me think of a Carrie Fisher quote, ‘youth and beauty are not accomplishments.’ Everything is focused on youth in our society. Older people have so much to give.”

Dubin and Landau became friends during the shooting, she says, and he befriended her mother, too.

“He was the most intelligent, politically savvy, kind, supportive person,” she says. “People say he died of old age. He didn’t die of old age. Our society thinks 89 is old. I know people in their 30s and 40s who are old. So many older people are so young.”

‘Team Israel’

Another film, “Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel,” will be shown Sunday, March 11, at 11 a.m. at Gilman. The documentary is about the 2017 World Baseball Classic, when longshot Team Israel was dubbed “the Jamaican bobsled team of the WBC.” Out of left field, the underdogs made it to the second round.

The documentary profiles team members and introduces audiences to the team’s adorably goofy mascot, the Mensch on the Bench. One player featured is New Haven native Josh Zeid, who once played for the New Britain Bees and the Houston Astros. Zeid made the 2017 All-World Baseball Classic team.

“It was the greatest experience I’ve ever had, playing for the team, going to Israel to learn about my heritage,” he says. “It was life-changing for me.”

Zeid, 30, says Team Israel was created by Jewish major leaguers.

“I knew I wouldn’t get the chance to play on Team USA. There were All-Stars and other top major leaguers,” Zeid says.

Many nations let foreigners on their teams if their heritage points to that country, he says. “The tournament is to showcase the best baseball players in the world. Without those rules, the tournament would be dominated by the U.S. and Japan and smaller countries wouldn’t get their due.”

Zeid started playing baseball at age 5 or 6, on the Woodbridge Fathers Baseball League, then the Andy Papero Little League. After graduating from Hamden Hall, he played at Vanderbilt and Tulane universities and was drafted in 2009 by the Philadelphia Phillies. He made it to the majors in 2013, playing one year for the Astros. Last year, he was on the St. Louis CardinalsAAA club the Memphis Redbirds.

His Jewish heritage and baseball have been intertwined since he was a child.

“I went to JCC and Camp Young Judaea in the summer. When I was 14 I played for Team USA in the Maccabiah Games. I was supposed to go to Israel but I never got to go. There was a war and the tournament canceled all kids under 18,” he says. “I felt like I hadn’t had the opportunity to showcase my pride in being Jewish. It was an easy decision to want to play for Team Israel.”

Other Films

Here are other films showing in the film fest. More information at hjff.org.

Itzhak: Documentary about violinist Itzhak Perlman. Thursday, March 8, at 7:30 p.m. at Herbert Gilman Theater, Mandell JCC, 335 Bloomfield Ave. in West Hartford ; and Sunday, March 11, at 7 p.m. at Spotlight Theatres, 39 Front St. in Hartford.

Land of Milk and Funny: Documentary about standup comics in Israel. Saturday, March 10, at 8 p.m. at Gilman.

The Testament: Drama about a historic Holocaust site. Sunday, March 11, at 2 p.m. at Spotlight.

Harmonia: Updating the Bible story of Sarah, Abraham and Hagar. March 11, at 2 p.m. at Spotlight.

Bye Bye Germany: Drama about Holocaust survivors going to America. March 11, at 4:30 p.m. at Spotlight.

Act of Defiance: Biopic of Bram Fischer, an attorney who was punished by the South African government for defending Nelson Mandela. March 11, at 4:30 p.m. at Spotlight.

Keep the Change: Romantic comedy about autistic people. Monday, March 12, at 5:30 p.m. at Gilman.

Raise the Roof: Documentary about a Polish synagogue’s restoration. Monday, March 12, at 7:30 p.m. at Gilman.

Sammy Davis Jr.: Documentary about the entertainer. Thursday, March 15, at 1 and 3:30 p.m. at the Innovation Center at Mandell JCC.

Etched in Glass: Documentary about Holocaust survivor Steve Ross. Monday, March 19, at 7 p.m. at Gilman.

History of Love: WWII wartime love story. Wednesday, March 14, at 7 p.m. at Cinepolis Blue Back Square, 42 S. Main St. in West Hartford.

Shelter: Thriller about a woman in witness protection. Wednesday, March 14, at 7 p.m. at Cinepolis.

1945: Drama about men returning to their town after WWII. Thursday, March 15, at 7 p.m. at Cinepolis.

The Cakemaker: Drama about a gay man grieving his lover’s death. Thursday, March 15, at 7 p.m. at Cinepolis.

Doing Jewish: A Story from Ghana: Documentary about a small community of Jews in Africa. Friday, March 16, at 6 p.m. at Hartford Public Library Albany Branch, 1250 Albany Ave.

The Settlers: Documentary about the West Bank. Sunday, March 18, at noon at Hoyts Simsbury, 530 Bushy Hill Road.

And Then She Arrived: Comedy about a nerd in love. Sunday, March 18, at noon at Hoyts Simsbury

In Between: Drama about three Palestinian women. Sunday, March 18, at 2:15 p.m. at Hoyts Simsbury.

Ben-Gurion: Epilogue: Documentary about the statesman. Sunday, March 18, at 2:15 p.m. at Hoyts Simsbury.

Across the Waters: Drama about the evacuation of Danish Jews. Sunday, March 18, at 7 p.m. at Gilman.

Copyright © 2018, CT Now