Around the corner…The Jewish International Film Festival

October 11, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The Jewish International Film Festival kicks off in two weeks in Sydney (23 Oct – 21 Nov) and Melbourne (24 Oct – 21 Nov), followed by Canberra (1 – 11 Nov), Perth (7 – 18 Nov) and Brisbane (8 – 18 Nov).

The Festival will celebrate another year of spectacular Jewish cinema from around the globe, from star-studded stories Love, Gilda and Studio 54, to emotional war drama Sobibor and marvellous musical mayhem in Redemption and Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas.

With over 60 films from 23 countries, the Festival builds on a 29 year long history of bringing the best of Jewish cinema to Australia, presenting 31 features and 28 documentaries to audiences in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra. The Festival will also screen films by the 2018 recipients of the JIFF Short Film Fund, The Birth of Hunter Finkelstein and Thank G-d.

“I am delighted to present our vibrant 2018 program. This year’s Festival will celebrate the rich tapestry of Jewish culture, from powerful stories championing wonderfully Jewish perspectives, to a collaboration with significant Jewish and arts organisations across Australia and lively events including a Börek Bake-Off,” said Jewish International Film Festival Artistic Director, Eddie Tamir.

From its World Premiere at the Berlinale, kicking off the Festival is The Interpreter, starring prolific Austrian actor Peter Simonischek (Toni Erdmann) and Oscar-winning filmmaker Jirí Menzel (Closely Watched Trains). Oscillating between comedy and tragedy, the charming odd-couple adventure follows a Holocaust survivor on a Slovakian road trip with the son of the SS officer who executed his parents.

Straight from the Opening Night of the Jerusalem Film Festival, the Festival will close with The Unorthodox. The debut feature from the director of hit Israeli TV series Shababnikim, the fast-paced  comedy tells the story of the underdogs behind the  birth of Israel’s controversial religious political party Shas in the 1980s.

Russian film icon Konstantin Khabenskiy will attend the Festival to introduce his directorial debut Sobibor and engage in audience Q&As. The historical drama accounts the only successful mass breakout from a Nazi extermination camp in history, made in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the camp rebellion.

Also screening will be Love, Gilda, a moving portrait of comedy legend and SNL original Gilda Radner. Directed by US filmmaker Lisa D’Apolito, the film features interviews with fellow SNL stars Chevy Chase, Melissa McCarthy, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph. D’Apolito will also introduce her film and engage in audience Q&As.

Not to be missed is Seder Masochism, a cornucopia of rich animation by American cartoonist and activist Nina Paley. The animated musical comedy offers an irreverent, politically evocative look at the Passover holiday, complete with a singing Moses belting out hits by everyone from Louis Armstrong to Led Zeppelin.

Audiences can also catch Romania’s official Oscars candidate for Best Foreign Language Film “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History As Barbarians”, by Cannes Illy Prize-winning filmmaker Radu Jude (Aferim!); queer Israeli coming-of-age story Red Cow; and winner of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Ecumenical Jury Award, Redemption, religion-to-rockstar musical with a soundtrack elevating traditional simcha music to rock ’n’ roll cool.

Sydney-based producer Stephan Wellink will also present his film Sam Spiegel: Conquering Hollywood. Featuring interviews with screen luminaries Jeremy Irons and Ben Kingsley, the documentary chronicles the colourful career of the cinematic legend behind seminal films such as Lawrence of Arabia and On the Waterfront.

Golden Globe-nominated actor Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)  stars alongside award-winning Hungarian actor Géza Röhrig (Son of Saul) in quirky buddy comedy To Dust, and family drama Holy Lands features a star-studded cast: Hollywood legend James Caan (The Godfather), Tom Hollander (Pride and Prejudice), and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Bend It Like Beckham).

Music fans can’t miss: a lively account of renowned Brooklyn A-list nightclub Studio 54, the epicentre of 70’s hedonism; Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes, the story behind the Jewish-founded record label home to jazz icons from Miles Davis to Thelonious Monk; Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas, by Larry Weinstein (Our Man in Tehran) about the Jewish songwriters who wrote the soundtrack to Christianity’s most musical holiday; and Itzhak, an affectionate documentary about the celebrated 16-time Grammy Award-winning violinist Itzhak Perlman.

