Over 16,000 attendees expected for 11-day cultural event
By Anthony King | SDUN Editor
The 23rd season of the San Diego Jewish Film Festival returns Thursday, Feb. 7 for an 11-day, 47-film extravaganza, dubbed the largest Jewish cultural event in San Diego. Organizers expect over 16,000 attendees to the festival, which ends Feb. 17.
“This year’s festival line up is extraordinary in its depth and quality,” Festival Chair Saundra Saperstein said in a release. “You will find these films enticing, exciting, heart-felt and provocative.”
Opening the festival is “Under African Skies,” documenting singer-songwriter Paul Simon’s return to South Africa 25 years after his album “Graceland” was released. “The film may have you seeing the artist in an entirely new light,” organizers said.
The closing night film is “Hava Nagila: The Movie,” which explores the touching, up-and-down path of the movie’s title song. The filmmaker interviewed Harry Belafonte, Leonard Nimoy, The Klezmatics and Glen Campbell, among others, to show how the song “rose above boundaries of time, space and culture” to unite a world.
Partnering with North Park based-FilmOut San Diego, festival organizers are also screening “Melting Away,” a drama centering on a family coming to terms with their transgender son. Anna – formerly Assaf – was kicked out of her home as a teenager, and, by chance, is reunited with her family several years later. Organizers said there is a “surprise introduction” scheduled for the screening.
“Melting Away” is being shown with “Flamingo Pride,” a humorous, animated short that tells the story of the only heterosexual flamingo in a “flock of gay flamingos.”
Most films screen several times, at four different locations spanning from Reading Cinemas 14 in North Clairemont and the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center’s (LFJCC) Jacobs Family Campus in La Jolla, to the Dove Library in Carlsbad, Calif. and San Marcos Stadium in San Marcos, Calif.
“These films may not be seen in San Diego again, so now is the time to catch them,” Saperstein said.
By popular demand, organizers said this year’s Centerpiece Film is an “encore screening” of “Stories from an Undeclared War.” First shown at the LFJCC’s Underwriter Kick-off in 2011, the film documenting 150 at-risk teens from Long Beach, Calif. – called the Freedom Writers – inspired the full-length drama “Freedom Writers” starring Hillary Swank. It is professor Erin Gruwell’s story, and Gruwell, along with several Freedom Writers, will be in attendance at this year’s festival. There are two screenings of “Stories from an Undeclared War.”
Additionally, this year brings back the family-day event, “Shalom Sesame,” featuring 12 episodes from the creators of “Sesame Street” that highlight Jewish holidays, traditions and culture. The event is on Feb. 17, and last year’s “Shalom Sesame” sold out. Organizers are recommending early reservations.
Sponsored by the LFJCC, the festival is produced by the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture, whose mission is to “expand and enrich cultural life” by presenting “the finest in Jewish artistic expression, encouraging the preservation of Jewish culture and heritage, and nurturing new creativity in the arts.”
The 11th annual Joyce Forum, celebrating “rising stars and seasoned filmmakers,” organizers said, will be presented for one night only at this year’s festival. Named in honor of Festival founder Joyce Axelrod, the forum supports upcoming filmmakers by bringing them together with established artists and industry professionals.
On Feb. 11 at 2 p.m., the Joyce Forum will present seven short films, followed by two longer films at 5 p.m. At 7:30 p.m., three films – “Life in Stills,” “Matkot” and “Audition” – will close the forum.
Single ticket prices for most films range from $10.75 to $13.75, with discounts for JCC members and seniors. The Joyce Forum is $7.50 for the 2 p.m. showing, and festival passes are available.
For complete information about the festival – including the Flix Mix young-adult mixer and the Teen Screen Night – visit sdcjc.org/sdjff or call 858-362-1348.