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Festival Guests


Member, Portland City Council – In attendance for Doing Jewish: A Story from Ghana

Pious Ali is the first African-born Muslim member of the Portland City Council. He has spent the better part of his career focused on engaging youth  and creating dialogue across cultural, ethnic, socioeconomic and faith based groups. He is Founder and Executive Director of the Maine Interfaith Youth Alliance. He is the current Co-director and Co-founder of the King Fellows, a Portland based youth group dedicated to creating meaningful opportunities for youth leadership and civic engagement based on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Often working with diverse groups of individuals who are predominantly immigrants, Pious has built strong relationships with many communities, non-profits, institutions and leaders from diverse backgrounds. He currently serves on the Executive Board of the YMCA of Southern Maine and the Board of Directors of the Maine African Film Festival. Pious is an Alumnus of Institute for Civic Leadership (Pi-Class) and studying sociology at Southern Maine Community College.  A native of Ghana, Pious worked as a photojournalist for a range of print publications. He has called Maine his home for the past decade.


Justice for Women Lecturer, Director of Muswah – in attendance for Bar Bahar

Ms. Anwar of Malaysia is a founding member of Sisters in Islam and is currently the Director of Musawah, the global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family. She is at the forefront of the women’s movement working towards an end of the use of Islam to justify discrimination against women. Sisters in Islam has successfully created a public voice through which women can demand equality and justice. Musawah has brought together scholars and activists from over 50 countries to produce new feminist scholarship in Islam, to train activists on women’s rights in Islam, and to challenge the evasion of human rights standards.


Artist – in attendance for Blue Like Me

Siona Benjamin is a painter originally from Bombay, now living in the US. Her work reflects her background of being brought up Jewish in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim India. In her paintings she combines the imagery of her past with the role she plays in America today, making a mosaic inspired by both Indian miniature paintings and Sephardic icons. She has her first MFA in painting and a second MFA in Theater set design and is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship for “Faces: Weaving Indian Jewish Narratives.” Her work has been featured in: The New York Times, Art in America, and Moment magazine.


Son of Bert Berns, Subject of Bang! The Bert Berns Story – in attendance for Bang: The Bert Berns Story

Brett Berns is a film and theater producer, and was one of the lead producers of the musical “Piece of My Heart,” which premiered Off-Broadway in 2014. With Bob Sarles (Sweet Blues) he co-directed the award-winning documentary “Bang! The Bert Berns Story” about his father. Over the decade-long process of making the film, Brett get to know his father, who died when Brett was only 2 1/2 years old. The film was also made to accomplish another mission for Brett Berns – to get his father into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That dream became reality in April, when Bert Berns received the Ahmet Ertugun Award for Lifetime Achievement.

bogdan bialek

Subject of Bogdan’s Journey – in attendance for Special Festival Preview Event featuring the film Bogdan’s Journey

Bogdan Białek is the Chairman of the Jan Karski Society. He is also a publisher and editor-in-chief of the psychological magazine “Charaktery”. He received many awards for his social activity, for instance Professor Łukasz Hirszowicz Award, Stanisław Musiał SJ Award, as well as Polcul Foundation Award. Bogdan Białek is also a honorary member of the Kieltzer Society in New York. For over thirty years Białek has made it his life’s mission to reconcile Poles and Jews over a massacre that took place in his city in 1946: the Kielce pogrom. Cutting through the fog of conspiracy theories and the unending debate about how and why it happened, Bogdan Białek transforms Kielce into a place of dialogue and reconciliation.

Mary Bonauto

Civil Rights Project Director, GLAD – in attendance for Freedom to Marry

Mary Bonauto has served as the Civil Rights Project Director at GLAD since 1990. She has litigated in the state and federal courts of New England on discrimination issues, parental rights, free speech and religious liberty, and relationship recognition. In 2015 she successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the historic case Obergefell v. Hodges, establishing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples nationwide. Mary’s work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the 2014 MacArthur Fellowship.


