Morris and Mollye Fogelman International Jewish Film Festival 

Sammy Davis Jr. always said the worst moment of his life didn't result from bomb threats made against him and the venues he played. It wasn't when he lost an eye in a car wreck, or even being forced to endure a barrage of racist jokes from his alleged friends as the guest of honor for the Dean Martin Celebrity roast. Davis, who was half-black, half Puerto Rican and a convert to Judaism, claimed the worst thing that ever happened was being called a sellout and booed by audiences that looked like him.

As a boundary-shattering singer, dancer, comic, impressionist, and star on both the Broadway stage and silver screen, Davis was one of the most gifted and giving artists of the 20th century. I've Gotta Be Me, the first major documentary to examine his life and career, screens at the Memphis Jewish Community Center as part of the month-long Morris and Mollye Fogelman International Jewish Film Festival.

click to enlarge I’ve Gotta Be Me
  • I’ve Gotta Be Me

With commentary by entertainment industry contemporaries like Jerry Lewis, Kim Novak, and Norman Lear, the film follows Davis, a member of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack, from his early days in Harlem where he was born into a family of Vaudeville showmen to the campaign trail embrace of Richard Nixon that got him booed. It's a deep dive into the life of a rare talent negotiating a complicated social contract.

The fifth IJFF showcases 10 films screening at the JCC, Malco Paradiso, and Malco Ridgeway Cinema Grill. Other movies on tap include An Act of Defiance, an historical drama about Nelson Mandela and supporters staring down a death sentence after they are arrested by the apartheid South African government, and Big Sonia, which tells the story of a 91-year-old holocaust survivor who takes time away from the tailor shop she operates in a dying mall to revisit her past. The festival launches Sunday, February 1st, with Children of Chance, a drama about life in the children's hospital in Nazi-occupied France.

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