Friday, January 31, 2014

Washington Jewish Film Festival Announces Line-Up

Woody Allen & John Turturro (r) in Fading Gigolo

From our friends at the Washington Jewish Film Festival...

24th Annual Washington Jewish Film Festival Announces Line-up of 64 Films from 18 countries

14 venues across the region, 40 filmmaker guests and 10,000+ attendees expected at 11-day festival

The best of international cinema will return to Washington when the Washington Jewish Film Festival (WJFF) takes over the capital city for its 24th year, bringing 64 films from 18 countries and 40 filmmaker guests including actor and director John Turturro and WJFF Visionary Award honoree and legendary Israeli filmmaker Avi Nesher. The film festival, the largest Jewish cultural event in Washington, today announced a line-up of films to be screened and events to be celebrated from February 27 – March 9, 2014, that include world, U.S. and Washington premieres of films from South Africa, Tanzania, Israel, Europe and the United States. A sneak preview of Turturro’s comedy Fading Gigolo, hot off its Toronto Film Festival premiere, is the festival’s centerpiece event on March 8. Other highlights include a curated focus on Polish cinema, a nightly WJFF Lounge where festival goers can mingle with filmmakers over drink specials, a U Street bar crawl featuring film shorts, free filmmaker talks at the Library of Congress and a pajama-themed Oscars party.

“This has been a banner year for international cinema, with some of the top filmmakers from around the world helming new works,” said Ilya Tovbis, Washington Jewish Film Festival director. “With new films by luminaries like Avi Nesher, Eytan Fox, John Turturro and Jeanine Meerapfel, our audiences are in for a real treat. Newcomers and mid-career artists join us with magnificently creative films such The Man Who Made Angels Fly, Natan and Noye’s Fludde, pushing our program in new directions.”

The festival opens Thursday, February 27, at the DCJCC with The Wonders, a film noir centering on a bartender who doubles as a graffiti artist. The film’s director Ari Nesher and original music composer Avner Dorman will mingle with guests at the opening night party.

An Israeli filmmaking pioneer who has become an accomplished producer, director, screenwriter and actor, Nesher will receive the annual WJFF Visionary Award, an honor that recognizes creativity and insight in presenting the full diversity of the Jewish experience through the moving image. After growing up in Israel and New York City, Nesher was brought to Hollywood by producer Dino De Laurentiis, where he first worked as a writer for such filmmakers as Ron Howard and James Cameron. Nesher will accept the award after a screening of his film Turn Left at the End of the World, a comedy which follows culture wars and alliances formed over the game of cricket in a small Israeli town, is one of Israel’s top grossing movies of all time. The screening and award ceremony will take place on Sunday, March 2, at 3 p.m. at the DCJCC. Nesher will also present a late night screening of his critically-acclaimed thriller The Taxman on Saturday, March 1, at 11 p.m. at the DCJCC.

This year’s Centerpiece Evening film is the insightful and hilarious sneak preview of Fading Gigolo, directed by and starring John Turturro and featuring Woody Allen. In the film, a failing New York City bookstore owner teams up with a florist to make a living by plying the world’s most ancient profession. The Centerpiece Evening will take place Saturday, March 8 at 7:15 p.m. at the AFI Silver Theater, and will be followed by an extended Q&A with Turturro.

The festival’s closing night features a screening of Cupcakes, directed by Israel’s beloved Eytan Fox, on Sunday, March 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the DCJCC. The comedy follows a group of friends who accidentally enter a Eurovision-style musical contest and their struggle to navigate the sharp elbows of the pop music business.

A curated focus on Polish cinema this year highlights Ida, an Oscar contender direct from its premiere at Sundance, about a sheltered orphan who learns shocking secrets about her past; the controversial thriller Aftermath, which tells the story of two brothers who discover a terrible secret about their father; the U.S. premiere of the documentary The Man Who Made Angels Fly about a Holocaust survivor who became a renowned marionette performer; The Jewish Cardinal, based on the true story of Jean-Marie Lustiger, who maintained his Jewish identity even after becoming a Catholic priest; and Mamale, a 1930s musical comedy about a dutiful daughter who allots no time for herself until she discovers the violinist across the courtyard.

Other notable films at this year’s festival include the world premiere of Master of a Good Name, a fully animated Claymation film about Baal Shem Tov, the famed rabbi often credited with founding Hasidic Judaism; Friends From France, fresh from a magnificent reception at its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, about young tourists in the USSR and the underground world of ‘refuseniks;’ and Bethlehem, Israel’s submission for the Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category, about the complex relationship between Israel’s secret service and a young Palestinian informant.

The festival’s Two Jews Walk Into a Bar short film bar crawl is back by popular demand after selling out last year. On Sunday, March 9, at 1 p.m., attendees will visit three U Street bars to watch a selection of short films while enjoying drinks and the camaraderie of fellow film lovers.

New this year is the WJFF Lounge at Black Whiskey on 14th Street NW, a space to chat with international filmmakers in an informal setting throughout the festival. The festival lounge will be open every evening from Saturday, March 1, through Saturday, March 8 (except Friday, March 7), from 6 p.m. through midnight. Ticket stubs earn patrons $1 off select drinks.

