With the 33rd annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF) set to arrive at Palo Alto Square’s CineArts theater on July 31, film buffs – whether they be Jewish or non-Jewish – can look forward to programming rooted in the universality of Jewish themes and situated not far from campus.
SFJFF is the first and largest Jewish film festival in the world, having exhibited over 1,300 films over the course of its 32 years. The organization aims to promote awareness, appreciation and pride in the diversity of the Jewish people through programs intended to create a positive community atmosphere by showcasing Jewish experiences.
This year’s festival will screen a total of 76 films across its venues, which include Berkeley, San Rafael and San Francisco. 29 will be available for attendees to view at the Palo Alto location. Despite the large number of films, quality is a guarantee — staff members seek out and assist filmmakers years before their films come to fruition in order to ensure the best content will make it to SFJFF’s exhibition programs. The organization aims to screen films that will instigate conversations beyond the Jewish community by challenging and bringing new light to the definition of a Jewish film.
“The Art of Spiegelman,” directed by Clara Kuperberg and Joëlle Oosterlinck, is a documentary about Art Spiegelman, one of the key figures in the American underground comic community. Spiegelman is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus,” which takes place post-Holocaust and portrays the Jews as mice and the Germans as cats. Another creative perspective of the Jewish plight during World War II is depicted in Wladyslaw Pasikowski’s film, “The Aftermath,” which features two Polish-Catholic brothers who are drawn into investigating their village’s dark secrets about its long-deceased Jewish residents.
The festival, however, does not limit itself to exploring the consequences of Nazism. “Out in the Dark,” directed by Michael Mayer, highlights the contemporary issue of homosexuality through the eyes of graduate student Nimr, who sneaks away from his Palestiniife According to Sam
an family one night to dance with friends in a Tel Aviv gay nightclub and ends up meeting Roy, a charming Tel Aviv lawyer, with whom he begins a secret cross-border affair. “Life According to Sam,” a documentary directed by Andrea and Sean Fine, has also made it onto the list after receiving rave reviews at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. This inspirational film follows 13-year-old Sam Berns through his struggles with progeria, an extremely rare age-accelerating disease that makes him appear significantly aged and caps his life expectancy at around 14 years.
Given the festival’s willingness to address such diverse topics, SFJFF surely deserves its title as “the Bay Area’s favorite Jewish holiday.”
Tickets can be purchased at http://www.sfjff.org/.