Jewish Film Festival bigger than ever

The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival — the oldest and largest annual event of its kind — has announced its 28th season, a lineup consisting of 70 films from 19 countries.

Between July 24 and Aug. 11, the festival will present 114 screenings in five venues in San Francisco, Berkeley, Palo Alto and San Rafael.

Executive director Peter L. Stein and program director Nancy K. Fishman have focused on several themes within the larger topic of Jewish history and experience in the world; among the offerings is a veritable mini-festival of films about the lives of Italian Jews during the Fascist era.

Beginning in 1938, Mussolini’s racial laws created a situation in Italy similar to that of Nazi Germany, with Jews being barred from professional jobs, attending universities, or being listed in a phone book.

Unlike Germany’s descent into genocide, Italy’s 2,000-year-old Jewish community suffered losses of about 8,000 during the Holocaust. As films on this subject in the festival show, it was a tragic time for Italian Jews, and yet movies such as “Facing Windows” (6:30 p.m. July 30 at the Castro; 7 p.m. Aug. 4 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre); “Perlasca, an Italian Hero” (12:30 p.m. July 31 at the Castro; 6:15 p.m. Aug. 6 at Berkeley Rep); and “Tulip Time” (2 p.m. July 30 at the Castro) combine drama with a full range of feelings, even humor and optimism.

Films from Israel on the nation’s 60th anniversary feature the country’s multicultural diversity, spotlighting the lives of Ethiopian musicians, Palestinian mothers, Georgian seamstresses and gay civil rights activists.</p>

There also will be screenings of such popular Israeli TV programs as “In Treatment” and “Arab Labor.”

The opening-night feature in the Castro Theater at 8 p.m. July 24 is the romantic but unblinkingly realistic “Strangers,” a film about the affair between an Israeli man (Liron Levo) and a Palestinian woman (Lubna Azabel) thrown together by chance in Berlin during the days of the World Cup finals.

The centerpiece presentation at 7:45 p.m. July 27 at the Castro is Jan Schütte’s “Love Comes Lately” with Rhea Perlman.

The San Francisco Castro closing event at 8:30 p.m. July 31 features Paolo Barzman’s “Emotional Arithmetic” with Susan Sarandon, Gabriel Byrne, Max von Sydow and Christopher Plummer.

IF YOU GO

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., San Francisco

When: July 24 through July 31

Tickets: $12 general; $10.50 seniors and students for most films

Contact: (925) 275-9490 or www.sfjff.org

Note: Screenings also run Aug. 2-9 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre; Aug. 2-7 at Cine Arts in Palo Alto; Aug. 9-10 at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, and Aug. 9-11 at the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael

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