EJFF brings a wonderful variety of Jewish-themed films to Edmonton

By Jenna Vetsch

(AJNews) – The Edmonton Jewish Film Festival (EJFF) is entering its 28th year, bringing Jewish perspectives to life through diverse stories, traditions, and a rich history of the Jewish people. The festival will offer opportunities to attend in-person and virtually, including special events that are sure to make this year’s EJFF a memorable experience.

The opening night film, sponsored by the Pertman family, will feature Running On Sand which is a stand-out, highly-rated feel-good comedy-drama selected by the festival committee. Committee Member Karen Hering shared that this film “provides a heartfelt social commentary on the challenges faced by many illegal immigrants who live in the shadows. With some soccer and a little romance thrown into the mix, it’s a winning combination. Winner of the Best First Feature and Best Screenplay at the Haifa International Film Festival, it is giving Israelis a few hours of total escape and will for you too.”

The EJFF line-up includes a tapestry of light-hearted comedies, serious historical subjects, a documentary, as well as interactive experiences. Susan Schiffman, Festival Coordinator, expressed that each film has its own focus and personality aimed to engage a wide audience.

Sam Koplowicz, who has been the Festival Chair for almost 15 years, explained that a primary focus for the film selection committee is to bring something fresh every year for audiences to enjoy. “We try to make a diversified festival and find films which are compelling, meaningful, and entertaining,” he explained.

Do you love the 1971 classic film, Fiddler on the Roof? Head to the Metro Cinema Garneau Theatre on Sunday, May 26, for a sing-along lead by the brilliant Michele Miller who performed in the Broadway Tour of Fiddler on the Roof. It is a perfect family outing where kids can come for free. Schiffman encourages people to dress up in “fiddler-esque” attire. There will be free popcorn for the first 25 people who arrive in costume. Put on a simple head scarf, strap on your suspenders, and come take part in this lively event!

Take a trip down memory lane on Tuesday, May 28, with the screening of Remembering Gene Wilder. Koplowicz shared his love for this entertaining, loving documentary portrait. “It shows Wilder at the height of his unique comedic genius and examines the entire arc of his career.”

Are you up for an evening of quirky, unconventional entertainment? Bring a friend to the Capitol Theatre in Fort Edmonton Park for closing night on Thursday, May 30, to watch the screening of Less Than Kosher. This offbeat all Canadian Jewish comedy has been described as Shiva Baby meets A Star is Born. Stick around after the screening for a Q and A with the captivating Shaina Silver-Baird, the film’s co-writer and leading actress, and Daniel Rosenberg, the director.

Amongst the incredible feature films, make sure to catch the beautiful short films that will be available throughout the festival as well. The five virtual and one in-person shorts are a mixture of animation and live-action. Koplowicz described The Boy as “dramatic and deeply moving.”  It was directed by Yahav Winner who was murdered during the October 7th attacks by Hamas terrorists. Winner had just finished producing The Boy. “The overarching backdrop is to honour the director whose promising career was cut short.”

Two other short films to note are Swimming with Wings and Your Place in Line. The first is a 10-minute documentary that explores the immigration experience through the eyes of a little Israeli girl in the Netherlands. The second is a graduation project by two Israeli filmmakers, from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, which follows a woman who has been mistakenly registered as dead and subsequently navigates the “labyrinth of bureaucracy” to prove she is, in fact, alive.

Koplowicz explained that there is no agenda or specific theme when selecting films for the festival. “We search for films that are well made and have emotional appeal.” He went on to add that the films are not only aimed to please the Jewish community but they provide an opportunity to reach out to the non-Jewish community as well through thoughtfully curated cinema.

Schiffman encourages people to keep an eye out for upcoming EJFF related activities as the festival committee works hard to involve other Jewish organizations throughout this community event.

The EJFF is a major contributor towards Edmonton Partnership2Gether, a partnership with the communities of the Northern Galilee Panhandle. “This year’s project will bring a group of Israeli teens to Camp BB-Riback, connecting them to local teens and giving them a respite from war and trauma at home,” shared Susan.

The festival will run between May 21 and May 30. Tickets to in-person films are $15 and $10 for virtual films. For $80, you can buy an all-access pass. Due to distributor requirements, the online films will only be available to Edmonton residents. For film descriptions, tickets, or to sponsor, you can visit jewishedmonton.org. Contact Susan Schiffman at susans@edjfed.org with any questions.

 Jenna Vetsch is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.

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