Assistant Professor of German, Bates College – in attendance for the Lewiston showing of Raise the Roof

Raluca Cernahoschi is Assistant Professor of German. She teaches courses in German and European Studies and specializes in 19th through 21st-century German and East-Central European literature and cultures. Professor Cernahoschi’s courses and scholarship often pursue questions of ethnic, class, gender, and generational experience and identity. Her teaching interests include German and East-Central European literature and film, the literatures and cultures of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, poetry, film adaptation, and literary geography.

Danielle Conway

Dean, University of Maine Law School – in attendance for Freedom to Marry

Danielle M. Conway is Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Maine School of Law. She is a leading expert in public procurement law, entrepreneurship, and intellectual property law. She teaches in the areas of Intellectual Property Law, Licensing Intellectual Property, International Intellectual Property Law, Internet Law & Policy, and Government Contract Law. She has lectured extensively on topics including globalization, government contract law, intellectual property law, intellectual property licensing, and Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

Dean Conway has more than 20 years of active and reserve duty service with the U.S. Army, and recently was sworn in to the Maine Army National Guard (MEARNG). She currently serves as a Lieutenant Colonel.



Clinical Psychologist – Panelist for Bamidbar / Made Like a Gun

David Faigin is a licensed clinical psychologist who has worked with adults in a variety of treatment settings including crisis respite, counseling centers, community mental health agencies, and large medical centers. He has extensive experience working with veterans and their family members both in the Department of Veterans Affairs and other community settings. David is currently a staff psychologist with the VA Maine Health Care System working at the Lewiston/Auburn VA Outpatient Clinic. David specializes in the treatment of post-traumatic stress and provides psychotherapy for a wide variety of mental health difficulties, as well as post-service/deployment readjustment and reintegration struggles. Additionally, David specializes in developing community-based arts initiatives focused on helping warriors reintegrate and use art to process their military experiences  and share them with the wider community.



Singer, appears in Bang: The Bert Berns Story – will perform after Bang: The Bert Berns Story

With roots in church choir singing and secular rhythm and blues, Betty (Crews) Harris moved to New Jersey at age 17 to pursue her music career, where she was spotted by the producer Zelma “Zell” Sanders.   She recorded her first song, “Like Later Baby”, as the lead singer of The Hearts in 1958.  Two years later she met R&B singer Mabel Louise Smith (aka Big Maybelle) with whom she toured nationally.  While in New York, she met songwriter/producer Bert Berns. Their collaboration on the hit song, “Cry to Me” made her a star. Bert and Betty went on to make several more singles together, including “It’s Dark Outside” and “His Kiss.”


Togus VA, Certified Emergency Nurse – panelist for Bamidbar / Made Like a Gun

Nora Hoesing, RN, BSN, is a Certified Emergency Nurse at the Togus VA. She is an Iraq combat veteran and continues to advocate and care for veterans on a daily basis.

Michał Jaskulski

Co-Director, Bogdan’s Journey – in attendance for Special Festival Preview Event featuring the film Bogdan’s Journey

Michał Jaskulski is a graduate of The Polish National Film School. He has worked on numerous documentaries as a director, DP, camera operator and/or scriptwriter. His documentary “Graffiti” was awarded for cognitive values at Smofi 2000 Festival. He received the UNESCO ”Passport to the Future” award in 1996 for his documentary about the Krakow Jewish district. He is a multiple nominee and/or recipient of the Yach Film Festival award for directing and cinematography between 2005-2008.

JAKUB Kazecki

Assistant Professor of German, Bates College — in attendance for the Lewiston showing of Raise the Roof

Jakub Kazecki joined the faculty in German & Russian Studies in 2012 after teaching German language, literature and film courses at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, CT and McMaster University in Hamilton, ON.  Jakub’s research interests include 20th-century German literature (especially literature about the First World War), images of German-Polish relationships in literature, film and visual arts, and laughter and comedy in different media. He is the author of Laughter in the Trenches: Humour and Front Experience in German First World War Narratives (2012) and the co-editor of the books Heroism and Gender in Film (2014, together with Karen A. Ritzenhoff) and Border Visions: Borderlands in Film and Literature (2013, together with Karen A. Ritzenhoff and Cynthia Miller).


