The Washington Jewish Film Festival (Wjff) celebrates its 25th year with 11 days of dynamic film programming – accompanied by cultural and educational events – exploring the best of international cinema through a distinctly Jewish lens. February 19 through March 1, audiences will be treated to more than 100 screenings and related events across the Washington area. Hosted by the Washington Dcjcc, this year’s milestone festival features world, East Coast and mid-Atlantic premieres, an exciting roster of filmmaker and cast appearances, and an exquisitely curated line-up of screenings, festivities and other programs including 12 Wjff retrospective film screenings curated by former festival directors in honor of the 25th year.
“For 25 years, this festival has celebrated international cinema in building the single largest Jewish cultural event in Washington,” said Ilya Tovbis, Washington Jewish Film Festival director. “With our most ambitious festival to date, the 25th Wjff will honor a quarter-century of exhibiting the full diversity of the Jewish experience.”
A full festival schedule can be found at www.wjff.org. Highlights are included below.
Among the programs scheduled to take the festival beyond the screen are the 5th Annual Community Education Day on Arab Citizens of Israel, a day of in-depth exploration of the daily lives and challenges of Israel’s Arab population through a keynote address by the president of Al-Qasemi College of Engineering and Science, a panel discussion among Middle East experts, and the D.C. premiere of the film, Dancing Arabs
, with its filmmaker Eran Riklis
(Sunday, February 22, from 1:30-5 p.m. at the Dcjcc); a state of the cinema address on Israeli documentary film (Tuesday, February 24, at 7 p.m. at the Dcjcc); a pre-festival workshop led by leading Washington and New York film critics for a small group of Washington students; a short film student competition; and the third iteration of Two Jews Walk into a Bar, a cinematic bar event (Sunday, February 8, at 5 p.m.)Opening Night
Film: "Magic Men
will feature "Magic Men
," in which a 78-year-old Greek-born atheist (Makram Khouri, Ophir-winner for Best Actor) and his estranged Hasidic rapper son travel from Israel to Greece searching for the magician who saved the father’s life during World War II. Their Adriatic road trip erupts into constant bickering but also has moments of affection, humor, and good will, as father and son reconnect during their adventure. The film is the latest feature from the directors of "Mabul
," "A Matter of Size
," and "Strangers." Opening Night
will be held Thursday, February 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, and The Opening Night Party with Director Guy Nattiv
will be held at the Silver Spring Civic Building at Veterans Plaza immediately following the screening.
Centerpiece Evening: "Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem"
Wjff’s Centerpiece Evening will take place at the AFI Silver Theatre on Saturday, February 21, at 7 p.m. and feature an extended Q&A session with Theodore Bikel
, the unstoppable performer whose career spans more than 150 screen roles (including an Oscar-nominated turn in The Defiant Ones
) and countless stage and musical productions. In "Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem," portraits of two beloved icons—Sholom Aleichem
and Theodore Bikel
—are woven together in an enchanting new documentary. The two men have much in common: wit, wisdom and talent, filled with deep humanity and Yiddishkeit. Theodore Bikel
, now 90, Bikel has played Tevye
the Milkman on stage more than 2,000 times, and has animated Aleichem's work through his two celebrated musical plays about the great Russian author. An additional screening will take place Monday, February 23, at 8:45 p.m. at the Washington Dcjcc.
Wjff Visionary Award: "Hester Street
The Annual Wjff Visionary Award recognizes creativity and insight in presenting the full diversity of the Jewish experience through the moving image. The 2015 honorees are Carol Kane
and Joan Micklin Silver
. Carol Kane
will be present at a screening of her Oscar-nominated performance in Silver’s humorous and poignant movie, "Hester Street
," about a traditional Jewish woman (Carol Kane
) who arrives with her son to America in the 1890s, only to discover that her cheating husband has assimilated and resents his wife’s old-fashioned ways. The Wjff Visionary Award will be presented Tuesday, February 24, at 7:15 p.m. at the AFI Silver Theatre.
Spotlight Evening: "East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem"
Israeli-Palestinian singer Mira Awad
and songwriter Steve Earle
will join legendary singer-songwriter David Broza
for a 45-minute musical set and Q&A following a screening of "East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem" on Thursday, February 26, at 7 p.m. at Sidney Harman Hall of the Shakespeare Theater Company. In the film, Broza journeys to East Jerusalem to record his latest album with Israeli, Palestinian and American musicians.
Closing Night: "Mr. Kaplan
The 25th Wjff will come to a close at the Dcjcc on March 1, at 7:30 p.m. with a screening of Uruguay’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award, "Mr. Kaplan." In Uruguayan director Alvaro Brechner’s 2014 feature film, 76-year-old Jacob Kaplan, fed up with his community and his family’s lack of interest in its own heritage, becomes convinced that his German neighbor is a runaway Nazi and secretly takes on the role of a spy, but he is no match for the forces of age. This heartwarming comedy tells the truth of life that transcends time and ideology. The Closing Night Reception and Audience Award announcements follow the screening.
