Sweet (and spicy) 16

The Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival opens this week.

‘War of the Buttons’ movie at The Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival (photo credit: PR)
‘War of the Buttons’ movie at The Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival
(photo credit: PR)
For 16 years, the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival at the Jerusalem Cinematheque has been a most welcome Hanukka tradition. This year’s festival opens on December 16 and runs until December 23. The festival features more than 50 features, documentaries and short films that span virtually every aspect of the Jewish experience, as well as dozens of special events.
One of the most highly anticipated events will be comedian Sarah Silverman’s appearance at a screening of her latest performance film, Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles. The famously foulmouthed two-time Emmy winner will be presented with the festival’s Achievement Award.
Israeli director Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, best known for the feature film James’ Journey to Jerusalem and the documentary The Law in These Parts, will also receive an Achievement Award.
The festival’s opening-night film will be Christian Petzold’s Phoenix.
This acclaimed feature tells the story of Nelly (Nina Hoss), a disfigured concentration camp survivor who has reconstructive surgery after the war that leaves her unrecognizable, then searches for the husband who may have betrayed her to the Nazis.
Among the festival’s many special events will be a screening of legendary director Chris Marker’s Description of a Struggle. This 1960 documentary about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict was produced by Jerusalem Cinematheque president and founder Lia van Leer and her late husband, Wim van Leer. At the screening, Van Leer will share anecdotes about working with Marker.
Amos Gitai’s latest film, Tsili, the story of a young woman hiding in the woods during World War II, based on Aharon Appelfeld’s novel, will be shown. Gitai and Appelfeld will attend the screening and discuss the film and the book.
Bazi Gete’s Red Leaves, an awardwinning feature film about the troubled patriarch of an Ethiopian family, will be shown in the context of the festival’s Tribute to Ethiopian Jewry.
As always, the documentary section is extremely strong. Richard Trank will present his films The Prime Ministers, his behind-the-scenes series about former heads of state Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres. The two-part film, which is based on the memoirs of ambassador Yehuda Avni, will be shown in two parts on one evening.
Village of Peace, directed by Ben Schuder and Niko Philipides, is a look at the Black Hebrew community in Dimona. It will be followed by a discussion with the participants and a vegan reception.
David Gaynes’s Next Year in Jerusalem tells the story of eight residents of a Connecticut nursing home who take their own birthright trip to Israel.
East Jeruslem/West Jerusalem, directed by Erez Miller and Henrique Cymerman, is about musician David Broza’s experience recording and collaborating with Sabreen, a renowned Palestinian band. The screening will be followed by a performance by Broza and Mira Awad.
Showbiz itself will be the subject of a special documentary program called From Broadway to Jerusalem.
Michael Kantor’s Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy looks at the Jewish roots of the Great White Way. Actor Joel Grey (ne Yoel David Katz) will be your guide to the various periods of the Broadway Jewish legacy.
Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did for Love is Dori Berinstein’s acclaimed documentary about the composer who is known for writing the score to A Chorus Line, The Way We Were and dozens of other hits. He is one of only a handful of people to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony, as well as a Pulitzer Prize.
His life and career are celebrated in this film.
William Gazecki’s The Outrageous Sophie Tucker tells the story of the life and work of this 20th-century entertainment legend.
Delicatessen – Culinary Cinema is a much-anticipated section of the festival lineup and will run in conjunction with a food fair and other events at the First Station.
This year, the festival has been spiced up by several high-profile celebrity guests. Michael Twitty, a most unusual hybrid – an African- American, Orthodox Jewish convert and chef – will attend the festival and host an event called Afro- Sephashkenazi Cuisine. Twitty is famous for researching and recreating the cuisine that slaves in America lived on and created, a blend of their African heritage and food of the old South. His muchread food blog Afroculinaria chronicles the fruits of his research and features recipes. But he also blends kosher food into his cooking. His Twitter handle is @ Koshersoul. To say that a meeting with Twitty in Jerusalem should be fun would be an understatement.
The film The Sturgeon Queens, directed by Julie Cohen, tells the story of four generations of the Russ family, which has owned and operated Russ and Daughters, a thriving Lower East Side lox and herring emporium in New York, since 1914. Cohen will be on hand to present the documentary, which traces the history of Russ and Daughters, featuring interviews with two of the original daughters, as well as high-profile customers such as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin and actress Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Renowned chef Claudia Roden, the author of a number of acclaimed cookbooks on Jewish and Middle Eastern cuisine, will hold a public conversation with Israeli chef Haim Cohen, moderated by Ronit Vered. The event will also feature clips from BBC cooking shows.
Master Israeli archivist Ya’akov Gross will present a special medley called The Way We Ate – clips from newsreels and feature films that trace the history of food in Israel from the British Mandate period to the first years of the state. It features footage of kibbutz dining halls, markets, restaurants and eating contests, plus scenes of culinary ingenuity during wartime. As with any Gross production, you will learn quite a bit while enjoying yourself at the same time.
There will be a special program of high-quality children’s films, among them the beloved masterpiece The War of the Buttons (1962), directed by Yves Robert and Martin Lartigue, a playful story of a fund-raising war among children that turns into a small-scale war.
Tickets for this festival sell out fast. To order yours, go to the festival website at jjff.org.il or call *9377.