Nicholas Winton, in complete anonymity, saved the lives of 669 children during the Holocaust. Decades later, after Winton’s wife found out what her husband had done, she brought it to light. In recognition of his efforts, the 104-year-old Winton was ultimately knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
Winton’s story is told in the 2011 film Nicky’s Family, which will air in New Hampshire as part of the fourth annual New Hampshire Jewish Film Festival.
“He did it very quietly, and never said anything to anyone,” said Linda Gerson, co-chairwoman of the festival.
One of the women whom Winton rescued, Eva Paddock, will speak to the audience following an airing of the film on Thursday, March 22, at 7 p.m. at Putnam Arts Lecture Hall at Keene State College. Nicky’s Family will also air at Cinemagic Stadium Theaters in Merrimack on Sunday, March 18, at 4:30 p.m.
“We’re so fortunate to have one of the children ... who was rescued by him to come and speak to us,” Gerson said. “That’s really nice for New Hampshire.”
Gerson said the film has generated a movement revolving around Winton’s efforts. The film festival crew got a list of the children Winton saved and reached out to a couple of them who live in the Boston area.
“The film is so inspiring,” Gerson said. “It’s inspired people all over the world.”
The film festival will run from Saturday, March 17, through Sunday, March 25. Films include An Article of Hope, My Brother’s Keeper, The Names of Love, Connected, My So-Called Enemy, Nicky’s Family, Brothers, Restoration, The Yankles, and two 28-minute Sesame Street films, Welcome to Israel and Shabbat Shalom, Grover. See jewishnh.org.
“We have a lot of new programming,” Gerson said. “We’ve grown substantially.”
The festival takes place in five cities across the state and includes 10 films. Keene is the newest community to hop on board. The festival has grown in number of venues and number of movies, as well as in the size of the audience, Gerson said.
“We get people of all faiths coming,” Gerson said. “It is a festival that is a cultural program for the New Hampshire landscape. You don’t have to be Jewish to love the Jewish Film Festival. Anybody can relate to the trials and tribulations ... that are shown in the films.”
“We have some really great speakers this year,” Gerson added.
The festival’s opening night gala at 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 17, at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester will include an airing of the 2009 documentary Article of Hope. Dan Cohen, the film’s producer and director, who is a six-time regional Emmy award-winning director, will speak after the film. The gala will include a wine and dessert reception.
Article of Hope details the Columbia Space Shuttle crash, which claimed the lives of seven astronauts, including Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut. The film gets into how the crew prepares for the space experience in advance, going on trips to allow crew members to get to know each other and figure out how to work together, Gerson said.
“There’s a whole background for how the process works,” Gerson said. “I would think that would be interesting to anyone.”
The festival has a committee of 25 people who narrow down a swath of films. Gerson said she began looking at films for this year’s festival right after last year’s ended. The festival committee screened more than 55 films to pick what it thought were the 10 best.
The Sesame Street films help to get kids in on the festival too, Gerson said.
“There’s really something for everyone,” Gerson said, adding that a number of films are premiering in New Hampshire.
Connected, which has been accepted for the Sundance Film Festival, is “just a really hip film about unplugging today,” Gerson said. Connected will air on Wednesday, March 21, at 7:30 p.m. at Cinemagic Stadium Theaters in Merrimack.
For baseball fans, the festival will include a showing of The Yankles, about a professional baseball player who takes over coaching a baseball team of Orthodox yeshiva students. The festival will finish at Red River Theatres in Concord following the airing of The Yankles with a baseball wrap party with hot dogs, peanuts and crackerjacks. The film will air on Sunday, March 25, at 4 p.m. at Red River.
The film Restoration, which will play in Merrimack at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 18, at Cinemagic in Merrimack, was nominated for several awards by the Israeli Film Academy.
My Brother’s Keeper is about the 4,400 Jewish and Christian volunteers who joined the fight to make sure Israel became a state, Gerson said. The film will air on Tuesday, March 20, at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire in Manchester.
“It’s a great one for anyone interested in history,” Gerson said, adding that producer Ira Feinberg will come speak after the film. “I know he’ll be a fabulous speaker. He narrates the film as well.”
“The Jewish community always looks forward to it,” Gerson said of the festival. “It’s films that the New Hampshire market would not normally see.” Gerson thinks people see the festival as a cultural program that is here to stay: “If you enjoy foreign films, learning about other cultures — the themes are really universal.”