19th Annual San Diego Jewish Film Festival

The Little Traitor

Based on Amos Oz’s novel Panther in the Basement and starring Alfred Molina, The Little Traitor follows the journey of young Proffy Liebowitz and his friends in their plot against the occupying British in 1947 Palestine. Proffy’s perspective changes, however, when he becomes friends with British soldier Sergeant Dunlop, played by Molina. This new friendship complicates his standing with his friends and the entire Jewish community. This uplifting, heart-warming story is perfect for all ages.

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Amos Oz

Israel’s internationally acclaimed author Amos Oz is also an eloquent proponent of peaceful co-existence in the Middle East. This poignant film paints a captivating portrait of Oz and his richly complex background. Israel’s Arad desert and Greece’s stunning Salonica comprise the dramatic backdrop for the life story of this compassionate and courageous writer.

Preceded by: Shield of Solomon

Since the late 1990’s, the Janjaweed (killing squads) of the North Sudanese army have massacred more than 300,000 South Sudanese Christians and Muslims. Now Israel faces a moral dilemma—can the children of the Holocaust refuse admission to refugees facing genocide? Shield of Solomon tells the story of four of these Darfur refugees who have found sanctuary in this most unlikely haven.

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Arthur Szyk: Illuminator

Polish-born Jewish artist Arthur Szyk (1894–1951) was a one-man army against Nazism. Scholars and art critics consider him the greatest 20th century miniaturist illuminator. Renowned for his political caricatures and product advertisements, he is also famous for his Passover Haggadah. But Szyk’s art is not an end in itself—it was his means to promote tolerance, dignity and freedom.

Preceded by: Eye Witness—60 Years

Time-Life photographer David Rubinger journeys back to the places and people he photographed over 60 years to give viewers a better understanding of contemporary Israeli reality. Recipient of the Israel Prize for Photography, Rubinger presents his life story, views and experiences, and most importantly, his great love for his country and its people.

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At Home in Utopia

A home of one’s own is the American dream—but what happens when the dreamers are immigrants, factory workers and Communists? Filmmaker Michal Goldman traces the fascinating history of the United Workers Cooperative Colony – The Coops – one of four cooperative apartments built in the 1920’s in the Bronx by visionary Jewish garment workers. This epic film captures the courage behind this radical experiment that crossed the barriers of race, religion, social convention— and sometimes even common sense.

Preceded by: Unattached

Why don’t those nice Jewish kids just get married already? Oy vey! There’s a singles crisis in the Orthodox community! This Student Academy Award-winning film portrays the conflict between 21st century singles’ expectations and the 19th century matchmakers’ traditions.

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Beau Jest

Beautiful Chicago teacher Sarah Goldman is in love with a great guy with one fatal flaw: he’s not Jewish. To stop her mother (Lainie Kazan) from fixing her up with nice Jewish boys, Sarah hires a handsome Christian actor to play the role of her “perfect Jewish beau.” In this adaptation of his off-Broadway and San Diego hit, screenwriter/director James Sherman tells the antics that follow in this side-splitting tale.

Preceded by: Therapy

A therapy session becomes a comic group intervention when family members and girlfriends “listen in” on Charlie Goldberg’s confidential appointment.

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The Beetle

Director Yishai Orian’s wife, pregnant with their first child, insists he scrap his beloved VW Beetle for a safe family car. Yishai’s comic struggles with his inner Peter Pan take him to Jordan in a last-ditch effort to salvage the relic before his son arrives. Along the way, former owners of his Beetle tell remarkable life stories involving the car. A 2008 HotDocs Film Festival Audience Top Ten choice.

Preceded by: Shorts by Neil Ira Needleman

In these three charming short films, director Neil Ira Needleman explores topics from family connections to his own “Yiddish-induced paranoia.”

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Blessed is the Match:
The Life & Death of Hannah Senesh

Hannah Senesh was a World War II-era poet, diarist and staunch Zionist who became famous as a paratrooper, resistance fighter and modern-day Joan of Arc. Her mother, Catherine, documented her daughter’s life in memoirs and in correspondence with Hannah. This dramatized documentary is based on interviews with family members, classmates, and kibbutz members—as well as Shimon Peres and historian Michael Berenbaum. Hannah’s dramatic life story is told through Catherine’s eyes, honoring the legacies of both mother and daughter. Under consideration for an Academy Award® for Documentary Feature.

Preceded by: The Morse Collectors

While their father is off fighting in WWII, two children hear Morse code in dripping taps and ticking clocks. If the messages are real, who sent them?

