The 22nd annual Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival brings to the Valley the biggest fest yet: 21 feature-length films, five shorts, and plenty of guest speakers to entertain and educate our attendees for two entire weeks at three locations:
Music provided hope and escape during musicians’ darkest hours, and “They Played for Their Lives” is the extraordinary documentary of eight survivors of concentration camps and ghettoes whose lives were saved by music. The film’s director, Dr. Nurit Jugend, will speak with the audience after the screening, which is the opening day film at Scottsdale Shea 14 beginning at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 11. One of the survivors featured in the film, Hellmuth Szprycer, aka “The Whistling Survivor,” will perform prior to the film.
The Rural Street Klezmer Band kicks off the screening of “Itzhak,” scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15 in Tempe. “Itzhak” showcases the life and music of Itzhak Perlman, widely considered one of the world’s greatest living violinists. It explores the ways in which Perlman’s passion for music allowed him to find a platform for personal expression against tremendous circumstances. Other scheduled documentaries featuring entertainers include Hedy Lamarr and Sammy Davis Jr.
If sports is more your thing, “Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel,” will have you warming up your pitching arm AND your Jewish sports pride. The documentary about current and former Jewish Major League Baseball players who represented Israel in the World Baseball Classic screens in Peoria and Scottsdale. The film’s director, Seth Kramer, will appear at the Scottsdale screening on Feb. 18 at 3 p.m.
There also are several fictional movies about love, hope, defiance, family, and more, including the 1990 critically acclaimed “Avalon,” a semi-autobiographical story by director Barry Levinson, starring Aidan Quinn, Elizabeth Perkins and Elijah Wood.
If you haven’t decided what films to see or ordered advance tickets to the ones you want to attend, go online at www.gpjff.org. Screenings are selling out quickly, and it’s never a “sure thing” when waiting to purchase tickets at the theaters.