The UK Jewish Film Festival is excited to return to cinemas across the UK in 2023 with the 27th edition of the festival. Screenings will take place in London cinemas from 9-19 November, with a national tour taking place from 9-30 November and a selection of films available online from 20-27 November. With an outstanding variety of feature films and shorts from around the world, the majority playing for the first time in the UK, the festival will highlight four fantastic titles at unique Gala screenings with special guests in attendance.
These exciting Galas are in addition to a packed line-up including film programmes covering European Film, Israeli Film, British Film, American, and Canadian & Australian Film, along with additional specially curated strands covering Documentary, LGBTQ+ Cinema and extensive programmes dedicated to shorts, including winners from the festival’s own Pears Short Film Fund at UK Jewish Film and UK Jewish Film Short Doc Fund.
Oscar-winning actor Anthony Hopkins ushers in the start of the festival on 9 November with the powerful Opening Night Gala presentation of director James Hawes’ One Life (UK, 2023). This beautifully told true story sees the legendary actor paired with Johnny Flynn to take on the true-life role of Nicholas Winton, a British stockbroker, and son of German-Jewish parents, who, after being horrified by tales of refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Sudetenland, sets off for Prague and begins to find ways to bring out as many refugee children as possible. Aided by his formidable mother Barbara (Helena Bonham Carter) and a coterie of dedicated activists, their seemingly impossible mission faces daunting obstacles in this inspiring true story of hope and determination. Director James Hawes will be present on the night to introduce his film.
This year’s Animation Gala is the UK Premiere of stunning new animated film My Father’s Secrets (France/Belgium, 2022), which features a star-studded voice cast including screen legends Elliott Gould and Miriam Margolyes, as well as Tracy-Ann Oberman and David Baddiel. Based on a graphic novel by Michel Kichka, one of Israel’s most beloved cartoonists, the film tells the story of his growing up in the house of his father, Henri Kichka, who had survived Auschwitz but only felt that he was ready to share his story after the Eichmann Trial. However, Henri only told his story to strangers, not his own family – his wife and four children creating a divide that would only be reconciled over time. My Father’s Secrets is a heartrending yet deeply uplifting tale of remembrance, love and forgiveness. David Baddiel, who narrates the film, will be present with David Freedman, director of the film’s English-language version, for a Q&A at the screening.
Watch Kidnapped (2023) Trailer
For 2023’s Centrepiece Gala, the festival is proud to screen Marco Bellocchio’s Palme d’Or nominated Kidnapped (Italy, 2023), the heart-wrenching true story of a six-year-old Jewish-Italian boy, secretly baptised by his nurse, and kidnapped from his family in Bologna on the orders of the Pope in June 1858. Brought up and indoctrinated into Christianity at the Pope’s side, his distraught Jewish family embark on an international campaign to have their son returned and find themselves at the epicentre of a wider historical battle between the forces of Catholic authoritarianism, and equality and the unification of Italy.
In Kidnapped, award-winning director Marco Bellocchio creates a gripping portrait of a Jewish community in turmoil and at the mercy of a hostile and all-powerful theocracy, that has been described by Variety as ‘a handsomely mounted period drama’, and had The Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw remarking ‘this already looks like a classic’.
For this year’s Closing Night Gala, Sasson Gabay, who starred in the UK Jewish Film Festival 2022 Opening Film Karaoke, plays a doting father in the UK Premiere of moving drama My Daughter. My Love (Israel, 2023). Shimon (Gabay) is visiting his recently married daughter and her husband in Paris in this stylish and unsettling tale of marital crisis. The young couple are living the dream but Shimon soon discovers that something is wrong and begins to dig deeper. My Daughter. My Love is a subtle and compelling exploration of love and the powerful emotional bonds between a father and daughter.
The Closing Night Gala will once again play host to the award ceremony for the festival’s Best Film and Best Documentary Awards. The Best Film Award will see six feature films from across the programme competing, with the jury being headed by renowned UK director and producer Gurinder Chadha OBE (Bend It Like Beckham, Blinded by the Light, Beecham House). Films nominated for the Best Film Award are: The Goldman Case; Kidnapped; One Life; The Other Widow; Shoshana; Valeria is Getting Married.
