UK Jewish Film Festival Announces Programme


by Ella Fitzsimmons

The launch of the 17th UK Jewish Film Festival began, as many gatherings of G-D’s Chosen people, with a discussion over the relative quality of the bagels being served. And no, that is not an ethnic stereotype, that is the truth. (With a Jewish mother and a Catholic father, I’m technically allowed to make Jewish jokes but I feel the need to confess afterwards). Pretty good bagels, average lox. I was also told the best Jewish joke I’ve heard in years, by the lovely Glaswegian-Jewish comedian Arnold Brown, but I’m not repeating it until the end of this preview.

Kicking off on the 30th of October with a screening of The Jewish Cardinal at BFI Southbank, the festival runs until November 17th, with more than 80 films and 90 screenings in 12 venues, not only in London but also in exotic locations like Manchester and Leeds. Embracing the needs of the film-loving diaspora outside these fine cities (or at least recognising that some of us are too – ahem- “busy” to attend in person), the good people of UKJFF have introduced a video on demand channel for the duration of the festival. Several of the films will be UK premieres, and for those of us who wasted our youth lusting after unattainable Israelis, 1/3 of the films hail from the Promised Land. Loosely based on the films being “Jewish or Jew-ish”, the films include documentaries, drama, comedy, new and old.

The screening showed some promise, and the promise of a raging stinker. Blumenthal looked good, for a production from the “entitled manboy” genre– though can you ever go to a film by a film maker (Seth Fisher) hailed as the “next Woody Allen”? What that does even mean? Shit Woody Allen like in Curse of the Jade Scorpion? Genius Woody Allen who might actually not hate women like in Annie Hall? Or “Well, at least it has the occasional one-liner” Woody Allen like the movie where he put Scarlett Johansson in frumpy glasses? I suspect it *just* means Jewish and neurotic and male. And my suspicion that the “genius” and “male” bits of that are being lumped together brings out my angry feminist rage. But, in the interest of fairness, it does look good.

I’ll probably go see Afternoon Delight because it’s written and directed by Jill Soloway (a woman!), but I suspect it will probably annoy me because the trailer shows it to be full of beautiful, rich white middle class people having beautiful, rich middle class people problems. For the record, these appear to include being bored with your life when you’re about forty and not having enough sex in your giant house. The rest of us recognised before we were twenty that basic survival was the best we could hope for, and that the accident of someone agreeing to sleep with us was akin to the Polynesian Cargo Cults, to be talked about and celebrated for the next twenty years of our miserable existence. We never got the giant house. Or the live-in stripper, who acts as the “hilarity ensues”-outsider in this script, unless the trailer lies. Still, the film seemed pretty funny, which I respect. Though after I was asked to “twerk it” at a wedding this weekend, I’m really not sure we’ve reclaimed pole dancing as a feminist act.

The documentaries look great: about the Hava Nagila, Jews on Broadway, and Joe Papps, who set up Shakespeare in the Park in New York (I have never managed to get tickets but I hear it’s excellent).

No film festival is complete without a self-important and ridiculous shitshow of a film, and The Congress, Ari Folman’s second film following the hard-to-watch-but-brilliant Waltz with Bashir looks comically bad. Robin Wright is made into a perfect cartoon woman, by a film studio, in a half-animated feature. It looks appalling, but what do I know? The Guardian previewer liked it. For me, the only positive side effect of seeing that preview, other than the unintentional snorts clearing my sinuses, was that it reminded me of when Robin Wright really was the perfect woman, in The Princess Bride. Come back, William Goldman, your people need you.

Last but not least, everyone should go to legendary comedian Arnold Brown’s preview where he talks about the film he is making of his early life. Any man who is honest enough to admit that he is only in movies to meet young people is obviously an excellent sort, and he told me this: “You heard about my local Orthodox Rabbi? He hired a Shabbos Goy to turn on his wife on Fridays.” Genius. Get that man a Twitter account and funding for his film stat!

For further information and full programme details, please visit

Leave a Reply