Rock in the Red Zone, a US documentary about the thriving music scene in Sderot, Israel.

Jewish FLICK Fest

Jewish Community Centre launches first Victoria International Jewish Film Festival

With a little mazal, six films will be the start of an annual tradition in Victoria.

For the first time since the venerable Howie Siegel sponsored a Jewish Film Festival some years ago when he was still owner of the Roxy Theatre, the Jewish Community Centre has picked up the gauntlet, and Nov. 7 to 9 will screen one short, two documentaries and three comedies that explore Jewish culture.

“This is the first formal one,” says Victoria International Jewish Film Festival Director Sandra Glass. “The idea came up at a board meeting of the Jewish Community Centre and it was noted that during the film festival in Victoria there weren’t any movies with Jewish content.”

So Glass and UVic associate professor Lincoln Shlensky began the process of screening the 60 films chosen by the Vancouver International Jewish Film Festival to pick six for the inaugural VIJFF.

“They are not necessarily for Jewish people. They deal with issues around Israel and Palestine and anti-Semitism – it’s a cultural event. We also consider it an outreach event,” Glass says.

The Jewish Community Centre, 3636 Shelbourne St., also runs the Lox, Stock & Bagel deli, serving traditional Kosher-style foods. “Most people who come to the deli are not Jewish. They just like the kind of ethnic, cultural food we have,” says Glass – ergo, if you like the food, you’ll like the films.

“The movies we’ve chosen have broad appeal, the issues that are brought up have universal appeal. They cover issues of partnership, working with people you’re not used to working with, accepting others – messages that will echo in people’s minds.”

Shlensky agrees.

“There are other festivals that focus on a single cultural group or ethnicity – there are potential benefits and potential drawbacks – but the potential benefits include seeing just a slice of films from all over the world that reflect the Jewish identity. (You will) see internationally produced films along an axis that you would not normally see,” he says.

Shlensky was also drafted by the Vancouver selection committee. “Their director, Robert Albanese gave us very easy access and made it easy for us to make decisions about our own festival,” says Shlensky.

“They are very experienced,” says Glass. “Vancouver has been doing it for 35 or 40 years. For us it will be our first, so it’s good to partner with a group who has experienced it.”

Glass says choosing the films was both fun and complex. “It was very tricky for us because we’re only showing six films. Vancouver chooses a vast array of different kinds of movies, for us it was more difficult. We had to think about how the movies will fit together and how they will be received by the audience.”

She enjoyed sifting through the films and believes the choices will both appeal to a large audience and help combat stereotypes.

“It’s important to have a Jewish Film Festival because if you’re not in the Jewish community you might think the stereotypical Jewish person is a man in a black hat with side curls – we want to first challenge that imagery and demonstrate that those stereotypes are an illusion.”

The films include

Rock in the Red Zone (USA Documentary):  This documentary, by Los Angeles filmmaker Laura Bialis, is about the unique and thriving music scene happening in Sderot, Israel, a town beleaguered by Hamas rockets. It demonstrates how music can blossom out of chaos, and how music is a way of finding a path through chaos in new and creative ways.

The Farewell Party: (Israeli, Comedy)  A black comedy about self-euthanasia.  A group of seniors living in assisted living apartments take matters into their own hands creating a series of dilemmas for themselves.  This film is topical given the federal government’s External Panel on Options for a Legislative Response to Carter v. Canada (doctor –assisted suicide) The film plays constantly on existential fears, hopes, regrets and gallows humour

Partner with the Enemy: (Israeli Documentary) It is both a documentary and a drama. As a genre-twisting film, the film never lets you forget that it is a crossover that unsettles both genres. It’s the story of two women, one Palestinian and one Israeli who open up a logistics business to facilitate the shipment of goods to and from Palestinian companies.

Of Many:  (USA, Documentary) This movie short focuses on the surprising and transformative relationship between an orthodox rabbi and imam, who serve as university chaplains in New York City.  Timely and humorous, this documentary offers an inspiring and hopeful narrative in the face of a seemingly irreconcilable conflict. [This doc will be shown as a double header with Partner with the Enemy]

Peter the Third (Israeli, Comedy):  It’s about a klatch of Hebrew-speaking, Romanian-born retirees in Israel who spend their days gossiping and complaining in a Tel Aviv café. These older men, as the genre conventions of the romantic comedy demand, are not without their formidable resources, including a finely honed sense of righteous failure that peeps out from beneath their playful bravado.

Dough (UK, Comedy):  An elderly Jewish baker struggles to keep his business afloat until his young Muslim apprentice accidentally drops cannabis in the dough and sends sales sky high.

For tickets and more information, click here.

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