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 Theater 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.
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 presents 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.
Berkeley Big Night: THE STURGEON QUEENS
In keeping with tradition, the festival will showcase a Berkeley Big Night film to highlight the programming in Berkeley. This year Julie Cohen’s THE STURGEON QUEENS will screen on Saturday, August 2nd at the Berkeley Repertory Theater. The film follows four generations of the Jewish immigrant family, which started Russ and Daughters, a Lower East Side lox and herring emporium that survives and thrives. Produced to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the store, this documentary features an extensive interview with two of the original daughters for whom the store was named, now 100 and 92 years old, and interviews with prominent enthusiasts of the store including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, chef Mario Batali, New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin, and 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer. Rather than a conventional narrator, the filmmakers bring together six colorful longtime fans of the store, in their 80s and 90s, who sit around a table of fish and read the script in the style of a Passover Seder. Director Julie Cohen will be in attendance for the Berkeley Big Night Screening and will also be in attendance Sunday, August 3rd for a screening at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. Additional screenings will be held on Saturday, July 26th at the CinéArts in Palo Alto and on Sunday, August 10th the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.
Immediately following the screening in Berkeley, festival attendees will attend a post film reception catered by Bistro Liaison in the lobby and courtyard of Berkeley Rep.
Highlight Film: MY FAVORITE NEOCONSERVATIVE
The festival presents a special highlight of Yael Luttwak’s documentary short, MY FAVORITE NEOCONSERVATIVE, a film about prominent conservative, Washington D.C. insider Edward Luttwak, and a personal, behind-the-scenes look at the people who have shaped foreign policy, war and peace for the past 40 years. Yael Luttwak, Edward’s daughter whose political views could not be further afield then her father’s made the film. Yael was the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival’s inaugural Filmmaker in Residence. MY FAVORITE NEOCONSERVATIVE screens as part of the Jews in Shorts (Docs) series on Friday, August 1st at the Castro Theater and Tuesday, August 5th at the California Theater in Berkeley.
Little Horribles: An Evening with Amy York Rubin
Little Horribles has been hailed as one of the top ten web series of 2013 by Variety and called 'the lesbian answer to Girls' by the Huffington Post; Rubin has emerged as a bold new comedic voice. See a collection of the episodes and hear creator and star Amy York Rubin discuss her career Friday, August 1st at the Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco. Admission is $10, which includes 2 free drinks.
Spotlight: A PLACE IN HEAVEN
The festival will unveil Yossi Madmony’s A PLACE IN HEAVEN, his latest captivating drama which charts how the a fiercely non-believing, war-weary soldier sells his place in Heaven to a lowly army cook for a plate of scrambled eggs, and the ripple effect this decision has four decades into the life of the Israeli soldier. Actor Alon Abutbul has been invited to attend the festival screenings on Sunday, July 27th at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. Other screenings will be Wednesday, July 30th at the CinéArts in Palo Alto, Thursday, August 7th at the California Theater in Berkeley; and Sunday, August 10th at the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.
Stand Up: COMEDY WARRIORS
As part of a theme of Comedy films, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival will screen COMEDY WARRIORS, a hilarious and uplifting look at five disabled Iraq/Afghanistan veterans who bring their life-altering experiences onstage in the form of brutal and fiercely funny stand-up. Comic masters such as Bob Saget, Zach Galifanakis and Lewis Black mentor the veterans as they prepare for a one-night show at Hollywood’s Punch Line comedy club. One of the subjects of the film Joe Kashnow will be in attendance on Wednesday, July 30th at the Castro Theater in San Francisco and will perform live stand-up following the screening. Additional screenings will take place on Thursday, July 31st at the CinéArts in Palo Alto; Friday, August 1st at the California Theater in Berkeley; and the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael on Saturday, August 9th.
SFJFF at the New Parkway in Oakland
SFJFF is partnering with Cinema Club Oakland, an Oakland based organization that amplifies the stories and traditions of ethnically rich communities across the world, for a special screening of LITTLE WHITE LIE at The New Parkway Theater on Thursday, August 7th.
In its 34th edition, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival will feature several outstanding films from talented Bay Area filmmakers. These films include:
HAVANA CURVEBALL is Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider’s documentary about Mica, an enthusiastic, idealistic young teen who also happens to be their son. The film follows him at 13, as he is studying for his Bar Mitzvah, the Jewish coming of age rite. An earnest kid, he takes to heart his Rabbi's requirement to help "heal the world." Imagining himself a savior of sorts, he launches a grand plan to send baseballs to Cuba, a country with a mysterious pull. He knows only that Cubans are poor have few resources and love baseball-and that Cuba saved his grandpa's life. On a hunch, his award-winning filmmaker parents pick up their camera. They know the U.S. embargo with Cuba-and the complications of growing up-will throw him a curveball. Marcia and Ken live in San Francisco in the Richmond District. HAVANNA CURVEBALL will screen Thursday, July 31st at the CinéArts in Palo Alto; Sunday, July 3rd at the Castro Theater in San Francisco; and Sunday, August 10th at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland. Co-directors Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider will be in attendance for all screenings with their son Mica, the subject of the film.