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The Case for Israel:
Democracy’s Outpost

While Israel repeatedly demonstrates her true commitment to peace, Israel’s detractors— many with international prominence—blame her for the conflict in the Middle East. Alan Dershowitz, author of the book by the same name—along with key political, judicial and academic leaders—provides us with a first-rate education and offers a proactive defense of Israel in the court of public opinion. The message of this documentary should have a permanent home wherever truth is prized— and should be required viewing in a locked-door session of the UN’s entire General Assembly.

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Circumcise Me

Yisrael Campbell is a funny Jew. But he wasn’t always so. Jewish, that is. He used to be Christopher Campbell, a Philadelphia Catholic. Campbell has undergone three conversions (Reform, Conservative and Orthodox), and he’s now a stand-up comic in Jerusalem. Circumcise Me is a riotous documentary that uses excerpts from his shows along with an inside look at his quest to find meaning in religion. During his spiritual journey, Yisrael befriends San Diego’s Marla Bennett at the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem.

Followed by: The Comedy Stylings of Yisrael Campbell in person

Did you hear the one about the Catholic who walked into a synagogue? Circumcise Me’s Yisrael Campbell will join us after the screening.

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Constantine’s Sword

Oscar-nominated director Oren Jacoby turns the camera on author and former Catholic priest James Carroll as he embarks on a journey to confront his past and uncover the dark side of Christianity. Carroll explores a legacy of religious violence, from the rise of genocidal anti-Semitism to modern-day wars sparked by religious extremism. Constantine’s Sword forces us to confront the question: Why do we kill people in the name of G-d? With the voices of Liev Shreiber, Natasha Richardson and Eli Wallach.

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The Pieter-Dirk Uys Story

The Dame Edna of South Africa is Mrs. Evita Bezuidenhout, the alter-ego of half-Jewish Afrikaner political comedian Pieter-Dirk Uys. He has fought the system of apartheid with satire in a political climate that saw critics of the government go “mysteriously missing” every day. Today, Uys uses his inimitable skill as a mimic and raconteur to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic with teenagers of all backgrounds to prevent them from joining the 5.5 million South Africans with the disease.

Preceded by: Shield of Solomon

Since the late 1990’s, the Janjaweed (killing squads) of the North Sudanese army have massacred more than 300,000 South Sudanese Christians and Muslims. Now Israel faces a moral dilemma—can the children of the Holocaust refuse admission to refugees facing genocide? Shield of Solomon tells the story of four of these Darfur refugees who have found sanctuary in this most unlikely haven.

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The First Basket

This fascinating documentary explores the impact that basketball and modern Jewish history have had upon each other. The game spread like wildfire through turn-ofthe- century New York City settlement houses, proved a perfect fit for urban Jewish kids and played a large role in the assimilation of American Jews. Chock-full of vivid anecdotes and distinctive characters, both the famous and the unsung, The First Basket is indeed the greatest Jewish basketball documentary in the world. Bring the entire family to enjoy.

Preceded by: Got Next

This fast-moving short portrays a yarmulke-wearing Jewish kid asking a group of Harlem teens if he can play in their street basketball game. It’s what he does next that matters.

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The Last Train

Director Joseph Vilsmaier (Stalingrad and Comedian Harmonists) and his wife, Dana Vavrova, present a harrowing dramatization of the cattle-car journey of the final 688 Berlin Jews to Auschwitz during World War II. Based on actual eyewitness accounts, the film alternates between the horrifying situation in the overcrowded train and touching flashbacks to happier family times. The occupants demonstrate an incredible will to live, but will it be strong enough for anyone to survive this hell on rails? This train stands symbolically for the fate of all of the Jews of Europe.

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Lemon Tree

Based loosely on a true story, Lemon Tree turns a simple snapshot of a minor political situation into a touching and memorable analogy for a country divided. A Palestinian widow finds her beloved lemon grove threatened when an Israeli government Minister moves in across the Green Line. Legal battle stations are manned and the gears of justice begin to grind. But it is the personal side of things that prove most interesting—the entanglements between the widow, her lawyer, the Minister and his wife. Personal meets political in this pertinent and beautifully played drama.

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The Monster Among Us

Few Americans know much about the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe today, but 60 years after the Holocaust, hatred has reared its ugly head in the guise of radical Muslim beliefs and actions. Filmmakers Allen and Cynthia Mondell (West of Hester Street, Make Me a Match) personalize this crisis through the experiences of people from all walks of life in six European countries— neighborhood attacks, cemetery desecrations, synagogue burnings, ostracism at work and even more subtle evidence that anti- Semitism is far from dead.

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My Opposition:
The Diaries of Friedrich Kellner

German Chief Justice Inspector Friedrich Kellner was a political activist who campaigned against Hitler and the Nazi Party. Friedrich wanted to stop the genocide and risked his life writing a secret ten-volume diary challenging Nazi propaganda and documenting Nazi atrocities. His American grandson Robert Scott Kellner, who was raised in a Jewish orphanage and became a US Navy petty officer, went to Germany in search of his grandparents. This moving film allows Robert to use the diaries to warn against modern-day extremists and totalitarianism.

