After presenting mostly digital editions for the past two years the UK Jewish Film Festival is pleased to be returning to cinemas in London and across the nation, with screenings running from 10 – 20 November 2022, and with a selection of films available online from 21 – 27 November 2022. Offering an outstanding crop of cinematic stories from around the world, the festival will highlight four fantastic titles at unique Gala screenings with special guests in attendance. In addition, the festival’s global outlook is represented by a full and diverse line-up across the European Film, Israeli Film, British Film and Americas Film programmes, along with additional in-depth programmes covering the Alan Howard International Documentary Strand, LGBTQ+ cinema and shorts.
This year’s UK Jewish Film Festival will begin on 10 November with an exciting Opening Night Gala, director Moshe Rosenthal’s razor-sharp, funny and heartfelt Karaoke (Israel, 2022). The film follows Meir (Sasson Gabay) and Tova (Rita Shukrun), married for 40-years and stuck in a rut until a chance encounter with a hedonistic new neighbour (Lior Ashkenazi) leads them to a night of karaoke in his penthouse apartment. With Meir now coming out of his shell and Tova rediscovering her passion for life, the pair find their relationship, and the way they see themselves, drastically changing as they become increasingly enamoured by the life and opportunities offered by their new friend. Premiering at Tribeca Film Festival and winning the audience award at Jerusalem Film Festival, Karaoke will be introduced in London by actor Lior Ashkenazi (Big Bad Wolves, 2013; Footnote, 2011).
The Closing Night Gala on 20 November is the UK Premiere of Where Life Begins (UK Premiere, Italy/France, 2022), the tender and quietly devastating feature debut of French actor and filmmaker Stéphane Freiss. Set on a bucolic farm in southern Italy where owner Elio (Riccardo Scamarcio, Romanzo Criminale 2005; John Wick: Chapter 2, 2017) hosts an ultra-Orthodox family as they perform their sacred, annual task of harvesting etrogim (ritual lemons). Striking up a friendship with the family’s daughter Esther, who is unhappily engaged to be married and having serious doubts about her calling in life, Elio encourages the young woman to follow her desires in this tender yet thought-provoking exploration of tradition, family and self-realisation. Director Stéphane Freiss (Call My Agent!, 2020; Munich, 2005) will be in attendance to present his film.
For the festival’s Centrepiece Gala director Ady Walter and producer Jean-Charles Lévy will be present to discuss the outstanding Shttl (Ukraine/France, 2022). A film of astonishing beauty and technical achievement, shot in a village constructed for the production and filmed in one extraordinary long shot, it captures the lives of the inhabitants of a Yiddish-speaking village on the eve of the Nazi invasion of Soviet Ukraine. Starring Saul Rubinek (Hunters, 2020-2022; The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, 2018), Shttl is a must-see entry in this year’s festival.
Another unmissable event is the UK Premiere Animation Gala screening of Charlotte (UK Premiere, Canada/France/Belgium, 2022), with a voice-cast comprised of UK acting talent including Keira Knightley, Brenda Blethyn, Sam Claflin, Eddie Marsan, Helen McCrory, Sophie Okonedo, and the much-loved British screen favourite Jim Broadbent, who will be present to introduce the event. The film explores the war-time life of the exceptionally talented young artist Charlotte Salomon as she sets about painting over 1,000 autobiographical images, considered by many to be the first-ever graphic novel, before she was murdered in Auschwitz, aged-26 and pregnant.
A further highlight from this year’s festival is a Special Event UK premiere screening of the mesmerising and poignant documentary, Three Minutes: A Lengthening (UK, 2022), followed by a Q&A with the film’s narrator Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club, 1999; Alice in Wonderland, 2010). Composed entirely of a three-minute fragment of film from 1938, uncovered and tirelessly restored, this remarkable essay film captures the excitement of the people of a small Polish town prior to the war which would wipe most of them out. Co-produced by British filmmaker Steve McQueen, Three Minutes: A Lengthening offers a rare glimpse into a vanished world. Helena Bonham Carter narrates this film after speaking movingly about her little-known Jewish heritage and her grandfather’s role in saving many Jewish lives in the Channel 4 documentary series My Grandparents’ War.