From books to the big screen, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, is a hilarious biopic starring two-time Primetime Emmy Award winner Melissa McCarthy as the best-selling celebrity biographer Lee Israel; and Promise at Dawn, an adaptation of legendary French novelist Romain Gary’s autobiography, starring British-French singer Charlotte Gainsbourg (Antichrist).

As ever, the program features a line-up of incredible women. 93Queen, follows the rule-breaking, all-female volunteer ambulance corps in the largest Hasidic community in the United States; and Narcissister Organ Player, is a sassy and spectacle-rich exploration of sexual fetishism by acclaimed Brooklyn-based feminist performance artist Narcissister.

Films about female icons include Madam Prime Minister, a fascinating portrayal of Israel’s first and only female Prime Minister Golda Meir; and A Rose in Winter, celebrating the legacy of Women’s Rights activist Edith Stein, a feminist champion courageously challenging the Nazi regime in the midst of World War II.

Stories based on real events include: An Act of Defiance, spotlighting Jewish involvement in Nelson Mandela’s rebellion against Apartheid; The Invisibles, the story of four young Jews living in disguise in Berlin after the city is declared “Jew-free” by Nazis in 1943; 87 Children, following a woman hiding Jewish orphans in plain sight of the Nazis, disguised as Crimean Tatars; and The Reports on Sarah and Saleem, about the political repercussions of an illicit affair between a Palestinian man and an Israeli woman.

Highlight documentaries are Sundance Grand Jury Prize nominee The Oslo Diaries, unravelling the negotiations in the historic Oslo Accords; Waldheim Waltz, a biographical drama on former UN Secretary General Kurt Josef Waldheim’s controversial involvement in the Nazi regime; and Who Will Write Our History, the first film shining a light on the Oyneg Shabes band of journalists and scholars fighting Nazi oppression with pen and paper.

Also on the doco line-up is The Twinning Reaction, a thrilling exposé on the tragically failed 1960’s experiment separating twins at birth, popularised by Sundance Special Jury Prize winner Three Identical Strangers.

The Festival has lined up a plethora of special events across Sydney and Melbourne, including filmmaker Q&As, special screenings, performances, in-depth talks, and more.

JIFF will present two retrospective features from the times of yore. The City Without Jews (1924), is a silent Austrian expressionist film by H. K. Breslauer, and a chilling foreshadowing of the Nazi’s imminent rise to power across Europe; and The Ancient Law (1923), one of the hottest tickets at the 68th Berlinale tells the story of a rabbi during the 1860s who leaves home and joins a travelling theatre troupe.

Highlight Sydney events include: a stunning performance by violinist Leo Novikov before the screening of Itzhak, co-presented by Shir Madness Sydney; a fascinating talk following The Invisibles by Roma Shell JP, whose own mother and aunt survived as ‘invisibles’ in Berlin; and following An Act of Defiance, a discussion with activist Jane Harris and Nicholas Wolpe, founder of the Liliesleaf Trust – the nerve centre of the liberation movement in South Africa.

Melbourne audiences can dust off their dancing shoes for a decadent night of disco in honour of the iconic Studio 54; enjoy a Blue Note Records inspired jazz session from the Gideon Preiss Trio; hear from amazing female authors on the impact of their mothers on their creativity after Narcissister Organ Player; and bring the flakiest and tastiest böreks (or bourekas!) to the screening of The King of Börek for your chance to be crowned JIFF’s Best Baker!

2018 Jewish International Film Festival screening dates:

MELBOURNE       24 October – 21 November             Classic Cinemas, Elsternwick
25 October – 21 November               Lido Cinemas, Hawthorn
8 November – 21 November           Cameo Cinemas, Belgrave – new venue!

SYDNEY               23 October – 21 November              Event Cinemas Bondi Junction
10 November – 21 November         Roseville Cinemas, Roseville – new venue!
BRISBANE           8 November – 18 November           New Farm Cinemas, New Farm

CANBERRA          1 November – 11 November           Dendy Cinemas, Canberra

PERTH                  7 November – 18 November           Greater Union Cinemas, Morley

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