Just when you thought there was little to look forward to, along comes the UK Jewish Film Festival, which is available in your home tonight and every night until 19 November at: www.ukjewishfilm.org/festival/uk-jewish-film-festival-2020
And, to entice you, a word from UK Jewish Film Festival’s chief executive, Michael Etherton
“Most people I know have exhausted Netflix and Amazon Prime, and that’s just as well, because the first online UK Jewish Film Festival is launching, and it’s the perfect way to fill those dark November lockdown nights. With new film productions mothballed for the foreseeable future, and prospects for new releases (let alone Jewish films) in 2021 looking distinctly bleak, there’s never been a better or more urgent reason to binge on the best in global Jewish films.
So get yourself a Festival Pass to 73 of the most fantastic new movies to make you laugh, cry, scream and kvell. As with many of the festival films this year, we will also be joined by the directors and leading actors wherever they are around the world.
Don’t miss Bruno Ganz’s stunning last film Winter Journey, the hilarious and irreverent Shiva Baby, crazy Israeli comedy Mossad, or a raft of powerful and important documentaries, from Holy Silence, the story of the Vatican’s hush in the face of the Holocaust to the scary social media phenomenon that is Dr Miami in They Call Me Dr Miami.
Who knew that it would be such a vintage year for Jewish film in the most unexpected and difficult of circumstances, and tonight we are proud to open with our gala film inspired by Judith Kerr’s much loved book, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.
I urge you to enjoy this 24th festival and make the most of this wonderful celebration of Jewish cinema and culture.”
Here, we present the edited highlights of what is available to take you away from all the other chaos in the world…
UK Jewish Film Festival – OPENING NIGHT GALA!
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit – 5 Nov, 7.30pm, + Q&A with director Caroline Link and writer Matthew Kneale
A film about national socialism, antisemitism and forced exile that appeals to all the family is one to treasure, and German director Caroline Link has made Matthew Kneale’s adaptation of his mother’s book warm and heart- rendering.
Judith Kerr’s bunny is a literary metaphor for the loss of home and childhood – and as heroine Anna Kemper, 12-year-old Riva Krymalowski beautifully conveys the agony and confusion.
Told from a child’s perspective, the impending danger of Hitler and this Jewish family is shown through the school games of his Nazi youth recruits and hushed conversations between parents Dorothea (Carla Juri) and Arthur (Oliver Masucci), a journalist on the Fuhrer’s hitlist.
Link’s picture perfect Swiss locations deflect from the Kempers’ stressful journey to safety, but French antisemitism reminds us of the hatred.
Interestingly the first film of Kerr’s book was made in Germany in 1978, but Link’s version is compulsory viewing for children and adults alike.
Judith Kerr never got to see the new film as she died on 22 May 2019. Just weeks earlier, Brigit Grant had tea with the author for what would be one of her last interviews. Read it here.
It took 48 years, but Judith Kerr has finally given us another rabbit – and it isn’t pink. The Curse of the School Rabbit is Judith’s first encounter with a herbivore since her semi-autobiographical When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit was published in 1971.
There were many books in between, with The Tiger Who Came To Tea beloved by each new generation, but the latest arrival, which would have coincided with the late author’s 96th birthday, is an exquisitely illustrated picture book about a boy, a rabbit, and a lot of bad luck.
“I think there should be as few words in a picture book as possible,” said Judith, over coffee in the front room at her ivy-clad Victorian house in Barnes.
Charming and blessed with energy that belied her years, Judith was nursing a nasty scratch courtesy of her cat Katinka, who has her own book Katinka’s Tail and it is the drawings that make the books so joyful. The former Central School of Art student left Berlin with her family when she was 12 as her father Alfred was an open critic of the Nazis. It is this part of her life that features in her trilogy, Out of the Hitler Time, of which Pink Rabbit is part, although Judith said: “I would never have written a novel if it hadn’t been about my family.”
She credited her late husband, Thomas Nigel Kneale, creator of TV’s Quatermass for getting her through it. “I found the novel incredibly difficult and, after three or four chapters, was ready to give up. Tom said I shouldn’t and also gave me the title. Originally I hadn’t included pink rabbit, but he remembered it and said I should.”
Evidently, the rabbit Judith left behind was barely pink. “It was very faded,” she said. “I suppose it was like an old friend, but in the end I took another toy that was totally uninteresting.”
Judith admitted to being sentimental – “If not at the age of 95, when will I start?” she said, knowing soft toys trigger nostalgia. “Matthew had a monkey, which went everywhere with him,” she said of her firstborn, who wrote the film’s screenplay, but she could not recall the favourite toy of her artist/designer daughter, Tacy. “At first I had no idea what to do with my own children, as there had been no small children in my family. But I learnt it was easier to get kids to do things when you make them laugh.”
