Jewish life on display at Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival

There will be feature films, restored classics, documentaries, animated movies, children’s films and much more, as well as a number of special events.

 A SCENE from ‘Evolution,’ being screened at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival. (photo credit: Courtesy)
A SCENE from ‘Evolution,’ being screened at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

The richness and diversity of Jewish life will be celebrated at the 23rd Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival ( at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, a highlight of the Hanukkah season, which will run this year from November 27-December 2.

Last year the festival had to go virtual but this year it will be held in person, featuring films that celebrate everything from Streisand songs to revered writers to harrowing history – and much more. There will be feature films, restored classics, documentaries, animated movies, children’s films and much more, as well as a number of special events.

French philosopher, filmmaker and author Bernard-Henri Lévy will be the guest of honor at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival, where he will present his latest documentary, The Will to See: Dispatches from a World of Misery and Hope. He will take part in a conversation with acclaimed journalist and documentary filmmaker, Itai Anghel.

During the festival, the Jerusalem Cinematheque will present an exhibit of photos of Jerusalem by distinguished journalist Haim Rivlin, who is also a street photographer.

THE JERUSALEM Film Festival returns. (credit: DOR KEDMI)THE JERUSALEM Film Festival returns. (credit: DOR KEDMI)

The opening night film will be The Royal Game by Philipp Stoltzl, based on a novel by Stefan Zweig, about a lawyer arrested by the Nazis who keeps himself together by playing chess and it will be released in Israeli theaters soon.

Ari Folman’s Where is Anne Frank, an animated film about Anne’s life aimed primarily at young audiences, will be shown in a version dubbed into Hebrew for the first time. Previous versions of the film that were shown were in English with subtitles, but this Hebrew version can be seen by younger children who may have difficulty reading subtitles.

Special events will include a screening of Speer Goes to Hollywood, a documentary about Albert Speer’s strange attempt to turn his memoir into a major motion picture, which won the Ophir Award for Best Documentary. Vanessa Lapa, the film’s director, will give a Master Class and will discuss the film with Prof. Moshe Zimmermann.

There will be a tribute to Barbra Streisand, which will feature a restored print of the 1968 classic, Funny Girl, the story of comedian Fanny Brice, directed by German-Jewish director, William Wyler. It will be followed by a lecture by Nir Cohen-Shalit and a concert featuring some of Streisand’s songs performed by musical director Guy Frati on  piano, vocals by Anna Spitz, Ofer Shapira on wind instruments and Gil Goldin on bass.

Hagai Levi, the Israeli writer/producer who created the Scenes From a Marriage reboot and other acclaimed series including BeTipul, Our Boys and The Affair, will discuss his work with Anat Rivlin, a television editor and comedy creator.

The Israel Film Archive has restored the 1990 film by Avraham Heffner, The Last Love of Laura Adler, starring Rita Zohar, which tells the story of a Yiddish theater actress, and will feature a performance by Shem-Tov Levi, who composed the music for the film.

A filmed performance of Stefano Massini’s play, The Lehman Trilogy, about the family that ran the investment bank that collapsed, in a production by the National Theatre of London, will be shown.

The Romanian Ambassador to Israel, historian and author Radu Ioanid, will speak at a screening of Radu Gabrea’s Jews for Sale, a documentary about how the Israeli government dealt with the Romanian authorities to get them to allow Jews to emigrate to Israel.

The Jewish Portraits section features documentaries on accomplished and well-known Jews in a number of fields, including Nobel Prize-winning author Saul Bellow, singer Serge Gainsbourg, movie star Paul Newman (whose father was Jewish), philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, former prime minister Menachem Begin and financier/philanthropist George Soros.

One of the highlights of the International Competition, which includes both documentaries and dramatic films, will be the animated documentary, Charlotte, a movie about the gifted artist, Charlotte Salomon, whose life and career were cut tragically short when she was killed at Auschwitz in 1943. Tahir Rana and Eric Warin have created a striking film that celebrates her brief and often tormented life. The style of the film is influenced greatly by her striking and colorful paintings, which often depicted moments from her life. “Only by doing something mad can I hope to stay sane,” Charlotte tells her lover in the film as she announces her ambition, as the Nazis were closing in on the south of France, where she had fled from Berlin, to paint the story of her family’s life. The animated film has a very distinguished cast of voice actors, including Oscar-winning actors Marion Cotillard and Jim Broadbent, as well as Keira Knightley, Brenda Blethyn, Romain Duris and Sophie Okonedo.

Another film that looks at a superficially similar story from a very different perspective is A Radiant Girl, the directorial debut of actress Sandrine Kiberlain. The film stars Rebecca Marder as an aspiring actress in Paris in the 1940s. Aurelie Saada is also an actress making her first film as director, Rose, which tells the story of a French matriarch who tries to find her place in the world when she is widowed. Legendary actress Francoise Fabian, who starred in Eric Rohmer’s My Night at Maud’s, plays Rose, and Aure Atika, who had a key role in Avi Nesher’s Turn Left at the End of the World, plays her daughter.

Vadim Perelman’s Persian Lessons is a strange, intricate and complicated Holocaust story, about a Jewish man who survives in a concentration camp by pretending to be part Iranian and teaching Farsi to a Nazi who is interested in Persian culture. It features two of Europe’s most popular actors, Argentine-born Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, who starred in See You Up There and BPM, and Lars Eidinger, who appeared in Babylon Berlin, Clouds of Sils Maria and My Little Sister.

Director Kornel Mundruczo and writer Kata Weber made the Netflix movie, Pieces of a Woman, and their latest film, Evolution, is taking part in the International Competition. It follows three generations of a German-Hungarian Jewish family whose lives are still influenced by the legacy of the Holocaust, when the family matriarch was a baby somehow discovered alive in a concentration camp.

Violeta Salama’s Alegria is a Spanish film about a woman who comes to terms with her Jewish background when her ultra-Orthodox brother decides to hold a family wedding in his hometown.

Ariel Talpalar’s As Is follows an ultra-Orthodox family is Safed during the first COVID-19 lockdown and shows how they cope with the virus and each other. The filmmakers will be present at the screening.

The Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival 2021 is held with the support of the Culture and Sport Ministry, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Jerusalem Foundation, the Avichai Foundation, the Gesher Foundation for Multicultural Cinema, Helene Schumann and Jill Samuels.