Announcing the 38th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival Award Winners

The Castro Theatre audience on Opening Night of the 38th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Photo by Pat Mazzera.

The Jewish Film Institute (JFI) wrapped the 38th edition of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF) on August 5 following a record breaking year with over 40,000 attendees and 19 sold out shows. Continuing to present film and media that celebrates the diversity of global Jewish life, SFJFF38 marked the most successful festival in the Jewish Film Institute’s history, setting box office and attendance records and reaffirming the Festival’s position as the premier showcase for Jewish cinema worldwide.

SFJFF38 presented several awards for achievements in feature length and short filmmaking — read more about the award winners below:

SFJFF38 Audience Award: Best Narrative Feature

The Last Suit

Pablo Solarz, Argentina, 2017, 92 minutes, Spanish w/ English subtitles

Abraham, an 88-year-old tailor in Buenos Aires, has waited decades to fulfill a promise to a distant friend who helped him escape the Holocaust in Poland during the war. The cantankerous Abraham (in a heartfelt performance by Miguel Ángel Solá) clashes with everyone whose help he needs. But he seems to be mysteriously blessed, as the very people he fights with become his guardian angels, helping him each step along the way.

SFJFF38 Audience Award: Best Documentary Feature

Who Will Write Our History

Roberta Grossman, United States, 2018, 94 minutes, English, Yiddish, Polish w/ English subtitles

In the Warsaw Ghetto, a group of activists calling themselves Oyneg Shabes (Joy of Sabbath) secretly collected eyewitness accounts, diaries and photographs that told the history of the war from the perspective of the Jews. These archives are now finally revealed to the world. Told through a combination of archival footage, photographs and masterful reenactments, Roberta Grossman’s latest film is a stirring paean to these prescient individuals and a celebration of their optimism, persistence and grit.

SFJFF38 San Francisco Film Critics Award

The Interpreter

Martin Šulík, Slovakia, 2018, 113 minutes, German w/ English subtitles

Slovak interpreter Ali Ungar wants to find out the circumstances of his parents’ death at the hands of a Nazi officer and perhaps exact revenge. The officer’s son is still alive, but once Ungar finds him, the expectations become less expected. The odd couple sets out on a road trip through the lush green fields of Slovakia to unearth one story where endless stories of atrocities lie buried and are more nuanced than either had imagined.

For the second year in a row, the Festival, in collaboration with the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, presented the San Francisco Film Critics Award to the best film in the Narrative Feature category. This year, the Festival presented the award to Martin Šulík’s THE INTERPRETER. San Francisco Film Critics Circle members said of the film, “Our hope is this SFFCC Award will encourage a broader audience to seek out this expertly crafted, beautifully acted Slovakia-set film that eloquently ruminates on the Holocaust’s shattering legacy.”

SFJFF38 Best Short Documentary Award

A Perfect Day for Banana Leaves

Yavin Rubinstein, Israel, 2017, 26 minutes, Hebrew w/ English subtitles

Bananas grown in the north of Israel reach their final destination in Gaza. They journey south through the Israeli landscape and toward the Palestinians across the wall as we witness from both sides how the merchants trade and ultimately who profits and who loses in this fascinating business operation.

The juried SFJFF Best Short Documentary Award was presented to Yavin Robinstein’s A Perfect Day for Banana Leaves. As an Academy Award® qualifying film festival in the Documentary Short Subject category, the film will be eligible to be nominated for the Oscar® at the 2019 Academy Awards®.

“We are honored to have SFJFF join a select group of qualifying festivals for the Short Documentary Oscar®. We are very happy that our filmmakers will have this added benefit when they screen at our Festival,” Jay Rosenblatt, JFI’s Program Director, said.

SFJFF38 Film Movement Award

Summer

Pearl Gluck, United States, 2018, 19 minutes, English

Set in Upstate New York, Pearl Gluck’s latest film finds two teenage girls in a Hasidic sleep-away camp. Despite the girls every effort to maintain their purity, they explore a forbidden book which leads them to a sexual awakening neither of them are prepared for.

The 2018 SFJFF Film Movement Award was presented to Pearl Gluck’s narrative short Summer. Presented with distributor Film Movement, the Award honors achievement in short filmmaking that express the Jewish experience in a unique, original and meaningful way, or provides a fresh perspective on diversity within the Israeli or Jewish community and provides the option of a non-exclusive distribution deal.


For more photos from the Festival, click here.
For select filmmaker Q&As, click here.
To read the full SFJFF38 Wrap Release, click here.

Stay tuned for information about the 39th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, July 18 — August 4, 2019, at www.sfjff.org.