The synopsis on the back of Pink Rabbit begins with the line: ‘Suppose your country began to change’ and I asked Judith if she felt it reflected the rise of antisemitism in Britain. “I can’t recall who said it, but antisemitism is in the soil, it’s always been there, and I don’t know why, but I’ve never experienced it in this country.” The Tiger Who Came To Tea is a first reader for many young children and the cursed school rabbit could be a rival contender. “Picture books are still popular and that gets them started, so I think they should be funny,” said Judith, who won the Oldie Tigress We’d Like To Have Tea award in January 2019. Having coffee with her was just as good.
Aulcie – 6 November, 4.30pm
Destined to be a huge NBA star, only to be rejected, Aulcie Perry was spotted by a scout for Maccabi Tel Aviv in 1976 while playing at the Rucker courts in Harlem.
Quickly signed to play for their fledgling team, the Israeli players immediately responded to Perry’s leadership and that year had the most extraordinary season in its history.
Perry helped the team to its first European Championship, a prize they took four years later again under his leadership and to the surprise of many, he then converted to Judaism, adopted the Hebrew name Elisha Ben Avraham, and became an Israeli citizen.
Dani Menkins’ inspiring film tells the story of this remarkable athlete who captured the spirit of a nation and put Israel on the map.
Watch the trailer here:
Shiva Baby – 7 November, 7.30pm
This hilarious debut from writer/director Emma Seligman introduces Danielle (Rachel Sennott), a directionless college senior with a Sugar Daddy called Max.
We meet Max (Danny Deferrari) right away, but Danielle doesn’t expect to then meet him at a family shiva. Avoiding him, his beautiful wife, her overbearing parents Joel (Fred Melamed) and Debbie (Polly Draper) and an ex-girlfriend proves a challenge in the claustrophobic house of mourning.
Asia – 6 November, 4.30pm
Emmy-nominated for Unorthodox and adored as Ruchami in Shtisel, Shira Haas gives another hypnotising performance as Vika, a 17-year-old with motor neurone disease who wants the same life as her peers.
Meanwhile, her Russian émigré mother, Asia (Alena Yiv) works long hours as a nurse and keeps her daughter at arm’s length.
In her feature debut, director Ruthy Pribar explores maternal instincts, teenage experience and the fears of a life-limiting condition without the usual clichés and obvious sentimental signposting.
Asia is part of UK Jewish Film Festival’s specially curated Curzon Home Cinema film selection and is available to stream on the Curzon Home Cinema platform at any time from Friday, 6 Nov until Thursday, 19 Nov for £9.99. It is not included as part of the Festival Pass.
Watch the trailer here:
Winter Journey – 6 November, 4.30pm (+ live Q&A with Martin Goldsmith in conversation with Jason Solomons on 12 November).
The late Bruno Ganz gives his last and most poignant performance in a film that documents Gunther Goldschmid’s escape from Nazi Germany.
Over a few days in the mid-1990s, Gunther, a naturalised American citizen, told his son Martin how he and his wife Rosemarie – both gifted musicians and members of the Jewish Cultural League – fled just weeks before Jewish emigration was banned in 1941.
Based on Martin’s book, which chronicles his father’s real-life events, this deeply personal film tenderly explores the many losses – family, homeland, occupation – experienced by the survivors.
Winter Journey is part of the specially curated Curzon Home Cinema selection available from Friday, 6 November until Thursday, 19 November for £9.99. Not included as part of the Festival Pass.
Watch the trailer here:
Mossad – 8 November, 7.30pm
“I laughed all the way through” was exactly the comment writer/director Alon Gur Arye wanted from an audience member enthusing about his parody of the 1990 Naked Gun series.
Of course, with David Zucker, creator of Airplane and Naked Gun as creative consultant, it was destined to deliver, along with heartthrob Tsahi Halevi as brave but dim Mossad agent Guy Moran.
The action revolves around the kidnapping in Israel of an American tech billionaire, which leads Moran to join forces with beautiful CIA agent Linda Harris (Efrat Dor) to release the wealthy techie and save the world from an impending disaster.
Centrepiece Gala film
The End of Love – 14 November, 7.30pm (+ Q&A with director Keren Ben Rafael)
Falling in love with someone from another country inevitably leads to difficult choices, as shown in this subtle and timely centrepiece gala film from Keren Ben Rafael.
Yuval (Belgian actor Arieh Worthalter) meets and marries Julie (Judith Chemla), who takes him from his native Israel to Paris. When his visa expires and he finds himself back in Israel, communicating with his wife and baby via Skype, the doubts each of them harbours about the future of their relationship are revealed.
