Vienna’s Jewish Film Festival once again presents a broad range of cinematic gems while documenting the achievements of those that came before us.

With centuries of ups and downs – persecution, hardships, trials and tribulations, but also triumph – the Jewish experience has much to offer motion pictures; and with their long legacy within the movie industry from Groucho Marx to Natalie Portman, Billy Wilder to Ari Folman, there are no shortage of takers.

This week will see start of the 27th edition of Vienna’s Jewish Film Festival, where over 20 features and documentaries reflecting and embracing Jewish heritage and struggle throughout recent history will be screened in various cinemas throughout the city,accompanied by numerous parties, discussions and lectures.

The opening film will be The Day After I’m Gone, directed by Israeli screenwriter Nimrod Elmar, an Austrian premiere where audiences will be find themselves intrigued by a dynamic coming-of-age story between a father and his daughter in Tel Aviv.

“The debut feature of Elmar is a thoughtful, quietly moving exploration of a troubled parent/child relationship,” revealed Allan Hunt of Screen Daily. In addition, there will be a Q&A with Elmar and lead Menashe Noy after the viewing.

Over the next three weeks, an abundance of films covering an intricate array of topics will follow, conveying a deeper outlook into Jewish life and history. Highlights include Fig Tree, which won the Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival by providing a vivid tableau of teenage innocence through the eyes of an Ethiopian Jew, while Bigger recounts how two sons of Polish Jewish immigrants pioneered bodybuilding culture across the world. A Rose in Winter follows the enthralling life of Edith Stein, a Jewish suffragist who battled odds in the Holocaust to campaign for equality, while Skin, based on the true story of former white supremacist Bryon Widner, looks at the other side with a compelling look at the lives of Neo-Nazis in the United States.

 

Transmuting Tragedy Into Laughter

The festival also doesn’t shy away from the ongoing turmoil between Palestinians and Israelis, making a point of showing different perspectives. The friendship between a Palestinian soap opera writer and an Israeli border policeman comes alive in the film Tel Aviv on Fire, which takes place during the Six-Day War of 1967. According to movie critic Jay Weissberg of VARIETY, the film puts the conflict in a satirical context: “Given how illuminating comedies about impossible situations can be, it’s a great pity so few deal with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. When they do crop up, like Tel Aviv on Fire, reactions tend to be relief – “Finally we can laugh about this!”

The moving documentary Dancing in Jaffa also puts a feel-good spin on life in Israel, showing how the celebrated ballroom instructor Pierre Dulaine returns to his hometown of Jaffa to teach young Palestinian and Israeli children to confront their fears through the power of dance.

Finally, the festival will wrap up with a closing party at the Metro Cinema, following a second showing of The Day After I’m Gone. With its broad scope, there is something for everyone to enjoy, from hard hitting documentaries to crowd pleasers like Dirty Dancing and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, proving that when you are unable to visit Israel, it will come to you instead.

Apr 30-May 15, various locations. jfw.at

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20 years of age and currently working as a journalist, Jakob Weizman is Danish-Colombian and grew up in Washington D.C. He also lived in Bogota, New York, Denmark and currently resides in Pristina, Kosovo, where he's studying to achieve a double major in International Relations and Journalism. Currently in Vienna for an exchange semester at Webster University, he writes for Metropole while falling head over heels for one of the most fascinating cities in the world!