Preview: UK Jewish Film Festival, Various venues, London

A true-ish, Jewish kind of movie party
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The Independent Culture

"My mum initially said, 'Who would want to see a film about our family?'" says the British director Paul Weiland. "When I told her that Helena Bonham Carter would be playing her, she said, 'Oh, you should do that film.'"

Marking its 10th anniversary, the UK Jewish Film Festival kicks off with a gala screening of Weiland's Sixty Six, a "true-ish" - a pun on "Jewish" says Weiland - coming-of-age comedy, with a sensational performance from Eddie Marsan ("the next Timothy Spall" claims Weiland) as an obsessive-compulsive father.

Sixty Six takes a nostalgic peep at the summer of 1966. Yet the film's focus is not football, but Bernie (played by Gregg Sulkin), a 12-year-old eager to celebrate his bar mitzvah.

"I didn't want to stereotype the Jewish and I didn't want too many Jewish mum jokes, because that happens quite often in films," Weiland emphasises. "I just really wanted to make this about a working-class family in London."

Sixty Six is one of the more mainstream movies at this eclectic festival. Judy Ironside, the Festival's director, is at pains to stress the diversity of the line-up. She is particularly excited by the documentary Knowledge is the Beginning, directed by Paul Smaczny, because "it encapsulates some of the essential values of this festival whereby we are to initiate a dialogue of concern for issues in the Middle East."

She is also thrilled by the number of "challenging and edgy" feature films by female directors, such as Tomorrow We Move, directed by Chantal Ackerman, and the new Israeli film Close to Home, directed by Vidi Bilu and Dalia Hager.

Other highlights include Dina Zvi-Riklis's award-winning Three Mothers, about three sisters in Israel, Paul Verhoeven's eagerly-awaited Black Books, which marks the Dutch film-maker's return to his homeland, and Ismail Merchant's final film, the US drama Heights.

4 to 16 November ('Sixty Six' screens at the Curzon Mayfair, London W1, on 1 November); see www.ukjewishfilmfestival.org.uk for details

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