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Miami Jewish Film Festival

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Jan. 11th–22nd
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O Cinema South Beach

1130 Washington Ave, Miami Beach (786) 471-3269

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• Adult – $15.00
• Senior – $14.00
• Student – $14.00

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The largest Jewish film program in the world will be celebrated at the Miami Jewish Film Festival’s (MJFF) 23rd annual edition from January 9-23, 2020, premiering an unprecedented 107 films from 25 countries, and hosting more than 50 filmmakers and special guests. MJFF, the largest Jewish cultural event in Florida and one of the three largest Jewish film festivals in the world reaching an audience of more than 30,000, has unveiled its biggest film lineup ever featuring 6 World Premieres, 6 International Premieres, 7 North American Premieres, and a record-setting 29 films directed by women (31 percent of films announced), all being shown at 14 different venues across Greater Miami.

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SYNDROME K – Sat, Jan. 11th @ 9:00pm

FLORIDA PREMIERE – Narrated by Golden Globe-nominee Ray Liotta, this fascinating film tells for the first time the true, little-known story of Italian doctors who rescued Jews during the Holocaust by using the conceit of a horrific, highly contagious disease that wasn’t real.

In the middle of World War II, during the Nazi occupation of Rome, three courageous Italian doctors saved the lives of many Jews by convincing the Nazis that certain Jewish patients in their hospital — located a stone’s throw from the Vatican — were infected with a deadly disease they called Syndrome K. But Syndrome K never existed; it was completely fictitious — making it, ironically, the one horrible disease in human history that actually saved lives. This poignant documentary features interviews with survivors and descendants of survivors, including the 98-year-old Adriano Ossicini, the last surviving doctor, and Pietro Borromeo, son of the head doctor at the hospital. With its use of expressionistic reenactments, rare interviews, and archival footage, Syndrome K presents a powerful depiction of courage and sacrifice in the face of Nazi horror.

Director Stephen Edwards will be in attendance to introduce the film and participate in an extended conversation afterward.

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THE COLDEST GAME – Sun, Jan. 12th @ 9:00pm

SNEAK PREVIEW – In the early 1960s, at the height of the Cuban crisis, the American secret service kidnaps the eminent mathematician Joshua Mansky.

A forgotten genius, he is asked to take part in a chess duel against a Soviet Chessmaster at an international tournament in the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw. But the rivalry is only a cover for a critical spy game. When allies turn out to be enemies and you don’t know who to trust, Mansky has to make a decisive move to stop the nuclear conflict. Starring Bill Pullman (Independence Day), The Coldest Game is a stylish, gripping, edge-of-your-seat spy thriller that is pieced together with utmost skill and will keep you guessing until the very end.

Producer Krzysztof Terej will be in attendance to introduce the film and participate in an extended conversation afterward.

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CURTIZ – Mon, Jan. 13th @ 6:00pm

MIAMI PREMIEREAs America prepares to enter WWII, legendary Hungarian film director Michael Curtiz grapples with political intervention and a dysfunctional relationship with his estranged daughter amid the troubled production of his classic film Casablanca.

This stylish dramatization pays homage to Curtiz’ trademark ‘Noir’ aesthetic, and also recreates his struggles with a zealous government agent, paralleling the conflict raging overseas for those European cast and crew members who had fled Nazi oppression. Casablanca, the cinematic masterpiece of pro-Allied propaganda, garnered eight Oscar nominations and three awards, including Best Director and Best Picture.

Preceding the Monday, January 13 screening of Curtiz will be the Southeast US Premiere of the short film Minor Accident of War featuring the attendance of director Diane Weis and film subject Edward Field.

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ELLIOTT ERWITT, SILENCE SOUNDS GOOD – Mon, Jan. 13th @ 8:00pm

SOUTHEAST US PREMIERE – Elliott Erwitt, Silence Sounds Good is a quiet, intimate portrait of one of the greatest photographers of our time, and his commitment to his craft.

