The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival was formed in 1980, becoming the world’s first Jewish film festival of it’s kind. From July 21 to August 8, 2011 it will celebrate its 31st year in existence across four cities in the Bay Area.


As one might expect, SFJFF sets out to raise awareness and understanding of the Jewish community, while also exploring Jewish culture. It’s also known for showing damn great films.

The festival opens with Israeli film, Mabul (The Flood), which was nominated for six Israeli Academy Awards and follows the Rosko family, each member struggling with his or her own secrets. But when their autistic son rejoins the family the tension finally comes to a head. Director Guy Nattiv will be in attendance with a post-film party following at Café Du Nord.

The following films will also be presented:

77 Steps follows filmmaker Ibitsam Mara’ana as she leaves her small Arab-Muslim village and finds herself living in a city, Tel-Aviv, for the first time. There she meets Jonathan, a Jewish-Canadian, as the film chronicles their relationship and her new life against the backdrop of the 2009 Gaza war.

Bobby Fischer Against the World is the critically acclaimed documentary about Jewish chess prodigy, and world chess champion, Bobby Fischer. Focusing on his infamous 1972 World Championship match against Boris Spassky, the documentary follows Fischer from genius to madness.

Connected puts Bay Area filmmaker Tiffany Shlain into the spotlight. In her search to find the human need to connect she looks into everything from the honeybee crisis to her struggle to have a second child. But the film takes a turn and focuses on Shlain’s father Leonard Shlain, a Mill Valley surgeon and best-selling author, as he’s diagnosed with brain cancer just as the younger Shlain began making her film.

The Hangman portrays Shalom Nagar, a seemingly normal butcher living in Israel. However, he was also the prison guard and executioner of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi who coordinated the transportation of Jews to the concentration camps. The film is ultimately about humanity as Nagar provides a refreshingly human voice amidst the atrocities of recent history.

The closing night film 100 Voices: A Journey Home documents the world’s greatest Jewish singers who travel to Poland, the birthplace of cantorial music, for a series of concerts. A homecoming, of sorts, Poland is where most American Jews emigrated from and where much of the Holocaust took place. With the Jewish community almost eradicated in the country, the film follows the singers as they stage their concerts and take a look back in their own culture’s history.

Be sure to make it to Closing Night early, however, as visiting cantors Nate Lam and Marcus Feldman are joined by local Hazzanot Roslyn Barak of Temple Emanu-El and Sharon Bernstein of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav with accompaniment by the Castro Theatre’s Mighty Wurlitzer, for a performance of Jewish ceremonial melodies and an overall celebration of “Jewish gospel.”

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