Six features will compete for the Best Documentary Award, and this year’s jury is headed by Robert Rinder MBE, the broadcaster, author, and barrister recognised for ITV1’s Judge Rinder, along with numerous screen credits including My Family, The Holocaust and Me. Films nominated for the Best Documentary Award are: The Camera of Doctor Morris; The Devil’s Confession: The Lost Eichmann Tapes; Egypt, A Love Song; Queen of the Deuce; Revenge: Our Dad the Nazi Killer; Vishniac.
Alan Howard International Documentary Strand
The Alan Howard International Documentary Strand presents five premieres telling compelling and challenging stories from across the world, with all screenings including filmmaker and guest Q&As. Revenge: Our Dad the Nazi Killer (International Premiere, Australia, 2023) (+Q&A with BBC Storyville Commissioning Editor Lucie Kon) documents an investigation, led by three Australian Jewish brothers, into the involvement of their father and uncle in the deaths of Nazi criminals in post-war Australia – an age of Cold War anxiety and persistent antisemitism.
The shadow of Nazi war crimes also looms over The Devil’s Confession: The Lost Eichmann Tapes (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022) (+Q&A with director Yariv Mozer and The Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland) which presents a series of taped conversations made during the 1950s in which Eichmann spoke freely and fervently of his deep regret about not sending millions more Jews to their deaths. The transcripts of the recordings played a crucial part in Eichmann’s trial but the whereabouts of the tapes remained unknown for years. This fascinating documentary unearths the recordings and sheds light on the realpolitik considerations that may have contributed to their disappearance.
Egypt, A Love Song (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022) (+Q&A with director Iris Zaki) is a warm and sensitive look at the complicated relationship between Jewish and Arab identities and those caught in-between. With powerful archival footage, filmmaker Iris Zaki embarks on a remarkable journey with her father Moshe across countries and cultures, to trace the turbulent path her grandmother – legendary singer and actress Soad Saki, a huge star across the Arab world in the 1940s – took to raise her son as a proud Israeli citizen. Roman Vishniac, born in Russia in the late 19th century, was a true polymath, best remembered for his hugely important still and moving images of Jewish communities across Eastern Europe.
Vishniac (UK Premiere, USA, 2023) (+Q&A with Prof Michael Berkowitz and Monica Bohm-Duchen) is a deeply moving film, in which Vishniac’s daughter speaks candidly about her bigger-than-life father, a remarkably talented and complicated man. Lastly, The Consultant: The Story of Arthur J. Finkelstein (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022) (+Q&A with director Eado Zuckerman) tells the story of the late Republican Party consultant, whose kingmaking powers have played a major role in the rise of right-wing populism around the world over the last two decades. Although Finkelstein had an ability to manipulate public opinion, he could not stop leaks about his own long-term same-sex relationship. Attempting to square Finkelstein’s identity with the views of the politicians he worked with, this fascinating film sheds light on a life full of mind-boggling moral contradictions.
European Film Programme
The festival’s European Film Programme is as diverse as ever this year, with the strand spanning five countries and over 100 years. March 1968 (UK Premiere, Poland, 2022) takes place amid Warsaw’s social unrest and violent demonstrations, telling a sweeping love-story about two young students from families with opposing political views. Also drawing from Europe’s turbulent post-war history is The Goldman Case (France, 2023), a tense, edge-of-the-seat courtroom drama powerfully recreating the trial of Pierre Goldman in France in 1976 – widely acknowledged as the most divisive case since the Dreyfus Affair of 1894. The film was selected to open the Critics Week at the Cannes Film Festival 2023, and features an outstanding performance from Arieh Worthalter in the lead. Heading to interwar Italy in 1938, The Shadow of the Day (Italy, 2022) is a dramatic and tense love story about a Jewish WWI veteran attempting to live life according to his own rules despite the encroaching darkness of Mussolini’s fascism.
