Virtual Boca Raton Jewish Film Festival

Thursday, Apr 8, 2021

Boca Raton, FL 33427

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Unreined and 40 Chess Boards

This documentary reveals the true story of an Israeli equestrian champion who crossed taboo boundaries between Jews, Christians and Muslims, as she followed her passions professionally and romantically. Her story rides parallel with the growth of the State of Israel, its wars, its rapid economic growth, changing borders and external and internal conflicts.

When you think of Israel you usually don’t think about equestrian sports. What often comes to mind are conflicts based on religion, culture and nationalism. One woman crossed the boundaries between Jews, Christians and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians, in her professional life with horses and in her personal life as well. The life of Nancy Zeitlin parallels the development of equestrian sports in Israel in the shadow of the continuing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and the internal fault lines between secular and religious Jews.

Nancy Zeitlin arrived in Israel as a young girl passionate about horses. In 1968, her family moved from San Diego to fulfill their Zionist dream. At the time the equestrian sports of competitive dressage and show jumping were in their infancy and she grew to be one of the major figures in their development, carrying the high jump record for 20 years.

Nancy lived through the Yom Kippur War that changed the face of Israeli society and deepened her connection to Israel. After her army service in the Paratroopers Corps, she trained in Europe and North America, reaching the highest levels of equestrian achievement. After several years abroad Nancy aimed to be the first Israeli equestrian Olympic contender. Those hopes were dashed when the First Lebanon War broke out and there was no funding for a suitable horse. She returned to Israel and became a leading figure in the Israeli equestrian world, winning championships and coaching champions.

Always a rebel, Nancy challenged the norms of her family and society. She married outside her faith, became a single mother, joined the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, and then broke free.

A chance encounter with horse-loving Palestinians led her to a collaboration that would change her life. Following the Oslo Accords and the opening of the borders, Nancy began to train young Palestinians to ride and compete internationally. In the film she visits with Khaled, a former student in Jericho who now owns a stable in the West Bank. The emotional reunion includes reminiscing about their own initial stereotypes and how they learned to work together. Nancy never waivers in her pride of country but earns the respect of her Palestinian students and peers through her professionalism and compassion.

After ten productive years the second Intifada took its toll and Nancy returned to Israel. Rebuilding her career, Nancy continues to inspire riders as a trainer and competition judge. Her story is presented here for the first time, including all its twists, surprises, and a new law degree.

Nancy continues to jump over the cultural and religious divisions fracturing Israeli society, promoting coexistence and the love of horses.

Cost: $10


Michael (John Benjamin Hickey), a New York Times travel writer visiting Tel Aviv to research his latest article, get some space from his relationship, and recharge his batteries amid the thriving gay scene. Intending to sublet an apartment in Israel’s most populous city, he spontaneously agrees to share the modest one-bedroom space when it becomes clear that handsome tenant Tomer (Niv Nissim) has nowhere else to go. The age gap between the reserved Michael and the free-spirited Tomer lends the film a subtle humor and charm that grows as the pair get to know one another. As Michael shares his wisdom and soaks up the youthful energy that surrounds them, his guard begins to drop and he finds the inspiration to embrace his life again.

Cost: $12

Extra Innings

Brooklyn, 1960s - At 12 years old, David Sabah feels trapped. The youngest of four in a traditional and devout Syrian Jewish family, his parents Esther and Eli hold him to extremely high standards, hoping to raise him into an ideal member of the New York Jewish business community. His oldest brother, Morris, diagnosed with schizophrenia, is locked away upstairs as a family secret, while his oldest sister, Vivian, was estranged long ago for her rejection of traditional Jewish values. Only his sister Rita remains in the good graces of the family, devoted to her role. Fearful of becoming a black-sheep like Morris and Vivian, he struggles to balance his pursuit of happiness and his filial duty as tensions rise amidst his family in light of a tragic loss. David finds peace through his love for baseball, and even more surprisingly, a natural aptitude for it.

Cost: $10

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