by Esther Viragh
(EJNews) – Spring has finally arrived in Edmonton. For those of us who hate the winter, this is a genuine relief. With the warm weather come the best festivals the Jewish community has to offer, including the Edmonton Jewish Film Festival, which takes place May 15-18 and 22-24, and is this year celebrating its 20th anniversary!
“I’m very excited. I think we have some very good films that we’ve picked out this year,” said festival organizer Sam Koplowicz.
Every year, Koplowicz pre-screens dozens of films and selects 25, which are not only the best in his eyes but also the most diverse. These films are then passed on to the Film Selection committee to watch and vote upon. This year, 11 were chosen for their relevance, intelligent storytelling and visually stunning images. The goal is to offer the very best in contemporary Jewish film chosen from countries from around the world.
The festival kicks off on May 15 with the afternoon screening of “Dough,” a lighthearted comedy about a Jewish baker and his shop.
“This is the kind of film you want to see in the festival. It’s fun, the acting is very good, the script is very good, it has a positive message, it shows diversity, so it has a number of underlying themes that make it really good,” said Koplowicz.
After the comedy, an invitation-only reception will be held to thank all of the sponsors who have so generously supported the festival. “I would encourage people to buy a sponsorship because that really furthers one of the objectives of the festival, which is to provide funds for the P2G program,” Koplowicz urged. That is the portion of the program that allows for exchange trips between Edmonton Talmud Torah students and students from the Emek Hahula School in the Galilee Panhandle. Funding for that portion comes solely from the festival.
The festival’s evening opening film will be “Deli Man,” an entertaining documentary about the history and culture of the American delicatessen. “Only the meshugganas (nut cases) go into it,” says David Sax, one of the people interviewed in the film. Why they choose to remain in the business is for the audience to find out.
Another film in the program is “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” a drama written and directed by Natalie Portman and based on the novel by Israeli writer Amos Oz. Set in Jerusalem, the film tells the story of a woman who slowly falls into depression during the development of the State of Israel. The story is powerful and the cinematography is flawless. It is also a great opportunity to see Portman as the lead, speaking fluently in Hebrew and delivering a fantastic performance.
For those looking for a more cheerful story, there is the Israeli film “Peter the Third.”
“If I had to pick a favourite it would be ‘Peter the Third’. I thought in the first five-ten minutes: it’s fast, it’s zippy, it’s clever, it grabs you in. I really liked that one a lot,” Koplowicz enthused.
For music fans, there is “Rock in the Red Zone,” a political documentary about musicians in Sderot, a southern city in Israel that is regularly attacked by rocket missiles from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In the film, the director Laura Bialis travels to the city to portray these artists whose lives are constantly under threat.
Along with the screenings, the EJFF will also announce the first recipient of the inaugural Earl Parker Award for Jewish Film. Having opened the competition last month, the festival received submissions from across the country. “It’s open to anyone, any age, Jewish or not. It just has to be a Jewish film project,” Koplowicz explained. By allowing anyone in Canada to apply, the festival reaches a broader public. “In a way it puts our festival a bit more on the map,” Koplowicz continued. The deadline for submissions was April 15, 2016 and the winning entry has been selected. The $500 prize will be awarded at the reception for sponsors on opening night.
The festival will close on May 24 with the screening of “Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem,” an engaging documentary that will surely be a crowd-pleaser. With Bikel’s passing last year, the film is a great tribute to the Oscar-nominee and Emmy award-winning actor. Viewers can look forward to seeing Bikel perform on screen, singing his songs and playing the roles he was most renowned for.
The 2016 Edmonton Jewish Film Festival will run from May 15 to May 18 and again from May 22 to May 24 at Landmark Cinemas 9 in Edmonton City Centre. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.jewishedmonton.org/edmonton-jewish-film-festival-home. The EJFF has a blog too! Make sure to visit that as well at: http://ejff2016.tumblr.com.
See you at the movies!