Additional Films of Note
Nominated for this year’s Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, the 2014 Israeli film "Gett
, the Trial of Viviane Amsalem," will be screened Wednesday, February 25, at 8:45 p.m. at the Avalon Theatre. Director Ronit Elkabetz
tells the story of Amsalem, who is seeking a Jewish divorce from her estranged husband, who repeatedly refuses over the course of several years, leaving Amsalem locked in a seemingly unending battle created by the rules of Orthodox marriage in Israel. The film is Israel’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award and was the Israeli Film Academy’s 2014 Best Film.
The Hebrew language "The Farewell Party" is a dark comedy about a group of friends at a Jerusalem retirement home who build a machine for self-euthanasia to help a terminally ill friend – and then requests start coming in from more and more fellow retirement home residents interested in such a service. To be screened Saturday, February 28
at 7 p.m. at AFI Silver Theatre, and then again on Sunday, March 1, at 5:15 p.m. at the Dcjcc, the film won 2015 Ophir Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Actor.
"Next to Her
," also in Hebrew with English subtitles, tells the arresting story of Chelli and her mentally disabled sister, whom she is raising by herself until required by a social worker to place her in a day-care center, only to then meet a man who leads to a relationship triangle between the three. The film was a critically acclaimed selection for the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. It will be screened Monday, February 23 at 7:15 p.m. at AFI Silver Theatre; Thursday, February 26 at 8:30 p.m. at the Katzen Arts Center at American University; and Saturday, February 28
at 6:45 p.m. at the Jcc of Greater Washington in Rockville.
Silent Films with Live Original Music: "Breaking Home Ties" and "The Golem"
On Monday, February 23, Wjff will screen the first of two silent films with live original music accompaniment. At 6:30 p.m. at the Dcjcc, pianist Donald Sosin
and violinist Joseph Morag will accompany the 1922 silent film, "Breaking Home Ties." Then on Thursday, February 26 at 7:15 p.m. at the AFI Silver Theatre, Grammy-nominated Gary Lucas will present a reprisal of one of his most beloved original scores, the 1920 German silent horror-fantasy-expressionist film "The Golem," the tale of a 16th-century rabbi who made a man out of clay to save the Jewish community of Prague from annihilation.
Films with Local Ties/Themes
"The Rosenwald Schools
On Wednesday, February 25, at 6:30 p.m., local filmmaker and former Washington Film Festival Director Aviva Kempner
will be present for the world premiere of her new documentary at the Avalon Theater. The film tells the incredible story of how businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald joined with African-American communities in the South to build schools for the black community during the early part of the 20th century.
"My Favorite Neoconservative
Raised in the Washington suburbs, the film’s director, Yael Luttwak
watched inside the Beltway bigwigs walk the halls of her childhood home; her father, Edward Luttwak, is a prominent conservative military strategist who was the architect of the air campaign of the first Iraq war. The documentary reveals the personalities behind the headlines and tells a father-daughter story with a sardonic political twist. The film will be screened Sunday, March 1, at 3:15 p.m. at the Dcjcc.
Patrons are encouraged to purchase tickets online. In addition to $12 single tickets, Wjff will be offering full festival passes for $125 and All Access
VIP Passes for $225. More information is available at www.wjff.org and by calling 1-888-718-4253.
About the Washington Jewish Film Festival
The Washington Jewish Film Festival (Wjff) is the centerpiece of the Washington Dcjcc’s comprehensive year-round film program. One of the largest and most respected Jewish film festivals in North America, Wjff is an international exhibition of cinema that celebrates the diversity of Jewish history, culture and experience through the moving image.
The Wjff serves over 15,000 people annually through 80+ screenings, nearly all of which are world, U.S. or regional premieres.
Follow the Washington Jewish Film Festival on Twitter ( @wjff ) for updates with the latest information about the festival and filmmakers who will participate in the Wjff Lounge. Join the conversation using #wjff2015 on social media.
About the Washington Dcjcc
The Washington Dcjcc works to preserve and strengthen Jewish identity, heritage, tradition and values through a wide variety of social, cultural, recreational and educational programs and services. The Dcjcc is committed to welcoming everyone in the community; membership and all activities are open to all. The Dcjcc is a partner agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and a designated agency of the United Way. Follow on Twitter ( @16thstreetj ), like on Facebook , and find more information online at www.washingtondcjcc.org .
The Morris Cafritz Center for the Arts at the Dcjcc, of which the Wjff and the year-round film series are a part, presents fresh, pertinent and provocative Jewish voices that address issues both contemporary and universal. The Center is supported by a grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.