Berkeley resident Nancy Kates’ new film REGARDING SUSAN SONTAG reflects the boldness of Sontag’s work and the cultural importance of her thought, through extraordinary archival footage and still photographs, riveting interviews with Sontag’s friends and colleagues, and a rich tapestry of artifacts from popular culture. These are combined with creatively culled and manipulated images to create a nuanced, sophisticated portrait of a great thinker. Many Americans know Sontag’s name; the film shows us who she was, and why her thoughts about topics such as illness, photography, war, terrorism, and torture remain vitally important in the new world of the 21st century. REGARDING SUSAN SONTAG will screen Monday, July 28th at the CinéArts in Palo Alto; Saturday, August 2nd at the Castro Theater in San Francisco; and Sunday, August 3rd at the California Theater in Berkeley. Director Nancy Kates will be in attendance for all screenings.
Following the Castro screening of REGARDING SUSAN SONTAG, filmmaker Nancy Kates, and writer and literary critic Terry Castle will continue the conversation with an in-depth post film discussion. The discussion will be held at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav and is free to the public.
Berkeley resident Abby Ginzberg presents her latest film, SOFT VENGEANCE: ALBIE SACHS AND THE NEW SOUTH AFRICA, a look at Supreme Court justice, writer, art lover and freedom fighter, Albie Sachs during the lead up to the overthrow of the apartheid regime in South Africa. SOFT VENGEANCE screens Sunday, July 27th at the Castro Theater in San Francisco; Monday, July 28th at the CinéArts in Palo Alto; and Friday, August 10th at the Grand Lake in Oakland. Director Abby Ginzberg will be in attendance for the San Francisco screening.
Another Berkeley resident Judith Montell will premiere her latest film IN THE IMAGE, a co-directorial effort with Emmy Scharlatt. The film profiles the Camera Project from Israeli-based human rights watchdog group B’Tselem. The group provides Palestinians in the Occupied Territories with video cameras to document alleged human rights violations and provide evidence to the public and to Israeli authorities. IN THE IMAGE screens Wednesday, July 30th at the Castro Theater in San Francisco and on Sunday, August 3rd at the California Theater in Berkeley with both co-directors Judith Montell and Emmy Scharlatt in person at both screenings.
The documentary short BULLETPROOF STOCKINGS, from Berkeley resident Sarah Berkovich, follows Perl and Dalia, members of a Chassidic rock band that only plays for women, bridge the gap between keeping their faith and following their dreams.
The Academy Award nominated documentary short FACING FEAR is from Berkeley resident Jason Cohen. FACING FEAR tells the story of Matthew Boger, who while living on the streets in LA, was savagely beaten by a group of neo-Nazi skinheads. Boger survives the attack and escapes his life of the streets, eventually meeting his former attacker, Tim Zaal. The two men soon realized that they had met before and begin the journey of forgiveness and healing. Both films screen as part of the Jews in Shorts (Docs) program on Friday, August 1 at the Castro Theater in San Francisco and Tuesday, August 5 at the California Theater in Berkeley. Both Sara Berkovich and Jason Cohen will be in attendance for the screenings.
After two decades of filming weddings Doug Block wondered what became of those couples. In 112 WEDDINGS, Block begins to track down and interview his wedding couples to explore the same question: After years of being married, what would be your advice be for a young couple soon to be married? Two of the subjects featured in the film are from Oakland and director Doug Block will be in person on Saturday, July 26 at the Castro Theater in San Francisco and Sunday, July 27 at the CinéArts in Palo Alto. An additional festival screening will be held on Tuesday, August 5 at the California Theater in Berkeley.
112 Weddings: Doug Block (Director)
Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force: Roberta Grossman (Director), Nancy Spielberg (Producer)
Arlo & Julie: Steve Mims (Director), Alex Dobrenko & Ashley Spillers (Cast), Richelle Fatheree (Producer)
Bulletproof Stockings: Sarah Berkovich (Director)
Comedy Warriors: Joe Kashnow (Subject), Bernadette Luckett (Producer)
Facing Fear: Jason Cohen (Director)
The Green Prince: Nadav Schirman (Director)
Havana Curveball: Ken Schneider & Marcia Jarmel (Directors), with their son Mica (Subject)
Holy Land: Paul Cohn (Director)
In the Image: Palestinian Women Capture the Occupation: Judith Montell (Director)
A Life in Dirty Movies: Wiktor Ericsson (Director)
Little Horribles: Amy York Rubin (Creator & Star)
Little White Lie: Lacey Schwartz (Director & Subject), Peggy Schwartz (Subject)
Mamele: Lisa Rivo (Archivist/Distributor)
My Favorite Neoconservative: Yael Luttwak (Director)
My Own Man: David Sampliner (Director)
Natan: Lisa Rivo (Archivist/Distributor)
A Place in Heaven: Michael Aloni (Cast)
Regarding Susan Sontag: Nancy Kates (Director)
Run Boy Run: Pepe Danquart (Director)
Salomea’s Nose: Susan Korda (Director)
Shtisel: Michael Aloni (Cast)
Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa: Abby Ginzburg (Director), Ken Schneider (Editor)
Some Vacation: Anne S. Lewis (Director)
The Sturgeon Queens: Julie Cohen (Director)
Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Shalom Aleichem: Theodore Bikel
Touchdown Israel: Paul Hirschberger (Director)
The Village of Peace: Ben Schuder & Niko Philipides (Directors), Jack Madigan, Aaron McCreary & Sam Schuder (Producers)
Vishneva, Belarus Soviet Union Poland: Jake Podber (Director)
Watchers of the Sky: Edet Belzberg (Director) Tickets Information, Festival Dates and Public Contact Numbers
The 34th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival will take place July 24 – August 10. For more information, visit the SFJFF or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or the Box Office at 415.621.0523 .