Celebrating its 25th edition at multiple local venues from Feb. 5 through 15, the San Diego Jewish Film Festival remains an important forum to explore ongoing issues of identity in both the United States and abroad. The program includes fictional narratives, documentaries, shorts films and panel discussions that all examine the diversity of perspective in the Jewish community.
This year, CityBeat was given the chance to preview a few of the festival's selections, the best of which is a nonfiction effort by directors Yaron Shani and Nurit Kedar called Life Sentences.
The film begins with a faded photograph of a handsome Arabic man named Fauzi Nimer posing next to his young Jewish girlfriend, Simona, while they enjoy a day at the beach in the Israeli city of Nahariya. Except, her face is covered by a black box, redacted to symbolically express the cultural divide that will haunt their unborn children for years. From here, Life Sentences explores Fauzi's descent into terrorist activity in retaliation for Israel's dominance during the Six Day War in May of 1967, and the impact his arrest has on Simona and their two young children.
Epic in scope, the movie traces the fault lines of Fauziís legacy, specifically the experience of his grown son, Nimer, who recounts growing up a confused child caught between his mother's Jewish faith and father's tainted legacy. The women remain voiceless and their pictures obscured, not out of spite for their diverging experiences but to express the vast figurative space between family members who've chosen ideology over blood.
Life Sentences boils the ongoing Jewish / Arab conflict down to a very personal level. It has so thoroughly blurred the lines of empathy for Nimer that he can no longer relate to either side, left to feel a prolonged sense of isolation. The film's title is plural for a reason.
Jupiter Ascending: Ever hoped to experience Channing Tatum in full eye shadow and Mila Kunis as a world-saving goddess? Andy and Lana Wachowski's long-delayed sci-fi opus will be your chance.
Match: Patrick Stewart stars in this tense drama about a Julliard professor who's interviewed by a woman who's researching the history of dance. Screens through Feb. 12 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Mommy: In the not-so-distant future, when people can sign away their parental rights to the government, a struggling mother tries to raise her rowdy teenage son. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
National Gallery: Frederick Wiseman's sweeping documentary about London's famous art museum is both a probing procedural and an illuminating exploration of the creative process. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
San Diego Jewish Film Festival: Narrative features, documentaries, short films and panel discussions, each addressing the shifting identities and perspectives of Jewish communities in the United States and abroad. Runs Feb. 5 through 15 at various theaters.
Seventh Son: Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore team up in the craziest sequel to The Big Lebowski that you could possibly imagine.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of the Water: "Making waves in our world." That tagline says it all, really.
Still Alice: Columbia University professor Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease and must come to grips with her own fading memory and mortality.
El Verano de los Peces Voladores: On vacation with her father in Chile, Manena realizes he's obsessed with killing the carp in his artificial lagoon, angering the local Mapuche tribe. Screens through Feb. 12 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
One time only
Some Like it Hot: Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis dress up in drag to escape threatening mobsters, only to fall in love with one of their traveling companions (Marilyn Monroe). Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4, at Arclight La Jolla.
Balboa Park: The Magic City: Jack Ofield's documentary covers the historical significance of San Diego's crown jewel. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4, at the Lemon Grove Library.
No Evidence of Disease: A rock band made up of six GYN surgeons travels around the United States, trying to bring awareness to cancers that affect women. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4, at Edwards Rancho San Diego.
Groundhog Day: Everything's repeating. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Ralph Fiennes plays the stalwart concierge at an Eastern European hotel that hosts a number of eccentric personalities on the eve of World War I. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 6 and 7, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Men, Women, & Children: Jason Reitman directs this modern-day tragedy about the evils of the Internet, starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner and Rosemarie DeWitt. Screens at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
Cabaret: Liza Minnelli won an Oscar for her turn in Bob Fosse's big-screen musical about a club entertainer operating in the Weimar Republic era immediately before the rise of Nazism. Screens at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8, at Arclight La Jolla.
What If: A young man (Daniel Radcliffe), burnt out from a number of failed relationships, develops a friendship with a new woman (Zoe Kazan), then realizes she might be his soul mate. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 9, at the San Diego Central Library in East Village.
The Good Lie: Three refugees from Sudan try to adapt to life in Kansas City with the help of Reese Witherspoon's counselor. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
American Beauty: The floating plastic bag is life. Get it? Screens at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10, at Arclight La Jolla.
Ghost: The Swayze strikes at Demi Moore's heart from beyond the grave as Whoopi Goldberg provides mystical support. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, at Arclight La Jolla.
Sixteen Candles: John Hughes' classic teenage film revolves around a pivotal birthday party that goes terribly wrong. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
All this Mayhem: Tas and Ben Pappas are brothers who rise up together in the world of professional skateboarding, only to get consumed by fame, drugs and ego. Ends Feb. 4 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Black or White: Kevin Costner plays a grieving widower who's caught up in a custody battle for his granddaughter. It costars Octavia Spencer and Gillian Jacobs.
Black Sea: Jude Law plays the commander of a submarine tasked with retrieving a load of stolen gold from the bottom of the ocean.
Brahmin Bulls: A young man gets suspicious when his estranged father suddenly shows up in Los Angeles, asking to mend their relationship. Ends Feb. 5 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Loft: Infidelity turns to murder in this thriller involving five men who decide to secretly share a loft to carry out trysts unbeknownst to their significant others. Karl Urban and James Marsden costar.