Because this year’s festival coincides with the Academy Awards telecast, WJFF is joining with DC Shorts to host Snuggle with the Stars, an Oscars viewing party on Sunday, March 2, at the U.S. Navy Memorial’s movie theater. The “pajama party” will feature champagne, snacks and the Oscars on a two-story screen.

WJFF is partnering with SpeakeasyDC for a night of storytelling exploring the theme of “mavericks and outliers,” central to many of the festival’s films such as Women Pioneers, Regina, and Fading Gigolo. The event will take place on Wednesday, March 5 at 8:30 p.m. at the DCJCC.

WJFF is partnering with the Library of Congress for free daily talks from Monday, March 3 through Friday, March 7, with filmmakers and other special guests. These talks will expand upon the variety of topics covered in the festival’s films.

The festival will also host the fourth annual Community Education Day on Israeli Arab Issues, a series of in-depth discussions and films that explore the daily lives and challenges of Arab citizens of Israel. The two featured films will be Dove’s Cry about a young teacher from Wadi Ara who teaches Arabic in a Jewish primary school and The Garden of Eden, a documentary about Sakhne (“hot spring”), one of the most famous and visited parks in Israel. The program will take place on Sunday, March 9 from 1-4:30 p.m. at the DCJCC.

Many of the filmmakers will be present at screenings, as noted below in the full festival line-up. Enjoy some past films from favorite filmmakers in the month leading up to the Festival in the WJFF online festival. Internet users in the Washington area can rent or download over 100 Jewish and Israeli films from January 16 through February 26 at the festival’s website.

Ticket sales begin in late January and continue through the festival, and patrons are encouraged to purchase tickets online. In addition to $12 single tickets, WJFF will be offering full festival passes for $85 or All Access VIP Passes for $125. More information is available at and by calling 1-888-718-4253.

Follow the Washington Jewish Film Festival on Twitter (@wjff) for updates with the latest information about the festival and filmmakers who will participate in the WJFF Lounge. Join the conversation using #wjff2014 on social media.

The Washington Jewish Film Festival is the flagship of the DCJCC’s year-round film program.

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Festival Lineup

NOTE: This listing includes information about feature-length films, filmmaker guests and other programming. For full information about short films, please visit

Dir. Władysław Pasikowski (104 min, Poland/Holland/Russia/Slovakia, 2013)
In Polish with English Subtitles
D.C. Premiere

A tense and gripping thriller, Aftermath tells the story of two brothers, Jozek (Maciej Stuhr) and Franek (Ireneusz Czop), who discover a terrible secret and are forced to revise their perception of their father, their entire family, their neighbors, and the history of their nation. Inspired by real-life mass killings in the town of Jedwabne, the film caused controversy in its native Poland due to its present-day reckoning with that dark period in the country's history.

Tuesday, March 4, 7:15 p.m. – AFI Silver Theatre

Saturday, March 8, 8:45 p.m. – DCJCC

Dir. Halil Efrat (70min, Israel, 2013)
In Russian, Hebrew and English with English Subtitles
D.C. Premiere

The World Chess Championship is an epic battle, rife with passion, power and money. Boris Gelfand – the first Israeli to compete for the title – has spent his entire life getting ready for this moment. His father devoted himself almost exclusively to developing Boris’ talent, while documenting the whole process with a thick catalog of photos, videos and diary entries. Peeking into the life of a certified genius, we are offered unparalleled insight into the preparation, sacrifice and dedication necessary to achieve one’s life goals.

Saturday, March 1, 2 p.m. – DCJCC
Thursday, March 6, 8:45 p.m. – Katzen Arts Center, American University

Dir. Peter Sanders (79min, USA, 2012)
Mid-Atlantic Premiere

Born in a New York mansion to a Sephardic tobacco tycoon from Turkey, Altina Schinasi (1907-1999) quickly eclipsed her guarded childhood to make sexually liberated art with a flagrant audacity that became the trademark of a life lived to the fullest. She picked up an Oscar nomination for directing Interregnum, a film on George Grosz; befriended Martin Luther King Jr.; and hid a member of the Hollywood Ten during the Red Scare. These relationships, and those with four wildly different husbands, informed her most original artwork, sculptures that exuded the unencumbered sexuality of a feminist born before women had the right to vote.

Monday, March 3, 7 p.m. – Goethe Institut

Dir. Menahem Golan (86min, USA/West Germany, 1980)

A piece of classic 80s kitsch, this wildly entertaining dystopic vision of a futuristic “1994,” The Apple rivals Rocky Horror and Hedwig and the Angry Inch in the cult musical genre. Menahem Golan’s trippy reinterpretation of the Book of Genesis centers on Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Alphie (George Gilmour), two budding rockers who fall under the control of the wickedly evil record producer Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal). Featuring outlandish choreography from So You Think You Can Dance’s Nigel Lythgoe and so-bad-they’re-good songs from Israeli songwriters Coby and Iris Recht.

