The UK Jewish Film Festival began in Brighton in 1997 as a way of celebrating and promoting Jewish culture worldwide. Now in its 22nd year, the festival boasts 85 films (whittled down from 600 applicants), selected from 16 different countries. These films – 51 of which are UK premieres – will screen across 21 venues from London to Glasgow. In short, the UKJFF is bigger than ever. Big enough that the five recommendations below don’t do justice to the sheer amount of goodness on offer.
For instance, the Israeli Cinema strand – which includes Venice favourite Foxtrot and Eliran Elya’s acclaimed Doubtful – is absent from our shortlist. What we have highlighted, however, represents an eclectic variety of work, ranging from a provocative kidnapping drama to a Barbican-bound, orchestra-led dystopian prophecy. Here are five films we think are well worth your time.
Three Identical Strangers + Q&A w/ director Tim Wardle
17 November, Regent Street Cinema
Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Sundance, and Centrepiece Gala at this year’s UKJFF, Tim Wardle’s experimental documentary tells the bizarre tale of triplets separated at birth and reunited in college. Seemingly coincidental, Wardle peels back the layers of this stranger-than-fiction story to uncover an unsettling truth. Also worth checking out in the Documentary Strand is Ruth Beckermann’s timely The Waldheim Waltz, which investigates how Nazi allegations couldn’t prevent a presidential election, and Matthew Shoychet’s The Accountant of Auschwitz, which sees a 94-year-old man’s trial spark worldwide debate. Book tickets
Memoir of War
17 November, Ciné Lumière
Marguerite Duras’ renowned wartime epic has been translated to the silver screen, creating one of the most celebrated films of this year’s selection in the process. Following a Resistance fighter whose husband is deported, director Emmanuel Finkiel balances romance, tragedy and intrigue as our protagonist traverses the stuffy landscape of an occupied France. If you prefer pulp to pathos, the European Cinema strand is also the place to find Astrid Schult’s Winter Hunt, a taut psychological thriller which bends the conventions of the revenge genre to breaking point. Book tickets
The City Without Jews – A Dystopian Prophecy of Intolerance
15 November, Barbican
This prophetic 1924 depiction of intolerance may belong to the Sound of Silence strand, but it is notably accompanied by live music at the Barbican. For one night only, you can watch a recently rediscovered silent film play out with a orchestra – or for two nights, if you choose to check out Harry Pollard’s 1926 comedy The Cohens and Kellys as well. If you have to choose, we think the former’s foreboding, satirical examination of a city’s anti-semitic jettisoning should not be missed. Book tickets
British Shorts Programme
12 November and 14 November, JW3 Cinema
Each year the UKJFF gifts us an array of new short films representing the best in homegrown talent. This year’s selection is no different: featuring a decade-spanning musical that celebrates Jewish identity; a barmy collaboration between an American rapper and a Holocaust survivor; and an avant-garde animation that investigates ‘the nature of time, memory and war’. To top it all off, tickets are £5 a pop. Book tickets
14 November, Everyman Belsize Park
At the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, Kantemir Balagov’s daring feature debut was met with cheers and jeers in equal measure. A cult classic-in-the-making, its awards from multiple festival juries suggest greatness, though audience walkouts indicate otherwise. So why not find out for yourself? Bearing a warning of ‘real footage of extreme violence’, it’s hard to resist: Closeness sticks a Jewish couple under the cosh as their son and his fiancée are kidnapped and held for ransom. Through forceful storytelling and one grisly scene in particular, Balagov’s film is poised to be a major talking point of this year’s festival. Book tickets
The 22nd UKJFF runs 8-22 November. Check out the full programme at ukjewishfilm.org
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