The 29th annual Boston Jewish Film Festival, which runs Nov. 8-20 at venues throughout Greater Boston, presents a scope of Jewish identity that ranges as wide as its programming efforts. This year’s lineup includes 42 features and 13 short films, which come from around the globe and span multiple genres.
Among the festival highlights is writer-director Shady Srour’s comedy “Holy Air” (Nov. 9 at the Coolidge Corner Theatre; Nov. 11 at the Brattle Theatre). Srour stars as Adam, an Arab Christian in Nazareth who, with a baby on the way, comes up with a get-rich-quick scheme in advance of the Pope’s visit. He plans to bottle and sell “Holy Air” — the air that the Virgin Mary breathed. But his idea runs into red tape from Jewish politicians, the Muslim mafia, and the Catholic church.
In director Eyal Halfon’s satirical “mockumentary” “90 Minute War” (Nov. 11 at the Brattle; Nov. 18 at the Museum of Fine Arts), an Israeli-Palestinian soccer match pits rival managers (Norman Issa and Moshe Ivgy) against each other as they prepare for a winner-take-all game. The victors get to remain in the Holy Land; the losers must go.
Arab-Israeli writer-director Maysaloun Hamoud’s debut feature, “In Between” (Nov. 11, MFA; Nov. 18, Somerville Theatre) is about two modern Palestinian women sharing an apartment in Tel Aviv. Laila (Mouna Hawa), a criminal lawyer, unwinds in the city’s underground club scene while Salma (Sana Jammelieh), a DJ, begins a romantic relationship with a female medical intern. When they are joined by a new roommate, Noor (Shaden Kanboura), a devout Muslim, the balance of modern and traditional culture shifts significantly. Both Kanboura, who starred in last year’s BJFF hit “Sand Storm,” and Hawa won Ophir awards (Israel’s Oscar equivalent) for their roles.
The festival’s centerpiece is the 90th anniversary screening of cinema’s first talkie, “The Jazz Singer” (1927). Starring Al Jolson as the cantor’s son who defies tradition to pursue his dream of singing jazz, the film remains an important touchstone in the evolution of Jewish life in America. The screening on Nov. 12 at the MFA will be followed by a panel discussion about Jews in cinema, assimilation, race, and jazz. Panelists include Thomas Doherty of Brandeis University; Joshua Jacobson of Northeastern University; and Joel Rosenberg of Tufts University.
In writer-director Eitan Anner’s drama “A Quiet Heart” (Nov. 16, Coolidge Corner; Nov. 19, Institute of Contemporary Art), “Game of Thrones” regular Ania Bukstein plays Naomi Sirad, a young concert pianist who suffers a crisis of confidence and leaves Tel Aviv for Jerusalem. There, she finds herself caught between ultra-Orthodox and secular neighbors, especially when she develops a friendship with an ultra-Orthodox boy (Lior Lifshitz) who lives in her building and who sneaks into her apartment to play her piano.
The closing-night film, “Keep the Change” (Nov. 20, Boston Public Library), is an unlikely romantic comedy about David and Sarah (Brandon Polansky and Samantha Elisofon), two young adults with autism who meet in a support group. Director Rachel Israel, along with Polansky and Elisofon, will be in attendance.
For more information go to www.bjff.org.
Short takes flight
The BJFF always boasts a strong shorts program, which provides a solid launching pad for filmmakers. Sharon native and Emerson College grad Dmitry Milkin’s 10-minute animated silent “Curpigeon,” about a sextet of pigeons that wait for a morning feast of seeds, premiered in last year’s BJFF and then went on to screen in many film festivals around the globe, including the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. Now more audiences can see it.
“Curpigeon” is available to stream, rent, or buy at http://a.co/6ol7BMv.
Cinephiles can test their movie knowledge and enjoy dinner and drinks in a benefit for one of the area’s premiere showcases for film, the Coolidge Corner Theatre. The Film Trivia Night fund-raiser takes place Thursday, 6:30-9 p.m. at the Coolidge. Individual tickets are $100; team packages (6-8 people) start at $600.
For more information go to www.coolidge.org/trivia.Loren King can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.