Urban Cinefile
"I never believed that life and farce are mutually exclusive - they're much the same in fact. "  -- P.J. Hogan, on his film Muriel's Wedding
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



The annual Jewish International Film Festival returns in October and November to Melbourne and Sydney – and, for the first time Perth, Gold Coast and New Zealand - with an incredibly rich global selection of 49 award-winning features, documentaries and shorts - all of which lay bare the soul of this fascinating and continually evolving culture.

Under the vibrant guidance of Festival Director, Eddie Tamir, JIFF is proud to present 47 Australian premiere screenings within 11 enticing categories that encompass drama, comedy, breathtaking adventures and introduce us to notable Jewish figures past and present, from the irrepressible vaudeville headliner, Sophie Tucker, cultural critic, Susan Sontag, renowned Israeli writer Etgar Keret and beloved Israeli poet Chaim Nacham Bialik to legendary actor Theodore Bikel, the greatest living performer of Sholom Aleichem, whose writings celebrate the joyous medley of Yiddish culture.

Striking a bold chord, the provocative, universally acclaimed drama Gett, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, will open JIFF in each city. Recently named Best Picture at both the 2014 Ophir Awards (Israeli Oscars) and Jerusalem Film Festival, this compelling French/German/Israeli co-production, which screened as part of Directors’ Fortnight at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, affords a rare insight into the rabbinical court and its treatment of women as we follow the five-year quest of Viviane Amsalem to obtain a ‘gett’ (Jewish divorce) amidst a process where tragedy and absurdity abound.

Above and Beyond, a riveting documentary that encapsulates the indomitable Jewish spirit, will screen on Closing Night. In 1948 as rumours swirled re Israel’s emergence as an ‘officially’ recognized Jewish state, surrounding Arab armies began to circle. This led to the formation of the “Machal” – a group of WWII plots who volunteered to fight for Israel in the War of Independence. Ironically using discarded German uniforms and planes abandoned by the German army, which they repaired with scavenged parts, these fearless men changed history and lay the foundation for Israel’s modern-day air-force.

What lies between these two masterful offerings is a selection of outstanding features and documentaries sourced from Israel, Germany, France, USA, the Philippines, Switzerland and Ireland that will enthrall, inform and captivate audiences from both within and beyond the Jewish community.


Directors: Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon
Category: Triumph of the Spirit
Nominated in 14 categories at the 2014 Ophir Awards this off-beat comedy, which won the Venice Day’s People’s Choice Award at the 2014 Venice Film Festival, is a compassionate tale about life, death and friendship. Ezikiel and his friends at a Jerusalem retirement home build a euthanasia machine to help their terminally ill friend. When rumours of the machine begin to spread, more and more people ask for their help, and the group is faced with an emotional, ethical dilemma.

Director: Talia Lavie
Category: Hamatzav (The Situation)
One of Israel’s most successful and critically feted films of recent years, this is an army story with a difference! At a remote army base in southern Israel, amidst absurd bureaucracy, three female clerical staff engage in battles armed with staple guns and paper shredders. A poignant black comedy about the oft-overlooked female soldiers who undergo compulsory military service in offices all over Israel.

Director: William Gazecki
Category: All the World’s a Stage
Before Mae West, Bette Midler, Madonna and Lady Gaga, Sophie Tucker enchanted audiences with her bold, bawdy and brassy style. This documentary covers the early days of this iconic vaudeville superstar’s career as she ruled 1920s flapper culture in the USA.

THE DECENT ONE (Austria/Germany/Israel)
Director: Vanessa Lapa
Category: Haunted Histories
Winner of Best Documentary at the 2014 Jerusalem Film Festival, The Decent One uses never-before-seen materials to access the deluded and unnerving life and mind of Heinrich Himmler, the merciless "architect of the Final Solution". Drawing upon the contents of letters to and from his wife, daughter and mistress, (“In life one must always be decent, courageous and kind-hearted,” he wrote) and archival footage, it gives a chilling insight into the ideologies of a lower-middle-class man who became a notorious war criminal.