Saturday, March 8, 10 p.m. – AFI Silver Theatre

Dir. Adi Adwan (82min, Israel, 2013)
In Hebrew and Arabic with English Subtitles
Mid-Atlantic Premiere

The first feature by an Israeli Druze filmmaker, Adi Adwan’s Arabani is a beautifully crafted tale about Yosef, who, newly divorced from his Jewish wife, returns to his Druze village. There, he attempts to rekindle old friendships, connect with his former bride-to-be, and mend relations with his mother. Meanwhile his children – bright, irreverent, secular Jews – find that adjusting to the traditional and restrained Druze ways comes with as many adventures as dangerous pitfalls.

Monday, March 3, 7:30 p.m. – AFI Silver Theatre
Thursday, March 6, 6:30 p.m. – DCJCC

Dir. Dan Shadur (60min, Israel, 2013)
In Hebrew and Arabic with English Subtitles
D.C. Premiere

Hard as it may be to imagine today, Tehran, the capital city of Iran, was once considered a paradise for Israelis. In the 1960s and 1970s, an affluent and elite group enjoyed close relations with the Shah’s regime, built around oil, construction contracts, and weapons deals. Director Dan Shadur’s documentary begins as a nostalgic look into his family’s glorious past, but quickly morphs into a thrilling ride that uses a masterful assemblage of archival footage to offer a new take on the events of the Iranian Revolution.

Saturday, March 1, 6:45 p.m. – JCC of Greater Washington (Rockville)
Sunday, March 2, 11:15 a.m. – DCJCC

Dir. Yuval Adler (99min, Israel/UK/Belgium/Germany, 2013)
In Hebrew and Arabic with English Subtitles
D.C. Premiere

Israel’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award, Bethlehem tells the story of the complex relationship between an Israeli Secret Service officer and his teenage Palestinian informant. Shuttling back and forth between conflicting points of view, the film is a raw portrayal of characters torn apart by competing loyalties and impossible moral dilemmas, giving an unparalleled glimpse into the dark and fascinating world of human intelligence.

Winner of six Ophir Awards (Israeli Oscars), including Best Feature and Best Director.

Saturday, March 1, 5 p.m. – AFI Silver Theatre
Tuesday, March 4, 8:45 p.m. – Avalon Theatre

Closing Night:
Dir. Eytan Fox (90min, Israel, 2013)
In Hebrew with English Subtitles
D.C. Premiere

Beloved Israeli auteur Eytan Fox (Yossi and Jagger, Walk on Water, The Bubble) returns with a sweet, bubbly and downright delicious concoction. When a group of tightknit friends accidentally (!) enter a Eurovision-style musical contest, their endearing tune – originally written to console a heartbroken buddy – is picked to represent Israel. Thrust into a world of glamour and high expectations, the friends struggle to navigate around the sharp elbows of the pop music business, along the way getting into plenty of hilarious hijinks.

Join us after the screening for the Closing Night reception (we’ll have much more than just cupcakes!). We’ll announce and fete the Audience Award Winners for WJFF’s Best Feature, Documentary and Short.

Closing Night:
Sunday, March 9, 7:30 p.m. – DCJCC

Additional Screening:
Tuesday, March 4, 7:30 p.m. - JCC of Greater Washington (Rockville)

Dir. Hilla Medalia (84min, Israel/USA, 2013)
In Hebrew and Arabic with English Subtitles
D.C. Premiere

Renowned ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine has a burning desire to use dance for social good, teaming Jewish and Palestinian Israeli children as ballroom partners. Born in Jaffa in 1944, Dulaine returns 30 years after leaving as a young man, and finds a society even more deeply and stringently divided than before – immediately, he sets about teaching grade-school children to dance. This magical documentary tracks the young students as they overcome cultural boundaries to connect through the joy of dance.

Tuesday, March 4, 6:30 p.m. – DCJCC

Dir. Ganit Ilouz (52min, Israel, 2013)
In Hebrew and Arabic with English Subtitles
Mid-Atlantic Premiere

Hadeel is a young charismatic teacher from Wadi Ara who teaches Arabic in a Jewish primary school. We follow this brilliant, intrepid woman for a year, at her school and home. Her daily interactions with pupils and staff open a cross-cultural dialogue, challenging divisive stereotypes and building a connection between Muslims and Jews. This is juxtaposed against her daily struggles with being an Arab citizen of Israel and being a single Muslim woman in her late twenties. Equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking, Hadeel’s story offers an unflinching glimpse of Israel in all of its beautiful – and at times excruciating – complexity.

Part of the 4th Annual Community Education Day on Israeli Arab Issues

Thursday, March 6, 6:45 p.m. – Katzen Arts Center, American University
Sunday, March 9, 1:30 p.m. – DCJCC

Centerpiece Evening:
Dir. John Turturro (98 min, USA, 2013)
Sneak Preview

Facing the imminent closure of his business, a New York City bookstore owner (Woody Allen) teams up with his florist friend (John Turturro) on an outlandish scheme. Surveying the landscape, they realize that a city full of lonely, wealthy older women is the perfect place to ply the world’s most ancient profession.

