Sunday, October 11, 2009

Previewing and Choosing Films for Screening

“How will we preview and select films?” was a big question at the Festival’s inception. The organizers set basic standards for selecting films. Fagie Rosen created a set of rules that required previewers to view a set number of films and to become a Festival patron. Originally, everyone involved in the Festival was expected to preview the films, and each film was viewed all the way through. Over the years, committees were created to provide specific roles, and a preview committee was formed, distinct from the film selection committee and the Festival board.

As the Festival grew, more people in the local Jewish community were invited to preview and evaluate the content. We now have a group of over 15 people who participate in the preview committee. Each feature film or documentary is viewed for 20 minutes, after which the committee votes on whether to watch another 20 minutes or to reject the piece at that point. If a film looks promising after 40 minutes, it is viewed all the way through. Short films are viewed in full.

Margalit Raviv, our program chair, sources the films. She researches film festival lists from all over the world, and is in contact with dozens of film distributors. Sometimes filmmakers ask us to preview an unreleased film; most recently, we previewed “Beau Jest”, which is being shown in this year’s Festival.

We screen a variety of American and international works that highlight the Jewish experience. Some selections entertain with comedy or drama, others educate, and some celebrate the rich diversity of Jewish life in history and today's world. Each year, we screen an increasing number of Israeli films, reflecting the remarkable growth of Israeli cinema. We strive to get a mix of the best relevant feature films, documentaries, videos, and shorts that might not ordinarily be seen locally. Keeping in mind today's challenges to Judaism, selections are based on artistic merit and value of the themes and subject matter to the Jewish community. Another goal for screening films is to increase understanding of our culture, heritage, and history.

Often the content fosters a sense of culture and identity for unaffiliated Bay Area Jews. The Festival attracts many folks who might not be members of a temple, but who do come to see the films.

Each year we get feedback from attendees, which helps to guide our selection process. This year, we previewed dozens of films and had many high-energy discussions based on a broad diversity of viewpoints and opinions. There was plenty of critical and healthy debate on matters ranging from artistic merit to sensitivity to our community. As a result, we have a creative and varied lineup that offers something for everyone.

Please let us know which Festival films you liked and why, and tell us what kinds of films you would you like to see next year.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Bit of Festival History

In the late 1980’s, inspired by other Jewish film festivals, community leader Burt Epstein had an idea to develop a film festival to the South Bay. While he was trying to garner interest in the project, he discovered that Fagie Rosen, then the Senior Services Director of the Addison Penzak Jewish Community Center, and Bernis Kretchmar, then the Women’s Division Director of the Jewish Federation, had the same idea.

Over the course of a few months, the “Jewish Film Series” was born as a committee of the Addison Penzak JCC of Silicon Valley. The three founders gathered an eclectic group of about 18 people in the Jewish community, both young and old. Burt and Fagie are the only two original founders still actively involved in the current festival, while some of the others in the original group still support the effort.

In 1991, the first year of the series, the challenge was to book a few movies, and four films were shown three times during the course of the event. The headline film, “The Quarrel” was brought to the committee by Dan Pulcrano, editor of the “Metro”, and was shown to a standing room-only audience at the Towne Theatre on the Alameda in San Jose.

The organization name was later changed to the San Jose Jewish Film Festival. In 2008, the program that started as a good idea became the very successful—and growing—Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival. As of July 2009, the SVJFF is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

In 2009, the Festival celebrates its “Chai” 18th year of bringing the best contemporary Jewish films from around the world to Bay Area audiences. Since its inception, the Festival has evolved into a well-attended eight-week event during the months of October and November, offering a diverse array of international films. This year’s screenings are at several convenient venues: the Camera 12 Theater in downtown San Jose, the Camera 7 Theater at the Pruneyard shopping center in Campbell, the Cubberley Community Theater in Palo Alto and the soon-to-be-opened auditorium of the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto.

Each year, an increasing number of Israeli films are shown, reflecting the remarkable development of Israeli cinematic arts. Through an excellent mix of features, documentaries, and short films, the Festival explores many facets of Jewish life, history, and culture. Related programs and illuminating discussions with filmmakers, directors, and other special guests are an added treat.

Founder Fagie Rosen said, “The Film Festival has gone beyond my wildest dreams and I applaud all the dedicated committee members who have volunteered their time and knowledge to get us to this point of becoming an independent non-profit organization. Thanks to all the wonderful sponsors and patrons who believed in the Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival and have been so supportive for the last 18 years, we are now able to branch out and become available to several other communities as well. The crawling baby is now walking and will soon be running as well.”

And Burt Rosen agrees, “I second Fagie's comments. She certainly expresses my pride in and appreciation for the continuing growth and evolution of our venture.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Special Opening Night Celebration

Special Opening Night Marks
18th Annual Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival
and the Grand Opening Celebration
of the New Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto

The Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival and the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto are co-sponsoring the Saturday, October 17 Opening Night Event on the new Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life. This special program marks both the opening of the 18th Annual Film Festival, and the grand opening weekend of the new Oshman Family Jewish Community Center. It begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Albert and Janet Schultz Cultural Arts Hall. Enter the campus at 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto.

The Festival is offering the Argentinean movie,"Letters for Jenny." It will be preceded by a short talk by Monique Balbuena, Assistant Professor of Literature at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Dr. Balbuena is an expert on the Latin Jewish experience, including Jewish contributions to literature and to the Tango Dance.

The evening continues with a colorful and entertaining demonstration of Tango.

The Opening Night event
includes a Tango dance presentation

Tickets are available from Brown Paper Tickets. Ticket prices in advance for this movie and special program are $25, general; $20 for Oshman Family JCC members. At the door, ticket prices will be $30, all admissions. Proceeds benefit both the SVJFF and the OFJCC.

