The 24th edition of the film festival is underway which, like every year, takes place during the Hanukkah holiday. For those in Jerusalem, the appointment is not to be missed
From December 17 to 22, as every year in conjunction with the Hanukkah festivities, the Cinematheque of Jerusalem will host the 24th Jewish Film Festival.
This year, 40 films from 20 countries are scheduled, as well as a series of special events, meetings with directors and actors from all over the world, conferences, panels, film competitions, live music performances. Together, every day, with the lighting of one of the candles, as per tradition, during the Festival of Lights.
It may also be that on the occasion of these festivities, this Festival, compared to other prestigious film festivals that take place in Israel on an annual basis, stands out for always attracting a heterogeneous public, coming from all over the country and from abroad, offering an experience that goes beyond the cinematic one. It is, in fact, a moment of cultural exchangethrough contemporary cinematography, in which to be exposed to fascinating Jewish life, on a global scale, through the lens of cinema, and with different perspectives both in genre and in subjects covered.
In particular, this year’s artistic program includes a fine selection of films dealing with issues of Jewish identity, faith and lifestyle, culture, literature, history and philosophy, memory, contemporary life in Israel and in the Diaspora, reflections on the Holocaust and the relationship between Judaism and other religions.
Also from the point of view of the form of expression, films covering the spectrum of different film production will be screened during the festival: documentaries that tell the story of Jewish families and communities around the world; Israeli cinema addressing current social and political issues; the presentation of two rare freshly restored archival films; documentaries and fiction about influential cultural and artistic figures of the Jewish world; feature films and short films.
Finally, as every year, before the screenings there will be conferences by film critics and academic researchers of Jewish history and culture, who will offer a brief introduction to the films and will participate in discussions and meetings with the public at the end of the films.
Here is our top 5 films on the bill.
Armageddon Time by James Gray (US 2022)
A heartwarming coming-of-age drama about a gifted introverted boy growing up in a Jewish family in 1980s New York City. When he changes schools, he forms a courageous friendship with an African-American student from a difficult family background.
Despite the disapproval of his parents (whose mother played by Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway) to understand it is instead the grandfather, a former Holocaust survivor (played by the Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins). A deeply personal coming-of-age story about the strength of family, the complexities of friendship, and the generational pursuit of the American dream.
My Father’s Secrets by Vera Belmont (France, Belgium, 2021)
Animated film, adapted from the heartwarming graphic novel “Second Generation”by the famous Israeli illustrator Michael Kichka.
In Belgium in the 60s Michel and his brother Charly live a happy childhood, unaware of the past that their father is slow to reveal. The two boys imagine him as a great adventurer or treasure hunter, until they discover his origins and his past in the concentration camps.
Through the beautiful language of animation director Véra Belmont tackles the story of the Holocaust, that of generational post-trauma and, finally, the path to recovery.
Where Life Begins by Stephane Freiss (Italy – France, 2022)
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish family from Aix-les-Bains goes every year, during the Sukkot festivities, to a farm in Puglia, to spend the festivities but also to carry out a sacred mission: the collection of the etrogim, the cedars for Sukkot. Here Elio, the owner of the farm, meets Esther, the rabbi’s daughter, tired of the constraints imposed by her religion and her family. Through their relationship Esther finds out the importance of freedom and finds its way while, likewise, Elio (played by Riccardo Scamarcio) find peace which he had long since lost. Through an exchange of perspectives their unexpected friendship will encourage both to explore new directions in life.
March 68 by Krzysztof Lang (Poland, 2022)
Warsaw, 1968. Haniaa student of the state theater school, experiences political awakening and her own personal revolution. He falls intensely in love with tech student Janek, whom he meets at the premiere of a theater show; gradually, however, he realizes that his fellow Jews – including Hania’s doctor father – are persecuted in a series of anti-Semitic purges conducted in response to the hate-fueled rhetoric of the Polish leader, Władysław Gomułka. When her family decides to emigrate for their own safety, Hania doesn’t want to join them and instead tries to build a life with Janek. However, things spiral out of control, leading to a powerful climax set during the events of March 1968, in an epochal collision of history and romance.
Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song by Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine (USA, 2021)
Documentary exploring the life of Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, who passed away in 2016, through the prism of his internationally acclaimed anthem: “Hallelujah”. The film offers a huge repertoire of archival materials never seen before, including Cohen’s personal notebooks, photographs, performance footage, and extremely rare audio recordings. Through a non-linear path starting from the famous song-manifesto, the two directors have reconstructed the entire career of the poet-songwriter but also a journey of exploration of his Jewish origins and his path of spirituality and faith.