Harrowing World War II drama, kibbutz life, immigrant stories from 1920s New York and contemporary Palestinian/Israeli romance are a few of the themes explored in the 2009 Minneapolis Jewish Film Festival. The program, running from Thursday through March 15, features a kaleidoscopic look at the Jewish experience as interpreted through films from the United States, England, Canada, France and Israel.

The opening-night comedy, "Sixty Six," stars Helena Bonham Carter and Eddie Marsan ("Happy-Go-Lucky's" furious driving instructor) as parents of a bar mitzvah boy whose big day coincides with England's World Cup Final soccer match. With zero attendance guaranteed at his confirmation party, the family grocery under siege from a supermarket chain and an aggravating case of asthma, 12-year-old Bernie Reubens has coming-of-age problems aplenty. "Sixty Six" will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursday at Willow Creek Theatre, 9900 Shelard Pkwy., Plymouth, with raffles and prizes after the screening.

Other highlights of the 19-film series include:

"Un Secret," a story of a Parisian Jewish family shattered by passion and disgrace during World War II. François (Mathieu Amalric, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly") probes the secrets of his past and the identity of his distant, aristocratic parents. The nostalgic illusion of an ideal childhood is shattered by the discovery of a family tragedy that occurred during the Nazi occupation. The lavishly photographed drama poses troubling questions about historical memory and the repercussions of denial. (4:30 p.m. March 8, Sabes Jewish Community Center, 4330 S. Cedar Lake Rd., Minneapolis. In French and Yiddish, with English subtitles.)

"At Home in Utopia," the story of immigrant Jewish garment workers who created a collective version of the American dream by building lavish, group-owned apartment complexes in the Bronx. In the 1930s, the co-op owners put their ideals of equality into practice by racially integrating their buildings, with unforeseen consequences. (7 p.m. March 8, Sabes JCC.)

"Strangers," a touching and optimistic love story between a Palestinian woman (Lubna Azabal, "Paradise Now") and an Israeli guy. The pair meet by accident in Berlin as the city is in the grip of World Cup excitement and move from friendship to intimacy to love over the course of three days. The film is a romance, not a message picture, but it offers a compelling case for making love, not war. (8:15 p.m. March 11, Sabes JCC. In English and subtitled French, Hebrew, Arabic and Italian.)

"Children of the Sun," a documentary examination of kibbutz children of the 1920s and 1930s who grew up on collective farms outside of the traditional nuclear family structure. Adult kibbutzim reflect on their experiences in that controversial social experiment with memories both happy and sorrowful. (5:30 p.m. March 12, Sabes JCC. In Hebrew with English subtitles.)

Colin Covert • 612-673-7186