Five movies to watch at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival

Our top picks for the annual film fest, which went virtual and split into two editions this year


Courtesy of TJFF

Low-key romantic drama Sublet is a delicate two-hander about two people creating a world together.

TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL 2020: FALL EDITION from Thursday (October 22) to November 1. $12, some free screenings; festival pass $200. tjff.com


When COVID closures forced the Toronto Jewish Film Festival online in the spring, the fest’s directors promised a fall edition that’d reunite its audience in theatres. Obviously that didn’t work out, so the second wave of the TJFF is also happening online, with a daily selection of features, shorts and documentaries rolling out at the festival’s website. (Many will have filmmaker Q&As available to stream the following day.) It’s a bigger program than the spring edition, but here are five titles that stood out. 

Sublet

The fall TJFF opens with the latest from Israeli filmmaker Eytan Fox (Yossi & Jagger, Walk On Water), a low-key romantic drama starring American character actor John Benjamin Hickey (The Big C, Manhattan) as a reticent travel journalist drawn to the film student (Niv Nissim) whose Tel Aviv apartment he’s rented for a few days. A delicate little two-hander about two people creating a world together, and one that – in an ordinary year – would have been a word-of-mouth hit on the fest circuit.

Available to stream October 22-23; Q&A available October 25 at 1 pm.

Courtesy of TJFF

Breaking Bread

After winning the Israeli version of Top Chef, Muslim chef Nof Atmna-Ismaeel decided to establish the A-sham Arabic Food Festival in Haifa, the better to encourage Jewish and Arab cooks to reinvent traditional recipes together – and erode the cultural barriers between them. Beth Elise Hawk’s documentary occupies the space between cultural study and kitchen porn, celebrating both Atmna-Ismaeel’s mission and the dishes that come from it. 

Available to stream October 23-24; Q&A available October 25 at 3 pm.

Courtesy of TIFF

Fred Melamed, Rachel Sennott and Polly Draper star in Shiva Baby.

Shiva Baby

Having built considerable buzz at TIFF and Inside Out, Toronto writer/director Emma Seligman’s panic-attack comedy – starring Rachel Sennott as a grad student trapped at a shiva with her hectoring parents (Fred Melamed, Polly Draper), her cranky ex (Molly Gordon), her sugar daddy (Danny Deferrari) and the wife and baby he’d failed to mention – now lands in front of an audience that will appreciate – and shudder at – its unnerving cultural specificity.

Available to stream October 26-27.

Courtesy of TJFF

Army Of Lovers In The Holy Land 

Imagine Abba crossed with The Flaming Lips, and you have some idea of the Swedish dance-pop group Army Of Lovers – which, after three decades together, had to deal with lead vocalists Jean-Pierre Barda’s announcement that he was emigrating to Israel. Asaf Galay’s documentary borrows the structure of a Behind The Music-style retrospective to investigate the band’s response to Barda’s very personal journey, reflecting on issues of faith, identity and artistic comradeship while still letting the members of Army Of Lovers be entirely themselves. Galay, Barda and bandmate Dominika Peczynski are set for the Q&A, which should also be interesting.

Available to stream October 30-31. Q&A available November 1 at 4 pm. 

Courtesy of TJFF

Antisemitism

Ilan Ziv’s documentary examines the history and evolution of anti-Semitism in France, tracing centuries of slurs and hatred that seethe like boils underneath a culture that positions itself as enlightened and intellectual. It’s not an easy watch – especially when Ziv digs into the way Jewish stories have been represented in the French media, all the way back to the Dreyfus Affair – but at this particular point in time, it’s a necessary one.

Available to stream November 1-2. Q&A available November 2 at 7 pm.

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