Jerusalem Film Festival 2024: Opening Film

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Thelma/Photo courtesy of Tulip Entertainment

Thelma, a comedy-action film directed by Josh Margolin, will open the 41st Jerusalem Film Festival, in a festive screening at the Sultan’s Pool. Thelma, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, is Margolin’s debut feature, and was inspired by a real-life attempt to scam his grandmother.

The film stars June Squibb as 93-year-old Thelma, who has a close relationship with her grandson Danny (Fred Hechinger). Thelma is an individual fiercely guarding her independence, to the extent that she keeps friends and family at a distance. When a scammer posing as Danny calls and tells her he’s in trouble and needs $10,000 to bail him out, Thelma does not hesitate, and sends him the money. Soon after, she realizes that she’s been tricked, and furious, and is determined to get her money back. Although they have been out of touch, she reaches out to her friend Ben (Richard Roundtree) for help, and they set out his deluxe two-person scooter to the Los Angeles address where the money was sent. Adventures ensue.

In a culture and cinema culture that worships youth, it’s thrilling to see a film with a powerful nonagenarian as the main character! Thelma is a celebration of firsts – as Margolin’s debut feature, and Squibb’s first leading role. Well known as a character actor, Squibb, who was born in 1929, made her first appearance on film in 1990, in Woody Allen’s Alice, and ever since has continuously had supporting roles in many major films such as Age of Innocence (1993) directed by Martin Scorcese, Meet Joe Black (1998) directed by Martin Brest, Far From Heaven (2002) directed by Todd Haynes, and the more recent Palm Springs (2020) directed by Max Barbakow. She was nominated as Best Supporting Actress for her role as Kate Grant, in Nebraska (2013), directed by Alexander Payne. Squibb is the kind of actor who makes a small role memorable by her presence, her performance brings the character to vivid life, even as a voice actor, as one of her most recent roles, voicing Nostalgia in Inside Out 2 (2024) demonstrates with endearing flair.

On a more somber note, Ben, Thelma’s partner in seeking justice, is the final film role of actor Richard Roundtree, who died in October 2023. Roundtree was a perfect choice as Thelma’s sidekick, as he is best known for his role as action hero private detective John Shaft, beginning with the 1971 film Shaft, and continuing in that role in four of the film’s sequels. Completing the cast are Parker Posey and Clark Gregg as Gail and Alan, Danny’s parents.

Thelma will be screened as part of the Jerusalem Film Festival’s opening ceremonies at the Sultan’s Pool on Thursday, July 18, 2024. The Jerusalem Foundation, in addition to its annual support of the festival, will give away a thousand tickets to the opening ceremonies to soldiers, families of reserve soldiers, families of hostages, and people from the North and South who have been displaced from their homes.

The Jerusalem Film Festival will take place from July 18 – 27, 2024. Tickets and additional information are available on the Jerusalem Film Festival website.

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