The UK Jewish Film Festival 2022 will include its annual awards to celebrate this year’s outstanding voices in filmmaking. The Best Film Award, headed by director Paul Weiland (Sixty Six, 2006; Made of Honour, 2008), recognises powerful and outstanding narrative filmmaking, and the Best Documentary Award, with a jury lead by Oscar-winning producer Teddy Leifer (All That Breathes, 2022; Icarus, 2017; The Invisible War, 2012), recognises originality and excellence in documentary filmmaking. The Young Jury Award for Best Film and the Audience Award will also be presented at the festival.
ALAN HOWARD DOCUMENTARY STRAND
The Alan Howard Documentary Strand showcases five exceptional new documentaries carefully chosen for their diversity, challenging topics and for the opportunity to hear from and debate with the filmmakers at panels and Q&As following the screenings. An incredibly moving debut work from Tel Aviv-based filmmaker Bobby Lax, Back in Berlin (UK Premiere, Israel, 2021) (Q&A with director and writer Bobby Lax in conversation with Gabriella Geisinger) follows Lax returning to his family home in London where he meets with his close friend, German-born Manuel Harlan, but the filmmaker is surprised to learn that Manuel’s great-uncle was Veit Harlan, the famous film director whose notorious propaganda film Jud Süss, was produced at the behest of Joseph Goebbels. Reckonings (UK Premiere, USA, 2022) (Q&A with director Roberta Grossman) marks the 70th anniversary of the ground-breaking Luxembourg Agreements of 1952, which paid reparations to Jews and the Israeli state for the crimes perpertrated by Nazi Germany. Award-winning filmmaker Roberta Grossman’s (Who Will Write Our History, 2018) riveting documentary sheds new light on one of the most controversially ethical and moral issues Jewish leaders ever had to grapple with, and the far-reaching implications their decision had on both Germans and Jews. The festival is proud to present the UK premiere of A Tree of Life (USA, 2021) a harrowing but immensely important documentary that shines a light on the deadliest attack on Jews in American history at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018. This screening will be followed by a panel discussion with Lord Mann, a member of the House of Lords and advisor to the Government on Antisemitism. From Hershel of Ostropol to Lenny Bruce, Ephraim Kishon to Mel Brooks, if there is one thing that unites all Jews, it is their self- deprecating, hilarious sense of humour, or so the myth goes. In Who’s Afraid of Jewish Humour (UK Premiere, Germany, 2022) (Q&A with director Jascha Hannover) filmmakers Jascha Hannover (Hollywood’s Second World War, 2019) and Arkadij Kahet (Masel Tov Cocktail, 2020) set out to explore the origins of Jewish humour, tracing the use of irony and satire back to the Bible, with Hannover discussing her film at a post-screening Q&A. The Gala screening of Three Minutes: A Lengthening (And intro with the film’s narrator Helena Bonham Carter) will also play as part of the Alan Howard Documentary Strand.
EUROPEAN FILM PROGRAMME
The UK Jewish Film Festival’s European Film Programme sets out to present the finest and most-thought provoking films from across the continent. Director Yvan Ittal brings together his wife Charlotte Gainsbourg and son Ben Attal for the tense, timely and thought-provoking #MeToo drama, The Accusation (UK Premiere, France, 2021). Gainsbourg plays the mother of Alexandre (Attal), a boy who is accused of raping Mila, the daughter of his mother’s boyfriend. With Alexandre trying to prove his innocence and Mila fighting to be heard, the truth is difficult to discern. Stories from WWII continue to be uncovered and explored in cinema, shedding light on events that continue to have relevance and repercussions to this day with several such features explored in this programme. In 1939 in Stanislav, Poland, three families living together – Ukrainian, Polish and Jewish – overcome their initial prejudices to become close friends, but when war breaks out are their lives are changed forever in Olesya Morgunets-Isaenko’s testament to friendship Carol of the Bells (World Premiere, Ukraine/Poland, 2021). Director Matti Geschonneck sets his film The Conference (UK Premiere, Germany, 2022) in 1942 in the quiet suburbs of Berlin by lake Wannsee as high-ranking Nazi officials gather to discuss the Final Solution – the annihilation of Europe’s Jews. Based on the actual meeting minutes, workplace gossip and rivalries intertwine with the appalling task at hand in this chilling and disturbing illustration of the banality of evil. We’re back in Berlin for The Forger (UK Premiere, Germany/Luxembourg, 2022) as cavorting charmer Cioma Schönhaus lives life to the full in Hitler’s capital, however, in reality Schönhaus is a Jew hiding in plain site forging a new identity for himself and using his skills to help fellow Jews. This riveting story is based on Schönhaus’ 2004 memoir. Then, Farewell Mister Haffmann (UK Premiere, France, 2021) is a suspense-filled psychological thriller starring French screen-favourite Daniel Auteuil (Jean de Florette, 1986) as Polish-born Jewish jeweller Mister Haffmann, who is forced to hand his shop over to his assistant as he senses the tide turning against him when the Nazi’s occupy France. Leaving too late and unable to join his family in the south, Haffmann takes refuge in the basement of his former house and shop, but the attitude of his former assistant begins to change and the Nazi presence is never far away. Evolution (Germany/Hungary, 2021) is a decades-spanning tale from married filmmakers Kornél Mundruczó and Kata Wéber, (Pieces of a Woman, 2020), which sensitively explores the intergenerational effects of the Holocaust and the legacy of trauma through the eyes of a small European Jewish family. The shadow of the war hangs over Philippe Le Guay’s exploration of modern anti-semitism in suspenseful psychological thriller The Man in the Basement (UK Premiere, France, 2021), which sees a modern Parisian couple unsuspectingly rent their basement, where their relatives once hid from the Nazis, to a Holocaust denier who spreads his malicious views on the internet. Simone Veil survived the Holocaust to become President of the European Parliament, and biopic Simone Veil: A Woman of the Century (UK Premiere, France, 2022) charts the dramatic life of the principled, compassionate feminist icon with the aid of an incredible cast including Olivier Dahan (La Vie en Rose, 2001; Grace of Monaco, 2014). Natalia Sinelnikova’s biting social-political satire We Might As Well Be Dead (Germany/Romania, 2022) (Q&A with director Natalia Sinelnikova) sees the inhabitants of an idyllic ‘holistic living’ apartment complex turn on each other when a dog disappears and the daughter of a Jewish security guard begins to believe she is possessed by a demon. Set in the refined world of high-end fashion Haute Couture (UK Premiere, France, 2021) stars veteran actor Nathalie Baye (Catch Me If You Can, 2002) as a seamstress at Dior, who takes a young woman under her wing. With the elder Esther Jewish and her young protege Muslim, bridges must be crossed to find connection in this luxurious drama. Finally renowned French Jewish author, philosopher and filmmaker Bernard Henri Lévy brings us his unique essay film The Will to See (UK Premiere, France, 2021) (Q&A with the director Bernard-Henri Lévy), a personal and political activist document in which he travels to areas which have been severely impacted by humanitarian crises including Lesbos, Somalia, Nigeria and Afghanistan, talking to locals and bringing to light issues many would rather not see. Charlotte from the Animation Gala, and Who’s Afraid of Jewish Humour? from the Alan Howard Documentary Strand, will also screen as part of the European Film Programme.
ISRAELI FILM PROGRAMME
This year’s Israeli programme spans Israel past and present, with an eclectic line-up of thought-provoking and entertaining stories. Human relationships are a key theme this year with a selection of narrative features shining a light on contemporary Israeli society. Marco Carmel’s Paris Boutique (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022) (Q&A with lead actress Nelly Tagar) is a delightful romantic comedy about love, friendship and peace in the Middle East which stars Nelly Tagar (Zero Motivation, 2014), while One More Story (Israel, 2022), directed by and starring Guri Alfi, is a classic rom-com with a fresh take, as a newspaper journalist convinces her best friend to feature in a reality TV-inspired article to find a soul-mate and get married within a month. Relationships are also the focus of Perfect Strangers (Israel, 2021),(Q&A with director Lior Ashkenazi) Lior Ashkenazi’s deliciously toxic debut feature which asks how well we really know those closest to us? A big hit on Netflix in France and the Middle East, the festival is proud to present Perfect Strangers to a UK audience. Cinema Sabaya (Israel, 2021), from director Orit Fouks Rotem, tells the story of eight Arab and Jewish women who meet at a video production training course organised by their local municipality, and is a beautiful portrait of bridging the cultural divide and gathering in sisterhood. Following his critically acclaimed