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38th SF Jewish Film Festival celebrates excellence in independent cinema

The 38th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, presented by the Jewish Film Institute, returns July 19–Aug. 5 for its annual celebration of excellence in independent cinema that showcases the diversity of global Jewish life.

This year’s Festival presents 67 films from 22 countries and over 40 filmmaker guests in attendance.

SFJFF38’s lineup champions women filmmakers behind and in front of the lens, explores multicultural Jewish identities and addresses the most pressing societal issues of today. Don’t miss selections from: Hands On/Hands Off: Anatomy of a Feminist Film Movement; black•ish / jew•ish; and the fifth annual Take Action Day, which presents award-winning social justice documentaries.

Opening Night: Love, Gilda

The Festival opens on July 19 at the historic Castro Theatre with a tribute to a comedy icon. Using rare personal recordings, clear-eyed journal entries and interviews with SNL cast members, this doc brings Gilda Radner back into our lives, with director Lisa D’Apolito and SNL cast member Laraine Newman in person. The film is followed by the Opening Night Bash at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

East Bay Opening Night: The Oslo Diaries

SFJFF will welcome in its extended run in the East Bay on Thursday, July 26 at the Albany Twin Theater with The Oslo Diaries, a riveting, meticulously researched documentary bursting with never before seen footage about the legendary peace accords. Followed by a block party under the stars on Solano Avenue with food, drink and entertainment. 

Still from The Oslo Diaries, screening at the Albany Twin Theatre on July 26. Photo: SFJFF

SFJFF will also present the 1924 silent film The City Without Jews, which will be accompanied by an original live score on Sunday, July 22. This biting satire about anti-Semitism, believed to have been lost until a copy was discovered in a Paris flea market in 2015 and painstakingly restored, will make its international premiere at SFJFF38.

Other East Bay highlights include: Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me about the legendary performer and Rat Pack member; To Dust, a quirky, dark comedy starring Matthew Broderick as a bumbling biology professor who befriends an Orthodox Jew over conversations about death; The Waldheim Waltz about the stunning 1986 Austrian presidential election of Kurt Waldheim with very current insights about nationalist demagoguery; Crossroads, an uplifting film about the deep bond between an African American lacrosse team and their Jewish coach; and The Man Who Stole Banksy, a compelling chronicle of a Banksy piece’s theft from the West Bank and journey through the global art black market, narrated by Iggy Pop.

Satan & Adam, by Oakland-based filmmaker V. Scott Balcerek, tells the story of an unlikely blues duo and is screening four times at the festival, including on July 29 at the Albany Twin Theater. Photo: SFJFF

Bay Area interests are well represented in Satan & Adam, from Oakland-based filmmaker V. Scott Balcerek about an unlikely blues duo and Elizabeth Rynecki’s Chasing Portraits, a personal documentary about her great-grandfather’s lost art. Activists and human rights advocates will have much to discuss in Netizens, a crucial documentary about three women’s battles to change online privacy laws, and Julia Bacha’s Naila and the Uprising, about Palestinian activist Naila Ayesh.

For the complete lineup of films along with a full complement of discussion programs, international guests, awards, and celebrations, visit www.sfjff.org or contact jewishfilm@sfjff.org. For Box Office information, please contact boxoffice@sfjff.org or call 415.621.0523.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power — Al Gore,  and directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk talk at the Jewish Film Festival in 2017. Photo: SFJFF