Charming and engaging, with a youthful curiosity well into his 80s, Jewish photographer Elliott Erwitt has always let his photos speak for themselves. Spanning over six decades and multiple countries, his life’s work is a testament to the power of the image — from his iconic black-and-white shots of presidents, popes, and celebrities, to everyday people and their pets. Narrated by his assistant, this film takes us inside his extensive photo archive and along with Elliott as he travels to Cuba to take photos for his newest book and exhibition.

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RUTH: JUSTICE GINSBURG IN HER OWN WORDS – Tue, Jan. 14th @ 6:00pm

SNEAK PREVIEW – Academy Award-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock covers the full breadth of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life, views, and career by relying on her own words and actions, as illuminated by carefully collected archival footage and interviews.

As one of only nine women in a class of 500 at Harvard Law School when she enrolled in 1956 and one of only four female Supreme Court justices in the history of the United States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is frequently viewed as a feminist trailblazer and an icon for civil rights. Ruth: Justice Ginsburg in Her Own Words creates a compelling portrait as authentic, poignant and powerful as the Justice herself.

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FINAL HOUR – Tue, Jan. 14th @ 8:00pm

NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE – Is the language Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) already dead or just dying?

When a language dies, does the culture which used it perish as well? Why didn’t her Turkish grandparents teach or speak with her and her parents in Ladino? These are the questions that propel a young Jewish woman on a voyage of discovery in an attempt to unearth her culture, language, and roots. Her journey takes her on an emotional roller coaster as she meets the small surviving communities of Sephardic Jews in Salonika and Kastoria in Greece and discovers her ancient past in Portugal and Spain. Along the way, she finds long-lost cousins, views the actual Spanish Edict of Expulsion, and encounters many other surprises. The Final Hour depicts the centuries-long journey of Sephardic culture and the Ladino language, asking all the while: Will it survive another generation?

Producer Cem Kitapci will be in attendance to introduce the film and participate in an extended conversation with the audience afterward.

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FORMAN VS. FORMAN – Wed, Jan. 15th @ 6:00pm

SOUTHEAST US PREMIERE – Made just before his death and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, this poignant film is one of the first to ever capture the life story of two-time Oscar-winning director Miloš Forman — the man behind classics such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Hair, and Amadeus.

The film presents an ingenious collage of rare archival footage and autobiographic memories which are narrated by Miloš’ son, Petr Forman. His experiences and traumas are brought to light for the first time, such as his mother dying in a concentration camp and his escape from communist-ruled Czechoslovakia to freedom in America. Forman vs Forman maps the journey of Miloš’ iconoclastic life and his rise to fame to become one of Hollywood’s legendary filmmakers.

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VAN GOGHS – Wed, Jan. 15th @ 8:00pm

SOUTH FLORIDA PREMIERE – Winner of four Russian Academy Awards (Nika Awards), Van Goghs is a powerhouse drama featuring two of the most acclaimed actors from Poland and Russia.

Mark (Aleksey Serebryakov, Academy Award-nominated Leviathan) is a lonely and struggling artist who is unable to form any kind of attachment with anyone, especially not his father Victor (Daniel Olbrychski, Academy Award-winner The Tin Drum), a renowned symphony conductor. They both loathe and adore each other at the same time, flaring up with renewed vigor when Mark leaves his home in Israel and goes to visit his father after a long time apart. Together again, they are both forced to come to terms with their past, their choices in life and their love for each other, as Victor slowly withers away when dementia takes hold of him.

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THE BOOKSELLERS – Thu, Jan. 16th @ 6:00pm

SOUTHEAST US PREMIERE – A treat for anyone who appreciates the printed word, this elegant and entertaining film takes you inside the small but fascinating world of booksellers, populated by an assortment of obsessives, intellects, eccentrics, and dreamers.

