In less than a week, the UK Jewish Film Festival – proudly media sponsored by the Jewish News – will say lights, camera and action to its 2013 programme.
With more than 50 UK premieres, founder Judy Ironside has promised this year’s festival will be “a platform for new voices”.
Running from 30 October to 17 November, the full programme comprises 81 films at 12 venues around London. And with so many dazzling films on offer, here’s our Top 10 Don’t Miss movies at this year’s UK Jewish Film Festival!
Harbour of Hope
UK Premiere Tuesday 5th November at 18.30 at the Tricycle Cinema
This is a powerful documentary that charts the arrival in 1945 of a ship full of concentration camp survivors, at the peaceful harbour town of Malmo, Sweden. Disembarking to freedom are Irene, a bedraggled 10-year-old girl, Ewa, a baby cradled in her mother’s arms and a newly-orphaned teenager, Joe.
Interspersing rich archive footage from the voyage with present-day interviews from the leading characters, director Magnus Gertten – whose father as a boy witnessed this historic docking – weaves a poignant, human story about how even the most savage cruelty can be redeemed by the kindness of strangers.
Followed by a Q&A with film director Magnus Gertten
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Igor and the Cranes’ Journey
Sunday 3rd November at 16.00 at Phoenix Cinema
A charming story about migration and the meaning of home. 11-year-old Igor moves from Russia to Israel when his mother, a divorcee, gets a new job. Unsettled by his new situation, Igor feels abandoned by his father, an ornithologist, who is following the migration of cranes from Russia to Africa.
Every year, thousands of cranes visit Israel on their perilous journey south. Meanwhile, Igor and his father are reunited in their search for Karl, a crane they started tracking as a hatchling. This touching story addresses the plight of children in divorced families, the struggles faced by migrants and, ultimately, our adaptability to change.
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Rock the Casbah
Thursday 7th November at 20.00 at Odeon Swiss Cottage. Thursday 14th November at 19.30 at Phoenix.
Set in 1989 during the first Intifada, Yariv Horowitz’s fast-paced and tense debut film follows four young soldiers assigned to ‘bring order’ to the local population from the rooftop of a Palestinian family house.
Whilst the inexperienced soldiers struggle to cope with their mission, their unwilling hosts live in desperate fear of being branded by their neighbours as collaborators.
A gripping tale, told with a sensitivity unusual in this genre, Horowitz’s impressive film won him the prestigious Art Cinema Award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Followed by a Q&A with film director Yariv Horowitz
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From Cable Street to Brick Lane
Sunday 10th November at 17.00 at Odeon Swiss Cottage.
A non-linear tribute to successive generations of immigrants and trade unionists in London’s East End, and their triumph over prejudice and intolerance. Archive footage brings to life the 1936 Battle of Cable Street when Irish dockers ran to the aid of Jews, socialists, anarchists and communists, whose protest against a march by the British Union of Fascists provoked an attack by the police.
Interviewees – including artist Bob and Roberta Smith and writer Rachel Lichtenstein – recall the subsequent struggles of anti-fascists against racial and homophobic violence in the 1970s and 1990s, depicting a vibrant but disparate community united against hate.
Followed by a Q&A with Executive Producer Glyn Robbins.
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UK Premiere Tuesday 5th November at 21.00 at the Tricycle.
Set against the stunningly beautiful backdrop of Patagonia in the 1960s, this is the story of an Argentine family who meet a charismatic German doctor, Helmut Gregor, on their way to Bariloche to open a hotel at Lake Nahuel Huapi. Taken with their physically underdeveloped daughter, Lilith, the doctor offers treatment to help her growth.
His obsessive interest in her and her mother, pregnant with twins, belies a sinister history when it slowly transpires that he is Nazi physician Dr Mengele. This is an intensely gripping ‘factional’ tale of a family seduced by perhaps the most sadistic scientist of all time.
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The Ballad of the Weeping Spring
Thursday 7th November at 20.00 at Tricycle. Wednesday 13th November at 20.30 at Everyman, Hampstead.
Think spaghetti westerns and US road movies, combined with a stunning soundtrack of Middle Eastern, Persian and North African music and you’ll be the mood for this haunting journey. The story centres on the brooding Josef Tawila, once the leader of a Mizrahi band, who lives a hermit-like existence in the wake of a terrible accident.
The powerful music serves to record and transmit memories and themes that are central to the story of this band of colourful musicians and their pledge to fulfil the dying wishes of their beloved friend, while healing their own grief and guilt.
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UK Premiere Thursday 7th November at 19.00 at JW3
A 12-year old girl must complete an ancestry assignment for school. This initially ‘boring’ task slowly takes on a sweeping historical aspect embodying many secrets of three generations of a single family, beginning before World War II, through Holocaust trauma and up to collective kibbutz idealism.
Using home-movie footage and early greying photographs, as well as questioning of family members otherwise in denial, filmmaker Chen Shelach reconstructs and interrogates the fascinating tale of his family’s tortuous journey through betrothal and betrayal, and displays the need for truth and honest closure.
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Water: an Israeli-Palestinian cinematic project
UK Premiere Tuesday 12th November at 19.30 at Odeon Swiss Cottage
Israeli and Palestinian directors worked together to create a series of short fiction and documentary films, referring to the vital issue of water. Initiated by the Department of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University, Water is a unique cinematic co-operative project: the filmmakers took part in joint meetings, presenting ideas to each other, consulting with experts from both sides and working in mixed crews of Palestinians and Israelis.
The result is a series of highly personal, varied short films, together offering an illuminating picture of the complexities surrounding this simple, essential yet contentious natural resource. While reflecting the conflicted reality of the Middle East, the films transcend slogans and propaganda, offering instead an example of cinema’s ability to create a space for dialogue and co-operation.
Followed by Q&A with filmmaker Ahmad Bargouth and producer Maya de Vries
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Joe Papp in Five Acts
UK Premiere Thursday 14th November at 18.15 at Barbican
A riveting portrait of a transformative figure in the New York theatre scene, Joe Papp – a poor, tough, Jewish kid from Brooklyn – who created Central Park’s free Shakespeare in the Park Festival, which launched the careers of everyone from Meryl Streep to Kevin Kline, all of whom feature here.
This radical and tumultuous personality introduced colour-blind casting, nurtured emerging playwrights, fostered countercultural plays like Hair, and revolutionised commercial theatre with the Broadway smash hit A Chorus Line, as well as founding the Public Theatre. The film is packed with testimonials from Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, James Earl Jones and Meryl Streep and framed by Kevin Kline’s exquisite monologues.
Followed by discussion ‘A new democratic theatre for the UK’ with Zoe Wanamaker CBE (subject to her film commitments) and director Tracie Holder
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UK Premiere Saturday 16th November at 21.00 at Tricycle
An intimate portrait of Israel’s most successful contemporary diva, Iranian-born Rita Jahan Foruz, as she records and performs her new collection of classic Persian songs. With unprecedented access to private moments and family gatherings, as well as behind-the-scenes footage of recording sessions and concert preparations, Rita shows the power of music to celebrate identity and cross cultural and political boundaries.
In proudly representing both Israeli and Persian culture, we follow Rita as she takes her most personal and treasured songs all the way to the United Nations.
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