UK Jewish Film Festival

The Jewish Film Festival, one of London’s largest outside of the BFI London Film Festival, opened with Francois Margolin’s The Art Dealer and a massive programme that includes 69 features, plus documentaries and shorts.

The festival withdrew from the Tricycle Cinema because of a disagreement over the portion of their funding that comes from the Israeli Embassy. The issue was not resolved in time for this year so new venues had to be found. These include a whole bevy of cinemas, such as Bafta, Curzon Mayfair, Everyman Maida Vale, Odeon Muswell Hill and the Arthouse in Crouch End.

Among the most potentially popular films is debutante director Talya Lavie’s Zero Motivation, a winner at Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Festival, and highly successful at the Israeli box-office.

The film, showing at a Bafta gala on November 8 and again on November 16 at Odeon Muswell Hill, is a dark and zany comedy about a unit of female soldiers sent to a remote desert outpost and bored stiff with pen-pushing. Issues of commitment to each other and their country are not avoided and it dares to be as provocative as it is funny.

On November 13, there is Nadav Schirman’s controversial The Green Prince, the documentary about the son of a top Hamas leader who was recruited under the code name of the film’s title to spy on his own people for more than a decade.

The festival progresses into its second week with some of its strongest programmes. As usual, a good few of the films are from Israel or on Israeli subjects but one of the most intriguing, showing on November 18, is Victor Young Perez. This tells the story of the Jewish Tunisian world champion flyweight boxer who was sent to Auschwitz where he had to fight many times for the entertainment of the camp commander. The film is convincingly acted, particularly by Brahim Asloum as Perez, the youngest boxer ever to become world champion, and tells its true story without either melodrama or fake heroism.

Another extraordinary tale is shown is Once in a Life time, in which a group of ordinary schoolchildren learn about the children sent to concentration camps during the war.

One of the most intriguing films of all, during the final week, is Noël Novoa’s Argentinian God’s Slave, about the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, in which the two leading characters are activists from both sides of the divide.

Finally, there is the brilliantly acted Gett, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, the story of a divorce shot in a rabbinical court where the wife has little chance of a fair hearing.

The 18th UK Jewish Film Festival runs until November 23 in various cinemas.