Shedding their commonplace identities, and dubbing themselves “Virgil Howard” and “Dan Bongo,” the pair tear through Gotham, along the way bedding the legendary sexual icons Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara. The surprisingly mature climax (if you will) is wrapped around Turturro’s newfound romance with an orthodox Jewish widow (Vanessa Paradis), who is forced to slyly deceive Liev Schreiber – an overzealous member of the Jewish neighborhood police force – at every turn.

Sidesplittingly funny and cleverly insightful, this may well be John Turturro’s crowning achievement.

John Turturro will participate in an extended Q&A after the screening, moderated by Arch Campbell, film critic for ABC 7 News.

Saturday, March 8, 7:15 p.m. – AFI Silver Theatre

Dir. Diane Kurys (110min, France, 2013)
In French with English Subtitles
D.C. Premiere

In her mid-thirties, Anne knows practically nothing of her family’s past. After her mother’s death, Anne discovers old photos and letters that convince her to take a closer look at her parents’ life after the concentration camps of World War II. In a journey that stretches from post-war France and to the 1980s, Anne’s destiny intertwines with her father’s past until they form a single, unforgettable story in the latest film from veteran director Diane Kurys (Sagan). Featuring French stars Nicolas Duvauchelle, Benoit Magimel and Melanie Thierry.

Sunday, March 2, 1 p.m. – AFI Silver Theatre
Tuesday, March 4, 6:30 p.m. – Avalon Theater

Dir. Anne Weil, Philippe Kotlarski (100min, France/Germany/Canada/Russia, 2013)
In French, Russian and Hebrew with English Subtitles
Mid-Atlantic Premiere

It is 1979, and Carole and Jerome are 20 and going on an organized trip to Odessa in the USSR, deep behind the Iron Curtain. During the day, they pose as simple tourists and visit monuments and museums. In the evening, they secretly rendezvous with “refuseniks,” Jews persecuted by the Soviet regime for wanting to leave the country. There, they discover an underground world, cruel and absurd. While Carole is motivated by political commitment and a taste for risk, for Jérôme, the real motivation behind this trip is Carole herself.

Saturday, March 1, 9:45 p.m. – AFI Silver Theatre
Saturday, March 8, 6:30 p.m. – DCJCC

Dir. Ran Tal (74min, Israel, 2013)
In Hebrew and Arabic with English Subtitles
D.C. Premiere

The astounding beauty and serenity of Gan HaShlosha, better known as Sakhne (“hot spring”), serves simultaneously as the backdrop and central character in Ran Tal’s uniquely compelling documentary. One of the most famous and visited parks in Israel – over 400,000 people retreat there annually – Sakhne serves as an informal melting pot, offering respite for Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Christians alike. The documentary masterfully glides between their stories, weaving a richly layered tapestry full of pain, laughter and intrigue that in the end, is representative of nothing short of Israel itself.

Part of the 4th Annual Community Education Day on Israeli Arab Issues

Saturday, March 8, 6:30 p.m. – Goethe Institut
Sunday, March 9, 3:30 p.m. – DCJCC

Dir. David Ofek and Neta Shoshani (59min, Israel, 2013)
In Hebrew and Russian with English Subtitles
U.S. Premiere

Ronen and Orit, two young Bukharins living in Israel, have been dating for almost three years. Ronen and his brother make up the Handa Handa theater troupe, a runaway hit among the worldwide Bukhari community. According to longstanding tradition, Bukhari couples must marry after a brief acquaintance – but Ronen and Orit rebel against the community and their own families and refuse. Her parents have had enough, and demand that they either marry or break up, in the process trapping their love between tradition and modernity.

Sunday, March 2, 2:45 p.m. – Goethe Institut
Tuesday, March 4, 8:45 p.m. – DCJCC

Dir. Julia Von Heinz (99min, Germany/Israel, 2013)
In German and Hebrew with English Subtitles
Mid-Atlantic Premiere

Hanna’s motives for spending several months in Israel working with disabled youths and elderly Holocaust survivors aren’t exactly noble: a sharp-eyed careerist, the young German woman figures this charity work will make her resumé sparkle. What she doesn’t count on is Itay – the brusque but charming social worker she meets on her first day abroad.

He teases her with off-color jokes about the Holocaust and for being German – all of which she considers ancient history, having nothing to do with her at all. As she reluctantly warms to Itay’s insistent flirtations, however, she discovers that she’s more tied to this “ancient history” than she could have imagined.

Sunday, March 2, 3:30 p.m. – AFI Silver Theatre
Thursday, March 6, 8:30 p.m. – DCJCC

Dir. Pawel Pawlikowski (80 min, Poland, 2013)
In Polish with English Subtitles
Mid-Atlantic Premiere

Direct from its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, this Oscar-contender seamlessly weaves together two deeply resonant narratives of identity set in Poland in 1962. 18-year old Anna, a sheltered orphan raised in a convent, is preparing to become a nun when she first meets her only living relative.

Her aunt Wanda, a worldly and cynical Communist Party insider, shocks Anna with the declaration that her real name is Ida and her Jewish parents were murdered during the Nazi occupation. This revelation triggers a heart-wrenching journey to the countryside, to the old family home and into the secrets of a repressed past.

