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Miami Jewish Film Festival, Following COVID Protocols, Kicks Off With 140 Films, Including "iMordecai" Starring Judd Hirsch

NORTH MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – The 25th Annual Miami Jewish Film Festival, the largest Jewish film festival in the world is back and following COVID protocols.

The North Beach Bandshell is one of seven outdoor amphitheaters featuring more than 100 films on the roster for this year's event. In addition, some films will be screened virtually, just like last year.

However, festival organizers are doing everything they can to bring people back to the big screens.

"Our highest priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of all of our attendees in The Miami Jewish Film Festival," said Igor Shteyrenberg, the festival's Executive Director. "We service more than 50,000 movie lovers during our two-week festival, and it is the upmost importance that we put people's safety first and profit second."

That means all safety protocols are in place with social distancing and limits on capacity.

"It's incredibly challenging. There's a tremendous amount of permitting, complex conversations, and so much that we had to go through just to be able to present an entire festival outdoors," Shteyrenberg explained.

Actor Judd Hirsch stars in one of the many films that are part of the 25th Annual Miami Jewish Film Festival. (CBS4)

Thursday night's world premiere is the made in South Florida heart-warming comedy "iMordecai" starring Emmy Award winning actor Judd Hirsch in the title role.

The film, shot pre-pandemic, is a about the family of a holocaust survivor who is now living in Aventura trying to figure out technology in the 21st century.

"When I read it, I realized, Oh, we're not going to get to just where he came from and not what made him a survivor, but look at this, you're going to start an entirely new life at the age of 80. And he paints! I said if that's not a filmable story I don't know what is," Hirsch said.

CBS4's Lisa Petrillo talks to actor Judd Hirsch who is starring in one of the many films that are part of the 25th Annual Miami Jewish Film Festival. (CBS4)

When asked about the TV series he is probably most famous for, "Taxi," the actor fondly recalled, "It was like yesterday, and it's like 40 years ago," said Hirsch. "I could tell you what it was like in any episode, in any of the moments that we had in Taxi."

As for this festival, Hirsch and all involved agree, they're beyond thrilled to be showing films in person once again.

"Well, I think it's magical and maybe be a good example of how to do this in another time," Hirsch said. "We believe the best possible experience people can have going to the movies is doing so in person. There's nothing like an in person big picture experience when people can truly discover the magic of new movies together," said Shteyrenberg.

The Miami Jewish Film Festival is on now through January 27.

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