Follow Me director to speak at Jewish Film Festival

by | Nov 22, 2013 | What’s Happening

Wednesday, Jan. 22

A variety of venues and film genres and a visit from two of the films’ directors are just some of what’s planned for the 2014 Simon Family JCC’s Virginia Festival of Jewish Film, presented by Alma* and Howard Laderberg.

One director, Jonathan Gruber, will visit the Naro Expanded Cinema in Norfolk, where his film, Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story will show as part of the Festival lineup.

Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story is a compelling docudrama based on Yoni Netanyahu’s own words and letters. Sharing emotions and feelings seldom portrayed in Hollywood scripts, this movie portrays Netanyahu as a poet and intimate, loving man, as well as a warrior and international hero. A member of a high-profile family (father Benzion was a highly respected political and educational leader, who had hands-on contributions to Israel’s independence, and brother Benjamin Netanyahu is Israel’s Prime Minister), Netanyahu’s heritage, patriotism and tragic death accomplished his utmost desire: not one other Israeli was killed in the heroic rescue of Air France flight 139, containing more than 100 Israeli and Jewish passengers, when it was hijacked and flown to Entebbe Airport, near Kampala, Uganda in June 1976.

Jonathan Gruber wanted to give the film, written by Ari Daniel Pinchot, a visceral feel as director, to make it a cinematic experience from the onset. Three trips to Israel helped make this a reality.

“It’s unusual in shooting a documentary to be able to make more than a trip or two to a destination for shooting,” Gruber says. The first trip was for research, the second was for the majority of the interviews, and the third and final trip was to fill in some blanks. “It added layers and dimensions,” he says. “These visits led to a feeling of completion and satisfaction, because we were able to meet so many people close to Yoni, and not just rush through the process.”

Since its release last year, Follow Me has won awards at the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival, the Charleston Film Festival and the Palm Beach International Film Festival.

“One would hope viewers will get a sense of the life of a dedicated Israeli soldier,” says Gruber. “Although Yoni died in Entebbe nearly four decades ago, this powerful story is not dated. Life and death decisions are unexpected during crises, they always have been, and always will be.”

Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story will show at the Naro Expanded Theatre. This event is co-sponsored by the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater. Visit for more information about the Film Festival, look for a mailer, and like it on Facebook.

The Simon Family JCC is a constituent agency of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

by Leslie Shroyer