Saturday, March 1, 7:15 p.m. – AFI Silver Theatre

Dir. Ilan Duran Cohen (90min, France, 2013)
In French, Latin and Polish with English Subtitles
Mid-Atlantic Premiere

The Jewish Cardinal is based on the amazing true story of Jean-Marie Lustiger, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, who maintained his Jewish identity even after converting to Catholicism at a young age, and later joined the priesthood.

Quickly rising within the ranks of the Church, Lustiger was appointed Archbishop of Paris by Pope John Paul II – and found a new platform to celebrate his dual identity as a Catholic Jew. When Carmelite nuns settle down to build a convent within the cursed walls of Auschwitz, Lustiger finds himself a mediator between the two communities – and may be forced at last to choose a side.

Saturday, March 1, 6:30 p.m. – DCJCC
Saturday, March 8, 8:45 p.m. – JCC of Greater Washington (Rockville)

Dir. Joseph Green and Konrad Tom (97min, Poland/USA, 1938)
In Yiddish and English with English Subtitles
Mid-Atlantic Premiere (restored print)

Molly Picon shines as Mamale, in this newly restored 35mm print from The National Center For Jewish Film. Busy cooking, cleaning, and matchmaking for her brothers and sisters, she has little time for herself, until she discovers the violinist across the courtyard!

Set in Lodz, this musical comedy embraces the diverse gamut of interwar Jewish life in Poland, with its no-goodniks and the unemployed, nightclubs and gangsters, and religious Jews celebrating Sukkot.

Sunday, March 2, 5 p.m. – DCJCC
Sunday, March 9, 1 p.m. – JCC of Greater Washington (Rockville)

Dir. Wiktoria Szymanska (68min, Poland/UK/France, 2013)
In Polish with English Subtitles
U.S. Premiere

Renowned puppeteer Michael Meschke and his family escaped from Nazi Germany to Sweden when he was a young boy. His childhood experience, and family lore, informed his philosophically rich marionette work, and over six decades, he built up a collection of over 3,000 puppets. Each has its own unique story and unmistakable personality: the charismatic Don Quixote; the lovely Penelope; the inquisitive Baptiste; and the mysterious Antigone.

Rather than using traditional biopic narration to push the story along, director Wiktoria Szymańska defers to the power of suggestion, focusing on Meschke’s uncanny ability to breathe real life into his puppets.

Saturday, March 1, 4:15 p.m. – DCJCC
Sunday, March 2, 12:45 p.m. – Goethe Institut

Dir. Tawd B. Dorenfeld (80min, USA, 2013)
World Premiere

Treasures of wisdom often come from humble hearts. Follow the Baal Shem Tov – the famed Jewish mystical rabbi often credited as the founder of Hasidic Judaism – on a journey through Eastern Europe during the 17th century, in this fully animated, Claymation film.

In this collection of vignettes from tales by the Baal Shem Tov, we visit poor Jewish families who find hope in their spirituality, not because of their religious acts, but because of their human kindness. This beautifully hand crafted, stop-motion feature brings these stories to life and is perfect for the whole family.

Sunday, March 2, 3 p.m. – JCC of Greater Washington (Rockville)
Monday, March 3, 6:30 p.m. – DCJCC

Dir. Jeanine Meerapfel (110min, Germany/Argentina, 2013)
In Spanish and German with English Subtitles
Mid-Atlantic Premiere

In the late 1950s, Sulamit Löwenstein strikes up a casual friendship with her neighbor Friedrich in a quiet, affluent section of Buenos Aires. She is the daughter of German-Jewish immigrants, and he is the son of a senior SS officer – a tragic political legacy that will haunt them both.

Following the teenaged Friedrich to Germany, Sulamit finds him caught up in the radical politics of late-1960s student life; later, he returns to Argentina to join the fight against the military junta. My German Friend distills the momentous sweep of post-war Argentinian history into a story that is intimate, tender, and always humane.

Sunday, March 2, 5:45 p.m. – AFI Silver Theatre
Saturday, March 8, 8:45 p.m. – Goethe Institut

Dir. David Cairns and Paul Duane (66min, Ireland, 2013)
In French and English with English Subtitles
East Coast Premiere

Bernard Natan, a Romanian Jew, changed the course of French cinema and was destroyed because of it, his name forever linked to sordid tales of pornography and fraud. It took a pair of Irish documentarians to unearth the real story: an epic tale of the birth of cinema, the horrors of war, and the power of myth.

Immigrating to Paris as a young man, Barnard served in WWI, and earned French citizenship. After possibly directing “adult art films,” he became an executive at Pathé, producing the seminal works Les Miserables and The Marvelous Life of Joan of Arc. Charged with dubious fraud claims, he went to prison, and eventually Auschwitz, where he died in 1942.

Sunday, March 2, 4:45 p.m. – Goethe Institut
Saturday, March 8, 2 p.m. – DCJCC

Dir. Zorawar Shukla (28min, India, 2012)
In Hindi, Thadou-Kuki, and English with English Subtitles
D.C. Premiere

The 7,500- member tribal Kuki-Chin-Mizo from a turbulent corner of Northeast India believe they are the descendants of the Lost Tribe of Menasseh. With no written record of their history, they are faced with the difficult task of proving themselves to be Jews in order to be able to immigrate (“make aliya”) to Israel. We follow the lives of three Manipuri Jews living in a neglected part of the country where their steadfast belief and strict practice of Orthodox Judaism offer them a glimpse of a better life.

