San Diego Jewish Film Festival: Based-on-a-true-story films to shine Feb. 8-18


Now in its 28th year, the San Diego Jewish Film Festival, coming Feb. 8-18, 2018 to venues in La Jolla, Mira Mesa and San Marcos, is offering more variety than ever.

There are 37 features lined up, in categories like the arts, romance, history, comedy and thrillers, but it’s the based-on-a-true-story entries that seem really enticing this year. Here are a half-dozen that caught my attention:

An Israeli Love Story (Israel, 2017). Romance blooms in the midst of the struggle for Israeli statehood. Can a young actress give up her budding career to stand by her man, a committed fighter for independence whose father will someday be president of Israel? This love story is screening on Valentine’s Day and the actress who plays the lead won China’s equivalent of an Oscar for her performance. — 1:30 p.m. Feb. 11 and 2 p.m. Feb. 14, Mira Mesa

Drawing Against Oblivion (Austria/Germany/Poland/USA, 2014) What motivates a person to make art? This is a Holocaust movie with a difference, about an Austrian artist, born in 1943 to parents who were Nazis, who has made it his mission in life to do portraits of all the children who died in the concentration camps. “I want these children not to be forgotten,” he says. “I want to bring them back to life.” The film won three NYC festival awards for best documentary, cinematography and music. — 10:30 a.m. Feb. 11, San Marcos; 5 p.m. Feb. 13, Mira Mesa

House of Z (USA/Canada, 2016) Follow the meteoric rise and fall of Zac Posen, a teen-genius fashion designer. P.S. Z has risen again, and a talk by fashion icon Zandra Rhodes will follow the Feb. 9 screening. — 2 p.m. Feb. 9, JCC; 4 p.m. Feb. 11, San Marcos

Shalom Bollywood (Australia, 2017): This previously untold story reveals that some of the biggest stars in Indian cinema have been Jewish women. Since Hindu and Muslim women were forbidden to appear on screen, Jewish actresses became Bollywood’s first female superstars. Another revelation: Jews have been living in India for 2,000 years, so they were all Indians, too. — 7 p.m. Feb. 10; 10:30 a.m. Feb. 13, Mira Mesa

Harmonia (Israel, 2016) OK, this one isn’t exactly based on a true story, unless you consider the Bible a source of true stories. It’s an updated, musically enhanced version of a chapter in the Book of Genesis, where Abraham and Sarah ask their young servant Hagar to give Abraham a son when Sarah is unable to conceive. In a contemporary concert-hall setting, with Abraham as an orchestra conductor, Sarah as first harpist, and Hagar as a new horn player, the film features beautiful music and cinematography, and has won awards at festivals in Israel and France. — 1 p.m. Feb. 11, San Marcos; 4:30 p.m. Feb.13, Mira Mesa

Jungle (Australia/Colombia, 2017): On the Festival’s closing night, Daniel Radcliffe plays an adventurous Israeli soldier who went about as far from his roots as he possibly could, and lived to tell about it. It’s a harrowing man-against-nature docudrama, with an intense performance and lots of green South American scenery. — 7:35 p.m., Feb. 18, Mira Mesa

This is only a small selection of what’s on view at this year’s SDJFF, where there’s definitely something for every taste. And for those who love short shorts — films lasting 3-27 minutes — there are 21 of them, in four separate programs, on the Day of Short Films, Feb. 12, at The Lot in La Jolla.


The 28th annual San Diego Jewish Film Festival runs Feb. 8-18, 2018 at the following venues:

Edwards Mira Mesa Stadium 18, 10733 Westview Parkway, San Diego

Edwards San Marcos Stadium 18, 1180 San Marcos Blvd., San Marcos

The Lot movie theater, 7611 Fay Ave., La Jolla

Jewish Community Center’s Garfield Theatre, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla

Cost: Single tickets: $12.25-$18. Matinee 6-packs: $65.

Schedule and tickets available at or (858) 362-1348 (noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday).