The Jewish experience

A different Jewish International Film Festival

Two new films have been added to the Jewish International Film Festival program as 'special events' - Zone of Interest and Maestro.

The Zone of Interest won the Grand Prix at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. Photo: A24/Mica Levi
The Zone of Interest won the Grand Prix at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. Photo: A24/Mica Levi

It’s a different Jewish International Film Festival this year.

The massacre of Israelis on October 7 Shabbat and Simchat Torah has changed our lives and the world. We understand that many of us aren’t in the mood for much and are somewhat fearful and not functioning. We have all been crying for four weeks.

We have proceeded with JIFF and in the Jewish way, we have gathered all our energy as we continue to choose life.

Though we are mellow and toned down.

JIFF strives to share stories from diverse points of view that give perspective on the Jewish experience. One of the mindboggling consequences of the attacks is the anti-Israel sentiment with rabid worldwide antisemitism.

The Holocaust is tragically a film genre. We are often asked why they keep getting made. Many speak of ‘Holocaust Film Fatigue’ and question their relevance in contemporary society. Yet Jewish and non-Jewish filmmakers worldwide keep making the choice to explore this era. These films attempt to teach all people what can happen anywhere, anytime if societies aren’t vigilant to racism.

The massacres and rise of overt antisemitism press all the trauma buttons embedded in the Jewish DNA. We are presenting 17 of the most significant Holocaust films of the year including two brilliant films Stella A Life and Filip.

Hot off the press, we have a film that we have just announced that is not in our printed program, which will play as a Gala Centrepiece.

JIFF is privileged to present the Australian premiere of Zone of Interest on November 19 three months prior to its general release. Zone of Interest was the winner of the Grand Prix (best director) at Cannes 2023 and is directed by Jonathan Glazer based on the novel by Martin Amis. The film is described as a masterpiece. It is likely to stand the test of time as one of the most important Holocaust-era films. It tells the eerie truth of Rudolf Hoss the Auschwitz camp commandant and his family’s life in their home adjoining the concentration camp wall, and explores the Hoss’s belief that they are  ‘living their best life’.

JIFF 2023 features 55 Australian premieres, films and TV series from 19 countries. This year we present our biggest-ever selection of Australian films, including the world premieres of two documentaries and five shorts.

Our Australian films are our biggest sellers with sessions selling out.

Revenge: My Dad The Nazi Killer is Danny Ben Moshe’s new film. It follows the three Green brothers in Melbourne today who try to piece together their father and uncle’s postwar life in Australia to see if they can find evidence that they were involved in the death of 20 ex-Nazi and Nazi collaborators in 50’s Australia.

The Jewish Nazi? is our closing night film and directed by Sydney journalist Dan Goldberg. It explores the story of Alex Kurzem who hid in the forest as a six-year-old after his family was murdered, was adopted by a Nazi battalion as their mascot, and immigrated post-war with a Latvian non-Jewish family to Sydney, and then spent the rest of his life in Altona, Melbourne in search of his true identity.

We have an excellent world premiere short film slot of five films by Australian filmmakers on Jewish themes including the prize winners of our JIFF short film fund. We are proud to play Sashas Game by local filmmaker Lexee Gordoun adapted from Anita Selzer’s book on her family’s Holocaust survival story.

Our program is also steeped in Yiddish culture. A highlight being the new Yiddish language masterpiece Shttl, a new feature film entirely in Yiddish giving a sense of prewar shtetl life. We of course have a big selection of Israeli films including the box-office hit Matchmaking, which was our opening night film. Eddie and I are now particularly happy that JIFF is playing 20 Israeli films, all Australian premiers.

Also fitting films at this time are Savoy, about the night in 1975 when the PLO stormed the Savoy Hotel in Tel Aviv, and Munich ’72 which shines new light on the massacre of the Israeli athletes with the release of newly declassified information.

Victory premiered in Haifa three weeks ago and is a musical set after the six-day war. Another film we have added as a special JIFF presents is Maestro, the Bradley Cooper film about the great American composer Leonard Bernstein.

There are also about 50 panels and special events.

We are thrilled with the record number of advertisers and sponsors associated with JIFF 2023. It is exciting for us that so many organisations and businesses want to be associated, and it is actually what makes JIFF possible.

A big question on our audiences’ minds this year is security.  We have invested in security guards this year, and CSG advise us daily. We have been advised that at this stage there are no indications of increased risk. As well as the security guards, CSG will support when necessary.

These weeks have shown that the Jewish people worldwide are one body and one broken heart.

The flood of violence has resulted in the entire Jewish world holding each other close in a protective ark while we fight for our survival and our homeland.

We sincerely hope JIFF can bring you some joy, and a break from the news. We hope our audience dives deep into the program and enjoys the best the community can at this JIFF 2023.

Lindy Tamir is the director of JIFF. 

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