Films - The UK Jewish Film Festival

This year's UK Jewish Film Festival has announced its 25th Anniversary programme...

Press Release

The UK Jewish Film Festival returns this year for its exciting 25th anniversary edition as a hybrid event, taking place in six cinemas in London and one in Manchester, as well as online, from 4th-18th November 2021. This year’s unique film programme offers audiences nationwide 29 feature length films and 30 short films from Britain and around the world that explore Jewish life, history and culture, not shown anywhere else in the UK.

The Festival will open at the BFI Southbank on Thursday 4th November, hosted by BAFTA winning documentary maker Robert Rinder MBE. Building on the success of the 2020 online festival, audiences can again watch online films, pre-recorded interviews and special events with directors, actors and journalists through a secure online festival platform and an all-access Online Festival Pass for £45.00. There are also a range of cinema and online discounts available for both UK Jewish Film members and non-members to capture Jewish and non-Jewish communities, wherever they are.

To mark it’s quarter century, the Festival will also be launching the UK Jewish Film Short Doc Fund, commissioning and funding five micro-budget, three-minute documentaries, which explore different aspects of contemporary British Jewish life. The project is aimed at addressing the lack of diverse Jewish representation in British film and TV. The five new films will receive their world premieres in London on Sunday 7th November. Alongside this, the well-established Pears Short Film Fund at UK Jewish Film celebrates its 15th anniversary with two new and prestigious film commissions, Make Me a King and Hold My Hand. These will receive their world premieres on 7th November. Full details in British Film Programme below.

From its modest origins in Brighton, started by Founder and President, Judy Ironside MBE, the Festival has come of age as one of the UK’s best loved, nationwide film festival events, as well as developing new expertise in more recent years as a popular year-round film and education provider, year-round TVOD platform, and producer and commissioner of award-winning short films.

Michael Etherton, Chief Executive said, “We are so proud to celebrate our 25th anniversary, which is a tribute to the power of film to create an understanding and appreciation of Jewish and other cultures. Whilst celebrating this important landmark we also explore through our film programme the challenge presented by the new rise of antisemitism, and with that, the ever more urgent need for all of us to support and embrace cultural events such as the UK Jewish Film Festival”

Judy Ironside MBE, Founder and President added, “Our 25th anniversary is in itself a tribute to the power of the films we bring to our audiences across the UK, the dedication of our staff teams and the generosity and loyalty of our supporters. These unique films with Jewish themes enable us to offer an insight into diverse Jewish cultures worldwide through the festival programme and year-round with our On Demand platform. UK Jewish Film has developed over these 25 years as one of the top Jewish film festivals worldwide and a source of great pride to us all.”



Gala Films

The 25th UK Jewish Film Festival is framed by three in-person gala events:

The Opening Night Gala film, to take place at BFI Southbank on Thursday 4 November, is Thou Shalt Not Hate (Non Odiare) from debut feature film director Mauro Mancini, and starring Golden Globe winning actor, Alessandro Gassman. The film took Best Italian Film for the Sorriso Diverso Venezia Award at the Venice Film Festival 2020 and Pasinetti Award for Best Actor. Inspired by a true story, the film explores the painful dilemma of a Jewish surgeon. Witnessing a hit-and-run accident, Simone rushes to save the victim’s life. Noticing the dying man has a swastika tattoo, he has second thoughts, and chooses to leave him to his fate. Haunted by guilt and painful memories of his relationship with his Holocaust survivor father, he decides to seek out the man’s daughter.

The Centrepiece Gala is the final documentary masterpiece of the late British filmmaker, Luke Holland, aptly named Final Account. Based on more than 250 interviews conducted with now elderly German and Austrian citizens who took part on the Nazi killing machine, Final Account asks how ordinary people turned into perpetrators and what stories they have had to tell themselves in order to come to terms with their past. The event is a tribute to Luke Holland, who was involved with UK Jewish Film since its founding days. The film is being released by NBC Universal.

The Closing Night Gala film, to take place at Picturehouse Central, is Sin La Habana, a sultry and visually arresting debut feature from director Kaveh Nabatian. An unusual Canadian/Cuban coproduction, the film explores the dilemma of a young ballet dancer and his girlfriend, desperate to leave Cuba and start a new life for themselves in North America. A stunning and highly original exploration of Cuban life, relationships and the unexpected power of love.