debut feature The Cakemaker (UKJFF 2017), Israeli filmmaker Ofir Raul Graizer returns with stunning new melodrama America (Israel/Germany/Czech Republic, 2022), a remarkable and heartrending exploration of human emotions as a swimming coach seeks to reconnect with a childhood friend. Heading into the past, Jake Paltrow’s stunning period drama June Zero (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022) captures a profound moment in the history, when on the eve of Adolf Eichmann’s execution in 1962, a 13-year-old boy, Eichmann’s guard, and an investigator for the prosecution do not only witness history, but take an active role in its making. Also delving into Israeli history is Blue Box (UK Premiere, Israel/Belgium, 2021) about Joseph Weits, a respected Zionist figure known for the Jewish National Fund’s afforestation project but who also staunchly believed in the idea of population transfer, uprooting Arab residents from their lands and giving them to Jews. Trying to square her famous relative’s actions and beliefs with her own diametrically opposed views, Weits’ great-granddaughter, filmmaker Michal Weits, investigates her famous relative’s legacy. From Israel’s leading documentarian Ran Tal (What If? Ehud Barak on War and Peace, UKJFF 2021), 1341 Frames of Love and War (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022) (Q&A with Ran Tal and Sarig Peker) comprises hundreds of pictures from the archive of celebrated photojournalist Micha Bar-Am. Revisiting some of his most iconic photographs, Bar-Am and his family reflect on a life lived behind the lens of a camera, and the ever changing face of Israel that he documented. Back in Berlin from the Alan Howard Documentary Strand, and Concerned Citizen and The Therapy from the LGBTQ+ Film Programme are also screening as part of the Israeli Film Programme.
AMERICAS FILM PROGRAMME
Comprising both documentary and narrative features, the festival presents six films from across the Americas as part of the Americas Film Programme. From Jewish filmmaker Abner Benaim, Plaza Catedral (Panama, 2021) tells the story of an unlikely bond formed between an architect and a young boy she finds on the street with gunshot wounds. Panama’s 2022 Oscars entry, this is a gripping and heartrending portrayal of street violence in Latin America. From director Tom Weidlinger (who will be in attendance for a Q&A) is The Restless Hungarian (UK Premiere, USA, 2021) (Q&A with Tom Weidlinger), a deeply personal story that expresses the ongoing burden of our collective trauma, as the filmmaker traces four generations of his family history. Narrated by Jeff Goldblum, Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen (UK Premiere, USA, 2022) is a delightful documentary charting the journey of hit stage musical Fiddler on the Roof to the big screen in 1971 and is a wonderful opportunity to experience the magic of Fiddler anew. The silver screen is also the backdrop for Tessa Louise-Salomé’s The Wild One (UK Premiere, France, 2022), a fascinating documentary narrated by Willem Dafoe that highlights the incredible story of Czech-born film director Jack Garfein, who survived Auschwitz to become one of Hollywood’s greats. A Tree of Life and Reckonings from the Alan Howard Documentary Strand, will also screen as part of the Americas Film Programme.
BRITISH FILM PROGRAMME
The British Film Programme for 2022 includes the powerful documentary Disgraced (UK Premiere, UK, 2022) (Q&A with Beth Alexander and Jane Mingay) from British filmmaker Jane Mingay. For seven years, Mingay followed Beth Alexander as she attempted to gain custody of her children from the son of a well-established family in Austria’s Haredi world. This important and powerful documentary about Alexander’s unbelievable plight and courage, sheds light on the intricate laws and social codes of the Chabad community. Fascinating short documentary We Left the Camp Singing (UK Premiere, UK, 2022) (Performance and Q&A with Sofia Tapinassi and James Joel Dann in conversation with UK Jewish Film Chief Executive Michael Etherton) looks at the sublime works of art created by Jewish inmates at Theresienstadt concentration camp, with this special event also including a live piano performance from director Sofia Tapinassi who will perform works composed at Theresienstadt. The festival is also proud to present the winner of the Pears Short Film Fund 2022, The Rabbi’s Son (UK, 2022) as well as the winning entries to the UK Jewish Film Short Doc Fund: 3 Jokes for £1 (UK, 2022), The Peacock that Passed Over (UK, 2022), “Shabbos Goy” (UK, 2022), Adam’s Tale (UK, 2022), and Lynn, Ruth and Me (UK, 2022).
