Take a stand for Israel by supporting our film festival

The UK Jewish Film Festival stands in solidarity with the Jewish state and its filmmakers and actors

October 26, 2023 16:42

"Fear is not an option. Stop being afraid." These powerful words from last Sunday’s demonstration in Trafalgar Square demanding the return of Israel’s hostages have been echoing in my ears.

At a time like this we cannot afford to be an invisible community. I am determined that, as the UK Jewish Film Festival, we stand in solidarity with Israel and its filmmakers, actors and artists.

That’s also why we will be supporting the people of Israel through our charity partners this year, including Magen David Adom UK. I am in regular contact with all of the Israeli filmmakers taking part in this year’s festival, and they are so heartened to hear that they are not alone and forgotten. They are desperate to know that people are thinking of them and supporting them outside Israel.

This year’s festival is about expressing our resilience, and that’s a very important message to send to the wider British public. It’s appropriate, therefore, that at our opening night gala on November 9, we celebrate Sir Nicholas “Nicky” Winton in One Life, the true story of a young man who was prepared to stand up and be counted, and we thank him hugely for his courage and audacity in rescuing hundreds of children.

The terrorist attacks in Israel pose a pernicious threat to our values as British Jews and on the precious gains we have made in the visibility of Jewish life in the UK. The last 25 years in Britain have seen a golden age of Jewish cultural life, and the community gaining more and more confidence to celebrate and share our culture in public spaces.

Looking back over more than 1,000 years of Jewish life in Europe, there have been relatively few periods when Jews have been able to celebrate their culture in public and express themselves freely. We must not allow terrorists and their supporters here in the UK to push us, as Britain’s oldest ethnic minority community, into fear, or to retreat behind locked doors.

Few of us can forget our daily worries about loved ones in Israel, but the festival provides what I believe to be a welcome respite and an important opportunity to connect again with the joys of Jewish life and culture through film. Coming together in one space is so important, and we have an incredibly diverse selection of films, triggering emotions ranging from laughter to deep pride. Some of our audience members may well enjoy the irreverent American Jewish comedy Less than Kosher, or the warm and funny Israeli rom-com Elik & Jimmy. I loved, and was surprised by, the superstar French Sephardi comedian Gad Elmaleh, who tells his very personal story in Stay With Us.

Even more important for our future are the seven short films that UK Jewish Film has commissioned this year that celebrate and reflect aspects of British-Jewish life. These labours of love from incredible emerging British filmmakers deserve and need our wholehearted support.

Our two Pears Short Film Fund films, The Doll’s House and The Soldier on Smithdown Road, two of our finest ever, will receive their world premieres on Monday November 13 at the Phoenix East Finchley. Our five UK Jewish Film Short Doc Fund films premiere on Tuesday November 14 at JW3.

All of them are unique and magical, and they need our support if British Jews are not to retreat again into invisibility.

Of course we will be stepping up security considerably at the festival, working closely with the police and CST. Audiences are likely to experience more delays on entry and we hope they will understand. The UK Jewish Film Festival brings together the community: we are in 13 London cinemas and 13 cities in England, Scotland and Wales, as well as online.

Michael Etherton is CEO of UK Jewish Film.

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October 26, 2023 16:42

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