In the documentary Erica Jong: Breaking the Wall (UK Premiere, Switzerland, 2022), the writer of 1973’s Fear of Flying – a groundbreaking novel exploring the hitherto taboo subject of women’s sex lives and erotic fantasies – looks back on her remarkably rich and varied career as an author, whose trailblazing work has helped popularise the principles of feminist thought, and challenge sexual and social norms.
Stay With Us (France, 2022) tells the story of acclaimed Jewish comedian Gad Elmaleh, who moves back to Paris from New York. His parents are ecstatic about his return until they find out the identity of the new woman in his life: the Virgin Mary. Based on the filmmaker’s own Catholic conversion, this semi-autobiographical comedy is a celebration of interfaith harmony. Heading back to cinema’s silent era, Boris Orlický’s The Crucified (UK Premiere, Czechoslovakia, 1921) offers a fascinating, if troubling, representation of Jews and antisemitism in 19th century Europe. Tormented by a childhood memory of his Jewish mother being crucified during a pogrom, her illegitimate son is determined to find out her fate. This powerful new restoration is accompanied by a newly-commissioned electronic music score that subtly enhances the film’s unsettling themes.
Israel Film Programme
The festival’s largest strand, the Israeli Film Programme is a showcase for the most interesting and provocative new Israeli cinema across a variety of film forms and genres. Dark and compelling directorial debut, Barren (Israel, 2022) (+Q&A with director Mordechai Vardi) sees a young orthodox wife fall under the spell of a Rabbi who claims mysterious powers while her husband is away on annual pilgrimage.
Intimate documentary The Camera of Doctor Morris (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022) (+Q&A with Andrew Morris, son of Fay and Dr Reginald Morris) is comprised of the precious moments beloved local doctor Reginald Morris would capture in 8mm footage of his wife and family at their home in Israel after their move from Britain in the 1950s; a less traditional, yet no less loving family is presented in Erez Tadmor’s tender drama Children of Nobody (Israel, 1992) as caring foster-mother Margalit runs a shelter for at-risk youth in a rapidly gentrifying area which leads to conflict with ruthless real estate developers.
Director Tadmor’s second film in the programme, Matchmaking (Israel, 2022), is a sharp and hilarious critique of the business of love and marriage in the Haredi community as young couple Moti (Amit Rahav, Unorthodox), who is Ashkenazi, and Nehami, a Sephardi, must find a way to be together in the ultra-Orthodox city in which they live.
Another romantic-comedy, Elik & Jimmy (Israel, 2022) charts the decade it takes for the beautiful Elik and the husky Jimmy to overcome their body image issues and give their relationship a chance. Director Noam Kaplan takes us to The Future (UK Premiere, Israel, 2023) for a semi-satirical psychological thriller in which an Israeli senior scientist Nurit fails to prevent the murder of an official, and goes head to head with the young Arab university student who confessed to the murder.
The latest work to play at the festival from writer-director Matan Yair (after 2017’s Scaffolding and 2019’s Unseen) A Room of His Own (UK Premiere, Israel/Italy, 2023) is a moving and remarkably nuanced portrait of a vulnerable adolescence as seventeen-year-old Uri struggles to cope with his father’s departure, his mother’s emotional dependency on him, a lack of connection with his fellow students and the looming shadow of army service.
Following UKJFF 2018’s powerful Opening Gala title Working Woman, which she co-wrote, director Michal Vinik here takes the helm for Valeria is Getting Married (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022), an unflinching exploration of gender inequality in its fiercest, most devastating form. The film finds Christina, a Ukrainian woman, organising the same arranged marriage set-up for her younger sister Valeria which she herself experienced, only to find that Valeria has other ideas. A trio of films feature actress Dana Ivgy, who will be present at the festival to discuss her work; in The Other Widow (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022) (+Q&A with Dana Ivgy and Ania Bukstein) she plays a costume designer who struggles to contain her grief after the death of a playwright with whom she was having a long-term affair. Another leading Israeli actress, Ania Bukstein, plays her bereaved counterpart.
