It's back! Now in its 29th year, the San Diego Jewish International Film Festival will be showcasing the diversity of Jewish experience, Feb. 7-17, 2019 with 32 feature films from 18 different countries.
Introduced by filmmakers and guest speakers, they will screen in four venues around the county: Reading Cinemas Town Square in Clairemont, the Garfield Theatre at the Jewish Community Center in La Jolla, Edwards San Marcos Stadium 18, and the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) in Balboa Park. All foreign-language films are subtitled. And this year, SDJIFF has a mobile app!
Probably the quirkiest film is "The 90 Minute War," an Israeli mockumentary that proposes a speedy solution to "the longest running conflict in modern history" — a soccer match between Israel and Palestine. The outcome will determine who stays and who must find a new homeland, and there's plenty of satire — and Maalox — along the way. Is there a happy ending? See for yourself. Edwards San Marcos: Feb. 9, 7:30 pm. Clairemont Reading Cinemas: Feb.11, 5 pm; Feb. 16, 7 pm. (in Hebrew, Arabic, English and Dutch)
A real documentary that's simply named for its subject is "Carl Laemmle." The founder of Universal Pictures and the maker of mega-hit monster movies like "Dracula," "The Mummy" and "Bride of Frankenstein, he was a German Jew who made good in the U.S., gave women directors and black actors a chance to show their talents onscreen, and dedicated his fortune to helping hundreds of people escape from Nazi Germany. "He gave us make-believe monsters and saved us from a real one," says one of the survivors in the film. MOPA: Feb. 10, 1 pm; Clairemont Reading Cinemas: Feb. 17, 1:30 pm (English)
Another interesting doc is "Far From the Tree," an intimate look at how parents deal with "developmentally different" children, and how those children, born with Down Syndrome, dwarfism and other challenging differences, grow up to make happy lives for themselves in various ways. It's based on a bestselling book by Andrew Solomon, who was born gay before Gay Pride came into existence, and also appears in the film. Two of the film's subjects, Joseph Stramondo, assistant professor of philosophy at San Diego State University, and his wife, Leah Smith, who works for Disability Rights, will be guest speakers at the Feb. 14 screening. Clairemont Reading Cinemas: Feb. 14, 5 pm; Feb. 17. 4:45 pm. (English)
From France comes "Simon and Theodore," a comedy/drama about an odd couple of characters — a difficult teen with an absentee father, and a kind (but troubled) husband with a pregnant wife — who manage to become pals. Clairemont Reading Cinemas: Feb. 14, 7:30 pm; Garfield Theatre, LFJCC: Feb. 15, 1:30 pm. (French)
And then there's "Wajib," an unusual road picture by Palestinian writer-director Annemarie Jacir about a traditionalist Arab/Christian father in Israel hand-delivering invitations to the wedding of his daughter, accompanied by his non-traditional architect son. Hailed as a beautifully acted, often humorous drama and performed by a real-life father and son, it won a Special Prize at the 2017 International Film Festival in Locarno, Switzerland. Clairemont Reading Cinemas: Feb. 11, 1:30 pm; Feb. 14, 7:15 pm. (Arabic)
The film chosen to open the festival is the German-made "It Must Schwing: The Blue Note Story." It's another doc about German Jews who made good in the United States — Alfred Lion and Francis Wolfe — two young jazz-lovers who started the famed Blue Note record label in New York City. They fostered the careers of major players like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk and Quincy Jones, and Blue Note is still recording "the finest in jazz since 1939."
The film owes its title to the fact that Wolfe had what one of their musicians called "a cartoon German accent," and the only thing he insisted on in every record they produced was: "It must schwing!" Clairemont Reading Cinemas: 7 p.m. on Feb. 7 (Opening Night) and Feb. 13, Edwards San Marcos: Feb. 10, (English and German)
• Information and tickets: (858) 362-1348. sdijff.org