It’s nearly November, which means the UK Jewish Film Festival is back – and this year the festival is bigger than ever.
With over 35 films being screened at cinemas across London and the UK (including at the Curzon Soho, Curzon Mayfair, Everyman Kings Cross and JW3 Cinema), and with dozens of introductions and Q&As from leading actors and filmmakers including Helena Bonham Carter, Keira Knightly, Jim Broadbent and Roberta Grossman, there’s plenty to get excited about.
If you can’t make it down to some of the venues fear not – many of the films this year are receiving a second screening online after the main festival.
So whether you are looking for feature-length comedies, documentaries, artistic shorts, reflections on religion, history or politics, there is something in the upcoming festival for you. Here is our selection of the films not to miss. A more comprehensive list can be found here.
Opening Night Gala: Karaoke
The festival opens with a bang with the screening of Karaoke, a drama-comedy about a couple, Meir (Sasson Gabay) and Tova (Rita Shukrun), who have been together for 40 years. A new hedonistic neighbour (played by Lior Ashkenazi) starts to shake things up. The film will be introduced by Gabay and director Moshe Rosenthal.
November 10, 8.30 pm, BFI Southbank
Three Minutes: A Lengthening
Helena Bonham Carter CBE will be introducing this documentary by director Bianca Stigter about Nasielsk, a small Polish town of 3,000 people whose population was reduced to just 100 during the Second World War. The film, which has been co-produced by British filmmaker Steve McQueen and is narrated by Bonham Carter, is built around a three-minute excerpt from a home movie that was filmed in 1938.
November 12, 6.20 pm, Curzon Mayfair
Marking the 70th anniversary of the Luxembourg Agreements, Reckonings is a documentary from award-winning filmmaker Roberta Grossman (Who Will Write Our History) about the secret meetings that led to the reparations agreements made between Israel and Germany in the Fifties.
The reparations, which are still ongoing today, were made to financially compensate some of the losses Jewish communities suffered in the Second World War. But naturally, the agreements caused huge ethical and moral dilemmas for Jewish leaders.
At the screening, there will be a Q&A session between director Roberta Grossman and producer Karen Heilig, and host Michael Hilsenrath.
November 13, 5.00 pm, Everyman Belsize Park
The Man in the Basement
This psychological thriller from director Philippe Le Guay tells the story of a Jewish couple, Simon and Hélène Sandberg, who accidentally sell their basement flat to a Holocaust denier. Simon’s relatives once hid from the Nazis in the same space, making the presence of the man in the flat all the more gut-wrenching.
Reflecting on different people’s reactions to the situation as Simon is brought face-to-face with his Jewish identity, the film also works as a meditation on antisemitism in modern-day France.
November 14, 6.00 pm, Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley
We Might As Well Be Dead
Described by the festival as “a witty, Orwellian sociopolitical satire” We Might As Well Be Dead is about a German apartment complex where things start to go wrong – a dog mysteriously disappears; a girl starts to believe she is possessed by a demon – and paranoia starts to take over the neighbourhood.
The film is Russian-born Natalia Sinelnikova’s directorial debut. Sinelnikova, who moved to Germany in 1996 as a Jewish quota refugee, will be taking part in a live Q&A as part of the screening.
November 14, 6.00 pm, Everyman Kings Cross
Jim Broadbent, Keira Knightly and producer Julia Rosenberg will introduce Charlotte, an animated drama about Berlin-born artist Charlotte Salomon, who lived a short life riddled with tragedy. After moving to France in the late Thirties to escape the Nazis, Salomon, several of whose family died by suicide, was interred at a camp in the Pyrenees by the French authorities.
Upon her release, she lived first in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and then in Nice, where between 1941 to 1943 she made a series of a thousand autobiographical paintings entitled Life? or Theatre?, which she entrusted to a friend, Dr Moridis, and on which the film is based. In 1943, aged 26 and pregnant, the artist was captured and sent to Auschwitz, where she was murdered.
Knightly voices Charlotte in the film from directors Eric Warin and Tahir Rana.
November 15, 6.40 pm, Curzon Mayfair
The Will to See
Bernard-Henri Lévy, the French intellectual and a leader of the Nouveaux Philosophes movement in France in the Seventies, travels around the world visiting countries currently in the grip of serious humanitarian crises. In this difficult documentary, he talks to both locals and leaders in places including Lesbos, Somalia, Nigeria and Afghanistan, bringing awareness to the issues, while also reflecting on his own life and career.
There will also be a live Q&A session with Henri Lévy as part of the screening.
November 16, 6.15 pm, Everyman Belsize Park
Charlotte Gainsbourg and her son Ben Attal star in this film from director (and long-term partner of Gainsbourg) Yvan Attal.
Alexandre (Attal) is accused of raping Mila, the daughter of his mother Claire’s (Gainsbourg) boyfriend. Claire is a radical feminist essayist; Mila has been brought up in an Orthodox Jewish community, which complicates matters as she is seen to perceive sex differently. Lives are destroyed as the case is taken to court. Gainsbourg is set to take part in a live Q&A.
November 17, 6.30 pm, Picturehouse Central
One More Story
Directed by and starring Guri Alfi, this Israeli romantic comedy is about newspaper journalist Yarden Gat, who is having an affair with her boss. She manages to persuade her best friend Adam to take part in a reality TV-style article to help him find a partner. When things actually work out for Adam, she decides it could be a sign to try the game out for herself.
November 17, 8.30 pm, Everyman Kings Cross
Described as “spell-binding” and “immersive” by the festival organising body UK Jewish Film, Shttl is about a Yiddish-speaking village in Soviet-occupied Ukraine in 1941, set during the hours before the Nazi invasion.
Shttl was filmed in one continuous shot and is the directorial debut of documentary writer and filmmaker Ady Walter. A one-acre shtetl was created in Ukraine for the film and was set to be made into a museum before the outbreak of war.
Walter, and producer Jean-Charles Lévy, will take part in a Q&A as part of the screening event.
November 17, 6.00 pm, Curzon Mayfair
In this Israeli film from director Orit Fouks Rotem, eight Arab and Jewish women are brought together on a video production training course. All with their own unique experiences of being mothers and women in very different communities, they share their stories with one another, bridging cultural divides.
November 20, 7.30 pm, Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley
Who’s Afraid of Jewish Humour?
Filmmakers Jascha Hannover and Arkadij Kahet investigate Jewish humour – tracing back its origins all the way back to the Bible. They speak to experts from Europe and Israel and try to understand this seemingly major part of the Jewish tradition.
November 20, 4.15 pm, Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley
Closing Night Gala: Where Life Begins
The festival concludes with Where Life Begins, an Italian and French drama from director Stéphane Freiss, about a woman grappling with religion and identity. Esther is from an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish family and is the daughter of a rabbi. She is set to marry a man she hasn’t yet met, but on her family’s annual trip to a farm in Italy (where they harvest ritual lemons) she strikes up a new friendship with farm-owner Elio, which changes everything.
As part of the screening, there will be a live Q&A session with director Freiss, and the festival’s film awards (Best Documentary, Best Film and Audience Choice Award) will also be given out during this session.
November 20, 5.00 pm, Curzon Mayfair