Screenings of A Prayer for Aliyah are Free – RSVPs requested.

Saturday, March 1, 12:45 p.m. – DCJCC
Sunday, March 9, 11 a.m. – DCJCC

Dir. Barry Avrich (80min, Canada, 2013)
D.C. Premiere

Americans have long depended on Canada for three things: oil, maple syrup and comedians. David Steinberg counts among Canada’s biggest comedic exports. Born in Winnipeg, he attended Yeshiva in Chicago, before abandoning his studies to join the legendary Second City.

The film features priceless archival footage of his performances, including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and his trademark religious sermonettes, which stirred up quite a bit of controversy at the time. We also catch a glimpse of his outstanding directorial efforts, including Seinfeld, Mad About You, Golden Girls and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Saturday, March 1, 7:15 p.m. – Goethe Institut

Dir. Diana Groo (63min, Hungary, 2013)
Mid-Atlantic Premiere

Regina Jones, played here by Rachel Weisz, was the first female rabbi – a prototypical feminist, who would have never copped to the term. The daughter of an Orthodox Jewish peddler, Jonas was ordained in Berlin in 1935, but not without a fight. During the rise of the Nazi era, her sermons soothed and encouraged persecuted Jews, but she could not save herself, eventually perishing in Auschwitz in 1944. Director Diana Groo employs a jazzy archival style reminiscent of Péter Forgács, and gives voice to Regina’s life.

Wednesday, March 5, 6:30 p.m. – DCJCC
Thursday, March 6, 7:15 p.m. – AFI Silver Theatre

Dir. Oliver Ziegenbalg (96min, Germany, 2012)
In Russian and German with English Subtitles
U.S. Premiere

Berlin 1989 – The Wall has just fallen, and Jewish citizens from the Soviet Union are now free to immigrate to Germany. Vladimir and his best pals Andrej and Mischa seize their chance to leave Moscow for Berlin, which in the early nineties is one of the most exciting places on the globe. Vladimir and Andrej quickly get the permanent residence permits; Mischa, who is Russian but not Jewish, only gets a three-month visa, while dreaming of starting a music career. Vladimir is more aimless, happy loafing about and helping out his friends. That is until he meets Olga, the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen.

Saturday, March 1, 9 p.m. – Goethe Institut
Wednesday, March 5, 7:30 p.m. – AFI Silver Theatre

Dir. Duki Dror (Israel/France, 2013)
In Arabic and Hebrew with English Subtitles
Sneak Preview

Jews once played a major role in Iraqi society, and this investigative documentary traces their story and that of the brutal campaign that eventually drove them out from Baghdad.

We follow a young Iraqi journalist who sets out to write about Linda Abdel Aziz Menuhin, who escaped to Israel in the early 70’s and whose father, a prominent lawyer, had been kidnapped in Baghdad. The continuous dialog between the two slowly uncovers the tragic end of her father, as well as that of a whole Jewish community that thrived in Iraq for over 2,000 years.

Saturday, March 8, 12 p.m. – DCJCC
Sunday, March 9, 1:45 p.m. – AFI Silver Theatre

Dir. Alon Zingman (3x30min, Israel, 2013)
In Hebrew and Yiddish with English Subtitles
TV Narrative
U.S. Premiere

The new Israeli hit TV series Shtisel – from the producers of the beloved series Srugim – focuses on a Haredi family living in Jerusalem.

Akiva and Shulem Shtisel, father and son, sit on a little balcony overlooking streets of the Geula neighborhood of Jerusalem. A year has passed since the mother died. All the other children have left the nest, and only Shulam and Akiva remain – quarreling, making up, and laughing about themselves and the rest of the world. All will change when Akiva meets Elisheva. Shtisel is magical glimpse into an often closed-off world, overflowing with surprisingly poignant, if restrained, romanticism.

The first three episodes will be screened.

Sunday, March 2, 2:00pm – Adas Israel
Wednesday, March 5, 7:00pm – Goethe Institut

Dir. Julie Cohen (50min, USA, 2014)
Mid-Atlantic Premiere

Four generations of a Jewish immigrant family created Russ and Daughters, a Lower East Side lox and herring emporium that thrives to this day. Produced to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the store, this documentary features extensive interviews with two of the original daughters for whom the store was named, now 100 and 92 years old.

We also hear from prominent enthusiasts of the shop including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin, and 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer, as well as a host of inimitable characters who have patronized the store for decades.

Sunday, March 2, 1 p.m. – DCJCC
Monday, March 3, 7:30 p.m. – JCC of Greater Washington (Rockville)

Dir. Jason Hutt (67min, USA, 2013)
Mid-Atlantic Premiere

Sukkah City chronicles the architecture competition created by bestselling author Joshua Foer (Moonwalking With Einstein) and Roger Bennett (co-founder, Reboot) that explored the creative potential of the ancient Jewish sukkah and created a temporary exhibition of 12 radically designed sukkahs in the heart of New York City.