Brown Paper Tickets

Letters for Jenny (Cartas para Jenny)

Letters for JennyThis sensitively directed film depicts a young woman in love who must make life choices after learning of an unexpected pregnancy. Jenny's decisions cannot be made alone and it is only when she discovers three letters written by her mother before her death that Jenny is able to decide how to move forward. After reading her mother's first letter, Jenny decides to travel to Israel from Argentina and begin a new life. The journey to Jerusalem helps Jenny soften her personal pain, and discover new opportunities-including a new love-so that she can put her life in perspective. The story is moving, and the cinematography is stunning, with scenes of Argentina, Spain and Israel.

Argentina/2007, Spanish (with subtitles), 96 min. Feature

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

This Year's News

The Film Festival is now an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. The Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center of Silicon Valley in Los Gatos is a major sponsor of the Film Festival. The Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto is also a major sponsor.

The SVJFF is co-sponsoring the opening of the Festival and the Grand Opening of the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center Taube Campus for Jewish Life on Saturday night, October 17 with special movie and entertainment. This is the start of the grand opening weekend for the new campus off of San Antonio Road, Palo Alto The Festival schedule will be officially released by late August/early September. Special events, special speakers and great films from around the world are planned.

All Wednesday night screenings will now be at the Camera 7 Theater, Pruneyard Shopping Center, Campbell. So now you can avoid the freeway backups and choose from many great restaurants before coming to the movies. Sunday movies in San Jose will continue at the Camera 12 Theater, downtown San Jose.


In response to audience requests, all Wednesday night Festival movies will now be shown at the Camera 7 Theater, Pruneyard Shopping Center, Campbell. Sunday movies will continue at the Camera 12 Theaters, 201 S. Second Street, San Jose. Additional films are being offered in Palo Alto.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


October 21-November 22
18th Annual Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival

October 15, 2009, 7 p.m., Sunnyvale Community Center, Sunnyvale Gala Patron Event (light supper and bonus movie not included in the regular Festival

October 17, 2009, 7:30 p.m., Oshman Family JCC, Palo Alto Opening Night Special Event. The Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival and the Oshman Family JCC officially open the new Taube Campus for Jewish Life as well as the start of the 18th Annual Festival. Enjoy a wonderful film from Argentina "Letters from Jenny", plus a Tango demonstration. Please note, special tickets will be required for this event.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mini-Israeli Film Festival

May 16th, 17th, 20th
in honor of Israel's 61st Anniversary!

Films Include "Shiva", "Arab Labor" and "It's Now or Never"

The Mini-Israeli Festival is co-sponsored by:
Palo Alto JCC Israeli House

Go to for more info.

ShivaIn this emotional rollercoaster a fascinating portrait of a Moroccan-Israeli family is painted as mourners gather for the traditional seven days of mourning (shiva). The intensity of this situation is a catalyst for more than just emotional support and communal grief. This film Boasts an impressive cast of some of Israel's best actors including Keren Mor, Yael Abecassis, Hana Azoulay-Safrari, Hanna Laszlo, Moshe Ivgy and Alon Abutbul.

Arab Labor

Arab LaborA satiric sitcom written by Israeli-Arab Author Sayed Kashua, broadcast on prime time Israel television. The show is about a young Arab couple, Amjad and Bushra, and their young daughter, who live in an Arab village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Amjad is a journalist who desperately seeks to assimilate into the prevailing Israeli Jewish cultural milieu with mixed and hilarious results.

It's Now or Never

It's Now or Never The resolution on the partition of Palestine was adopted by the UN on November 29th, 1947. While all Israelis were dancing and celebrating, David Ben Gurion, the leader of the new Jewish entity remained ambivalent - after 2000 years in the Diaspora the statehood is in reach, yet the threat of Arab armies invading the Jewish lands in Palestine was very real. This dramatic re-enactment starring Yossi Kantz as David Ben Gurion depicts, step by step, the crucial and dramatic six months before the state of Israel was inaugurated.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Israeli Film, Waltz With Bashir

Israeli Film, Waltz With Bashir,
Just Nominated for An Oscar®
as Best Foreign Language Film!

Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival
Arranges Private Screening on February 3rd.

Just yesterday, Waltz With Bashir ( was nominated as Best Foreign Language Film for this year's Oscars®. The Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival announces a special private screening of this award-winning film. Waltz with Bashir also won Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes®, and won six Israeli Academy Awards®. Tickets will sell quickly.

Waltz With Bashir

Waltz with Bashir

Summary: One night at a bar, an old friend tells director Ari about a recurring nightmare in which he is chased by 26 vicious dogs; every night, the same number of beasts. The two men conclude that there is a connection to their Israeli Army mission in the first Lebanon War of the early Eighties.

Ari is surprised that he can't remember a thing anymore about that period of his life. Intrigued by this riddle, he decides to meet and interview old friends and comrades around the world. He needs to discover the truth about that time and about himself. As Ari delves deeper and deeper into the mystery, his memory begins to creep up in surreal images.

Written, directed and produced by Ari Folman
Running Time: 87 minutes
Hebrew; With English subtitles.

Upcoming dates for your calendar:

Sunday, March 8

Special Israeli film in connection with Tel Aviv's 100th birthday.

Location and time:
7pm, Cubberley Theater, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto (map)

Sunday, March 22

Northern California Premiere of Against the Tide, directed by Rick Trank, award-winning director of I Have Never Forgotten You (shown at the 17th Annual SVJFF). This is a sneak preview, special for the SVJFF.