When organizers for the San Diego Jewish International Film Festival begin their screening process to find the best of the best in movies and bring them to San Diego to screen at the SD Jewish International Film Festival, they set out to build a comprehensive schedule of exciting films and corresponding events that showcase them.
“There were so many good films,” Christina Fink, Chair of the SDIJFF says. “I would say that in total, we probably looked at about 300 films, which we narrowed down to the 35 in the festival this year.”
The festival’s 33rd year in San Diego, is being held in a hybrid format, February 16-26 in-person at the David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre, and February 26-March 3 online. The decision to allow a streaming option, according to Fink, is central to the festival’s mission.
“Our mission is really to serve the community and we continue to recognize that there are people that either don’t want to or can’t come to the theater [to watch these films in person] and [the streaming option is] our gift to continue share film in the best way we can.”
The opening night film, Karaoke is a “darling, funny Israeli comedy,” Fink says. “The themes are very universal of a couple that’s been married many years. What marriage is a little bit stale? What do you do about that?”
Karaoke is one of eight Israeli films to be screened at the Garfield this month. A true international festival, of the 35 total films being screened, six come from France; three come from Poland; two each come from Germany, Austria, and Spain; one each come from Belgium, Italy, and the UK; and 11 hail from the United States.
The Centerpiece Film, which Fink says is the “true center of the festival” is a documentary called Rock Camp. A camp for adults who are just crazy about rock and roll, Rock Camp allows participants to study and play instruments with famous musicians. An institution and cultural phenomenon that has been going on in Los Angeles, New York and other cities since 1996, Rock Camp is the brainchild of music producer David Fishof. Rock star “counselors” include Roger Daltrey, Alice Cooper, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, Nancy Wilson, Joe Perry, Jeff Beck, Slash and countless other rock legends. The counselors teach, inspire and jam with the campers over the course of four days. Each Rock Camp concludes with all of the counselors and their respective campers, performing together. David Fishof, Founder of Rock n Roll Fantasy Camp, will speak after the film’s screening on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m.
Other receptions throughout the festival are designed to bring people back to the JCC and to increase the festival feeling and make a screening there feel different than going to the movies.
“The events and seeing friends and neighbors at the movies is a great part of ‘festing,’” Fink says, “so there will be many receptions scattered throughout the festival. We’re trying to put on some kind of reception or event for all the seven evening films, and then we have a few events being sponsored by community groups.”
A SDIJFF tradition, Friday screenings are known as Women’s Day at the Festival, and films presented on these days feature either women as protagonists of the film or have a female director. Films to be screened include Alegría and Haute Couture on Friday, February 17; Searching For Gerda Taro and Cinema Sabaya on Friday, February 24.
“It doesn’t mean men can’t come to these showings,” Fink says, “but [we hope that these screenings bring women’s groups] like a lady’s book club for a girls day out with a friend and lunch.”
In another way to foster community and bring people together, the Festival offers some screenings free. Check the schedule for more information about these films, including titles, synopses, and screening times.
The importance of a festival like this being held in San Diego, according to Fink, cannot be understated.
“Historically, we have brought some very big names to the community with this festival, and we continue to do so to support the people in our community; as a way to bring people together and to give back for all the support they have given [the Festival staff] over the years,” she says. “This festival is the only place you can see these films on the big screen here in San Diego, so it’s a great way to get out and support the arts.”
The 2023 San Diego International Jewish Film festival runs February 15-26 (in person); and February 27-March 3 (online). Films in person will be screened at the David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center Jacobs Family Campus, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037. Tickets can be purchased online at 2023sdijff.eventive.org/welcome. Learn more about the festival and the films being screened, visit www.lfjcc.org.