Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival is back, November 2-6. | Credit: Courtesy

After a two year hiatus due to Covid-19, the Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival is back for its fifth year, with a packed lineup of 13 fantastic movies in just five days, November 2-6. This carefully hand-picked selection of films celebrates Jewish culture and community, and will be accompanied by an opening night reception, a number of expert panel discussions, and a musical performance by blues artist Saul Kaye.

The festival will kick off with an opening reception and toast at the New Vic Theater on Wednesday, November 2. Immediately following the reception will be a screening of the critically acclaimed documentary Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Song, a Journey (trailer)(review),with a post-screening guest talk about Cohen’s life by Cohen’s spiritual advisor, Rabbi Mordecai Finley.

Thursday, November 3 programming will open with a showing of the documentary Everybody’s Sons, about three young Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza in 2014, followed by a collection of documentary shorts. Later in the afternoon will be French psychological thriller The Man in The Basement (L’Homme dans le Cave) (trailer), then Repairing the World: Stories from the Tree of Life (trailer), the harrowing documentary about the tragic 2018 synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, and the inspiring community response in the aftermath, with a panel discussion afterward. The day will conclude with the Israeli drama The Dinner (trailer).

The schedule on Friday, November 4 begins with Plan A (trailer), based on the true story of a group of vigilante Holocaust survivors called The Avengers who aimed to avenge the death of their people. Early afternoon will bring Wet Dog (trailer), a German drama about a young Jewish Iranian boy trying to fit into a majority Muslim neighborhood in Berlin, then Love and Mazel Tov (trailer), a quirky German romantic comedy of errors about a young woman who pretends to be Jewish in hopes of atoning for her family’s unsavory past. 

Saturday, November 5, brings just one film, the documentary The Jews and the Blues (trailer), with a special musical performance by Saul Kaye.

The festival’s final day, Sunday, November 6, will commence with Jews of the Wild West (trailer), a documentary about Jewish immigration in the U.S. Next on the schedule is The Jewish Jail Lady and the Holy Thief (trailer), the heartwarming true story of two people with troubled pasts finding love, community, and a greater purpose in founding Beit T’Shuvah, a Jewish addiction treatment center in Los Angeles. Rabbi Mark Borovitz and Harriet Rosetto, the film’s subjects, described it as “a message of hope, recovery, passion, purpose, and love. It is a story of an unlikely love affair that has changed thousands of lives, especially our own.”

Sunday evening will bring a showing of Farewell, Mr. Haffmann (trailer), a French drama about a Jewish and a Gentile neighbor who switch lives during WWII. The final film of the festival will be The Tiger Within (trailer), a heatwarming drama starring Ed Asner as a Holocaust victim that takes a Anti-Semitic troubled teen under his wing. The festivities will conclude with an awards ceremony after the final screening. 

All showings will be held at the New Vic Theater. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit All-access tickets are available now, and tickets for single shows can be purchased onsite before each screening.

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