Manchester once again hosts the second biggest collection of films in this year’s UK Jewish Film Festival. Elaine Bermitz previews.
This year’s Manchester programme of the UK Jewish Film Festival is comprised of 14 festival highlights plus Q&As with actors and directors.
Starting on 7th November with the opening gala film My Polish Honeymoon, a French comedy about a couple whose honeymoon is potentially ruined by one side’s surprise rediscovery of her Jewish roots. The debut feature from French director Élise Otzenberger, this comedy follows recently-married Parisian couple (Anna and Adam) as they head off on a belated honeymoon to Poland, leaving their baby in the hands of Anna’s parents. Immersed in a new but strangely familiar culture, they discover a Poland awash with absurd and wonderful characters, picture perfect beauty and unbearable sadness. Otzenberger’s debut feature is a life affirming tale about rediscovering roots and being Jewish today. The film will be followed by a Q&A session with lead actor Arthur Igual.
This year there are five films shown at HOME, including two current Israeli thrillers, the intriguing Echo and the darker God of The Piano, as well as two with musical subjects, one a celebration of 55 years of Fiddler on the Roof (Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles) and the other on the Jewish influence on American jazz (It Must Schwing! The Blue Note Story). From Slavery to Freedom is about the Refusenik movement, and will strike a chord with those who were involved, as well as those interested in Russian film.
The Tobacconist is an Austrian and German film paralleling the longing for homeland and identity with the desire for a woman and the security of love, while the Mexican picture Leona portrays a lyrical love over loyalty dilemma. Comedy is in abundance in the tender closing night film Love in Suspenders.
There is something for everyone this year and an excellent opportunity to see the best of Jewish filmmaking from around the world and in the company of other equally enthusiastic cinema fans. God of The Piano, It Must Schwing! and From Slavery to Freedom will be followed by Q&As with their respective actors and directors. Additionally, there will be screenings of Home and On the Beaches – the two winners of the 2019 Pears Short Film Fund.
JLife checks out the UK Jewish Film Festival’s official Manchester selection…
ECHO (Amikam Kovner, Assaf Snir, Israel, 2018)
Having been married for 15 years, Ella and Avner seem to their friends to be the perfect couple. Avner’s faith in his marriage, however, takes a hit when he accidentally finds out that Ella is having an affair. Superbly written, directed and acted, Echo is a suspenseful and stylish psychological thriller.
FIDDLER: A MIRACLE OF MIRACLES (Max Lewkowicz, USA, 2019)
This documentary tells the fascinating story of the beloved Broadway show and film and explains the reasons for their ongoing and universal success. Featuring Topol and Itzhak Perlman, among many others, this is a joyous celebration of a true Jewish classic.
FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM (Arkadi Kogan, Israel, 2019)
From Slavery to Freedom tells the story of the Refusenik movement and the person who has become its symbol, Natan Sharansky, found guilty of high treason in 1977.
GOD OF THE PIANO (Italy Tal, Israel, 2019)
When Anat, the scion of a distinguished musical family, learns that her newborn baby is deaf, she decides to do the unthinkable, hoping that that would allow her to keep the family’s dream intact. This nuanced and suspenseful debut explores familial expectations, overpowering ambitions and the sacrifices we are willing to make in order to fulfil them.
GOOD MORNING SON (Sharon Bar Ziv, Israel, 2018)
Good Morning Son is an intimate, chamber drama, which despite the heartache and struggle, is also full of hope, humour and, most importantly, love.
IT MUST SCHWING! THE BLUE NOTE STORY (Eric Friedler, USA/Germany, 2018)
What makes the story of jazz label Blue Note exceptional is not only its roster of artists – Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, to name just a few – but also its founders. Jazz buffs Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff fled Germany in the 1930s and settled in New York City, making it their life’s work to give the music they so admired the respect it deserved.
LEONA (Isaac Cherem, Mexico, 2018)
Ariela, a twenty-something Jewish artist in Mexico City falls for non-Jewish Ivan. Struggling with her family’s disapproval, Ariela is torn between the man she loves and the community she can’t leave behind. A moving and tender debut feature about self-discovery.
LOVE IN SUSPENDERS (Jorge Weller, Israel, 2019)
When absent-minded widow Tami accidentally hits 70-year-old widower Beno with her car, the last thing on her mind is love and romance. Trying to ensure Beno will not sue her, she invites him over to her apartment. A charming romantic comedy for the young and young at heart.
MURER: ANATOMY OF A TRIAL (Christian Frosch, Austria/Luxemburg, 2018)
This courtroom drama exposes the political motives behind one of the most scandalous cases of miscarriage of justice in the 20th century. Known as ‘the Butcher of Vilnius’, Franz Murer facilitated the mass murder of Lithuanian Jews. Based on records of court proceedings, Murer: Anatomy of a Trial is an engrossing and enraging drama.
MY POLISH HONEYMOON (Élise Otzenberger, France, 2018)
Recently married Parisian couple Anna and Adam head off on a honeymoon to Poland, a country awash with absurdly wonderful characters, beauty and sadness. Élise Otzenberger’s debut is a delightful comedy about rediscovering roots and being Jewish today.
SERIAL (BAD) WEDDINGS 2 (Phillippe de Chauveron, France, 2019)
Getting used to their Chinese, African, Jewish and Arab sons-in-law wasn’t easy for Catholic Claude and Marie Verneuil, but their daughters’ happiness and grandchildren have helped. This sequel to the 2014 hit film is a hilarious comedy with a big heart.
THE TOBACCONIST (Nikolaus Leytner, Austria/Germany, 2018)
17-year-old Franz takes up a job at a Viennese tobacconist shop, where he meets the renowned professor Sigmund Freud. Fascinated by his theories, Franz seeks Freud’s advice after falling in love with a dancer. This drama sensitively explores its protagonists’ longing – for the love of a woman, and for a homeland.