The film tracks the competition from jury day, as an all-star cast of architects, academics and critics (Thom Mayne, Paul Goldberger, Ron Arad) debate the merits of the 600 submissions; to the construction, installation and exhibition of the 12 winning structures in Union Square in the heart of New York City.

Thursday, March 6, 7:30 p.m. – JCC of Greater Washington (Rockville)
Sunday, March 9, 12 p.m. – DCJCC

TAXMAN (Late Night Screening / Retrospective for Avi Nesher)
Dir. Avi Nesher (104min, USA, 1999)

“In life only two things are certain, death and taxes.” This well-worn phrase takes on a gritty new meaning in WJFF’s Visionary Award Winner Avi Nesher’s crisply paced thriller.

What starts as a routine tax evasion investigation quickly morphs into a cold-blooded murder trial, full of unsavory pitfalls and dangerous turns. Putting his paper-shuffling detective routine to the test in a greedy world full of greed and gunplay, Al Benjamin (the criminally underappreciated Joe Pantoliano of Risky Business, Memento and Matrix) makes for an unlikely police hero – one guided mainly by his working class ethos and strong moral compass.

Saturday, March 1, 11 p.m. – DCJCC

Dir. Avi Nesher (Israel, 108min, 2004)
In Hebrew with English Subtitles

In one of WJFF Visionary Award winner Avi Nesher’s most beloved films, a few Indian families descend on a small Israeli desert town, mostly inhabited by Moroccan immigrants. A culture war ensues: the Moroccans look down on the dark-skinned Indians, while the Indians consider the Moroccans a bunch of uncouth troublemakers.

Eventually, the two sides grudgingly come together over an unlikely cricket team they decide to field, and much hilarity follows. In the process, old enemies cross cultural mine fields, and two teenage girls, a Moroccan and an Indian, discover the sexual revolution of the Sixties.

Avi Nesher will give an extended introduction to the film and accept the 2014 WJFF Visionary Award.

Sunday, March 2, 3 p.m. – DCJCC

Dir. Michal Aviad (50min, Israel, 2013)
In Hebrew and English with English Subtitles
DC Premiere

At the turn of the 20th century, individuals from across Europe brought their pioneering spirit and ideals of a revolution to Palestine, with a dream to create a new and more equal society. Among these pioneers were the fierce women who came to Palestine to realize the dream of creating a new woman in a new world. Through amazing found footage and personal diaries, The Women Pioneers uncovers the course of their passionate battles and painful disappointments, dedicating their lives to realize their personal liberation and national struggle.

Wednesday, March 5, 7:30 p.m. – JCC of Greater Washington (Rockville)
Thursday, March 6, 7 p.m. – Goethe

Dir. Alan Zweig (90min, Canada, 2013)
Mid-Atlantic Premiere

We begin with a simple question: Why were so many TV comedians in the 1950s and 1960s Jewish? As some of America’s most beloved funnymen attest, the answer ranges from simple to complex, to incidental. First-hand accounts from Jack Carter, Shelley Berman, and Shecky Greene mix with archival footage from legends like Jackie Mason, but the answer proves elusive.

As these comics duke it out, arguing about whether American humor is quintessentially Jewish, the film pivots – in the end, the question isn’t about the nature of comedy, but rather the meaning of being Jewish.

Saturday, March 8, 6:45 p.m. – JCC of Greater Washington (Rockville)
Sunday, March 9, 5:15 p.m. – DCJCC

Opening Night:
Dir. Avi Nesher (112min, Israel, 2013)
In Hebrew with English Subtitles
D.C. Premiere

A modern day film-noir, Avi Nesher’s latest centers on a bartender who doubles as a graffiti artist in Jerusalem. Arnav enjoys whiling away the days with simple pleasures until he becomes enwrapped in a mystery taking place in his own apartment building. Spying a man seemingly held captive a few units away from his, he investigates and is soon taken down a rabbit hole into the seedy underbelly of Jerusalem’s criminal underworld. Along the way, he’s aided, abetted and sometimes stifled by a pseudo-religious femme fatale and a deeply cynical private eye.

The film’s stunningly original artistic vision has drawn rave comparisons to everyone from the Coen Brothers and Tim Burton to Lewis Carroll and Carol Reed. Couple that with a sophisticated soundtrack by Israeli mega-stars Hadag Nahash, and you’re ready to kick off the 24th WJFF in style.

Opening Night Party with Director Avi Nesher will be held between the two screenings.

WJFF Opening Night, Thursday, February 27 - DCJCC
First screening of the Wonders, 6:30 p.m.
Opening Night Party: 8:30 p.m.
Second screening of the Wonders, 9:30 p.m.

Additional Screening
Saturday, March 1, 8:30 p.m. – JCC of Greater Washington (Rockville)

YELLOW TICKET (Silent Screening with Live Accompaniment)
Dir. Victor Janson and Eugen Illès (63min, USA, 1918)

We’re thrilled to bring back The Yellow Ticket, complete with a live score by Alicia Svigals, which debuted at the DCJCC’s 2012 Washington Jewish Music Festival through a commission made possible by the Arthur Tracy “The Street Singer” Endowment Fund and the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s New Jewish Culture Network.