Israeli-French director Ben Rafael brought Virgins to the UK Jewish Film Festival in 2018 and The End of Love is an engaging drama about immigration and the impact of technology on our lives.
They Call Me Dr Miami – 15 November, 7.30pm
The trailer alone will push you towards 78 minutes with the man known to his million of Snapchat followers as Dr Miami. Broadcasting live operations on social media has turned plastic surgeon Michael Salzhauer into the rappers’ favourite improver of body imperfection, but at home, he is a happily married, father-of-five Orthodox Jew.
Salzhauer struggles with the constant dilemma of faith versus fixing, which even has his daughter asking: “If God gave it to us, who are we to redo it?” Jean-Simon Chartier has made a dazzling and defiant documentary about the frum exhibitionist.
Happy Times – 15 November, 7.30pm (with an introduction from
Israeli TV star Liraz Chamami)
This wild over-the-top tale about the unravelling of an Israeli-American couple’s dinner party stars none other than Shtisel’s Michael Aloni – which is all it will take to hook some viewers.
Michael Mayer, who also directed Aloni in his gay romance Out Of The Dark, teamed up with co-writer Guy Ayal for this story that is set in a fabulous Hollywood Hills mansion where a toxic mix of alcohol, egos, cultural differences, lust and greed derails the evening, and things spin out of control.
The ironically named Happy Times won the script award at Haifa International’s Film Festival and received such rave reviews as: “Every butchered body and murder terrifies you, but also makes you laugh at the same time,” from Ha’aretz. So brace yourself for a meal of bloody mayhem with Aloni as the tempting side dish.
5 to 7 – 18 November, 7.30pm
Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin) is a young wannabe writer with a wall of rejection letters and a father (Frank Langella) who wants him to go to law school. It’s worth mentioning that his mum is played by Glenn Close, but more interesting that his search for life experiences to fuel his fiction results in him meeting Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe).
This gorgeous French older woman is keen to hook up again, but only between the hours of the film’s title as she is married. 5-7 is happy hour code in France and, as Arielle’s husband has a lover, why shouldn’t she? Victor Levin’s romantic comedy melds New York sassy with French je ne sais quoi in a charming take of saucy cultural exchange.
As the unconventional romantic lead, Yelchin is endearing, which makes the death of the 27-year-old Soviet-born Jewish actor in 2016 even more tragic.
Blumenthal – 9 November, 7.30pm
The eponymous hero of the film is dead at the beginning, but as he died laughing at one of his own jokes, it could only be a Jewish comedy.
No one seems particularly upset by the passing of Harold Blumenthal (Brian Cox), but it does push his brother Saul (Mark Blum) to ask his son Ethan (Seth Fisher) to retrieve one of Harold’s lifetime achievement awards from his agent Jimmy (Fred Melamed), which opens a can of worms.
This is Seth Fisher’s first film and he has obviously taken a note from Woody Allen’s playbook by writing, acting and directing a bunch of characters who pick each other apart with feisty comebacks over an historic family feud.
Watch the trailer here:
Closing Night Gala film
Honeymood – 19 November, 7.30pm (followed by an interview with director Talya Lavie)
When bride (Avigail Harari) discovers her groom (Ron Danker) has received a ring as a wedding gift from an ex-girlfriend, a fight breaks out in their honeymoon suite.
At the bride’s insistence, the ring must be returned and the couple’s wedding night turns into a trek through Jerusalem as they are forced to confront past lovers, repressed doubts, and the lives they’ve chosen to leave behind.
This stirring romantic comedy is directed by Talya Lavie, who won the Tribeca Film Festival Founder’s Award and Nora Ephron Prize for her feature debut, Zero Motivation, which broke the Israeli box office record of the past two decades. This closing night film was elected as one of the three Best Israeli Films of All Times.
ONE PASS TO MULTIPLE FILMS
Fancy seeing all the films, screenings and galas without having to book individual tickets?
One Festival Pass (£35) covers a single household, so you and your partner, family or housemates can enjoy the whole festival together.
Once purchased, you will receive an email link with instructions to activate your pass and create an account at watch.ukjewishfilm.org,
where you can log in to the passholder area and access all films. The activation can be done at any time, but you will only have access to the films once the festival has launched tonight, 5 November 2020.
Films will premiere at specific dates and times, but remain available to watch for a set period of 48 hours. Plan your festival using the online film calendar.
NOTE: Festival Pass does not include Shiva Baby or the six films as part of the Curzon Home Cinema film selection.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TICKETS
- Festival Pass: £35
- TV Series: £15 each
- Single Gala films: £15
- Single films: £7.99
- Short Film Programmes: £0.99 each
- Members discount: 20%
*Members discount does not apply to Short Film Programmes.
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