19th Annual Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival returns February 8-22 in Valley cities

Deborah Muller

The film line-up at the 19th annual Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival (GPJFF) is something to crow about – or make that sing about – as the annual event prepares to hit screens throughout the Valley from February 8-22, 2015.

Legendary singer/musician/actor Theodore Bikel (The Sound of Music, and Fiddler on the Roof) will receive the GPJFF’s inaugural Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award at a special Centerpiece Event. Bikel will accept the award in person, following the Valley premiere of his new film, Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Aleichem at Harkins Theatre Camelview 5 in Scottsdale on February 15. Kicking off the event will be Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane who will present Bikel with the city’s official proclamation of “Theodore Bikel Day.”

Bikel’s appearance is just one highlight of the film festival, whose lineup can be found at www.gpjff.org. Featuring a rich assortment of independent Jewish cinema that travels from the cobblestone streets of Paris to the dusty hillside of Bethlehem; from the million dollar yachts moored in Saint-Tropez to the sound stages of Hollywood; from the farms nestled deep in the Black Forest to the military airspace 65,000 feet above us, the GPJFF takes filmgoers all around the world without ever leaving their seats. Thirteen films from eight countries, including nine area and state theatrical premieres, will screen in three Harkins theaters valley wide in Chandler, Scottsdale and Peoria.

“Our film slate is amazing this year — for all people to see and enjoy,” said GPJFF Executive Director Bob Segelbaum. “The Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival stands as a point of pride for the Jewish community and as a point of understanding, awareness and acceptance for the community at large.”

The festival kicks off with 24 Days, a thrilling drama based on the 2006 kidnapping of Parisian Jew, Ilan Halimi. It’s a powerful and provocative film that sheds light on contemporary European anti-Semitism. Miriam Weisman, national board member of the Anti-Defamation League, will be in attendance and speak to the audience after the screening.

Among other premieres in the Chandler location will be For a Woman, a narrative drama from filmmaker Diane Kurys about a marriage as remembered by the couple’s daughter. Canadian comedy import David Steinberg is the subject of the documentary Quality Balls, which follows the life and controversial career of the legendary comedian from his record number of appearances on The Tonight Show to his directing episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld. The festival closes with Nancy Spielberg’s documentary Above and Beyond, the unknown story of a ragtag group of mostly American WW II pilots who survived one war, only to turn around and volunteer to fight in another: Israel’s War of Independence.

For more information on films or to purchase tickets, call 602-753-9366 or visit www.gpjff.org.

What: The 19th annual Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival

When: Sunday, February 8-Sunday, February 22

Where: Harkins Chandler Fashion 20, 3159 W. Chandler Blvd., Chandler; Harkins Camelview 5, 7001 E. Highland Ave., Scottsdale; Harkins Arrowhead 18, 16046 N. Arrowhead Fountains Ctr. Dr., Peoria

Ticket prices: $11 for adults ($13 at the door)/$7 for students (ID required, 25 yrs. and under); $110 unlimited films/unlimited venues VIP Festival Pass; $18 for all patrons attending the Theodore Bikel Special Event