Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival hits Valley theaters

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- The 19th annual Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival (GPJFF) hits movie screens throughout the Valley from Sunday, Feb. 8 through Feb. 22.

13 films from eight countries will screen at three Harkins theaters in Scottsdale, Chandler and Peoria.

On Saturday's Good Morning Arizona, Bob Segelbaum and Deborah Muller joined us on set to tell us more about what audiences can expect.

"The quality of our film slate is exceptionally strong this year," said GPJFF Executive Director Bob Segelbaum. "I'm very excited that during this time of heightened tension around the world, especially in the Middle East, we can present films reflective of the rich and diverse Jewish people, culture, and faith. The Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival stands as a point of pride for the Jewish Community and as a point of understanding, awareness and acceptance for the community at large." 

The festival kicks off with "24 Days," a thrilling drama based on the 2006 kidnapping of Parisian Jew, Ilan Halimi. It's a powerful and provocative film that sheds light on contemporary European anti-Semitism. Miriam Weisman, National board member of the Anti-Defamation League, will be in attendance and speak to the audience after the screening.

"It kind of foretells the ride of modern day anti-Semitism that's taking place in Europe, and especially France," says Muller.

The event closes with a documentary by Steven Spielberg’s younger sister. Nancy Spielberg's film "Above and Beyond," is the story of a ragtag group of mostly American WWII pilots who survived one war, only to turn around and volunteer to fight in another: Israel's 1948 War of Independence.

"The movie is fantastic," says Muller. "She (Nancy Spielberg) actually asked her brother Steven if it was okay if she went ahead with this movie, and he gave her the go-ahead, and is quite proud of what she accomplished."

During the festival, legendary singer, musician and actor Theodore Bikel ("The Sound of Music," "Fiddler on the Roof") will receive the GPJFF's inaugural Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award at a special Centerpiece Event. Bikel will accept the award in person, following the Valley premiere of his new film, "Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem" at Harkins Theatre Camelview 5 in Scottsdale on February 15.

There’s sure to be something for everyone at the event. It features a rich assortment of independent Jewish cinema that travels from the cobblestone streets of Paris to the dusty hillside of Bethlehem; from the million-dollar yachts moored in Saint-Tropez to the sound stages of Hollywood; from the farms nestled deep in the Black Forest to the military airspace 65,000 feet above us.

Among the premieres will be "For a Woman", a drama from French filmmaker Diane Kurys about a marriage as remembered by the couple's daughter.

Canadian comedy import David Steinberg is the subject of the documentary "Quality Balls", which follows the life and controversial career of the legendary comedian, from his record number of appearances on 'The Tonight Show' to his directing episodes of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and 'Seinfeld.'

The Argentinian thriller "God's Slave" explores the lives of two men embarking on parallel paths to martyrdom, blinded by hatred born of childhood trauma, and prepared to sacrifice everything for their beliefs.

Guest speakers this year include:
-Theodore Bikel, world renowned Oscar- and Emmy-award nominated singer, actor and performer.
-Miriam Weisman, national Anti-Defamation League board member.
-Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic and Gannett Newspapers film critic.
-Craig Weiss, co-author of I Am My Brother's Keeper: American Volunteers in Israel's War for Independence 1947-1949, source material for Above and Beyond, and film interviewee.

WHEN:
Sunday, February 8 -- Sunday, February 22

WHERE:
-Harkins Camelview 5, 7001 E. Highland Ave., Scottsdale
-Harkins Chandler Fashion 20, 3159 W. Chandler Blvd., Chandler
-Harkins Arrowhead 18, 16046 N. Arrowhead Fountains Ctr. Dr., Peoria
 
TICKET PRICES:
$11 for adults ($13 at the door) / $7 for students (ID required, 25 years & under); $110 unlimited films / unlimited venues VIP Festival Pass; $18 for all patrons attending the Theodore Bikel Special Event.

More information and the film lineup can be found at www.gpjff.org.