Film Programme

The Festival’s European Film Programme includes the UK Premiere of Rose, starring Françoise Fabian (Ma nuit chez Maud), Gregory Montel (Call My Agent) and Aure Atika (The Night Manager) in this warm-hearted Parisian Jewish family drama. When patriarch Philippe dies, his wife Rose feels that her life is over. A chance dinner party, however, re-ignites her joie-de-vivre much to the discomfort of her three loving but somewhat dysfunctional children. Unsure how to deal with this new vivacious version of their mother, Rose’s children’s’ concerns can’t stop her celebrating life again.

The European programme also includes Neighbours, Mano Khalil’s Syrian-set story of Kurdish rural life in 1980s Syria. A young boy struggles to reconcile his teacher’s pan-Arabist and staunchly antisemitic sentiments with the kindness of his Jewish neighbours. In the beautiful Ziyara, French-Jewish documentarist Simone Bitton returns to her homeland Morocco where a community of 300,000 Jews once lived. The Un-Word is an extraordinary portrait of modern German identity politics set in a secondary school. A funny and thought-provoking satire about multi-culturalism in Germany today. Maverick Modigiliani examines the life of an artist who could not sell a painting for more than ten francs whose famous nude recently sold at auction for $160 million.

The Alan Howard International Documentary Strand includes Kings of Capitol Hill, featuring interviews with former senior members of the pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC. This documentary sheds light on the controversial organisation and how a change of public opinion might affect its future. The Meaning of Hitler explores the enduring fascination with Hitler and his ideology. An engrossing and timely look at the forces of evil and we might overcome them. In What If? Ehud Barak on War and Peace, the former Israeli prime minister reflects on events that have shaped the narrative of the state of Israel and his own life. A sobering take on Israeli’s past triumphs and failures.

The Americas Film Programme includes the luscious Ma Belle, My Beauty, with more than a hint of Call Me By Your Name. Newly married couple Bertie and Fred have recently moved from New Orleans to Fred’s native village in southern France. Troubled by Bertie’s depression, Fred invites Lane, their former polyamorous lover. His arrival reignites old passions, jealousies and misunderstandings. Soros explores the impact of Hungarian-born George Soros who survived the Holocaust to become one of the world’s wealthiest people, but remains much maligned by the current Hungarian government. In Damon Shalit’s family drama, The World Without You, a family gather to grieve the life of a press photographer killed in Iraq. Based on a novel of the same name, this beautifully scripted and acted drama tells a tender and captivating family story, which is both specifically Jewish and universal.

The Israeli Film Programme brings the best and latest film production from Israel including Eran Kolirin’s (The Band’s Visit) award-winning new film, Let It Be Morning. Based on Sayed Kashua’s novel, a film about Sami, a middle class Palestinian, visiting his family village for a wedding and finding himself caught up in a military siege. Apples and Oranges recalls the thousands of volunteers, including many from Britain, who flocked to kibbutzim from the 60s to the early 80s. They lent a helping hand while introducing the locals to the joys and perils of recreational drugs and mixed marriages. Our Natural Right meanwhile takes an unflinching look at the Israeli Declaration of Independence though the eyes of some of the descendants of the signatories.

The British Film Programme is headed up by the Centrepiece Gala Final Account, and also includes a special physical screening of the wonderful Picture Stories from director Rob West. Established in 1938 by Hungarian Jewish refugee Stefan Lorant, Picture Post became an overnight success. Shaped by its founder’s progressive values, the magazine revolutionised not only Britain’s publishing world but also its public life.

Emerging Creative Talent

The British Film Programme also includes the two winners of the Pears Short Film Fund at UK Jewish Film. Make Me a King as a project and in its narrative is inspired by the real life story of Pepi Littman, who first carved out a space for drag kings over 100 years ago. In the film, Ari, a Jewish drag king is ostracised by his Orthodox family and clings to their hero Pepi Littman. In Hold My Hand an elderly Jewish lady with dementia meets her great grand-daughter’s boyfriend in London and has a flashback to her childhood in 1930s Berlin where she was rescued as a Kindertransport child. These two projects, chosen from 63 applicants, each received grants of £13,500, as well as mentoring from the UK Jewish Film commissioners, and will receive their world premieres on Sunday 7 November at the Phoenix cinema in London.

