The JFilm Festival returns to bring 11 days of international Jewish-themed films, guest speakers, and more to various venues throughout the region. This year’s lineup features the Pittsburgh premieres of 20 narrative and documentary films from 12 countries.
The event opens on April 26 with Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel, a documentary about childhood friends from summer camp who visit Israel to make a movie about Jewish baseball players, never dreaming it would turn into a run for Team Israel at the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The screening includes a Q&A with Pittsburgh native and MLB.com reporter Jonathan Mayo, who appears in the film, and a pop-up after-party.
Other documentaries in the line-up include Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me and Monsieur Mayonnaise. Helmed by award-winning filmmaker Sam Pollard, Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me explores the achievements and tensions that surrounded the career of entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., including his conversion to Judaism and his tumultuous relationship with Black America.
Sponsored by the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, Monsieur Mayonnaise follows French-born Australian artist and cult filmmaker Philippe Mora as he uncovers his father’s remarkable exploits in the French Resistance and his mother’s miraculous escape from a prison camp. The story is told through a montage of found footage and Mora’s own artistic renditions.
Among the narrative films showcased is the comedy Humor Me. Faced with a midlife crisis, Nate (Jemaine Clement), a struggling playwright, moves into a New Jersey retirement community with his father (Elliott Gould). Filmmaker Sam Hoffman’s directorial debut also stars Annie Potts, Bebe Neuwirth, and Erich Bergen, who will appear at the festival.
Representing Pittsburgh is local filmmaker David Bernabo, who will premiere his work In a Dark Wood. The documentary charts the path of composer and University of Pittsburgh music composition professor Mathew Rosenblum’s “Lament/Witches’ Sabbath,” a highly personal concerto written for world-famous clarinetist/composer David Krakauer.
Other films include the Dutch historical drama An Act of Defiance, the Israeli/German drama The Cakemaker, and Itzhak, Alison Chernick‘s documentary about legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman. The festival will also present a number of Q&As with various directors and actors and three sessions of Film Schmooze, a casual post-film discussion led by local scholars and sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh’s Jewish Studies Program.
See the JFilm website for showtimes and ticket prices. Screenings will take place at SouthSide Works Cinema and other select locations, including AMC Mount Lebanon 6, the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, and Seton Hill University in Greensburg.