Savoy (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022) (+Q&A with Dana Ivgy) is a powerful docudrama which recreates the night of 4th March 1975, when eight Palestinian terrorists commandeered the Savoy Hotel in Tel Aviv, taking guests and staff hostage. This hybrid film features both archival footage and reenactments with Ivgy playing Kohava Levi, a courageous guest who aided in negotiations but was ridiculed in the press at the time.
Or (My Treasure) (Israel, 2004) offers a mesmerising early performance from Ivgy as she plays a teenager desperately trying to earn enough money to support her mother and stop her from returning to prostitution. The film won multiple awards at the Cannes Film Festival.
Powerful documentary H2: The Occupation Lab (Israel, 2022) (+ Panel Discussion) looks at the tense situation in the West Bank city of Hebron region where both Jewish and Palestinian residents live very different lives. The Consultant: The Story of Arthur J. Finkelstein, The Devil’s Confession: The Lost Eichmann Tapes and Egypt, A Love Song are also screening as part of the Israeli Film Programme.
British Film Programme
The festival’s British Film Programme kicks off with Red Herring (UK, 2023) a documentary from filmmaker Kit Vincent about living with the diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumour at the age of 24. The life-shattering diagnosis impacts Kit and his family’s lives in many different ways, with the film also telling the story of Kit’s father’s conversion to Judaism, in order to get the support needed for the trauma the family is experiencing. Shoshana (UK/Italy, 2023) (+Q&A with director Michael Winterbottom) is set in 1930s-1940s Tel Aviv and concerns the rising tensions between the Jewish population and the occupying British authorities. From renowned British director Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, The Trip series), this action-led historical feature follows two British police officers (played by Douglas Booth and Harry Melling), in their pursuit of the poet, Irgun leader and Lehi founder, Avraham Stern (Aury Alby), to try and stop murderous attacks against the British. One Life and the Made in Britain shorts strand will also screen as part of the British Film Programme.
Americans and Australia Film Programme
Comprising documentaries and narrative pieces from across the globe, the Americas and Australia Film Programme plays host to Chandler Levack’s cinematic love-letter and debut feature, I Like Movies (English Premiere, Canada, 2022), a coming-of-age gem which invites us to see life through the eyes of a socially awkward seventeen-year-old cinephile who takes a job at at his local video store and learns about the darker side of the movie industry.
In Less Than Kosher (UK Premiere, Canada, 2023) (+Recorded intro by lead actress and co-creator Shaina Silver-Baird) self-proclaimed ‘Bad Jew’ Viv is forced to take a job at the synagogue when her career fails to take off. An illicit affair and Tik Tok success follows, in acclaimed director Daniel AM Rosenberg’s surprisingly heartfelt musical-comedy, hailed as Shiva Baby meets A Star Is Born. Documentary Queen of the Deuce (UK Premiere, Canada, Greece, 2022) (+Q&A with director Valerie Kontakos) charts the unlikely story of Chelly Wilson, who fled her native Greece in 1939 to start a new life in New York City. With five dollars in her pocket, and personality and chutzpah in abundance, this trailblazer would start her own empire as the owner of several successful porn theatres and producer of hardcore porn movies within the ‘Deuce’ – NYC’s notorious 42nd Street.
The Narrow Bridge (UK Premiere, Australia, 2022) (+Q&A with director Esther Takac) is an incredibly moving documentary about the members of the grassroots movement of Israeli and Palestinian Bereaved Families who struggle through their personal pain and hostility to promote peace and an end to the ceaseless cycle of violence, transforming their grief into a bridge for peace. Vishniac and Revenge: Our Dad the Nazi Killer are also screening as part of the Americas and Australia Film Programme.
LGBTQ+ Film Programme
From retrospective screenings, to fun and insightful documentaries, this year’s LGBTQ+ Film Programme will play host to three feature films and a programme of short films examining a broad range of Jewish LGBTQ+ identities. Screening as part of the Israeli Archive Film Evening from a new digitally restored print, Amazing Grace (Israel, 1992) was the last film from director Amos Guttman, and is a beautifully observational semi-autobiographical drama about two families, each with a gay son, in Israel in the early 1990s. The Rainbow Collection short films bring together inquisitive, funny and reflective LGBTQ+ voices from America and Israel. Largely made by new filmmakers but with some surprising performances from some well-known American and Israeli actors, these shorts explore different facets of family, love and relationships as their protagonists strive, and succeed, to find their place in the world. Queen of the Deuce and The Consultant are also screening as part of the LGBTQ+ Film Programme.
