December 2019

The Pearls of Jewish Film


By Alanna Maya

The San Diego Center for Jewish Culture (CJC) will host the 30th anniversary of the iconic San Diego International Jewish Film Festival (SDIJFF) next month. Running Thursday, Feb. 13 through Sunday, Feb. 23, the festival “showcases a selection of the best contemporary Jewish-related films across multiple genres and aims to educate and illuminate the diverse Jewish experience through evocative, independent narrative, and documentary films.”

Each year, the festival draws crowds of people of all ages to see new works selected over the course of the last year by film festival staff (in fact, the screening/selection process starts March 1 and runs through the end of September). In total, 35 feature films will be screened in four locations across San Diego County, with a new venue at the La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas bringing these works to North County.

“The film festival is an opportunity to share our rich heritage, culture and values with all of San Diego County,” said Christina Fink, film festival chairperson. “As we approach the 30th anniversary, we look forward to continuing to produce an event that offers award-winning films that promote awareness, appreciation and pride in the diversity of Jewish people, while also making the festival accessible to all generations through the mobile app.”

In January, the SDIJFF Mobile app will be available, allowing attendees to customize their festival schedule, find theatre locations, vote for the Audience Choice Award, learn about guest speakers, and stay up to date on festival events.

In addition to the carefully selected documentary and narrative films, the festival showcases a variety of movies incorporating themes such as social activism, romance, religion, LGBTQ+ issues, Israeli-Arab relations, history, ethics, current events, comedy and the arts.

Special guests, filmmakers and scholars will introduce the films, participate in Q&As, and meet-and-greets throughout the festival. Screenings will be held at the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA), La Paloma Theatre, Reading Cinemas Town Square and the David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre inside the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, JACOBS FAMILY CAMPUS, home to a new state-of-the-art theater, thanks to generous donations by Dr. Irwin and Joan Jacobs.

“Thanks to this generous donation of a new screen and a new projector, the Garfield is now one of the highest technologically-advanced theaters in the country,” Fink said. “The Film festival’s screenings will be shown in this state-of-the-art theater, and we are very excited to share [these upgrades] with the community, because it takes viewing a film at the JCC to another level.”

The San Diego premiere of Picture of His Life will open the film festival on Thursday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at Reading Cinemas Town Square with the film’s director, Dani Menkin as special guest in attendance.

“The film focuses on world-renowned Israeli photographer Amos Nachoum who brazenly puts himself into his subjects’ environment and captures some of the most astonishing images of our time. Now Nachoum is on a quest for the ‘picture of his life’ by swimming with and photographing a polar bear. This breathtaking documentary follows Nachoum and his team to the freezing Arctic, where we see the intense preparation and patience necessary for his work and come to understand why he believes that nature is crucial to maintaining a peaceful and joyous life,” according to festival organizers.

Following the screening, Menkin will receive an award and participate in a Q&A session with the audience. The very next night, another Menkin-directed film, Aulcie, the sequel to his award-winning film On the Map, will be shown at the SDIJFF. This new film showcases the turbulent career and complicated personal life of American-turned-Israeli basketball player Aulcie Perry. The film will be screened Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at the David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre (private event with Dani Menkin in attendance) and Sunday, Feb. 23 at 12:30 p.m. at Reading Cinemas Town Square.

Another San Diego premiere, Standing Up, Falling Down with Billy Crystal tells the story of a struggling stand-up comedian named Scott, who is forced to return to his family home in Long Island. There, he encounters regret and disappointment until he strikes up a friendship with Marty, an eccentric dermatologist and charming karaoke-singing barfly. The unlikely duo, played by Ben Schwartz (Scott) and Billy Crystal (Marty), combine humor with drama as they find strength in facing their failures together. The film will be screened Saturday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m., both at Reading Cinemas Town Square.

Another film making its San Diego debut is Mossad!, the “greatest box-office success in Israeli cinema of 2019.” It cleverly channels James Bond and other movie secret agents and delivers wacky humor, stunts, and dialogue as Mossad and the CIA team up to rescue an American tech billionaire held hostage in Israel. Boldly poking fun at the political relationship between Israel and the U.S., this film could be an antidote to current political realities. The film will be screened Saturday, Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Reading Cinemas Town Square.

Four films submitted to the 92nd Academy Awards for the 2020 Best International Feature film will be screened, including Incitement (Israel), an intense thriller that follows Yigal Amir (Yehuda Nahari Halevi) in his progression from right-wing law student to assassin of Yitzak Rabin. The film will be screened Wednesday, Feb .19 at 7:15 p.m. and Thursday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. both at Reading Cinemas Town Square.

The Mover (Latvia) looks at the life of Zanis Lipke, the Oskar Schindler of Latvia. A reluctant worker in a Luftwaffe factory, he saw the Jews who were forced to work there and managed to spirit them away to a bunker he dug on his own property. The film will be screened Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 7:15 p.m. at Reading Cinemas Town Square and Thursday, Feb. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the La Paloma Theatre.

Those Who Remained (Hungary) follows two people who meet and form an unlikely — and misunderstood — friendship that demonstrates the healing power of love in the midst of loss, trauma, and national conflict. A lyrical story of the healing power of love in the midst of national conflict, lost and trauma, the film reveals the healing process of Holocaust survivors through the eyes of a young girl in post-World War II Hungary. The film will be screened Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 7:45 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m., both at Reading Cinemas Town Square.

Wolkenbruch’s Wondrous Journey into the Arms of a Shiksa (Switzerland) — How does a young, marriageable Orthodox man manage to lead his own life without being smothered by his family and constrained by his religion? Poor Mordechai (Motti), a Woody Allen-esque figure, nagged by his mother about finding a nice Jewish girl to marry, instead finds himself smitten with a shiksa (non- Jewish woman) and is thus in a quandary. The film will be screened Sunday, Feb. 16 at 4 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 23 at 3:30 p.m., both at Reading Cinemas Town Square.

For show times and full film descriptions, visit Single ticket prices are $14.25 for JCC members and $16.25 for non-members. Opening and closing night film tickets are $19.00. Festival passes, senior, student and group rate discounts are available.


The San Diego International Jewish Film runs Feb. 13–23, 2020, featuring award-winning films, guest speakers, panel discussions and more, at these venues:

  • Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, JACOBS FAMILY CAMPUS David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla; February 12 (private Underwriter screening), 14 and 21, 2020
  • La Paloma Theatre, 471 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024; February 18-20, 2020
  • Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA), 1649 El Prado, San Diego; February 15-16, 2020
  • Reading Cinemas Town Square, 4665 Clairemont Drive, San Diego; February 13, 15-20, 22-23, 2020

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  1. […] Recommended Reading *Alanna Maya of L’Chaim San Diego Magazine has written a preview piece about the San Diego International Jewish Film Festival, which is coming in […]

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