Founder, Lee International and Justice for Women Lecture Series – in attendance for Bar Bahar

Catherine Lee is the founder of Lee International and MaineLaw’s Justice for Women Lecture Series. As an attorney she has served clients in South Africa, Brazil, the U.S. and Canada, advising clients on all aspects of climate policy as well as market-based mechanisms to reduce climate pollution. She is a graduate of Barnard College, Columbia University, and the Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University. She is admitted to practice law in the state and federal courts in New York and Maine and the U.S. Supreme Court.


Art Team Director, Raise the Roof – in attendance for Raise the Roof

Krista Lima is now a high school art teacher – but she was forever changed by her involvement with Handshouse and the Gwozdziec Synagogue restoration. Lima spent her winters in Lincoln and her summers in Poland during the reconstruction project, leading a team to painstakingly recreate the synagogue’s majestic ceiling mural. Through her work as the project’s Art Team Director, motivating and guiding the myriad artist involved in this colossal undertaking, Lima found her true passion as a teacher.

Larry Loewinger

Co-Director, Bogdan’s Journey – in attendance for Special Festival Preview Event featuring the film Bogdan’s Journey
Larry Loewinger is a producer/director, sound mixer & teacher. His first documentary film, Kids Are People, won awards and was broadcast on public television. He’s worked on many documentaries, including Academy Award and Emmy Award winning films. He took a hiatus from filmmaking and became a distinguished sound mixer for which he has won two Emmy Awards. He has taught at Wesleyan University and New York University. “Bogdan’s Journey” marks his return to filmmaking.


Professor, University of Southern Maine – in attendance for Special Festival Preview Event featuring the film Bogdan’s Journey

Abe Peck is the son of two Holocaust survivors. He was born in a Displaced Persons’ camp in Landsberg, Germany, the city where Adolf Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. For more than two decades, Professor Peck has been actively involved in numerous programs devoted to meaningful dialogue and creative social action programs between members of the American and international Jewish communities and members of the Christian, African American, Muslim, German and Polish communities. He is currently Lecturer in History at Bates College and Research Professor of History at the University of Southern Maine. Professor Peck was the executive director of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at Saint Leo University and was Visiting Professor and  founding director of the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Studies program at the University of Maine at Augusta from 2009-2011. As president of Interfaith Maine, Peck received the 2002 Collaborative Promise Award presented by Institute for Civic Leadership and received the Jefferson Award for Cultural Diversity in 2003.


Veterans for Peace – Panelist for Bamidbar / Made Like a Gun

Doug Rawlings is an activist, poet and Vietnam veteran. In 1985, in response to America’s increasing military intervention in global conflicts, he co-founded Veterans for Peace (VFP). The organization now has over 120 chapters around the globe working, dedicated to building a culture of peace, exposing the true costs of war, and healing the wounds of war.


Filmmaker, Bang! The Bert Berns Story – in attendance for Bang: The Bert Berns Story

Bob Sarles is a Primetime Emmy nominated film and television editor and documentary filmmaker. He co-edited the Peabody Award winning documentary series Moon Shot, the ABC documentary The Story of Fathers & Sons, three of the first four seasons of the MTV’s ground breaking reality series The Real World, and unscripted television series produced for NBC, ABC, Bravo, VH1, Discovery, FX, WE and Oxygen. He is also the director of Sweet Blues: A film About Mike Bloomfield (shown by MJFF in fall 2016).


Director, Demonstration in the White City – in attendance for A Demonstration in a White City

Tal Haim Yoffe is completed his BA in Cinema Studies at Tel Aviv University.  He worked extensively directing music clips, promotional films, and television advertisements, winning 7 international Promax awards, followed by 3 years as the creative director at a major Israeli TV station.  For the past 9 years, Tal has been an independent filmmaker.  Two of his films won prizes at the Jerusalem International Film Festival and his last film won the best Israeli documentary film award in the free category in 2015.