Pears Short Film Found
The Pears Short Film Fund at UK Jewish Film was established in 2007 to encourage and support the production and exhibition of short films on themes around British-Jewish life, history and culture. The winners receive up to £13,500 for the production of a new short film which is premiered at the UK Jewish Film Festival. Winners 2023: The Doll’s House (World Premiere, UK, 2023); The Soldier on Smithdown Road (World Premiere, UK, 2023).
UK Jewish Film Short Doc Found
The UK Jewish Film Short Doc Fund supports filmmakers in the production of 3-4 minute, micro-budget films documenting aspects of contemporary British-Jewish life. In an era of rising anti-semitism, the Fund aims to build a lasting, innovative and educational film collection reflecting the unique traditions, customs, culture and everyday lives of British Jews in the 21st century: ContEruversial (World Premiere, UK, 2023); Growing Up Mizrahi (World Premiere, UK, 2023); Greatest Star (World Premiere, UK, 2023); The Balance Sheet (World Premiere, UK, 2023); The Kosher Barber (World Premiere, UK, 2023).
Short Film Programme
This year’s fantastic short film programme includes over 30 fragments of Jewish life from around the globe – from Manchester and other parts of the UK, to Pakistan and the US. They tell personal stories of love and loss, challenge expectations and shine a light on the diversity of Jewish culture. From 3 minutes to 22 minutes, they all pack a punch: small but mighty.
Made In Britain
A showcase of the best homegrown film talent including some fabulous premieres: The Last Cowboy in Salford (UK Premiere, UK, 2023); Gorka (UK Premiere, UK, 2023); Sinnerman (UK Premiere, UK, 2023); To Challah on the Table (UK, 2023).
Facts of Life
A collection of short documentary films that are as rich, surprising and diverse as life itself: Requiem for a Whale (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022); Man’s Best Friend (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022); Justice (UK Premiere, France, 2021); Ibach (UK Premiere, USA, 2022); When Harry Met Larry (UK Premiere, USA, 2023); 12 Camps (World Premiere, USA, 2023); The Righteous (UK Premiere, Italy, 2023); In the Next Year – Becoming Jewish in Pakistan (UK Premiere, Austria, 2022).
A collection of films that celebrate the family in all its forms – its power, its humanity and its humour: In the Garden of Tulips (UK Premiere, USA, 2023); Bright Eyes (Israel, 2022); Killing Ourselves (Israel, 2022); As Stars Out There (UK Premiere, Israel, 2023); Happy BirthGay (UK Premiere, Israel, 2023); Justice (UK Premiere, France, 2021); In Her Own Home (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022); Ruben (UK Premiere, France, 2023).
New shorts from Israel’s emerging film talent: Fever (World Premiere, Israel, 2021); Deep Water (European Premiere, Israel, 2022); The Building at 9 Etzel St. (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022); Ordinary (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022); Bilingual (European Premiere, Israel, 2023); Up in Arms (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022); I Missed You at Synagogue (European Premiere, Israel, 2021).
The Rainbow Collection
Inquisitive, funny and reflective LGBTQ+ voices from America and Israel: Up in Arms (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022); Belongs to Anat (UK Premiere, Israel, 2022); Happy BirthGay (UK Premiere, Israel, 2023); I Asked Him to Take Me Dancing (UK Premiere, Israel, 2021); I Missed You at Synagogue (European Premiere, Israel, 2021); Diving In (UK Premiere, USA, 2022); No Kissing (World Premiere, USA, 2023).
Anatevka (UK Premiere, USA, 2023) will play with Less than Kosher in the Americas and Australia Film Programme
The UK Jewish Film Festival 2023 takes place in London cinemas from 9-19 November, with a national tour taking place from 9-30 November with a selection of films available online from 20-27 November