Executive produced by Parker Posey, The Booksellers features interviews with some of the most important dealers in the business, as well as prominent collectors, auctioneers, and a litany of special guests, including Fran Lebowitz, Susan Orlean, Kevin Young, and Gay Talese. Both a loving celebration of book culture and a serious exploration of the future of the book, it also examines technology’s impact on the trade, the decline of used and rare bookstores, collecting obsessions, plus the relentless hunt for the next great find. Perhaps best of all, The Booksellers offers a rare glimpse of many unique and remarkable antique books, including the most expensive book ever sold, Da Vinci’s ; handwritten Borges manuscripts; jeweled bindings; books bound in human flesh; essential early hip-hop documents; accounts of polar expeditions published with samples of real wooly mammoth fur; and many more.

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OLYMPIC DREAMS – Thu, Jan. 16th @ 8:00pm

SOUTH FLORIDA PREMIERE In this charming romantic comedy, director Jeremy Teicher uses the 2018 Winter Olympic Game in PyeongChang, South Korea, as the backdrop for a love story between Penelope, an anxious cross-country skier (actual Olympian Alexi Pappas), and Ezra, a Jewish volunteer dentist (comedian Nick Kroll).

After Penelope competes and doesn’t place, she meets up with Ezra, and together they decide to spend the rest of the games exploring PyeongChang inside and outside the athletes’ village — a notable cinematic achievement, as Olympic Dreams is the first scripted feature to ever be filmed at and during the Olympics. As they grow closer, they discuss their dreams, expectations, fears, and what “making it” really means in life. A tender story about small moments that spark big connections, Olympic Dreams is reminiscent of classics such as Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation.

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GOD OF THE PIANO – Sat, Jan. 18th @ 9:00pm

SOUTHEAST US PREMIEREFor Anat, the scion of a distinguished musical family, music is all she has.

Having never been able to satisfy her father’s high musical standards, she rests her hopes on the child she’s about to give birth to. But when her baby is born deaf, she uses extreme measures to make sure her son becomes the composer of her dreams. Written as a moral parable and nominated for the Best Israeli Feature Prize at the Jerusalem Film Festival, God of the Piano tells the story of a mother (Naama Preis, Winner of the Best Actress Award at the Jerusalem Film Festival) whose obsessive behavior and great expectations threaten to crush her child, just as she was once crushed.

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AFRICA – Mon, Jan. 20th @ 6:00pm

US PREMIEREWinner of the Best Film Award at the Haifa Film Festival, this touchingly well-observed, lovingly crafted, and big-hearted film presents an Israeli marriage story straight from the heart.

Having settled into a comfortable retirement dominated by his carpentry shop, the slightly crotchety Meir came into the world seven decades ago in 1948 — “the same year our country was born,” as he proudly informs his grandson. He’s now the same age as his own father when the latter died, which prompts him to reflect on his mortality. Flinty and fiery, Meir is frustrated to find he is not quite as physically or mentally sharp as he used to be. His easygoing wife Maya tolerates his mood swings with patient resignation. Their relationship is shown in bittersweet episodes chronicling the daily life of a couple so close they can communicate volumes with a look or a touch, or merely a judiciously chosen silence.

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THE HOUSE ON WANNSEE STREET – Mon, Jan. 20th @ 8:00pm

INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE – Generations of family secrets are uncovered in this sweeping international story that begins with the Second World War and concludes with an emotional twenty-first century revelation.

When award-winning Argentinean filmmaker Poli Martínez Kaplun decided to dig deep into her family history, she found a shocking discovery. Searching through family albums and 8mm home movies, she unraveled a twentieth-century mystery. What she found were long-forgotten images of her great grandfather, who she learned was a German-Jewish philosopher persecuted by the Nazis. To save his family from the concentration camps, he was forced to flee Berlin and moved to Egypt, then Switzerland, and finally Argentina, where they had to hide their Jewish identity in order to receive Church papers to enter the country (since after the Second World War Jews were not permitted entry as immigrants). Poignant questions of identity, resilience, compassion, and the plight of displaced persons are brought to life as Poli confronts her mother and aunts about the hidden Jewish identity they have concealed ever since. Eighty years later, Poli returns to Germany to their family house on Wannsee Street, a few feet from where the Final Solution was decreed for all Jews in Europe.

