The UK Jewish Film Festival comes to north London this month
- Credit: Eliahu Hershkovitz - Zoom 77
The world’s biggest Jewish film festival featuring 95 films from 24 countries starts a fortnight of screenings including many in north and east London
In his programme notes, festival director Michael Etherton observes that this is now the biggest Jewish film festival in the world: 150 screenings of 95 different films from 24 countries.
Like all film festivals there will be prizes (five here: best film, best debut, best documentary, best short and the audience award); revivals of classic films (the Coens' A Serious Man, Driving Miss Daisy and a sing-along showing of Fiddler On The Roof); exciting premieres (the closing film is Taika Waititi's genuinely outrageous Hitler comedy Jojo Rabbit) and the dreaded Q&As where the people answering the questions will try to persuade you that what you just saw was much better than you thought it was and the people asking will try to sound as knowledgeable and pompous as possible.
Now in its 23rd year, the UK Jewish Film Festival festival kicks off on November 6 and continues until the 21st with screening happening across London and at 21 locations around the country. Here we take a look at some titles screening locally.
King Bibi - the Life and Performances of Benjamin Netanyahu (Nov 18 Phoenix Cinema East Finchley) starts with the man himself staring down the UN General Assembly before chastising them for the Iran nuclear deal. It is a striking image and immediately sums him up as a politician as obstinate and contrary as Ian Paisley but with the calm assurance of a smooth political operator. This documentary about the man who has held the post of Israeli prime minister longer than any other is certainly a hostile view, but seems to offer a comprehensive and thorough analysis of his rise and times.
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Bibi Netanyahu grew up in America, the son of a right-wing Israeli intellectual. His life changed forever after his brother became a national hero, dying while leading the Israeli commando raid to free hostages in Entebbe. After that, he worked as an Israeli diplomat in the States, made a name for himself as a TV presence offering a hawkish line on dealing with terrorism before returning to Israel to try and overthrow what he saw as the liberal, left-wing political elite that was running the country. The film puts great emphasis on the lessons on public speaking he received from Lilyan Wilder, who also tutored Oprah and Dubya. It sees him as a pioneer of the kind of soundbite, social media approach to political communications. He practically wrote the Trump playbook. After the screening there will be a Q&A with director Dan Shadur.
Why Do They Hate Us? (November 14 JW3) is an examination of anti-semitism in France conducted by journalist Alexandre Amiel and his blue denim shirt. In the country that has Europe's largest Jewish population, the situation is so serious that synagogues and Jewish schools regularly operate behind an armed guard. It's a thorough and enormously depressing examination of how this ancient prejudice has reared its ugly head again in the 21st century. One survivor says it's like a cancer that goes into remission but always comes back
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The Jewish Enquirer (November 20 JW3) is the first two episodes of a new British sitcom, about the trial and tribulations of a reporter (Downie) working in North London on the country's fourth-largest Jewish paper. I presume this will be on Channel 4 because it has that C4 sitcom feel, only it's actually pretty funny. The festival programme compares it to Curb Your Enthusiasm which is a compliment that cuts both ways. Like Larry David, there is a sense that he's working a little willingly to dig himself into all these socially awkward holes, that the comic mishaps are a little contrived, but it is undeniably entertaining watching Downie squirm through his daily existence.
It will be followed by a Q&A with director Gary Sinyor and stars Tim Downie, Lucy Montgomery and Josh Howie.
What About Adolf? (November 9 JW3) is a contemporary German comedy set at a dinner party where one of the guests announces that he has come up with a novel name for his unborn child and can they guess what it is? The programme suggests that it comments on changing attitudes in German society, but it doesn't really. It's based on a play so it does what almost all plays do: puts a small group of people in a confined space and makes them argue and reveal deeply held secrets. It is 'though genuinely funny, well played and not too painfully theatrical.
The 2019 UK Jewish Film Festival runs November 6-21 at various venues including JW3, the Everyman Muswell Hill, the Phoenix in East Finchley, the Crouch End and Hackney Picturehouse cinemas, The Rio in Hackney and the Everyman in Belsize Park and King's Cross.
For tickets and information go to booking.ukjewishfilm.org