Also in the British Film Programme is the launch of the UK Jewish Film Short Doc Fund. The Fund is supporting five filmmakers in documenting contemporary British Jewish life through creative and original, three-minute documentaries. In an era of rising antisemitism, this micro-budget fund aims to build a lasting, innovative and educational film collection reflecting the unique traditions, customs, culture and everyday lives of British Jews in the 21st century. Sadeh is a documentary about the first Jewish farm/commune in England, Frum Dogs of Hendon explores the growing trend of dog ownership among religious Jews; Underwater With Closed Eyes tells the story of the filmmaker’s Great Uncle Michael who is deaf and blind; Graphic focuses on the experience of liberal Jewish students during the recent Israel-Palestine conflict and the antisemitism encountered on social media; Irene is about an artist who left Iraq for the UK under extreme circumstances in the 1970s.

This year, the Festival is also delighted to present a dedicated LGBT+ Film Programme. The four narrative feature films from Germany, Israel and the USA reflect a variety of styles and aspects of LGBTQ+ life. Kiss Me Kosher is a delightful romantic comedy. Having been together for three months and still madly in love, Israeli Shira and German Maria decide to get married. The fact that they are two women is a non-issue but with a settler father, a Holocaust survivor grandmother (who is dating a Palestinian) and a Nazi family history between them, everything else certainly is. Sublet is from veteran Israeli director Eytan Fox. Michael, an American writer, looks forward to relaxing in his Airbnb flat in Tel Aviv. When he finds out that the existing tenant Tomer, a younger film student, has nowhere to go, he invites him to stay. Over the course of five days, Michael and Tomer realise they share more than just the flat, or even their gay and Jewish identities. In Two, lesbian couple Omer and Bar want to start a family through donor sperm insemination. Director Astar Elkayam bravely explores the emotional and physical hurdles lesbian couples often face when they try to get pregnant. Ma Belle, My Beauty from director Marion Hill is covered in the Americas Programme above.

The Short Film Programme features 30 UK and international new short films exploring an enormous array of topics from bullying to space travel.

UK Jewish Film Festival Awards 2021

The 2021 Festival features two professional jury awards, which will be announced in a special ceremony hosted by Jason Solomons at the Closing Night Gala on Thursday 18th November at Picturehouse Central.

Dorfman Best Film Award

Nominated Films:

Thou Shalt Not Hate
Sin La Habana
The Un-Word
Let it Be Morning
Ma Belle, My Beauty


Head of Jury: Lisa Bryer (The Last King of Scotland)
Keren Ben Refael (The End of Love)
Paul Morrison (Solomon and Gaenor, Wondrous Oblivion)
Paul Trijbits (Alone in Berlin, Saving Mr Banks)
Yaron Zilberman (Incitement, A Late Quartet)

Best Documentary Award

Nominated Films

What If? Ehud Barak on War and Peace.
Kings of Capitol Hill.
The Meaning of Hitler.
Final Account.
Picture Stories


Head of Jury: Nick Broomfield
Jo Clinton-Davis
Nir Cohen
Michael Jochnowitz
Marsha Lee
Olivia Lichtenstein

Young People’s Events

Young Jury Award for Best Short Film - Wednesday 10 November, online (72 hour viewing window)

We are proud to present the third year of our Young Jury Award for Best Short Film. A jury of 18-30 year-olds will be selecting and presenting the 2021 award for Best Short Film. The award ceremony will be presented online, led and delivered by the young jurors themselves

Young Jury Alumni Evening - Tuesday 16 November, JW3 Cinema

Alumni from our previous year’s young juries have partnered London JSocs to curate a special evening exploring Jewish identity and issues of antisemitism through films in this fascinating event, which includes a screening of two short films: Kippa and Mazel Tov Cocktail.

Kippa - Director Lukas Nathrath

15-year-old Oskar loves his new multicultural and interfaith school, but things turn nasty when he mentions his Jewish identity during class. This engaging and brave short tackles new forms of antisemitism head-on.

Mazel Tov Cocktail - Director Arkadij Khaet

As the son of Russian immigrants to Germany, Dimitrij has had enough of adhering to other people’s expectations of him as a token Jew. In this innovative and original film, our protagonist discusses, dissects and then throws back in our face everything we ever thought we knew–and got wrong –about Jews living in Germany today.

The UK Jewish Film Festival runs in person and online from 4th to 18th November. Find out more and book tickets here:  

Images - Courtesy of UK Jewish Film Festival 2021.
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