Knowing where to begin with the 27th annual Washington Jewish Film Festival is difficult. Aside from Natalie Portman’s debut effort as a writer and director and a documentary on former Representative Barney Frank, most of the 69 titles screening over the course of 12 days are foreign, independent pictures starring faces unfamiliar to the average moviegoer. To help narrow down your choices, festival director Ilya Tovbis has highlighted five of his most anticipated films that will be showing.
Directed by Yaelle Kayam and presented in Hebrew with English subtitles, Mountain follows the story of a devout mother and wife living in Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives cemetery who stumbles upon a sexual act while in the midst of her daily walk, leading her to explore what lies beyond her solitary routine. “It upends our notion of what orthodoxy should be like,” Tovbis says.
February 25, 6:30 PM, Bethesda Row Cinema
February 27, 6:45 PM, AFI Silver Theatre
February 28, 3:15 PM, E Street Cinema
Partner With The Enemy is a documentary about an Israeli woman and a Palestinian woman starting a business that transports of goods to the West Bank. The film aims to fight two prevailing standards: that Israelis and Palestinians can’t work together and that the shipping industry is completely controlled and operated by men. “For those familiar with the politics and social norms of the Middle East, it’s far from an easy thing to do,” says Tovbis, regarding the business partnership highlighted in the film. “It’s a fascinating documentary.”
February 29, 6:15 PM, Bethesda Row Cinema
March 1, 6:15 PM, West End Cinema
March, 1 PM, DCJCC
The avant-garde comedy Marzipan Flowers doesn’t shy away from reminding its viewers that it was made on a shoestring budget, opting for cheaply constructed sets and cartoonish colors. It’s also an off-kilter blast, following a woman’s wild partying adventures with her transgender roommate after she moves to Tel Aviv to cope with the death of her husband. “It deals with some serious issues despite the fact of how fun it is,” says Tovbis.
February 27, 4:30 PM, West End Cinema
February 29, 6:45 PM, Bethesda Row Cinema
March 2, 8:45 PM, DCJCC
If the legend of the dybbuk—a chilling, malevolent spirit in Jewish mythology believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person—terrifies you, then you may want to stay away from the horror film Demon. “It reinvents [the dybbuk story] in modern day Poland,” Tovbis says. “It’s quite a twisted, fun journey of film.”
February 25, 8:45 PM, E Street Cinema
March 1, 9:15 PM, AFI Silver Theatre
Chantal Akerman’s final film before she committed suicide, No Home Movie is a patient, pensive documentary about the last few years of Ackerman’s mother’s life. It’s also a work that exemplifies the nuances and touches of a talent gone too soon. “She sculpts with time,” says Tovbis. “[She makes] long, slow films, but it’s also a really beautiful image to consider—what she can do in a room with just her and her mother.”
February 29, 7:15 PM, AFI Silver Theatre
March 1, 8:15 PM, West End Cinema