Seattle Jewish Film Festival Celebrates 22 Years With Amazing Lineup

Zookeeper's Wife with Jessica Chastain Seattle Jewish Film Festival

Seattle Jewish Film Festival (SJFF) celebrates its 22nd birthday this year, from March 25 through April 2, 2017 . SJFF will present two dozen films under the umbrella theme “Arrivals,” an international cinematic journey to France, the Netherlands, Greece, Israel and beyond.

Ori Sivan’s “Harmonia” opens the festival. Based on a biblical story from Genesis, the Jerusalem Philharmonic Orchestra is the romantic setting for this modern take on the Bible’s love triangle of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar. Lead actor Alon Aboutboul will be in attendance.

Highlights of SJFF include an advance screening of “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” starring Jessica Chastain. Based on the best-selling book, the film tells the real-life story of a working wife and mother (Chastain), who saved hundreds of Jews and refugees during World War II.

A special Matzoh Momma Sunday Brunch starts with a live performance of The Klez Katz, followed by the screening of Ferne Pearlstein’s documentary, “The Last Laugh.” The film poses the question: “Can the Holocaust be funny?” Comedians Mel Brooks, Sarah Silverman, Judy Gold, Rob Reiner, as well as Holocaust survivors weigh in, illustrated by archival footage and movie clips.

Teen screenings include “Supergirl.” A typical teenager, Naomi Kutin, goes to school, does her homework, and hangs out with friends. BUT, she may be “the strongest girl in the world.” Filmmakers Jessie Auritt and Erik Dugger will be in attendance.

The documentary, “Big Sonia,” which received both the jury and audience awards at the Napa Valley Film Festival will close the festival. Seattle-based, award-winning filmmakers Leah Warshawski and Todd Soliday will be on hand. Their film tells the story of Warshawski’s grandmother, Sonia, a Holocaust survivor. She’s 91 years old and only 4’8” tall, but she packs a towering personality, garbed in her favorite leopard-print panache. She shares a lifetime of experience and advice.

At 13, in the Polish city of Miedzyrzec, young Sonia (Warshawski)  watched from an attic window as neighbors were rounded up for the camps. Her family soon followed, sniffed out of their hiding places by the SS’s dogs. Sonia never again saw her father or brother. At 17, she watched as her mother was taken to the gas chamber.

Somehow, Sonia Warshawski managed to survive: The ghetto. The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. The death march out of Auschwitz as Soviet troops was advancing. She survived being beaten and shot. She even survived three face-to-face encounters with the notorious Josef Mengele, who hand-picked prisoners for medical experiments and the gas chamber.

“Big Sonia” will make an appearance at SJFF, and she will probably be decked out in her favorite leopard-print.

The largest Jewish event in the Pacific Northwest, SJFF takes place at AMC Pacific Place 11, SIFF Cinema Uptown, and the Stroum Jewish Community Center. For a list of all the films, the screening schedules, locations and tickets, click here. Single tickets, as well as a Full Festival Pass and an 8-Pack, are available. Seniors and students are eligible for special discounts.

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About Starla Smith

Starla Smith is a career journalist, writing features for such publications as The New Yorker, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Daily News, The Des Moines Register, Vibe and a prize-winning Gannett Newspaper. She helped launch Theater Week Magazine and eventually became its publisher. As a regular contributor to Playbill, her interviews and photos were featured in Playbill and Playbill-on-line. Smith was featured in the New York Times “Style” section for her “Word Portraits,” specialized tributes, speeches, and presentation profiles. And she covered theater and features for City Search, Digital City, and the Tena Duberry WOW! Radio show. She previously served as astrology guru for Out Magazine, and she hastens to assure her readers that “Starla” is indeed her real name.

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