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The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, now in its 39th year, opens on July 18 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco with “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles,” a documentary about the creative talents involved in the making of the 1964 Broadway musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.”
“Fiddler,” drawn from a story about humble shtetl life in Eastern Europe, has proven to be not only enduring, but also of universal appeal in its depiction of the relation between tradition and forward-looking world views.
The festival’s lineup — an intriguing mix of documentaries and narratives, shorts and animation, includes 65 films and 135 screenings throughout the Bay Area (July 18-28 at the Castro Theatre; July 20-25 at the Palo Alto CinéArts; July 25-Aug. 1 at the Albany Twin theater; Aug. 2-4 at the Piedmont Theatre in Oakland; and Aug. 3-4 at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael). A number of directors will be in attendance to present their work.
Among the highlights this year: A stunning look at ocean life through the lens of still underwater photographer Amos Nachoum life (“Picture of His Life”); a thriller based on a true life rescue mission, directed by Gideon Raff of “Homeland” and “Prisoner of War” fame (“The Red Sea Diving Resort”); biographical films about noted film critic Pauline Kael (“What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael”) and former Israeli prime minister, Golda Meir (“Golda”); a comedy about a Palestinian writer on a popular soap opera and the entanglements that follow his newfound fame (“Tel Aviv on Fire”); and the story of an idyllic honeymoon reshaped by troubling insights into family history (“My Polish Honeymoon.”)
The annual Freedom of Expression Award will be presented on July 22 to Judith Helfand, followed by a screening of the filmmaker’s most recent work, “COOKED: Survival by Zip Code,” an examination of the 1995 Chicago heat wave that resulted in 793 death and raised questions about unequal expenditure of natural resources for disaster relief preparedness.
No SFJFF festival is complete without music. This year, the festival’s offerings range from “Fiddler” to “The Mamboniks” — a documentary about Jewish aficionados of the mambo craze of the 1950s — to “It Must Schwing: The Blue Note Story” — a documentary look at the two German Jewish refugees who started the iconic music label.
Fore more details on tickets and show times, visit the festival website.