By Ron Merk
Each year I look forward to the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival in the same way that a cool breeze in Tel Aviv would be greeted in mid-summer. It’s a relief from the “big” Hollywood films and a door that opens into a world not often seen in mainstream American films.
I’ve met people from all over the country and the whole world who take their annual vacations so they can spend their time at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. You certainly don’t have be be Jewish to enjoy the films. It’s about great stories, heroism, conflict and all the things that make up the drama of the human condition, in the past, the present and the future.
Please support the festival by buying tickets, making a donation or becoming a member. It’s a great organization doing brave work in the field of programming. These are stories that need to be told and for which I know there is an audience eager to hear them. Here are some of the big events of the festival, and the links to buy tickets.
34th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
July 24 – August 10, 2014
San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Palo Alto and San Rafael
The 34th edition of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival returns to the Bay Area July 24 – August 10, 2014 at the Castro Theatre and Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco, the CinéArts Theatre in Palo Alto, the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, The California Theatre and Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley, and Grand Lake Theater and The New Parkway Theater in Oakland. The first and still the largest of its kind, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF) continues to present year after year the very best in independent Jewish cinema—offering a full complement of films, festivities, special discussion programs and international guests that highlight 5773 years of culture.
For ticket information, please contact the box office at 415.621.0523 or visit the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival online at www.sfjff.org.
Opening Night Film: THE GREEN PRINCE
The festival will kick off Thursday, July 24th at the Castro Theater with Nadav Schirman’s documentary THE GREEN PRINCE, the opening night film at Sundance and the winner of the World Documentary Audience Award. The film follows a Palestinian in Ramallah, Mosab Hassan Yousef who grows up angry and ready to fight Israel. When he is arrested for smuggling guns at the age of 17, he’s interrogated by the Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, and sent to prison. But shocked by Hamas’s ruthless tactics in the prison and the organization’s escalating campaign of suicide bombings outside, Mosab agrees to spy for Israel. For him, there is no greater shame. For his Shin Bet handler, Gonen, there is no greater prize: “operating” the oldest son of a founding member of Hamas. Director Nadav Schirman will be in person Opening Night and on Saturday, July 26th at the CinéArts in Palo Alto. Additional screenings will take place on Sunday, August 3rd at the California Theater in Berkeley and on Friday, August 8th the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.
An Opening Night party at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco follows the opening night screening on June 24th at 9PM.
Centerpiece Narrative: RUN BOY RUN
The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival is pleased to present Pepe Danquart’s remarkable drama RUN BOY RUN. Based on a true story, the film tells the harrowing tale of a young man as he struggles to evade capture by the Nazis and ward off starvation in the forests of wartime Poland. Director Pepe Danquart will be in person Tuesday, July 29th at the Castro Theater in San Francisco, and Wednesday, July 30th at the CinéArts in Palo Alto. An additional screening will take place Thursday, August 7th at the California Theater in Berkeley.
Centerpiece Documentary: WATCHERS OF THE SKY
Edit Belzberg’s WATCHERS OF THE SKY won the Documentary Special Jury Award for Use of Animation and Editing at Sundance. It uncovers the forgotten life of Raphael Lemkin, the man who coined the term ‘genocide’. Inspired by Samantha Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, ‘A Problem From Hell’, WATCHERS OF THE SKY traverses time and continents to explore genocide and the cycle of violence. Director Edet Belzberg will be in attendance Monday, July 28th at the Castro Theater in San Francisco and Tuesday, July 29th at the CinéArts in Palo Alto. Additional festival screenings will be held on Saturday, August 9th at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland and Sunday, August 10th at the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.
Closing Night Film: LITTLE WHITE LIE
The festival will conclude with Lacey Schwartz’ LITTLE WHITE LIE, which explores the universal theme of dual identity. The story is rooted in Lacey Schwartz’s family experience and follows her upbringing in a white, Jewish family and the shocking discovery she makes at the age of 18. Lacey is a Harvard-educated lawyer who continued to believe throughout her childhood that her “Jewishness” accounted for her “otherness,” until she attended college at Georgetown and decided to ask for the truth from her family. Director Lacey Schwartz will be in person on Sunday, August 3rd at the Castro Theater in San Francisco and Monday, August 4th at the California Theater in Berkeley. Additional festival screenings will be held on Thursday, August 7th at the New Parkway in Oakland and Saturday, August 9th at the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.
Following the World Premiere of LITTLE WHITE LIE in San Francisco, filmmakers and guests at the Castro Theater Mezzanine will toast the close of the San Francisco portion of the festival.
Freedom of Expression Award: Theodore Bikel
This year’s SFJFF Freedom of Expression award recipient Theodore Bikel will be in attendance for a screening of John Lollos’ film THEODORE BIKEL: IN THE SHOES OF SHOLEM ALEICHEM on Thursday, July 31st at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. The film features Sholem Aleichem, the great Jewish storyteller, and Theodore Bikel, troubadour and actor, who portrayed Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof (based on Sholem Aleichem’s stories) countless times. Following the screening, Bikel will be presented with the Freedom of Expression Award. Following the award ceremony, there will be a brief Q&A and Bikel will perform live on the Castro Stage.