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Filmfest expands as UK plans Israel shoots

    Sean Penn in the extraordinary This Must Be The Place
    Sean Penn in the extraordinary This Must Be The Place

    The biggest ever UK Jewish Film Festival ended this week with organisers promising an expanded event next year.

    Documentaries, short films and TV shows from more than a dozen countries made up the 76 screenings at 14 venues over three weeks.

    Michael Etherton, UKJFF executive producer, said: "We had many sold-out films. Our largest venue was the Odeon West End where we opened the festival with a screening of Paolo Sorrentino's This Must Be The Place, starring Sean Penn. The cinema was full with 500 people, so we were really pleased."

    The inaugural Sky Film Award was presented to The Names Of Love/Le Nom des Gens, a romantic comedy by Michel Leclerc, at Sunday's closing event.

    There were also awards for the audiences' favourites. The Shoresh Charitable Trust Audience Award for best feature went to Remembrance, a love story set in a concentration camp. The best documentary title was won by Nicky's Family, the story of Sir Nicholas Winton's Kindertransport rescue missions.

    November 2012's festival is expected to be expanded to run in at least five cities, rather than the current format of a London-based festival followed by provincial screenings. Mr Etherton said: "We had a huge success this year running a taster screening in Manchester. This is very encouraging for the new format."

    British cinema-goers can expect to see more of Israel on the big screen, with top producers drawing up plans to take advantage of the new British-Israel co-production treaty.

    In the first major meeting since the treaty, 14 British filmmakers went to the Haifa International Film Festival last month and discussed possibilities for co-productions with their Israeli counterparts. Gareth Unwin, producer of The King's Speech, said: "Israel could open as a genuine production hub." His next film, Zaytoun, a British-Israeli-French co-production, could be the first to make use of the new treaty.

    Set in 1982, the film tells the story of David, an Israeli pilot who ejects from his plane over the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon, and finds himself in the hands of Palestinians. He escapes, together with a Palestinian boy, Fahed, who wants to return to his roots, and the two embark on a journey together to Israel.

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