The best of international cinema returns to Miami when the Miami Jewish Film Festival (MJFF) takes over the city for its 21st year, bringing 62 films from 20 countries and hosting 50 filmmakers and special guests.
MJFF, the largest Jewish cultural event in Florida and one of the three largest Jewish film festivals in the world, has announced a lineup of films to be screened and events to be celebrated, Jan. 11-25, featuring world premieres, North American premieres, U.S. premieres, and Florida premieres.
“This year’s Miami Jewish Film Festival program is monumental in the breadth of talent breaking through in each of the beautifully rich, distinct, and emotional stories that transcend geographical boundaries,” said Igor Shteyrenberg, executive director of the Miami Jewish Film Festival.
“It is during uncertain and tumultuous times like these that we most need artists and storytellers, and this year’s program is a testament to the unending capacity of film to move us, impact our lives, and even provide much needed escapism. In their own unique way, these 62 films will fill you with hope and optimism at the unique power of our medium to inspire a true sense of wonder,” Shteyrenberg added.
“In the last four years, the Miami Jewish Film Festival has grown from a small local event to one of the top Jewish film festivals in the world. It has become a world-class destination event known for showcasing the best in cinema and for its commitment to educate, build community, and stimulate discussion and thought,” said Gary Yarus, Miami Jewish Film Festival chair.
“Music features prominently as a theme at this year’s festival. This year’s program has something for everyone, from star-studded films to noteworthy foreign dramas. We welcome you to explore and discover the best of international cinema at our 21st annual edition,” Yarus added.
The 21st annual Miami Jewish Film Festival will open with the premiere of Itzhak, Alison Chernick’s documentary about world famous violinist Itzhak Perlman. Preceding the premiere will be a live performance of Itzhak Perlman’s most memorable music by the Amernet String Quartet, ensemble-in-residence at FIU.
Closing night will feature the premiere of Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me, the first major documentary about the legendary entertainer. Directed by Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Sam Pollard, the film focuses a spotlight on Davis’ personal life and career as he navigated the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress during the 20th Century.
Other notable music themed films in the festival include the Florida premiere of Django, a period drama about Jazz legend Django Reinhardt. Miami’s popular Jazz band The French Horn Collective will bring Django’s iconic Gypsy swing music to life with special live performances.
Also featured will be the North American premiere of Good Deeds: The Conductor Zubin Mehta, a dazzling celebration of the legendary Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra conductor’s life, work, and belief that music heals and inspires. A highlight of the evening will be a live performance by the Alhambra Quartet and an introduction by world-renowned conductor Daniel Andai.
This year’s festival will debut an After Hours Presentation of the classic animated feature, Fantastic Planet, which will include a live score performed by Mystvries, a synthwave artist from Miami’s Bribery Corporation.
Three films will receive world premieres at the 21st annual Miami Jewish Film Festival, including Dennis Scholl and Kareem Tabsch’s Miami Beach focused documentary, The Last Resort, an uncannily revealing portrait of American photographer Andy Sweet, who captured the vibrant community of Jewish retirees who populated the sunburned paradise of 1970s Miami Beach.
Also receiving its world premiere is the harrowing documentary, A Call to Remember, about Miami Holocaust survivor David Schaecter and his lifelong dedication to honoring those who were lost. Following its world premiere, there will be a panel discussion moderated by producer Dennis Scholl with film subject David Schaecter, producer Michael Berenbaum, and director Ken Winikur.
Twelve films directed by women will premiere at the Festival this year, including the world premiere of Lisa Ades’ GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II, the first documentary to tell the profound and unique story of the 550,000 Jewish men and women who served in World War II; the North American premieres of Silvia Quer’s powerful period drama The Light of Hope and Isabel Gathof’s documentary Moritz Daniel Oppenheim: The First Jewish Painter; the Florida premieres of Judy Kreith and Robin Truesdale’s captivating documentary Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels, which tells the little-known story of the Jewish refugees who escaped Nazi-occupied Europe and found a safe haven in Cuba; Alexandra Dean’s critically acclaimed documentary Bombshell! The Hedy Lamarr Story, and Rachel Israel’s heartwarming love story, Keep the Change, about the budding romance between a high-functioning autistic man and the woman he meets in a support group, which will launch the annual Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month in Greater Miami.
The festival will celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday with a specially curated Israel at 70 program headlined by the premiere of Ben-Gurion, Epilogue, winner of the Ophir Award (Israeli Oscars) for Best Documentary. This remarkable film is an invaluable historical document compiled from newly discovered conversations with Israel’s founding father and one of the most important statesmen of the 20th Century. The premiere will feature the attendance of Alon Ben-Gurion, David Ben-Gurion’s grandson, who will participate in an extended conversation with the audience after the screening.
The Israel at 70 program also will feature premieres of films by Israel’s most acclaimed and internationally celebrated directors, including Samuel Maoz’s Foxtrot, winner of eight Israeli Ophir Awards, the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival, and Israel’s official entry for the
Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film; Eran Riklis’ highly anticipated thriller, Shelter; Dan Wolman’s passionate period drama, An Israeli Love Story; Savi Gabizon’s Longing, winner of the Audience Award at the Venice Film Festival, and Nir Bergman’s touching drama, Saving Neta.
Other highlights include the award-winning forbidden love story, The Cakemaker, the riveting drama The Testament, the beloved comedy, Maktub, one of Israel’s biggest box office hits of the year, and the feature film debut Scaffolding, winner of the Best Israeli Film Award at the Jerusalem Film Festival.
Tickets for the Festival are on sale now and continue throughout the festival. Patrons are encouraged to purchase tickets online. In addition to $13 single tickets, MJFF will offer full festival passes for $275. More information is available at www.miamijewishfilmfestival.org and by calling 305-573-7304.