Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival Brings Cultural Films to the Valley

Written by Marilyn Hawkes Category: Culture Issue: February 2016

Photo courtesy Greater Phoenix Jewish Film FestivalThe Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival (GPJFF) will mark its 20th anniversary this year and remains true to its mission: To present films with Jewish themes from all over the world to the Greater Phoenix community. For two decades, GPJFF has screened a wide variety high-quality independent films with Jewish content. Last year, more than 6,400 people attended the festival.

The festival began with a 20th anniversary gala on Feb. 11 at the Phoenix Art Museum, which included an appetizer buffet by Simply Scrumptious and the Arizona premier of “The Wandering Muse,” a documentary that explores Jewish identity around the world through music.

This year, 16 films will be shown at three Harkins theaters in Scottsdale, Peoria and Chandler from Feb. 14 to Feb. 28. The lineup features a diverse group of documentaries, dramas and comedies from France, Belgium, Israel, the Czech Republic and Canada. Many of the screenings will feature speakers after the film with a question and answer period.

Some highlights include:

Secrets of War
Director Dennis Bots recounts the story of two childhood friends in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands who find their loyalty tested in this coming-of-age drama.
Featured speaker: Paul Weiser, Mandel Fellow of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and a former director of the Braun Holocaust Institute: Blick Center for Holocaust Studies for the Anti-Defamation League (Feb. 14, Arrowhead Fountains 18)
Featured speaker: Janice Friebaum, chairperson of Generations After – Descendants of Holocaust Survivors in Greater Phoenix, a program of the Phoenix Holocaust Survivors’ Association (Feb. 15, Harkins Shea 14)
Featured speaker: Rabbi Kenneth Leitner, spiritual leader of Temple Beth Sholom of the East Valley (Feb. 25, Arrowhead Fountains 18)

Apples From the Desert
Inspired by a play of the same name, this Israeli romantic drama tells the story of Rivka, the rebellious teenage daughter of ultra-Orthodox Jewish parents who secretly explores the secular world. (Hebrew with English subtitles)
Featured speaker: Rabbi Irwin Wiener, spiritual leader of Sun Lakes Congregation (Feb. 22 screening, Arrowhead Fountains 18)

Rock in the Red Zone
American film director Laura Bialis explores the many rock 'n' roll bands that have emerged from Sderot, a city in southern Israel that has experienced frequent rocket attacks from Gaza. (Hebrew and English with English subtitles)
Featured speaker: Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic film critic (Feb. 23 screening, Chandler Fashion 20)

The German Doctor
A 93-minute drama from Argentina about an Argentine family who unknowingly take an infamous Nazi doctor into their home. (Spanish with English subtitles)
Featured speaker: Dr. Murray Henner, professor of international law and intelligence at Embry Riddle University (Feb. 25 screening, Harkins Shea 14)

Serial (Bad) Weddings
In this romantic comedy, a conservative French Catholic couple tests their tolerance and prejudices when their four daughters marry an Arab, a Jew, an Asian and a man of African descent. (French with English subtitles)

If you go:
What: The 20th Annual Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival
When: Feb. 14-28
Where: Harkins Shea 14, 7354 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale; Harkins Chandler Fashion 20, 3159 W. Chandler Blvd., Chandler; and Harkins Arrowhead Fountains 18, 16046 N. Arrowhead Fountains Center Dr., Peoria
Tickets: $11 adults ($13 at the door); $7 students, ID required 25 years and younger; $125 VIP festival pass, unlimited films celebration at Phoenix Art Museum
Information: 602-753-9366 or