Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival expands for 2018

The Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival will include screenings at Harkins Shea in Scottsdale. (submitted photo)

The 22nd annual Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival, running Feb. 11-25, returns to Scottsdale, Tempe and Peoria with its largest slate of independent films in history.

The 2018 festival includes the Arizona premiere of a film following the ragtag team of professional Jewish American athletes playing in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Coinciding with Cactus League Spring Training, Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel documents Team Israel’s surprising run during the international baseball tournament held in South Korea.

In a David-versus-Goliath ballpark story, the team, comprised of current and former Jewish Major League Baseball players representing a small country with only one professional baseball field, bested powerhouse teams from South Korea, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and Cuba, before bowing out of the tournament.

A shot from Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel. (submitted photo)

Bonus MVPs of the film festival include fascinating documentary subjects, including Hollywood classic film star and secret scientist Hedy Lamarr (Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story); Rat Pack member and surprise Jewish convert Sammy Davis Jr. (Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me); and violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman (Itzhak).

Twenty-one feature-length films and five short films hailing from 11 different countries make this year’s festival the biggest and most diverse one in its history, according to a press release.

The film festival features an assortment of independent Jewish cinema that travels from the baseball stadiums of South Korea to the sound stages of Hollywood; from a conservative Israeli town to orchestra pits across the world; from the segregated towns in South Africa to the Coney Island boardwalk, the GPJFF takes filmgoers all around the world without ever leaving their seats.

Films screen Valley wide at three Harkins Theatres in Scottsdale, Tempe and Peoria.

“The scope and quality of our film slate keeps growing bigger and better,” GPJFF Co-Executive Director Jerry Mittelman said in a prepared statement.

“I’m excited we can continue presenting films reflective of the rich and diverse Jewish people, culture, and faith to an even great number of people than prior years. The Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival stands as a point of pride for the Jewish Community and as a point of understanding, awareness and acceptance for the community at large.”

Guest speakers conduct questions and answer sessions with audiences following many screenings.

Among the confirmed guest speakers this year are:

  • Dr. Nurit Jugend, composer, lecturer and professor of music at Stanford Continuing Education Program at Stanford University, and director of “They Played For Their Lives;”
  • Judy Laufer, author;
  • Dr. Murray Henner, professor of international law and intelligence at Embry Riddle University;
  • Rabbi Michael Beyo, CEO/executive director of East Valley Jewish Community Center;
  • Janice Friebaum, member the governing board of the World Federation of Jewish Survivors of the Holocaust and Descendant.

For more information on films or to purchase tickets, call 602-753-9366 or visit the Festival’s website

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