The 34th annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF) made its appearance in Oakland last week, after the San Francisco showings ended August 3. Films from the SFJFF played at The New Parkway on August 7 and the historic Grand Lake Theater from August 8 through 10.

If you didn’t win tickets in our giveaway, there’s always next year! Here’s a glimpse of what you missed:

The festival screened over 70 documentaries, narrative films, and shorts, in which Jewish filmmakers from around the world tackled questions like what it means to be a man, how to come to terms with a range of cultural histories, and whom to sit Shiva with if the only responses you get to your Craigslist ad are an old man, a judgmental young girl, and some dude dressed like a chicken.

Many of the films also dealt with political and social justice issues. Mirror Image, a striking documentary by award-winning director Judith Montell and Emily Scharlatt, follows young Palestinian women as they videotape their abuse by Israeli settlers.

Transit, Hannah Espia’s directorial debut, gives a narrative glimpse into what life might be like as a Filipino immigrant in Israel. Director Abby Ginzberg documents activist Albie Sach’s heroic and bloody journey as an anti-Apartheid leader in South Africa in Soft Vengeance.

After Soft Vengeance was screened at the Grand Lake, the Vunaki Mawethu choir, a “nonprofit multiracial choir which sings the freedom songs of Southern Africa,” gave a live performance to the festival goers. Members of the choir were not only multiracial but multigenerational and multicultural, united by their black-and-green shirts and messages of peace. The group’s leader also called for an end to violence in Israel/Palestine. Part of one of their songs can be heard below:


Nate Gellman, an intern at the festival, says that, in addition to seeing great films and meeting new people, he feels “like we’re bringing something culturally relevant and necessary to the Bay Area

Marine VonBraunbehrens, a 22-year-old lifelong Oakland resident, sees the Jewish Film Festival as “an exciting way to hear and see more about a part of Jewish culture I didn’t know much about.” She also adds that it makes sense to hold the festival in the Bay Area, explaining that, “it’s good to see us becoming more diverse but also more together as a community as we learn about each other’s histories, art, and different views on life.”

Courtesy of SFJFF

Oaklanders line up in front of the New Parkway for the festival

Gellman feels that festivals like these are important because they bring attention to Jewish issues not often shown in the media. “The [Israel/Palestine] conflict gets so much attention, because when those things take up the media limelight, then all these domestic policies get pushed under the rug a little bit and they’re important to people who live there.”

He also emphasizes the importance of film festival culture. “It’s great that there’s still the ritual and excitement that  comes with going to a theater… the packed-up waiting in line, getting popcorn: it’s important.”

In addition to their showings in San Francisco and Oakland, the festival also had screenings in Berkeley, Palo Alto, and San Rafael. SFSJJ continues to do programs and raise cultural awareness throughout the year. Their upcoming events are available on their website.

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