UK Jewish film festival celebrates 'bar mitzva' with biggest program yet

UK Jewish film festival

ronit elkabetz 88 (photo credit: )
ronit elkabetz 88
(photo credit: )
Star Israeli actress Ronit Elkabetz is the special guest at this year's UK Jewish Film Festival, which began last week at cinemas across the British capital. Elkabetz, whose films include The Band's Visit, Late Marriage and Shiva, spoke to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday about the contribution of Jewish-themed and Israeli movies. "Film plays a big role in documenting and preserving Jewish life. Through cinematic work, it exposes the experience of the Jewish world asking important questions, raising critical issues. Hence creates a self-critique. Israeli cinema exposes the fabric of Israeli society, asking hard questions, doubting issues and exploring subculture." Speaking about efforts to boycott Israeli film, such as at the Toronto Film Festival in September, Elkabetz said: "Cinema creates a dialogue and exposes emotions of inner society in Israel. Any boycott would end this and may extend then to books, giving us no voice at all." Celebrating its 13th year, the UK Jewish Film Festival is marking its coming of age with special bar mitzva-themed events and with a huge variety of films - 65 titles including 31 UK premieres and more than 60 screenings at 14 major London venues. The festival, a major part of the Jewish cultural calendar, goes on tour across Britain from January to April. "The UKJFF's aim has always been to entertain, educate and enlighten audiences about Jewish cultures worldwide and we are both proud and delighted to be celebrating our bar mitzva year," said festival director Judy Ironside. "While the bar mitzva is a Jewish custom, it also parallels a 'rite of passage' in many other cultures and this is also a time of celebration and obligation which is shared by various communities." With mainly sold-out shows the festival also has a number of panel discussions and Q&A sessions with leading directors and filmmakers. Following a sold-out screening, and UK premiere, of her new film Jaffa on Saturday night, which will be released in Israel in January, Elkabetz charmed the audience in a Q&A session. Directed by Keren Yedaya, whose 2004 film Or won five awards at the Cannes Film Festival, Jaffa is an intense melodrama about a Jewish girl who has a secret relationship with an Arab mechanic who works in her father's garage when a series of events change their destinies. Elkabetz has four films at the festival including the UK premieres of Jaffa and Zion and His Brother, as well as The Girl on the Train and Late Marriage. Following on from their success at this year's London Film Festival with their film Ajami, directors Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani will attend the film's screening on Wednesday. The film, which tells the story of a poor, crime-ridden neighborhood of Jaffa where Muslims, Jews and Christians live side by side in an uneasy and fragile coexistence, also won awards at this year's Cannes and Jerusalem festivals.