Hollywood’s first European superstar Pola Negri was cast in an early social drama, The Yellow Ticket, a tale of a woman who must pose as a prostitute and conceal her Jewish background to pursue an education. Shot partly in occupied Warsaw at the end of the First World War, it was produced by the German UFA studio and released by Paramount. Footage includes rare views of Nalewki, Warsaw’s bustling Jewish district later destroyed by the Nazis.

Produced by the National Gallery of Art.

Sunday, March 2, 2 p.m. – National Gallery of Art


Sponsored by the Greater Washington Forum on Israeli Arab Issues and the Washington DCJCC
March 9, 2014, 1-4:30 p.m.

The day will include an in-depth discussion exploring the daily lives and challenges of Arab citizens of Israel, the screening of two films, and two panel discussions held simultaneously (participants can choose to attend one film and one discussion; both discussions, or both films).

Panelists include Myriam Darmoni Charbit (Director of Civics and Shared Life Education, Center for Educational Technology); Ganit Ilouz (director, Dove’s Cry); Ran Tal (director, The Garden of Eden); and Ali Waked (journalist & Deputy Director at Merchavim, the Institute for the Advancement of Shared Citizenship in Israel).

Moderated by:  Rabbi Sid Schwarz (Co-chair, Greater Washington Forum on Israeli Arab Issues) and Liron Shoham (Communications Manager, Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues)

Dove’s Cry – 1:30 p.m.
The Garden of Eden – 3:30 p.m.

Shared Society through Public Spaces – 1:30 p.m.
Integration of Arab Teachers in Jewish Schools in Israel – 3:30 p.m.

Co-Sponsored by the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation and the Lois and Richard England Family Foundation

Co-presented by the American University Center for Israel Studies, Anti-Defamation League, Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues, Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Fund, and Washington Hebrew Congregation.

Past films from favorite filmmakers will be available through a new online film festival in the month leading up to the Film Festival. More than 100 Jewish and Israeli films will be available for rent or download January 16- February 26 at

Daily Monday, March 3 - Friday, March 7, 12 p.m.
Free Admission

Through a partnership with the Library of Congress, free daily talks with the film festival’s filmmakers and special guests will explore and expand on the variety of topics the films cover; talks may include short clips from the films, but will not include full screenings.

Monday, March 3: Dan Shadur, Before the Revolution
Tuesday, March 4: Diana Groo and Alan Reich, Regina
Wednesday, March 5: Pierre Dulaine and Diane Nabutoff, Dancing in Jaffa
Thursday, March 6: Michal Aviad, Women Pioneers
Friday, March 7: Jason Hutt, Sukkah City

Exact location of the talks within the Library of Congress will be listed on

Stories About Defying Convention and Challenging the Status Quo
Wednesday, March 5, 8:30 p.m.

Returning to the DCJCC by popular demand, SpeakeasyDC brings another night of hilarious and heartfelt true tales by DC’s finest storytellers. Each story will shed a new perspective on Mavericks and Outliers, a theme that resonates deeply in films such as Women Pioneers, Regina, Fading Gigolo and many others throughout this year’s festival.

Sunday, March 2
U.S. Navy Memorial
701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.
6 p.m. – Doors open for Red Carpet Show
7 p.m. – Oscars broadcast begins

Guests will be watching the Oscars as they lounge in their favorite pajamas in the Navy Memorial’s comfortable underground theater. The Oscars will be broadcast on a giant, two-story HD screen, while guests sip champagne and cocktails and munch on snack food and pizza.

This event benefits D.C. Shorts and Washington Jewish Film Festival.

General Admission $25 – includes snacks, beer, wine and soft drinks
VIP Admission $50 – includes all of the above, plus pizza and specialty cocktails…and a special gift!

This event is not sponsored by or affiliated with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Ages 21+

Featuring Cantor Sara Geller
Tuesday, March 4, 7:30 p.m.

Join us for a tribute to the musical world of Molly Picon. Lyrical soprano Sara Geller will perform songs from the Yiddish theater, Yiddish art songs and lead the audience in a sing-along of the most popular Yiddish favorites.

Black Whiskey
1410 14th Street NW, Washington, D.C.

The brand new Festival Lounge at Black Whiskey will feature filmmaker guests on hand throughout the festival and is a great place for festival attendees to have casual conversation over a drink with international filmmakers.

The WJFF Lounge will be operational every evening from 6 p.m.-midnight, from March 1–March 8, except March 7. WJFF’s twitter account (@WJFF) will have up-to-the-moment updates on which filmmakers are at the bar.

Film Festival ticket stubs get patrons $1 off select drinks.

Thursday, March 6, 8:45 p.m.

A surprise film will be screened on Thursday, March 6, 8:45 p.m. The prominent film is one patrons won’t want to miss. The name of the film will be revealed the name about a week before it screens. Tickets purchased before the film’s name is announced are discounted.

2014 WJFF Filmmaker Guests Expected*

*Please note that this list is subject to change and will likely grow as the festival nears.