Running from October 30 to November 17, the UK Jewish Film Festival is a nationwide affair boasting more than 80 films screening in five cities (Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester). This year’s event includes 53 UK premieres, showcasing work from all over the world, plus a new Video On Demand channel enabling users to watch archival favourites.
Several female filmmakers are attending the festival. Austrian writer-director Barbara Albert will be in discussion after the British unveiling of her pan-European drama The Dead and the Living; ditto German-Argentine auteur Jeanine Meerapfel with her postwar Buenos Aires-based love story My German Friend; while Tracie Holder presents her and Karen Thorsen’s New York theatre pioneer profile Joe Papp in Five Acts (to be followed by a panel discussion led by Zoë Wanamaker). Roberta Grossman’s documentary about the popular Jewish party standard, Hava Nagila (The Movie), will be celebrated with a post-screening set by DJ Little Miss Tan. There are further UK premieres scheduled for Palestinian star Hiam Abbass’ directorial debut Inheritance and Danièle Thompson’s glitzy French comedy It Happened in Saint-Tropez, plus previews of Rama Burshtein’s eagerly awaited Haredi community tale Fill the Void (which we’ll return to in depth for its theatrical release in December).
UKJFF was founded by in 1997 as Brighton Jewish Film Festival by Judy Ironside, who kindly took the time to answer BEV’s questions via email…
BEV: Congratulations on your 17th edition, Judy! Thinking back to 1997, what were your goals when founding the event in Brighton? And how has your mission statement evolved over the years?
JI: My goals back then were to bring the best of films with Jewish themes to UK audiences. To me this meant sourcing films that would enthrall audiences and enlighten them about Jewish history, customs and worldwide cultures. I have always sought to promote female filmmakers and this is becoming much easier now since more women are making very powerful films.
How does one define ‘Jewish film’?
We find that we are increasingly broadening the way we define ‘Jewish film’. Whereas way back it was a film with a theme that related to Jewish history, culture or experience. Now we are looking at parallel experiences – such as that of Muslims, displacement and refugees – and films that are made by Jewish directors.
In 2012 you held simultaneous screenings across the country. Do you think the British film industry is too London-centric?
We are always looking for ways to widen our audiences, both in London and across the UK, and this primarily means taking the festival to a very wide demographic and reaching out to new and diverse audiences. Of course, we can do this in London but we feel it is very important to take the festival beyond London. This is very much appreciated by our other UK audiences, who we now reach in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Glasgow.
Birds Eye View supports and celebrates the work of female filmmakers, who are well-represented at UKJFF. Please tell us a little about the women directors who will be attending in 2013?.
This year all our female film directors are new to UKJFF and we are very excited about showcasing their work. We pride ourselves in seeking out female talent and we are delighted with the standard of these directors, such as Jill Soloway for Afternoon Delight, Diane Groó for Regina and Hilla Medalia for Dancing in Jaffa. We feel very priveleged to be able to celebrate the work of all our female filmmakers.
Finally, what advice would you give to members of our BEV community who are interested in programming film events themselves?
Think about what thrills you about films and how you might be able to bring unique titles that would not otherwise be shown in the UK. Then it is a mix of your own enthusiasm and some solid hard work to choose your film and venue and get the event publicised to a large number of people, with inviting synopses and good marketing.