Taking us from 15th Century Aleppo (The Lost Crown) to futuristic neon-lit Tokyo (Call for Dreams) via mid-century Miami Beach (The Last Resort), our festival programme this year reflects both the global reach and historical depth of Jewish culture. As we present you with more films than ever before – making us, possibly, the world’s largest Jewish film festival – many new experiences, rituals and stories from communities around the world come to light.

The richness of the programme allows for some interesting and at times conflicting trajectories to emerge. In Nadav Lapid’s award-winning Synonyms, the protagonist wishes to leave Israel and reinvent himself as a French citizen in Paris, whereas From Slavery to Freedom and Fig Tree tell stories of people who are desperate to escape their home countries due to war or persecution and settle in Israel instead. And whilst we continue to be fascinated by past events (The Human Factor, The State Against Mandela and the Others, Murer: Anatomy of a Trial), current political and social trends loom large in documentaries such as King Bibi and Lieber-man and dramas such as Yaron Shani’s Love Trilogy and the dystopian Autonomies (from the creators of Shtisel).

The programme this year not only presents you with the incredible output of more artists than ever before, it also celebrates their many talents by delving into their respective worlds. We have dedicated a special strand to documentaries about the world of music (a delightful documentary about Fiddler on the Roof is there alongside a film about avant-garde musician Chilly Gonzales), and another strand to films about trailblazing photographers. New films about the late Oscar-winning Czech director Milos Forman and Shoah’s film editor Ziva Postec are also in the mix, shedding light on the art and magic of filmmaking.
As always, the values of inclusivity and diversity frame our artistic decisions and vision. A strand of bold, funny and thought-provoking queer short films celebrates the growing acceptance and understanding of the fluidity of gender and sex. Another new strand, made possible by the Toni Schiff Memorial Fund, brings eight new films that explore the experiences of girls and women during and following the Holocaust. While, inevitably, the films expose the merciless brutality of war, their focus is elsewhere – on women’s bravery and determination to rescue themselves and others, to stand as witnesses, and, most importantly, to flourish, thrive and rebuild despite the enormity of the devastation.

So we’ve promised you a diverse, inclusive and rich experience but really, more than anything, our 2019 festival is going to be – simply put – FUN. Bookended by two big-hearted comedies (My Polish Honeymoon and Jojo Rabbit), we have made sure that even if you find yourselves shedding a tear in the middle, you will start and end the festival with a chortle. And in the troubled times we live in, I’m sure you’d agree, a good, hearty laugh is priceless.

Nir Cohen
Head of Programming