Dec 11, 2017

Announcing the 21st Annual Festival Program

The best of international cinema returns to Miami when the Miami Jewish Film Festival (MJFF) takes over the city for its 21st year, bringing 62 films from 20 countries, and hosting 50 filmmakers and special guests. MJFF, the largest Jewish cultural event in Florida and one of the three largest Jewish film festivals in the world, has announced a line-up of films to be screened and events to be celebrated from January 11-25, 2018, featuring World Premieres, North American Premieres, US Premieres, and Florida Premieres.

Music features prominently as a theme at this year’s Festival. The 21st annual Miami Jewish Film Festival will open with the premiere of Itzhak, Alison Chernick’s documentary about world-famous violinist Itzhak Perlman. Preceding the premiere will be a live performance of Itzhak Perlman’s most memorable music by the Amernet String Quartet, ensemble-in-residence at FIU. Closing night will feature the premiere of Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me, the first major documentary about the legendary entertainer. Directed by Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Sam Pollard, the film focuses a spotlight on Davis’ personal life and career as he navigated the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress during the 20th century.

Other notable music-themed films in the Festival include the Florida Premiere of Django, a period drama about Jazz legend Django Reinhardt. Miami’s popular Jazz band The French Horn Collective will bring Django’s iconic Gypsy swing music to life with special live performances. Also featured will be the North American Premiere of Good Deeds: The Conductor Zubin Mehta, a dazzling celebration of the legendary Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra conductor’s life, work, and belief that music heals and inspires. A highlight of the evening will be a live performance by the Alhambra Quartet and an introduction by world-renowned Conductor Daniel Andai.

This year’s Festival will debut an After Hours Presentation of the classic animated feature, Fantastic Planet, which will include a live score performed by Mystvries, a synthwave artist from Miami’s Bribery Corporation.

Itzhak, Opening Night Film Premiere

Three films will receive World Premieres at the 21st annual Miami Jewish Film Festival, including Dennis Scholl and Kareem Tabsch’s Miami Beach focused documentary, The Last Resort, an uncannily revealing portrait of American photographer Andy Sweet, who captured the vibrant community of Jewish retirees who populated the sunburned paradise of 1970s Miami Beach. Also receiving its World Premiere is the harrowing documentary, A Call to Remember, about Miami Holocaust survivor David Schaecter and his lifelong dedication to honoring those who were lost. Following its World Premiere, there will be a panel discussion moderated by producer Dennis Scholl with film subject David Schaecter, producer Michael Berenbaum, and director Ken Winikur.

Twelve films directed by women will premiere at the Festival this year, including the World Premiere of Lisa Ades’ GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II, the first documentary to tell the profound and unique story of the 550,000 Jewish men and women who served in World War II; the North American Premieres of Silvia Quer’s powerful period drama The Light of Hope and Isabel Gathof’s documentary Moritz Daniel Oppenheim: The First Jewish Painter; the Florida Premieres of Judy Kreith & Robin Truesdale’s captivating documentary Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels, which tells the little-known story of the Jewish refugees who escaped Nazi-occupied Europe and found a safe haven in Cuba; Alexandra Dean’s critically acclaimed documentary Bombshell! The Hedy Lamarr Story; and, Rachel Israel’s heartwarming love story, Keep the Change, about the budding romance between a high-functioning autistic man and the woman he meets in a support group, which will launch the annual Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month in Greater Miami.

Bombshell!, Florida Premiere

The Festival will celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday with a specially curated Israel at 70 program headlined by the premiere of Ben-Gurion, Epilogue, winner of the Ophir Award (Israeli Oscars) for Best Documentary. This remarkable film is an invaluable historical document compiled from newly discovered conversations with Israel’s founding father and one of the most important statesmen of the 20th century. The premiere will feature the attendance of Alon Ben-Gurion, David Ben-Gurion’s grandson, who will participate in an extended conversation with the audience after the screening.

The Israel at 70 program will also feature premieres of films by Israel’s most acclaimed and internationally celebrated directors, including Samuel Maoz’s Foxtrot, winner of eight Israeli Ophir Awards, the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival, and Israel’s official entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film; Eran Riklis’ highly anticipated thriller, Shelter; Dan Wolman’s passionate period drama, An Israeli Love Story; Savi Gabizon’s Longing, winner of the Audience Award at the Venice Film Festival; and Nir Bergman’s touching drama, Saving Neta. Other highlights include the award-winning forbidden love story, The Cakemaker, the riveting drama The Testament, the beloved comedy, Maktub, one of Israel’s biggest box office hits of the year, and the feature film debut Scaffolding, winner of the Best Israeli Film Award at the Jerusalem Film Festival.

Cruise, Florida Premiere

As the Festival enters its new decade of growth, it is proud to launch its inaugural City to City program by shining the spotlight on filmmakers from Yerucham, Israel, Miami’s partnership community. This eclectic selection of films in the City to City program showcases a broad picture of rising talents, presenting new perspectives and creativity by this remarkable city’s next generation of filmmakers as they advance Israeli cinema and cultural arts.

Other noteworthy films at this year’s Festival include Filmworker, the untold story of Leon Vitali, who gave up fame and fortune to serve for decades as Stanley Kubrick’s right-hand man. The premiere will feature the attendance of Leon Vitali, who will participate in an extended conversation with the audience after the screening. The Festival will also premiere The Last Poker Game featuring legendary Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau’s final onscreen performance; Arnaud Desplechin’s Ismael’s Ghosts starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Marion Cotillard; Emily Ratajkowski’s new romantic period drama, Cruise, directed by Robert D. Siegel (screenwriter of Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler); as well as three North American Premieres, including The Hero, an original thriller written and directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Menno Meyjes (writer of The Color Purple and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), Shalom Bollywood, which presents the unlikely story of Indian Jewish influence on the world’s largest film industry; and Tevye’s Daughters, a startling new film adaptation of beloved Jewish writer Sholem Aleichem’s life-affirming story, which was previously adapted into the Oscar-winning film, Fiddler on the Roof.

The Last Resort, World Premiere

In a continued effort to expand its focus and to strengthen its support of emerging filmmakers, MJFF will host its third annual Short Film Competition, showcasing prestigious international short films, as well as many new discoveries. Presented in partnership with Film Movement, a renowned US Distributor, one winner will be selected to receive a distribution contract and a cash prize. Together, the Miami Jewish Film Festival and Film Movement seek to discover and develop independent artists, and to provide a platform for them to present their works to a global audience.

Tickets for the Festival go on sale to the public on Monday, December 11 and continue throughout the Festival. Patrons are encouraged to purchase tickets online. In addition to $13 single tickets, MJFF will offer full Festival passes for $275. More information is available at and by calling 305-573-7304.

Follow the Miami Jewish Film Festival on Facebook (/miamijewishfilmfestival) or Twitter (@MiamiJFF) for updates with the latest information about the Festival and attending filmmakers. Join the conversation using the hashtag #mjff21 on social media.

The Miami Jewish Film Festival is a program of the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE), a subsidiary of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

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