LGBTQ+ FILM PROGRAMME
LGBTQ+ cinema is well represented with three films from Israel that tackle a diversity of issues. Concerned Citizen (Israel, 2022) is a sharp critique of an increasingly unequal society, which tells the story of a same-sex couple living in a migrant neighbourhood who begin to question their own liberal self-image after one of them witnesses an act of police brutality, while director Adam Kalderon’s The Swimmer (Israel, 2021) is a bold exploration of male competitiveness and sexual desire set in the gruelling and hypermasculine world of the Israeli national swimming team. The Therapy (UK Premiere, Israel, 2021) (Followed by a panel discussion) is a thought-provoking documentary from Zvi Landsman which is a rare glimpse into this highly controversial and scientifically dubious practice of gay conversion therapy, and the impact it has on those who subscribe to it. This screening will be followed by a panel discussion covering the issues raised in the film. The Rainbow Collection short film programme will also be screening as part of the LGBTQ+ Strand.
SHORTS FILM PROGRAMME
Our fantastic programme this year includes over 30 fragments of Jewish life from around the globe – from the UK, to Australia and the US. Their lengths range from 3 minutes to 35 minutes, and their styles – first-person filmmaking, documentaries, dramas and comedies – vary greatly. They all, however, pack a small but mighty punch.
Israeli Shorts – new shorts from Israel’s emerging film talent: The Elephant in the Mall (UK Premiere, Israel, 2021); The Artichoke Season (European Premiere, Israel, 2021); Black Slide (Israel, 2021); I think it’s Enough, Isn’t It? (UK Premiere, Israel,2021); What Has Changed (UK Premiere, Israel, 2021); Where Are You Running To? (UK Premiere, Israel, 2020); Rothschild 16 (UK Premiere, Israel, 2021); Holy Holocaust (Israel, 2021).
Women’s Voice – a stunning collection of films that celebrate powerful, determined and inspiring women: Stagnant Water (Israel, 2021); Equilibrium (UK Premiere, Israel, 2021); Bracha (Israel, 2022); Where Are You Running To? (UK Premiere, Israel, 2020); Meadow (UK Premiere, Israel, 2021).
The Rainbow Collection – inquisitive, funny and reflective LGBTQ+ voices from America and Israel: Bracha (Israel, 2022); Complicated (Israel, 2022); Half (UK Premiere, USA, 2020); Mazel Tov (Israel, 2021).
Real to Reel – a collection of short documentary films that is as rich, surprising and diverse as life itself: Visiting Ben Shemen (UK Premiere, New Zealand, 2022); Dirndlschuld (UK Premiere, Austria, 2021); Family Photo (UK Premiere, Poland, 2022); I think it’s Enough, Isn’t It? (UK Premiere, 2021); Last Words (UK Premiere, Serbia, 2022); My Father’s War (UK Premiere, Germany, 2021); Rothschild 16 (UK Premiere, 2021); The Photographer (Canada, 2022); Do Not Resuscitate David Dix (UK Premiere, UK, 2022).
Best of British – A showcase of the best of homegrown film talent, including specially commissioned shorts: Do Not Resuscitate David Dix (UK Premiere, UK, 2022), Funeral of a Marriage Counsellor (UK Premiere, UK, 2022); F**k Me in Yiddish (UK Premiere, UK, 2021); Honesty (UK Premiere, UK, 2022); Kafkas (UK Premiere, UK, 2021); Samovar (World Premiere, UK, 2022); The Silent Treatment (World Premiere, UK, 2022); It’s Not Perverse, It’s Mothers (UK, 2022).
Life Less Ordinary – Seven remarkable life experiences, from war-time Europe to present-day Panama: Tuesco (UK Premiere, USA/Panama, 2022); Holy Holocaust (Israel, 2021); My Father’s War (UK Premiere, Germany, 2021); Samovar (World Premiere, UK, 2022); The Caretaker (UK Premiere, Germany, 2020); The Photographer (Canada, 2022); Visiting Ben Shemen (UK Premiere, New Zealand, 2022).
The UK Jewish Film Festival 2022 takes place in cinemas nationwide from 10 – 20 November, and online from 21-27 November
London venues: BFI Southbank, Curzon Mayfair, Curzon Soho, Everyman Belsize Park, Everyman Kings Cross, Everyman Muswell Hill, JW3 London, Phoenix, Picturehouse Central, Close Up Cinema
National venues: Brighton Komedia, Bristol Scott, Cineworld Didsbury, Curzon Knutsford, Everyman Edinburgh, Everyman Leeds, Glasgow Film Theatre, HOME Manchester, Nottingham Broadway, Phoenix Picturehouse (Oxford)