Director Poli Martínez Kaplun will be in attendance to introduce the film and participate in an extended conversation with the audience afterward.

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TRANSKIDS – Tue, Jan. 21st @ 6:00pm

INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE – While four Israeli teenagers undergo the process of life-and-identity-saving gender transformation, their four families must grapple with the unsettling process their child goes through during the already brutal teenage years.

After years of intimate and raw documentation, this unprecedented documentary paints an emotional, dramatic, and eye-opening picture that raises fundamental questions: What does it mean to be born in a body that is misaligned with your gender? How would we, as parents, react when the child we have raised turns out to be a different person inside than the one we thought they were? And finally, is our love for our children truly unconditional? Transkids chronicles the physical, emotional and sociological ups and downs in the foursome’s and their families’ lives — Israeli teens who, despite the hefty social price, are no longer afraid of being themselves.

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FLAWLESS – Tue, Jan. 21st @ 8:30pm

SOUTHEAST US PREMIERE – Nominated for 12 Israeli Ophir Awards, Flawless centers on three Israeli 17-year-old girls as they navigate the murky waters of high school using razor-sharp wit to shield their vulnerabilities.

Envious of their picture-perfect, popular classmates, the trio makes a secret pact to raise the funds for cosmetic surgery and prom dresses. They embark on an impulsive adventure that ultimately becomes a journey of self-discovery, shaping these self-conscious high-schoolers into adults. Directing team Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit (The Farewell Party) bring their signature blend of humor and humanity to this contemporary, cautionary tale. Transgender model Strashko delivers a star-making performance as Eden, the girl with the most to hide — but also the most to gain — in her search for validation. An inspiring story of sisterhood that soothes the sting of adolescence, Flawless is also an uplifting coming of age movie with universal life lessons for everyone.

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OF ANIMALS AND MEN – Wed, Jan. 22nd @ 6:00pm

SOUTHEAST US PREMIERE – This fascinating documentary sheds new light on the story told in The Zookeeper’s Wife, the remarkable account of Antonina and Dr. Jan Żabiński, recognized as Righteous Among the Nations for their heroic rescue of Jews during the Holocaust in Poland.

Following the German takeover of Warsaw in September 1939, the couple saved hundreds of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto by hiding them in the city’s zoo facilities and their own villa, right under the noses of the Nazis. Weaving together archival materials, recreations and testimonies of witnesses and survivors, Of Animals and Men tells an extraordinary tale of courage and passion.

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THE PAINTED BIRD – Wed, Jan. 22nd @ 7:30pm

SOUTHEAST US PREMIERE – A young Jewish boy encounters the worst of humanity as he wanders Eastern Europe during World War II in this savage, searing, and shocking adaptation of Jerzy Kosiński’s infamous Holocaust novel that is the Czech Republic’s official entry for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film.

SOUTHEAST US PREMIERE – Based on Kosiński’s novel of the same name, The Painted Bird is an unsparing plunge into the darkest corners of the human soul. Not for the faint-hearted, this masterful yet very challenging film tells the story of a Jewish child, who, after being separated from his parents, wanders Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe during World War II, meeting senseless violence and inhumane torture along the way. Featuring a star-studded cast including Harvey Keitel, Stellan Skarsgård, Barry Pepper, Julian Sands, and Udo Kier, the harrowing story unfolds through a series of tableaux that take our helpless protagonist on a brutal journey into a period of twisted and intensive hatred and fear of the other. While there are occasional glimpses of compassion, this film adaptation does not stray from Kosiński’s graphic accounts of sexual assault, child abuse, and unrelenting violence that are far harder to face with open eyes. Although a powerful account of antisemitism, is also a bleak portrait of the cruelty of human nature.

Viewer discretion advised. This film contains explicit and graphic imagery that is not suitable for children.

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