Miami Jewish Film Festival Announces 2020 Slate

|December 17, 2019

The 23rd Annual Miami Jewish Film Festival announced their 2020 line-up. The festival will be held January 9-23 and will feature over 100 movies from 25 different countries which allows it to bill itself as “the largest Jewish film program in the world”.  This year will have six world premieres including two films made in Miami, five Oscar entries, remastered classics from Jewish filmmakers like The Shining and Casablanca, and flicks starring old favorites like Billy Crystal, Harvey Keitel, and Angelica Huston. To get a feel for what audiences can expect from Miami Jewish Film Festival we spoke to its director Igor Shteyrenberg.

Why did you personally get involved with Miami Jewish Film Festival?

Igor Shteyrenberg: Miami Jewish Film Festival had a successful run for 16 years. When they hired me seven years ago I wanted to bring a love of cinema whether you were Jewish or not Jewish. The core of that is education. The way we can break stereotypes and stigmas that end up as propaganda is by showing world class films with speakers that can provide context and background. Doing that we’ve become the fastest growing film festival in Florida. Last year we had over 30,000 attendees.

How are the films picked?

We get on-line submissions from around the world. We have a screening team that watches every movie and pares them down to see what will best fit our program. We also go to a lot of festivals. A lot of times we’re seeing rough cuts. So we have to project the promise of the finished film. We have to ask if it’s going to appeal and positively affect the community.

What makes a movie eligible? Does Judaism have to be the subject matter or does a movie just being made by Jewish filmmakers allow it to qualify?

The film has to have Jewish value. What’s most important is the conversation it will bring. If we show a film that has nothing overt about Jewishness, but can bring up a conversation we’ll show it.

What are some highlights for 2020

It’s hard to narrow down 107 films, but the opening night movie Saul & Ruby, To Life! is a heart affecting documentary about two South Florida Holocaust survivors who instead of succumbing to old age start a klezmer band. They go back to Poland to perform in the place they had to flee because of Nazi persecution.

Then we have two silent films celebrating their centennial with new restorations that will be accompanied with live music scores. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari will play at Coral Gables Art Cinema and The Golem will play at Braman Miller Center.

We’ve also got a documentary on the history of Broadway (On Broadway) that will feature live performances after the film.

What have your favorite moments been at previous editions of Miami Jewish Film Festival?

Getting unseen movies seen. A couple years ago we were in talks with a producer of a black and white movie from Hungary called 1945. It had never been seen anywhere. We discovered it from reading a Hungarian film journal. But then the producer stopped returning our calls. We thought he ghosted us. We finally found the director and he was distraught. The producer had committed suicide. He was stunned we found his movie. He gave us the rights for the world premiere. It went on to play 150 film festivals including the Berlin Film Festival and grossed over a million dollars at the box office.