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This delightfully spirited drama portrays the remarkable adventures of two unlikely companions—Mir, a 37-year-old twice widowed El Al flight attendant and the six-year-old Chinese-speaking son of her housekeeper. After agreeing to watch Noodle (nicknamed for his exceptional slurping skills) for “just one hour,” Mir’s life is turned upside down. When Noodle’s immigrant mother disappears, Mir must rise above her fears and limitations and defeat the barriers of language through empathy and love. Her effort to reunite mother and son becomes a scheme of international proportion. Winner of Best Feature Film at the Boston Jewish Film Festival.

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Perlasca, An Italian Hero

Based on true events, this compelling drama tells the story of Giorgio Perlasca (portrayed by popular Italian television actor Luca Zingaretti), an Italian businessman who saved the lives of thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. By posing as a Spanish ambassador, Perlasca fed, hid and smuggled Jews to safety, ultimately keeping his heroism a secret. Director Alberto Negrin’s film explores the power of ordinary people to fight the most extraordinary injustice.

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Plus Tard
(One Day You’ll Understand)

Famed Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai (Kippur, Kadosh) sets his latest film in 1987 Paris. As French TV broadcasts the trial of Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyons, a French businessman becomes obsessed with discovering the truth of his family’s history. Sorting through memorabilia, he finds his father’s “Aryan declaration” and confronts his mother, Rivka (played by the legendary Jeanne Moreau), who has closed the door on her past. His letsleeping- dogs-lie sister defends their parents, but his wife and children join him on a visit to the village where his grandparents hid during the war. Finally, Rivka confides her past with the hope that her family will shape a better future.

Preceded by: Toyland (Spielzeugland)

A young German boy thinks his Jewish neighbors have gone away to Toyland, so he sneaks off to join them. Winner, Audience Favorite Live Action Short, Palm Springs International ShortFest.

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Praying in Her Own Voice

On the second day of every Hebrew month, a group meets at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, wearing prayer shawls and reading from the Torah. The difference? This group is made up of women, and though their acts are allowed under Jewish law, they are opposed by many Orthodox authorities. Director Yael Katzir documents the struggle that the “Women of the Wall” have faced as they fight both religious and legal authorities for the right to pray out loud in their own voices.

Preceded by: Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Goldberg

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Refusenik is the first retrospective documentary to chronicle the 30-year movement to “Let Our People Go.” As a result of this most successful human rights campaign of all times—one of the proudest chapters in Jewish history—one and a half million Jews finally escaped the tyranny of the Soviet Union to live in freedom. With interviews, photos and film footage smuggled out of the Soviet Union, Refusenik illustrates how grass-roots activism and steadfast individuals can utilize the power inherent in democracy to literally change the world.

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The Secrets

Naomi and Michelle meet at a women’s Yeshiva in the Kabbala birthplace of Safed. Naomi, an impressive scholar who is about to be married in a loveless match, and Michelle, a carefree French girl, become fast friends as they help a mysterious woman (played by noted French actress Fanny Ardant) atone for her sins before her imminent death. Forbidden Kabbalistic rituals are used to help the woman, while the two girls form a romantic bond with each other. Nominated for eight Israeli Academy Awards.

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Who was Ariel Sharon before he fell into a coma in 2006? Israeli filmmaker Dror Moreh thought the former Prime Minister was the epitome of evil—until he made a documentary about Sharon’s historic decision to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip and destroy the settlements he’d advocated building in prior years. Moreh’s perspective changed after shooting this emotional and private film that portrays Sharon’s daily life as if no cameras were around. Moreh introduces us to the real person behind the public statesman—“The only leader strong enough. . . to bring a better future to the region.”

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Where Are You Going, Moshe?

It is the 1960’s and King Mohammed V of Morocco, the protector of the Jews, has died, spurring the Jewish population to flee to Israel, France and elsewhere. This bittersweet comedy is set in a dusty hamlet where Jews and Muslims have lived peacefully as friends and neighbors. The local bar is under threat by the mosque to shut down if all the Jews leave, because, as stricter Muslim laws are enforced, only Jews are officially allowed to imbibe. The bar owner and town do all they can to encourage the last Jew to stay and keep their beloved watering hole open.

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The Woman from Sarajevo

Zineba Hardaga was the first Muslim woman to be honored as Righteous Among the Nations for hiding a Jewish family and saving them from certain death. Roles reverse fifty years later, and the Hardagas family flees from Sarajevo to Israel, where Zineba’s daughter, Sara, and her family live. In this film, Sara and her daughter return to Sarajevo to meet Sara’s Muslim sister and Christian brother. Together, they attempt to comprehend their unique family history.

