Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival returned for its
18th Annual Celebration of World Class Jewish Film
28 world class films were screened, many were Asian premieres
Our 18th Festival took place in November, 2017 at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center
HKJFF is excited to announce its 18th annual film festival at the Asia Society Hong Centre. Many of the selected dramas, documentaries and comedies are making their Asian debut at the festival, and include films by acclaimed directors and well as works by up and coming filmmakers. “This year’s theme is ‘Celebrate’, as the Festival is celebrating 18 years of presenting quality Jewish film to our Hong Kong audiences,” said Debby Amias, Festival Chair. “Each letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value and 18 equates to the word ‘Life’: we are celebrating the life and history of this Festival, and also the great and ongoing achievements in Jewish film across the globe”.
Our selection this year includes many films that reflect this upbeat theme, particularly the opening night drama On the Map, a fast-moving and spirited documentary that recounts how an underdog Israeli basketball team prevailed over a series of European basketball powers in 1977 and became national heroes. We are honored to be hosting Tal Brody, the Israeli-American team captain, for a Q&A after the screening. The lead film will be followed by a burgers and beer party on the stunning roof of the Asia Society.
Other films that will please sports fans and history buffs alike include the absurd comedy The 90 Minute War, about solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the soccer field, and the weightier documentary Box for Life, that portrays the life story of Auschwitz survivor Noah Klieger, who was forced to box for his life.
Among the slate of films set during the Second World War is Above the Drowning Sea, a moving documentary that tells the story of the dramatic escape to Shanghai of tens of thousands of Austrian Jewish refugees. The film will be shown once in English and once in Chinese, with the former screening followed by a Q&A with Director Rene Belcer. Children of Chance, another tale of survival against the odds, is based on a true story and set in Nazi-controlled France. This tender coming of age drama about a young boy who finds safety in the shelter of a children’s hospital, will appeal to both young and old, and is to be shown in schools throughout Hong Kong following the Festival. Another film selected with young people in mind and also to be screened in schools is NOT the Last Butterfly, which presents the inspiring initiative ‘The Butterfly Project’, a global phenomenon collecting handmade ceramic butterflies to memorialize the 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust.
Several films consider the aftermath and trauma of WW2, and residual anti-Semitism that sadly continues to the present day. 1945 is a dark and haunting film set in Hungary that packs an unexpected punch, with a story of one village’s actions reflecting the collective guilt of postwar Hungary. In Bogdan’s Journey meanwhile, one man persuades the people of Kielce, Poland, to confront the truth about their difficult past, gradually transforming his hometown into a place of dialogue and reconciliation. Hate Spaces brings the topic up to the present day, focusing on those American campuses where anti-Semitism has become newly fashionable through the ongoing de-legitimization of Israel and under the guise of free speech and human rights.
As in previous years there are several excellent films from Israel, including The Ambassador’s Wife, about the beautiful Yerusalem who is forced to flee her privileged life in Paris for a decrepit area in Tel Aviv. This compelling tale sheds light on the difficulties faced by refugees and others living on the margins of Israeli society. When the Smoke Clears presents a different set of challenges – those faced by young Israeli soldiers, whose injuries both seen and hidden have led them to forge a new identity and rebuild their lives. We are privileged to be hosting a post-screening talk by Arale Wattenstein, who works for the organization Brothers for Life, which is dedicated to supporting young men and women injured in the line of duty. Other films touch on the complexities of the religious /secular divide in Israel such as the riveting thriller A Quiet Heart, about Naomi, a young gifted musician who leaves her cosmopolitan life in Tel Aviv for a new start in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem, with unexpected consequences.
Music lovers and culture buffs will be drawn to entertaining films such as Let’s Dance!, a documentary about the phenomenal success of the Israeli contemporary Modern Dance scene, and Harmonia, a powerful contemporary adaptation of the biblical story of Abraham and Sarah set in the world of the Jerusalem philharmonic. Following the successful debut of our ‘Sunday Shorts’ program last year, we will once again be screening a series of 5 selected shorts consecutively on the first Sunday afternoon, with a mix of sad, funny, dramatic and satirical stories to showcase up-and-coming film talent, plus Roads, a film that won the Guinness Book of Records award for the most awards for a student film!
We look forward to welcoming both new and seasoned film lovers at our 18th annual celebration this November.
Tickets for all screenings will go on sale in early October and can be purchased here or on the Asia Society website: www.asiasociety.org/hong-kong.