This November, the UK International Jewish Film Festival will be turning 21. For the past two decades, the festival has grown to bring audiences a diverse array of Jewish and Israeli cinema. The 21st edition looks set to continue that, programming 75 films from over 20 countries. With 115 screenings in total, the festival spans screens in London, Belfast, Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham.
Proceedings get underway on 9 November with the UK premiere of Jean van de Velde’s An Act of Defiance at London’s BFI Southbank. Set in South Africa in 1963, this true story tells of ten black and Jewish men arrested for defiance against the Apartheid system. Led by fellow defendant Nelson Mandela, the group plead not guilty – proving a pivotal moment in the fight against Apartheid.
Also recommended is The Cakemaker, the debut feature from Israeli writer-director Ofir Raul Graizer. It tells of a young Israeli man named Oren (Roy Miller) who falls for a German pastry chef named Thomas (Tim Kalkhof), and begins a clandestine affair with him. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Graizer, actress Sarah Adler and producer Itai Tamir. The festival also features A Tale of Love and Darkness, the film that marks the directorial debut of the Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman. Based on Amos Oz’s autobiographical novel, this passionately-made labour of love is set amid the turbulent birth of the state of Israel. Portman plays Fania, a new immigrant who struggles to find her place in Jerusalem.
For those looking for a nostalgia blast, there will be some classics screened too. A tribute to British neurologist Oliver Sacks arrives in the shape of Penny Marshall’s 1990 poignant medical drama Awakenings, which stars Robert De Niro (in near catatonic state) and the late Robin Williams. There is also a screening of Sandra Goldbacher’s 1998 film The Governess, a mid-19th century drama starring Minnie Driver as a young Jewish woman living a secret life. For those interested in non-fiction, Alexandra Dean’s Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story is a fascinating ride. Produced by Susan Sarandon, this tells of the little-known story of the beautiful Austrian immigrant who burned brightly (and briefly) in Hollywood in films like Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah. Yet it’s her life away from acting – and her love of science and invention – that will really leave you stunned.
The UK International Jewish Film Festival takes place from 9 November to 26 November. For more details, visit: www.ukjewishfilm.org.
1. Still from the trailer for Natalie Portman’s A Tale of Love and Darkness.