It begins with a special Jewish-Chinese night and ends with a documentary on Pete Seeger. And for a week in between you’ll get powerful feature films, documentaries, shorts, panel discussions and – of course – free noshes.
It can only mean one thing. The Toronto Jewish Film Festival is back, kicking off its 16th year with the Canadian première of Noodle, an upbeat Israeli film about an El Al flight attendant whose existence is turned upside down by a Chinese boy when his mother is deported from Israel.
Expect some tasty noodles at the screening. “We’ll have some Israeli-Chinese snacks for sure,” says the festival’s executive director Helen Zukerman.
As usual, the TJFF is packed with a wide assortment of top feature and documentary films, but one of the highlights this year is a comedy series called Comedy on Wry: The Mavericks. “This is the first time we’ve managed a comedy series, though we’ve been trying for years,” Zuckerman says.
Films in this series include ones on Lenny Bruce, Danny Kaye and Don Rickles, and features the world première of Barry Avrich’s Jackie Mason: The Ultimate Jew.
This year the festival introduces the David A. Stein Memorial Award, named after a gifted local filmmaker who died at 34 in 2004.
“David was a great friend to the festival who did some of our trailers in the past,” Zukerman says. A $5,000 award will be given to the best documentary making its Canadian première at the TJFF.
The judges include Ralph Benmergui, Bravo’s Judy Gladstone and Tereza Barta of York University. The winner will be announced at the opening night gala. As always, filmmakers and artists will be present at most screenings.
Families won’t want to miss a free performance (you’ll need tickets) by children’s entertainers Sharon, Lois & Bram, followed by a screening of a CBC-TV concert special 25 Years of Skinnamarink.
There is also an educational element called FilmMatters, through which schools are invited to attend special free screenings. “We started this with Paper Clips as an outreach to non-Jewish students,” Zukerman said. Four films focusing on tolerance and diversity will be featured in this series. Interested schools should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The festival closes with Pete Seeger: The Power of Song. The screening is a tribute to the late Dusty Cohl, a cinephile and promoter and a huge fan of Seeger.
All this and free herring and ice cream for those long lineups.
The festival runs May 3 to 11 at three theatres, the Bloor Cinema, the Al Green Theatre (Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre) and the Sheppard Grande. Tickets (single and passes) can be purchased now from the TJFF box office before May 3 (17 Madison Ave.), online at www.tjff.com or over the phone 416-967-1528. For a complete schedule and more information visit www.tjff.com.