Under the theme “isREEL Life,” this year’s 2018 Seattle Jewish Film Festival is particularly special, as the Festival salutes Israel’s 70th birthday. The 23rd edition of the Seattle Jewish Film Festival will run from March 8 to March 18 at venues around Seattle and on Mercer Island with a special Eastside Expansion on April 14 to April 15 at Regal’s Cinebarre Issaquah 8, showcasing four additional films. This festival is an important part of Seattle’s cultural mosaic, offering a diverse spectrum of films that celebrate Jewish and Israeli life, culture, history, and cinema.
Oded Raz, Isreaeli director, will feature the funny and touching mob caper Maktub on Seattle’s Opening Night, and SJFF’s new Eastside Opening Night kicks off with the illuminating and entertaining documentary Shalom Bollywood, about Indian-Jewish screen legends. The final Eastside film will be Across the Waters: a gripping story of survival and rescue.
SJFF 2018 SCREENINGS AND PROGRAMS
Opening Night Film
Maktub | Director: Oded Raz | Comedy/Drama | Israel
Two Jerusalem mob enforcers turn into unlikely secret angels after surviving a bombing at a resaurant they were shaking down. They fulfill writers’ wishes in purloined notes from the Western Wall while evading their suspicious boss in this funny and touching caper.
Land of Milk and Funny | Director: Avi Liberman | Documentary | USA/Israel
LA funnyman Avi Liberman takes fellow stand-up comedians on tours of Israel, capturing their keen and comical insights onstage and off. Guest (and stand-up performer): Comedian Dwight Slade.
Trezoros: The Jews of Kastoria | Directors: Lawrence Russo & Larry Confino | Documentary | Greece
A coastal city renowned for its idyllic beauty, Kastoria was once home to a harmonious and vibrant population of Greek Jews and Christians. Never-before-seen archival footage and interviews stitch together a compelling portrait of this unique and dynamic Jewish community. Guests: Director Lawrence Russo and Professor Devin Naar, UW Sephardic Studies.
Keep the Change | Director: Rachel Israel | Romantic Comedy | USA
Winner of Best Narrative Feature at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, this romantic comedy about people with autism navigating the difficulties of a relationship is charming, authentic and is “as funny as it is sweet” (Variety). Preceded by short film: The Gravedigger’s Daughter. Recommended for ages 15+; $5 tickets for TeenTix Members.
Itzhak | Director: Alison Chernick | Documentary | USA
Widely considered one of the world’s greatest living violinists, Itzhak Perlman’s mastery of the violin catapulted a child with polio from Tel Aviv and the son of Polish survivors onto the world’s most prominent stages.
The Cakemaker | Director: Ophir Raul Graizer | Drama | Gemany/Israel
Devastated by the sudden death of his Israeli boyfriend, shy Berlin baker Thomas journeys to Jerusalem, where he secretly infiltrates the lives of his lover’s widow and son, and helps revive her fledgling café with his tantalizing German confections. How long can he keep this secret as the pair becomes deeply enmeshed? Guest: Sara Michelle Fetters, Lead Film Critic for Seattle Gay News.
Mandala Beats | Director: Rebekah Reiko | Documentary | Canada/India/Israel
Known as the Jimi Hendrix of Israeli, musician Yossi Fine has collaborated with artists across the globe including Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Madonna. The son of a European Jew and a black Parisian mom, he learns that his grandfather was Indian, and departs on an “instrumental” journey of rediscovery. Guest: Director Rebekah Reiko.
Longing | Director: Savi Gabizon | Drama | Israel
Director Savi Gabizon (Nina’s Tragedies, SJFF 2005) muses on aging and second chances in this tale of a father haunted by a son he never knew existed. Preceded by short film: Holes.
Praise the Lard | Director: Chen Shelach | Documentary | Israel
The untold story of the pork industry in Israel, from Zionist movement and kibbutz pig farms to current identity struggles, freedoms, and new immigrant penchants, in spite of fierce resistance from religious Jews. Preceded by short film: Our Brothers.
An Act of Defiance | Director: Jean van de Velde | Drama | South Africa
Ten men in Nelson Mandela’s inner circle—some black, some Jewish—are arrested for conspiring to commit sabotage against the South African apartheid state. Their courageous lawyer risks career and freedom to defend them and conceal his own sedition in this nail-biting political thriller and spectacular courtroom drama.
1945 | Director: Ferenc Török | Drama | Hungary
In the immediate aftermath of WWII, the arrival of an elderly Orthodox Jew and his son in a small Hungarian town triggers the townsfolk’s collective fear and guilt.
Shelter | Director: Eran Riklis | Drama/Thriller | Germany/Israel/France
In this suspenseful, neo-noir drama and psychological thriller, Mossad agent Naomi is sent to protect Mona, a Lebanese collaborator, in a German safe house. Their uneasy relationship develops into an unexpected bond, while threat levels outside rise.
Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me | Director: Sam Pollard | Documentary | USA
A toe-tapping, star-studded homage to the immensely-talented Black-Jewish entertainer and Rat Pack legend who navigated the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress in mid-20th century America.
The Testament | Director: Amichai Greenberg | Drama/Thriller | Austria/Israel
Yoel, a meticulous historian leading a significant debate against Holocaust deniers, discovers that his mother carries a false identity. Is he willing to risk everything to discover the truth? Guest: Actor Ori Pfeffer.
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story | Director: Alexandra Dean | Documentary | USA
Alert, hipsters: Hedy Lamarr is the new Nikolai Tesla. Watch this film about her stranger-than-fiction life and amazing inventions so you can be into her before everyone else catches on. $5 tickets for Seniors 65+. Refreshments will be served at this screening.
The History of Love | Director: Radu Mihaileanu | Drama | France/Belgium/Canada/Romania
Two lives intersect in New York City in this masterful adaptation of Nicole Krauss’s bestselling novel starring Elliot Gould and Sir Derek Jacobi.
An Israeli Love Story | Director: Dan Wolman | Drama | Israel
Aspiring young actress Margalit falls for dashing fighter Eli in pre-independence Palestine, setting the stage for a true love story that mixes idealism, romance, sacrifice, and tragedy during a turbulent and momentous period. A cash bar at The J Cafe accompanies this screening.
Vitch | Director: Sigal Bujman | Documentary | USA/Australia/France/Germany/Israel/Poland
This documentary illuminates the moral conundrum of Eddie Vitch, a Polish Jewish caricaturist, mime and comedian, who stayed alive by entertaining Nazi elite and Gestapo officers. The film traces his daughter’s efforts to uncover the truth about his activities and motives. Guests: Director Sigal Bujman and Director of Photography Marc Pingry; Producers Yaffa and Paul Maritz. A special Event in the J Café accompanies this film, featuring a Brown Derby Eddie Vitch caricature exhibit and cake reception
Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels | Directors: Robin Truesdale and Judy Kreith | Documentary | USA
For a few short years in the 1940s, Jewish refugees from war-torn Europe turned the tropical island of Cuba into a global diamond center. This little-known, colorful, and uplifting story is set to an original soundtrack of Jewish melodies and pulsating Cuban music, featuring Seattle’s own Clave Gringa who will perform after the screening. Guests: Directors Robin Truesdale and Judy Kreith; Ann Reynolds, and Clave Gringa Latin jazz band. There will also be a a performance by Seattle’s Clave Gringa, who is featured on the film’s soundtrack.
Closing Night Centerpiece
Tiffany Shlain’s “Spoken Cinema” | Director Tiffany Shlain | Documentary Shorts Program | USA
This year’s SJFF REEL Difference Award recipient is Emmy-nominated filmmaker, author, public speaker, and internet pioneer, Tiffany Shlain, whose Let it Ripple film studio makes impactful films and creates global social initiatives (Character Day, 50/50 Day) that explore the intersection of technology, (Jewish) identity, and connection that shape our lives. She will take us on an exhilarating tour of her acclaimed films and present a new, interactive, documentary art form she calls “Spoken Cinema”—a live narration of her film as the soundtrack plays in the background. Guest: Filmmaker and SJFF 2018 REEL Difference Award recipient Tiffany Shlain.
Eastside Opening Night
Shalom Bollywood | Director: Danny Ben-Moshe | Documentary | Australia
Who knew that Jews—specifically Jewish women—dominated Bollywood for the first half of its 100-year history? This entertaining documentary, featuring rich and rare archival clips, profiles six legends of the Indian silver screen who made Bollywood what it is today: the largest and one of the most progressive, cutting-edge film industries in the world. This screening will include free popcorn and a beverage for ticket holders.
Ben-Gurion, Epilogue | Director: Yariv Mozer | Documentary | Israel
Two filmmakers scoured the globe for the last David Ben-Gurion interview, before finding it in the Israeli desert—a rivetingly intimate documentary that captures both the vision and humility of Israel’s founding father.
Your Honor | Director: Roni Ninio | TV Drama/Thriller (4 episodes) | Israel
Binge watch Israel’s new, award-winning Breaking Bad-esque television drama, Your Honor, about a rising-star judge and his well-meaning family who become ensnared in Israel’s underworld. (Four episodes shown, with the rest of season one coming at a later date.)
Across the Waters | Director: Nicolo Donato | Drama | Denmark
Unsure of whom they can trust, a Jewish musician and his family make a frantic escape from Nazi-occupied Denmark. A gripping story of survival and rescue.