Now Reading
German Jewish Film Festival Kicks Off Under the Shadow of Oct. 7

German Jewish Film Festival Kicks Off Under the Shadow of Oct. 7

German Jewish Film Festival Kicks Off Under the Shadow of Oct. 7

Bernd Buder is tired of talking about politics.

“Israel and Gaza, antisemitism, the far-right, that’s all anyone asks about,” says the program director for the Jewish Film Festival Berlin Brandenburg (JFBB). “I’d prefer to talk about the movies.”

But for Germany’s largest Jewish film festival, which kicks off Tuesday, June 18, running through June 23, politics are unavoidable. Eight months into the ongoing war in Gaza, sparked by Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7, and just a week after Europe-wide elections that saw a surge in support for the far-right, the JFBB and its program are being filtered through the lens of daily headlines from Rafah, Brussels and Berlin.

“We only have one film in selection that was made after Oct.7, [Oz Zierlin’s Home Front],” says Buder. “But of course, we know that a lot of the films we are showing, maybe before the start of the war, will be seen differently now.”

The Vanishing Soldier

Courtesy of JFBB

He points to Dani Rosenberg’s thriller The Vanishing Soldier, about a Israeli recruit serving in Gaza who goes AWOL and returns home, only to realize that his family, and the country, thought he had been kidnapped by Hamas. Or Noam Kaplan’s sci-fi drama The Future, which imagines a new algorithm designed to predict terrorist attacks. “People will watch these films differently than they would have before Oct. 7.”

Developments inside Germany mean people may view the JFBB differently as well. This year’s Berlin film festival was overshadowed by disruption and debate around Gaza, with the awards ceremony turning sharply political as one award winner after another used their festival platform to call out the Israeli government for its actions in the war. Israeli filmmaker Yuval Abraham, whose No Other Land won the best documentary prize, spoke of “apartheid” in his home country. Ben Russell, the American co-director of Direct Action, winner of the best film in Berlin’s Encounters sidebar, took to the stage wearing a Palestinian black-and-white keffiyeh scarf and used the word “genocide” to describe Israeli military action in the region.

Ben Russell (l) and Servan Decle (r) wear Palestinian scarves on stage at the closing gala in the Berlinale Palast while together with Jay Jordan (2nd from left) and Guillaume Cailleau after winning the Encounters Award for Best Film for the film Direct Action.

Monika Skolimowska/picture alliance via Getty Images

“I think the Berlinale wasn’t well prepared for this debate and that led to unfortunate results,” says Buder. “I think we’re better prepared because we are used to addressing these issues in a more complex manner. My position has always been films are not there to provide answers, or political statements, but to ask questions, different, deeper questions about the issues at hand.”

No festival, notes Buder, can solve the political problems of antisemitism and the far-right. European elections, held June 7, saw a record result for Germany’s far-right party the AfD, who took 16 percent of the vote, placing second behind Germany’s conservative party the CDU with 30 percent. Several prominent members of the AfD have made openly antisemitic comments or ones that downplay the significance of the Holocaust. The party’s leading candidate for Europe, Maximilian Krah, faced a backlash after declaring in an interview that the SS, the Nazis’ main paramilitary force, were “not all criminals.”

But many in the AfD leadership are also vocal supporters of the right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, framing military actions in Gaza as part of a broader fight against “Muslim extremism.”

For the JFBB, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, the struggle is to not be “instrumentalized by any one group,” says Buder. “And to make it clear we are not an anti-Muslim festival, and we are not an Israeli film festival, we are a Jewish film festival. Of course, we have Israeli films but the goal is to provide a wide range of perspectives, and to broaden the discussion of Jewish life to being all about the war, or about the legacy of the Holocaust.”

See Also
Kevin Costner Unveils Western Gamble ‘Horizon’ at Cannes

Jason Schwartzman and Carol Kane in Between the Temples

Courtesy of JFBB

This year’s JFBB selection runs the gambit from Nathan Silver’s offbeat rom-com Between the Temples, starring Jason Schwartzman as a cantor suffering a crisis of faith who begins to fall for his adult bat mitzvah pupil, played by Carol Kane; to Amir Moverman’s experimental documentary Reflections on Synagogue, which examines questions of Jewish history and migration and the reality of Jewish life in New York, through an examination of all 70 synagogues on the island of Manhattan; to Adar Shafran’s Israeli sports comedy Running on Sand, about an Eritrean refugee who gets mistaken for the new foreign player of a struggling soccer team and discovers his survival depends on his performance on the pitch.

The Between the Temples screening comes courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics, which is releasing the film worldwide. The JFBB and the Motion Picture Association (MPA) signed an agreement earlier this year to collaborate to “to promote the visibility and understanding of Jewish life in Germany.”

“We hope this means we’ll be able to work more closely with the U.S. majors in the future to secure bigger studio films for the festival,” says Buder.

And, if at all possible, to pull the focus away from the politics and put it back on the movies.

Copyright © MetaMedia™ Capital Inc, All right reserved

Scroll To Top