D: Nadav Schirman
Category: Hamatzav (The Situation)
Winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and Best Documentary at the 2014 Ophir Awards, this is a gripping account of terror and betrayal based on the best-selling book, Son of Hamas, a memoir by Mosab Hassan Yousef. Palestinian Yousef, is ready to fight Israel, but at 17, is arrested for smuggling guns. Interrogated by Israel’s security service, he is sent to prison, where he turns and, deeply ashamed, agrees to spy for Israel. But for his Shin Bet handler, there is no greater prize than operating the oldest son of a founding member of Hamas.

Director: Joseph Seiden
Category: Meant to Be (Bashert)
Restored to its former glory, this long-lost Yiddish classic was first screened in New York to rapturous response in1937. A musical melodrama, Kol Nidre tells the story of Jenny, a young woman torn between two childhood boyfriends. Refusing to marry Joseph, who has become a rabbi, she elopes instead – causing scandal. Surprisingly risqué for its time, this is a rousing tearjerker that explores many themes including assimilation, cultural identity, generational conflict, gender roles and marital expectations.

Director: André Singer
Category: Haunted Histories
During the liberation of the concentration camps, allied soldiers and cameramen shot mass reels of footage, documenting the horrors within. With this material, producer Sydney Bernstein together with a team that included Alfred Hitchcock began to make German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, with the aim of creating a document to show the world what had happened. But the project was shelved and lay untouched…until now. This not-to-missed documentary tells how the project was finally, in 2014, released in all its uncompromising detail.

Director: Shirly Berkovitz
Category: Other Israel
The incredible story of Or, a 22-year-old Israeli man who plans to secretly have sex reassignment surgery. Drawing on his own home videos and eventual friendship with filmmaker Shirly Berkovitz who documented the latter part of his journey, we experience the emotionally gruelling lead-up to the procedure which involved lying to his family and stealing from them to pay for the operation in Thailand.

Director: Hilla Medalia
Category: All the World’s A Stage
The inside story of two Israeli-born cousins, the late Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who turned the Hollywood establishment upside down. Together they produced more than 300 films and founded the world’s most powerful independent film company, Cannon Films, which was responsible for Israeli and mainstream, Hollywood-blockbuster, action/exploitation hits during the duo’s 1980s hey day.

THE DOVE FLYER (aka Farewell Baghdad) (Israel)
D: Nissim Dayan
Category: Ingathering (Kibbutz Galuyot)
Sixteen-year-old Kabi is from a Jewish family in Iraq. When his uncle, Hazkael, is arrested, Kabi joins the Zionist underground. A box office smash in Israel, based on the book of the same name, this drama portrays the final years of the Jewish community in 1950s Baghdad before its expulsion to Israel. Here Jews lived in a world of contradictions and ambivalent relationships, yet still had strong ties to the surrounding Muslim world and Arabic culture, whilst simultaneous fearing for their safety.

RUN, BOY RUN (France/Germany)
Director: Pepe Danquart
Category: Triumph of the Spirit
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Pepe Danquart tells the remarkable true story of nine-year-old Srulik, who escaped the Warsaw ghetto in 1942 and learned to survive in the wilderness, until winter forced him to seek shelter. Passing himself off as a Christian orphan, he survived the war under incredible circumstances while being hunted by those who suspected his true identity.

NATAN (Ireland)
Directors: David Cairns & Paul Duane
Category: All the World’s a Stage
Bernard Natan dominated French cinema during the 1920s and 1930s and made the renowned Pathé film company a success. So why has he been all but forgotten? Natan reveals an intriguing, complex man who, along with successful and lauded films, also had an alleged career in early gay and BDSM pornographic movies. An extraordinary tale of a man some call one of the fathers of French cinema.

Email this article

Visit the official website at: www.jiff.com.au

The 2014 Jewish International Film Festival will screen as follows:

29 October – 16 November
Event Cinemas, Bondi Junction

MELBOURNE: 5 – 23 November
Classic Cinemas, Elsternwick

GOLD COAST: 15, 16 & 23 November
Event Cinemas, Robina

PERTH: 15, 16 & 23 November
Event Cinemas, Innaloo

NEW ZEALAND: 16 & 23 November
The Bridgeway, Auckland

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020