The largest Jewish film program in the world will be celebrated at the Miami Jewish Film Festival’s (MJFF) 23rd annual edition from January 9-23, 2020, premiering an unprecedented 107 films from 25 countries, and hosting more than 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 reaching an audience of more than 30,000, has unveiled its biggest film lineup ever featuring 6 World Premieres, 6 International Premieres, 7 North American Premieres, and a record-setting 29 films directed by women (31 percent of films announced), all being shown at 14 different venues across Greater Miami.
The 23rd annual Miami Jewish Film Festival will open with the World Premiere of the tenderhearted music documentary Saul & Ruby, To Life!, centered on two Holocaust survivors in South Florida who begin an extraordinary musical journey when they form the world’s first-ever Holocaust Survivor Band. Closing night will feature the premiere of the Israeli caper comedy Forgiveness, directed and starring Guy Amir & Hanan Savyon, the acclaimed writers and stars behind Israel’s box office smash-hit comedy Maktub.
The Festival has also announced the 14 films playing in its inaugural Grand Jury Prize Competition, which will offer the winning film an $18,000 USD cash prize courtesy of Crescent Heights — the first such award to be offered by any Jewish film festival in the world. The films playing in competition include Erik Greenberg Anjou’s A Cantor’s Head (North American Premiere), Dani Menkin’s Aulcie (World Premiere), Beth Elise Hawk’s Breaking Bread (Southeast US Premiere), Yaron Shani’s Chained (Southeast US Premiere), Pavel Lungin’s Esau (North American Premiere), Itay Tal’s God of the Piano (Southeast US Premiere), Yaron Zilberman’s Incitement (Southeast US Premiere), Dan Friedkin’s Lyrebird (Southeast US Premiere), Levi Zini’s Menachem Begin: Peace and War (World Premiere); Daniel Roher’s Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (Southeast US Premiere), Walter Tejblum’s Shalom Taiwan (International Premiere), Boaz Armoni’s The Electrifiers(International Premiere), Barnabás Tóth’s Those Who Remained (Southeast US Premiere), and the Festival’s opening night film, Saul & Ruby, To Life! (World Premiere).
Playing in the Festival’s Next Wave Jury Prize Competition, which offers a $5,000 prize courtesy of Diane and Alan Lieberman, and which is selected by a jury from the Festival’s Next Wave membership (composed of 21-35-year-old college students and young professionals), are the following films: Fernando Grostein Andrade’s Abe (Southeast US Premiere), Oren Gerner’s Africa (US Premiere), Yossi Atia’s Born in Jerusalem and Still Alive (Southeast US Premiere), Dror Zahavi’s Crescendo (Southeast US Premiere), Zack Bernbaum’s Dancing Dogs of Dombrova (Florida Premiere), Tal Granit & Sharon Maymon’s Flawless (Southeast US Premiere), Aliza Rosen’s Latter Day Jew (Florida Premiere), Jeremy Teicher’s Olympic Dreams (Florida Premiere), and Oren Jacoby’s On Broadway (Southeast US Premiere).
For the first time in its 23-year history, MJFF will present a Spotlight on Ibero-American Cinema featuring six unique films from Argentina, Spain, and Brazil. Notable films in this sidebar include the International Premieres of the revelatory documentary The House on Wannsee Street and the uproariously slapstick comedy My Amazing Funeral, the North American Premiere of the adventurous film The Jewish Experience, and the Southeast US Premieres of the stirring film Your Wishes in Heaven that traces Sephardim from around the world and the family comedy Back to Maracanã.
Four official entries for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film will premiere at the Festival, including the Czech Republic’s The Painted Bird, Latvia’s The Mover, Israel’s Incitement, and Hungary’s Those Who Remained; the latter two are playing in the Festival’s Grand Jury Prize Competition. In addition to the Best Foreign Language Film entries, the Festival will premiere Hate Among Us, an entry for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Film. This timely film shines a light on the rise of anti-Semitism worldwide and is executive produced by Dean Cain and Montel Williams, who will attend the film’s premiere and participate in a special panel discussion.
Music features prominently in this year’s program with seven different events featuring live performance components, including the Greater Miami Youth Symphony for Crescendo, the South Florida Jewish Chorale for The Conductor, cantorial music for the world premiere of A People’s Soundtrack, a duet performance featuring Broadway’s most iconic songs for On Broadway, and Wagner, Hand & Pflug performing music by The Band for Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band.
New this year, MJFF will host several free movies under the stars at the Miami Beach SoundScape wallcast that will be specially curated and paired with thematically relevant films premiering at the Festival in Miami Beach venues. Films featured in this program include the presentation of Casablanca paired with the premiere of Curtiz, a stylishly dramatized biopic of filmmaker Michael Curtiz and his efforts to produce Casablanca; the presentation of the Academy Award-winning period epic Amadeus paired with the premiere of Forman vs. Forman, the first-ever authorized documentary about filmmaker Miloš Forman, who won his second Academy Award for directing Amadeus; and the 35th anniversary presentation of The Goonies paired with the premiere of Dave Grusin: Not Enough Time, a poignant documentary about the adventure-filled life of composer Dave Grusin, who wrote the music for The Goonies.
Other noteworthy films at this year’s Festival include the North American Premieres of My Name Is Sara, a Holocaust drama based on a true story; the heart-affecting When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit from the director of the Academy Award-winning film Nowhere in Africa; the moving documentary Anne Frank: Parallel Stories narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren; and the courtroom drama The Collini Case starring legendary Italian actor Franco Nero. Films receiving their World Premieres at the Festival also include the made in Miami documentary Names, Not Numbers, about Greater Miami students who participated in a unique interactive oral history film project; and the fascinating documentary Holy Silence, which looks at the role the Vatican played during the Holocaust.
Some of Hollywood’s fabled stars will also be featured in several films, from Billy Crystal in the coming of age drama Standing Up, Falling Down; Academy Award-winning actress Anjelica Huston and Stranger Things star Noah Schnapp in Waiting for Anya; Academy Award-nominee Harvey Keitel in the modern retelling of the biblical story of Esau and Bill Pullman in the spy thriller The Coldest Game, to a touching tribute to the artists and creators of many Hollywood classics in Sunset Over Hollywood. Politics is also a common theme running through this year’s Festival with three potent documentaries premiering about Israel’s leadership, Golda and Dayan: The First Family, in addition to the world premiere of Menachem Begin: Peace and War, which is playing in the Festival’s Grand Jury Prize Competition.
Fans of genre cinema will have a delight digging into the Festival’s special anniversary events celebrating some of cinema’s most iconic movies. Commemorating their centennial anniversaries, MJFF will present the screenings of The Golem and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari accompanied by newly commissioned live score performances. The Festival will also celebrate the 40th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s legendary film The Shining in a new 4K remaster that was supervised by Kubrick’s former personal assistant Leon Vitali, who was previously featured in MJFF 2018 film Filmworker.
More information is available at www.miamijewishfilmfestival.org and by calling 305-573-7304.