Movie News & Reviews

2017 Miami Jewish Film Festival boasts world premieres, debuts and Stanley Kubrick

‘Fanny’s Journey,’ about a group of children trying to cross Nazi-ridden France during World War II, screens on Jan. 16 and Jan. 25.
‘Fanny’s Journey,’ about a group of children trying to cross Nazi-ridden France during World War II, screens on Jan. 16 and Jan. 25. MENEMSHA FILMS

A documentary about the life and career of the late Stanley Kubrick, a work-in-progress screening of a new documentary with two award-winning filmmakers in attendance, a spotlight on French cinema and the world premiere of a drama about a Hungarian village reeling from the consequences of World War II are among the highlights of the 2017 edition of the Miami Jewish Film Festival.

65 films from 20 countries will screen at the 20th anniversary of the event, to be held Jan. 12-26 at various venues around the city, including O Cinema Miami Shores, Regal South Beach, Miami Beach Cinematheque and Coral Gables Art Cinema. The festival is a program of the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education, which is a subsidiary of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

In his fourth year as festival director, Igor Shteyrenberg says attendance has ballooned to a record-setting 25,000, making the Miami event the third largest Jewish film festival in the world (after Atlanta and San Francisco).

“We’ve strengthened our commitment to celebrate the best of world cinema,” Shteyrenberg says about the growth. “We’re not just catering to a niche audience. We want to expose the entire city to what the world has to offer in great film. You can see that in some of our premieres. They are some of the most acclaimed and prestigious titles of the year.”

Among the movies making their North American premieres at the 2017 festival:

▪ Hanna,” director Andrea Gruber’s drama about a nine-year-old Catholic girl living in a rural town in Austria in the late 1960s who discovers her family’s Jewish roots;

▪ Tout, Tout de Suite,” a thriller that recreates the true story of an anti-Semitic kidnapping in Paris, which is part of the festival’s five-film “Spotlight on French Cinema” series;

▪ The Jews” a slapstick comedy that debunks hateful stereotypes, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Other selections include “S Is for Stanley,” a portrait of the man who worked as Stanley Kubrick’s personal assistant for 30 years; “Who Will Write Our History,” a work-in-progress screening of a documentary about the discovery and preservation of the treasure trove of historical documents in the Oyneg Shabes Archive, with filmmakers Nancy Spielberg and Roberta Grossman in attendance; and the world premiere of “1945,” director Ferenc Török’s drama about Holocaust survivors who return to their former village to reclaim their property and possessions after World War II.

Back for a second year is the festival’s Short Film Competition, in which the winning movie receives distribution via Film Movement.

Shteyrenberg credits the festival’s growth to year-round audience outreach and engagement, such as the annual Masters of Jewish Cinema retrospective screening series held at the Miami Beach Cinematheque that highlights classic films from artists such as Billy Wilder and The Marx Brothers. Another important factor has been the festival’s emphasis on keeping pace with technology, from the online video-on-demand platform that premiered with last year’s event to a recent revamp of the festival’s website.

The festival’s opening night selection, the Israeli box office smash “The Women’s Balcony,” is already sold out. Tickets for the 20th Miami Jewish Film Festival are $13 adults, $11 seniors/students and are available here or by calling 1-888-585-3456.

Rene Rodriguez: 305-376-3611, @ReneMiamiHerald