In its 34th edition, the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival, the second-longest-running series of its kind in the country, explores a wide range of issues and aspects of Jewish identity with 16 films from nine countries screening over the next two weeks. Below are a few highlights, ranging from wry comedy to gripping drama to true stories examining elements of culture from storytelling to food.
"The Sturgeon Queens"
Nov. 2, 11:30 a.m., Gershman Y
Celebrating the centennial of the famed NYC food emporium Russ and Daughters, this doc features the surviving eponymous daughters, 100-year-old Hattie Russ Gold and her sister 92-year-old Anne Russ Federman, along with the new generation striving to update the lox and herring dynasty without deviating too far from tradition. After the morning screening, UArts’ Hamilton Hall will host a Russ and Daughters Bagel & Lox Brunch featuring a book signing and discussion by Mark Russ Federman (Anne’s son and author of a family bio/cookbook).
"Etgar Keret: What Animal Are You?"
Nov. 3, 7 p.m., Gershman Y
Celebrated writer Etgar Keret is no stranger to making movies. He’s written for both TV and film, including the 2009 animated “$9.99,” and one of his novellas was adapted into the 2006 film “Wristcutters: A Love Story.” But Keret is the subject of this new documentary, which will be followed by a reading and conversation by the author. The festival will also feature a program of short films based on Keret’s works.
"The Best of Men"
Nov. 9, 7 p.m., Hiway Theater
Character actor Eddie Marsan stars as Ludwigg Guttman, a Jewish neurologist and refugee from Nazi Germany whose work with injured British servicemen leads him to found the Paralympic Games.
Nov. 13, 7 p.m., Ritz East
Writer/director Talya Lavie’s feature debut takes a sardonic look at women in the Israeli army. Far from the dangerous conflicts that form the subject of so many Israeli films, “Zero Motivation” takes place in a human resources office on a rural army base, featuring two friends whose only battles are against boredom and bureaucracy.
"Above and Beyond"
Nov. 15, 7:30 p.m., Kimmel Center
Closing this year’s festival, Roberta Grossman’s doc recounts the story of a group of American WWII pilots who volunteered to fight in Israel’s War of Independence. Produced by Nancy Spielberg, the film meshes with older brother Steven’s long-running interest in both Band of Brothers adventure yarns and long-forgotten tales of heroism in Jewish history.
See the full schedule at www.pjff.org.