Preceded by: Amos Oz

Israel’s internationally acclaimed author Amos Oz is also an eloquent proponent of peaceful co-existence in the Middle East. This poignant film paints a captivating portrait of Oz and his richly complex background. Israel’s Arad desert and Greece’s stunning Salonica comprise the dramatic backdrop for the life story of this compassionate and courageous writer.

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Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Goldberg

Aviva Kempner shares with us the amazing life and career of Gertrude Berg, the creator, writer and star of The Goldbergs, a radio show that debuted in 1929 and subsequently became a popular weekly TV program (1949–1956). Berg pioneered the family sitcom that was to become TV’s most enduring format—remarkably with an outwardly Jewish family that wore its immigrant heritage on its sleeve. Berg pushed the boundaries not only of television’s possibilities, but also of women’s roles in the entertainment industry.

Preceded by: Speaking of Yiddish

Yiddish is the beautiful, expressive language of director Neil Ira Needleman’s forefathers…so why does it make him feel so paranoid?!

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We Must Remember

Broadcast journalism students at Carlsbad High School hope to change the way California’s eighth-graders learn about the Holocaust. Their documentary focuses on the experiences of sixteen students discovering the horror of the Holocaust: touring concentration camps, interviewing Holocaust survivors and soldiers who liberated the camps and meeting with German high school students. The students hope to distribute the film to every middle and high school in California. What makes their accomplishment even more amazing is that they donated their time, received no school credit and did fundraising—because they “feel it’s a story that needs to be told.”

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Shorts in Winter

Every short film is a small gem, revealing a story in its most basic elements— the rawest, purest essence of character, conflict and resolution. There is no time wasted expounding on a character's childhood, the roots of a convoluted conflict or a drawn-out resolution. Instead, in a tight sequence the stage is set, the characters presented and all comes to a twist or surprising climax. If you enjoy drama in its purest, most powerful form, you'll like these short films.
Mark Title, Past President, Visual Arts Foundation and Short Film Critic

Shorts in Winter - Part One


A man ventures out just before the Sabbath to buy some milk, leading him into a series of encounters with residents of his Jerusalem neighborhood. Winner of the Cannes Festival First Prize Cinefondation.

Isaac & Isha

Isaac, a Lubavitch Jewish man, and Isha, a beautiful Hindu woman, fall in love in this Bollywood-style musical extravaganza.

On the Road to Tel Aviv

On an ordinary day, a suspicious Arab woman gets on an Israeli bus. How do we react when confronted by our fears and prejudices?

The Wall

Through the wall of their New York City apartment, a guilt-ridden cellist and a Holocaust survivor form an unlikely bond.

Weitzman Street No. 10

A Russian Jewish family arrives in Israel, where they are greeted by air raid sirens and strange new customs.

With a Little Patience (Turelem)

The mundane activities of an office clerk contrast with the stark reality of her job.

Shorts in Winter - Part Two

The Battle of Cable Street

In a stunning blend of live-action and animation, director Yoav Segal takes us inside his grandfather’s account of the historic fight against fascism in England.

Got Next

A street basketball game in Harlem takes a surprising turn when a young Jewish boy in a yarmulke shows up to ask if he can play in their next game.

My Olympic Summer

Using his parents’ 8mm home movies, filmmaker Daniel Robin creates a fictional account of their troubled marriage against the backdrop of the 1972 Munich Olympics. Winner of the Short Filmmaking Award at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

The Predator’s Return

A concentration camp survivor is forced to confront his past when he meets his nursing home’s newest resident—the former Nazi officer who murdered his family sixty years ago.


Ismayil, a 13-year-old Arab drug dealer, teams with an Israeli ex-soldier as they each attempt to escape their current lives. Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Student Film.

Song of David

David (played by real-life Hassidic rap artist Nosson Zand) is forced to choose between the Orthodox world of his Los Angeles Yeshiva and the soul-stirring rap music that has become his means of self-expression.

Toyland (Spielzeugland)

A young German boy thinks his Jewish neighbors have gone away to Toyland, so he sneaks off to join them. Winner, Audience Favorite Live Action Short, Palm Springs International ShortFest.

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The Deal

With his career in an uncontrollable downward spiral, a hapless Hollywood producer (William H. Macy) cons a major studio executive (Meg Ryan) into financing a $100 million action espionage film about “Lev Disraeli.” When his star (LL Cool J) is kidnapped and the South African production is closed down, the producer moves his crew to Prague without advising studio heads. He begins filming the original script—his nephew’s PBS-style film on the real 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Director Steven Schachter takes a comic look at the twisted side of Hollywood politics. Based on the book by Peter Lefcourt.

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