Oscar Nominated Short Films 2015: Animation: The nominees for Best Animated Short include A Single Life (The Netherlands), Feast (U.S.), Me and My Moulton (Canada / Norway), The Bigger Picture (U.K.) and The Dam Keeper (U.S.). Screens at the Ken Cinema.
Oscar Nominated Short Films 2015: Live Action: The nominees for Best Live Action Short Film include Aya (Israel / France), Boogaloo and Graham (U.K.), The Phone Call (U.K.), Butter Lamp (France / China) and Parvaneh (Switzerland). Screens at the Ken Cinema.
Project Almanac: When some teens disregard every cautionary tale and travel back in time, their lives are turned upside down. Shocker.
Song of the Sea: Merging folklore and fairy tale, Tomm Moore's gorgeous animated film tells the story of a brother and sister who get swept up into a fantasy world of selkies, sprites and giants. Screens at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
R100: Hitoshi Matsumoto's wild sex comedy follows a lonely father who gets caught up in a hilariously bizarre world of S&M. Ends Feb. 5 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
To the Arctic: The life cycles of polar bears and other arctic wildlife are the focus of this awe-inspiring IMAX documentary that takes you into the frigid north.
Two Days, One Night: After her coworkers vote to fire her in exchange for a pay increase, a woman (Marion Cotillard) visits them one by one and asks them to help salvage her job.
A Most Violent Year: When his business is threatened by a string of armed robberies, the owner of a New York City gas company (Oscar Isaac) must adapt to the volatile surroundings to survive.
Mortdecai: Johnny Depp stars as a kooky art dealer who investigates the disappearance of a priceless painting that could lead to Nazi gold.
Strange Magic: The first big animated film of 2015 features goblins, elves and other creatures vying for a magic potion.
The Boy Next Door: Jennifer Lopez's confused and vulnerable divorcée moves into a new town and begins a fling with a young man / psychopath.
American Sniper: Clint Eastwood's unflinching and critical biopic of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), who became the deadliest sniper during four tours in Iraq.
Blackhat: When a cryptic hacker threatens to send the world into chaos, the U.S. government releases a young computer genius to catch him. It's directed by ace craftsman Michael Mann (Heat, Miami Vice).
Paddington: Traveling from Peru, a young bear arrives in London hoping to find a home. There he meets the Brown family, who offer him a temporary safe haven.
The Wedding Ringer: Who best to impress your new in-laws than a loud, vivacious Kevin Hart? Josh Gad's shy young groom-to-be agrees.
Inherent Vice: Paul Thomas Anderson adapts Thomas Pynchon's detective yarn about a real-estate tycoon who disappears, inciting a number of pot-fueled stories in early-1970s Southern California.
Selma: Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) attempts to create voter reform in Selma, Alabama, a hotbed of racism and disenfranchisement.
Taken 3: Liam Neeson reprises his role as the badass who keeps losing family members to kidnappings. Maybe third time's a charm?
Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death: Dark spirits are awakened in the Eel Marsh House when children evacuated from World War II London arrive looking for shelter.
Big Eyes: Tim Burton's film tells the story of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), a 1960s housewife who allows her conman of a husband to take credit for her exceptionally popular paintings.
Into the Woods: Beware the Wolf, Sondheim. Beware the Wolf.
The Imitation Game: Benedict Cumberbatch stars as real-life code breaker Alan Turing, who led a squad of British mathematicians in breaking the Enigma code during World War II.
Unbroken: Angelina Jolie's sophomore effort examines the life of Olympic athlete and World War II prisoner of war Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell) who overcame extreme odds to survive a Japanese internment camp.
Annie: Hollywood's latest reboot of the famous musical about an orphan adopted by a wealthy tycoon features Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz and Quvenzhané Wallis as the titular melodist.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb: Sadly, Robin Williams' last performance exists within this silly universe of an inexpressive Ben Stiller, an expressive monkey and artifacts brought to life.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: The final chapter in Peter Jackson's bloated three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's famous novel ends in a massive battle between elves, dwarves, men and the nefarious orcs.
Wild: Based on the best-selling novel, this drama tells the story of Cheryl Strayed, who trekked more than 1,000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail to reassess her troubled life.
Foxcatcher: Bennett Miller's dark sports film tells the tragic true story of the Schultz brothers (Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum), wrestlers who became forever entwined with the wealthy heir to the du Pont fortune (Steve Carell).
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1: Having just destroyed the Hunger Games infrastructure, Katnis returns home to lead the rebellion against the corrupt forces of the capital.
The Theory of Everything: Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is diagnosed with motor-neuron disease just as he's graduating with a doctorate degree in physics from Cambridge and starting a new life with his wife (Felicity Jones).
Big Hero 6: An inflatable robot develops a bond with a prodigy named Hiro, and the two become high-tech heroes.
Interstellar: Christopher Nolan's new science-fiction epic follows a group of explorers who make use of a newly discovered wormhole to find a new home for humanity.
Birdman: A burnt-out superhero actor (Michael Keaton) tries to mount a play on Broadway in order to prove his worth. It co-stars Naomi Watts, Emma Stone and Andrea Riseborough.
Whiplash: A sadistic music teacher tortures a young drummer at a posh New York City conservatory.
Hidden Universe: Blast off into the stratosphere with this documentary that uses real images captured from telescopes to examine the vast reaches of space. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Journey to the South Pacific: Let the glorious scale of IMAX take you to the tropical islands of West Papua, where life under the sea is just as lush and vibrant as it is on shore. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.