The 21st Annual Jewish Film Festival Arrives in Vancouer This Friday

Lady Kul El Arab

OK, I was spoiled. I’d grown complacent. In Maine, I was within walking distance of a cinema that showed the best of the world’s independent and documentary films—all year long. Each week a different film—sometimes two different ones running at the same time. We got them late, but we got them. The movie house was old, the seats wonky and the sound system impossible, but we were loyal—and, as I say, spoiled. 

In Vancouver, it’s cinematic feast or famine. Serious film buffs depend on festivals. So I took the plunge at this year’s VIFF, and I wasn’t disappointed. I would choose two or three films I wanted to see on a given day at a given time and venue, show up 60-90 minutes early, find out what tickets were available, and then wait for instructions about which line I was to stand in next. The conversation in these lines was lively, even festive—especially when it wasn’t raining … In one, I encountered a guy who was on his 30th film. He’d taken the week off work.  

Now just when you thought your appetite for world-class movies might be sated—here comes the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival. Cinema lovers get ready! We start up again on October 30th.  

Why a Jewish Film Festival? Why Vancouver? 

“I think that the lifestyle on the West Coast is so free and physically beautiful that we often don't reflect on life in other parts of the world,” explains VJFF Board Vice President, Sandy Penn. “This is an opportunity to highlight Jewish cultural, political and personal issues. There is a lot of heated concern about Israel, for example, and I believe that the films we show create an opportunity for audiences to understand that the issues are complex and multi-faceted.  

“For example we are showing a film titled The Palestinian Jew which chronicles the life of a Jewish man who lives in the West Bank, runs a home for troubled Jewish youth, but does not believe in the state of Israel as a nation state. We are showing films about Israeli/Arab soccer teams, a young Druse girl who wants to become Miss Israel but has to deal with death threats from her community because she will wear a bathing suit. 

“Film can put a human face on academic or political issues.”  

This year’s festival includes narrative features, comedies, documentaries, panel discussions, Skype interviews with directors, workshops, and a spotlight on Jewish France, co-sponsored by the French consulate. 

Citing what he has learned from past festivals, VJFF Executive Director Ian Merkel says, “You can’t go smaller—you have to go bigger to be successful. The more directors at the festival and the more events and sponsors the better the festival will be.” 

As Sandy Penn points out, “It’s an opportunity to interface and invite the broader non-Jewish community to join in a dialogue around Jewish issues and themes. Film is such a wonderful medium- it is accessible and affordable. A film festival provides the venue to invite directors and speakers to discuss the films, a great adjunct for audiences.” 

So whet your cinematic appetite, Vancouver. It’s coming time for another feast! 

The 21st Annual Vancouver Jewish Film Festival begins on Friday, October 30th. To find out more about the films and schedule visit: http://www.vjff.org/

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