Close to 1,000 attend 1st Jewish Film Fest in Ekaterinburg

Courtesy Ekaterinburg Jewish Film Festival
Courtesy Ekaterinburg Jewish Film Festival

The second successful year of the Moscow Jewish Film Festival was followed in late November by the first Ekaterinburg Jewish Film Festival, which drew close to a thousand filmgoers. The festival, celebrated in the major Russian industrial and academic center in the heart of the Ural Mountains, featured more than 20 films with a focus on Jewish culture, heritage and identity exploration. Organized with support of Genesis Philanthropy Group, UJA Federation of New York, and the Russian Jewish Congress, the festival, held November 20-23, included opening and closing evenings at the recently opened Yeltsin Presidential Center, an interactive museum and community center dedicated to the life of Boris Yeltsin, the first president of the Russian Federation.

The films selected for the festival represented a variety of genres including classic and modern dramas, documentaries, animation, and short films, all contributing to a robust conversation about Jewish values and Jewish history, life in Israel and the diaspora, and observance and secularism.

Prominent titles shown at the festival included a directorial debut by Natalie Portman, A Tale of Love And Darkness (2015); two Oscar winners, Son of Saul (2015) and Ida (2013), and Russian Jews, Film One: Before the Revolution (2016). The film is the first released as part of the critically acclaimed documentary trilogy, Russian Jews, created and narrated by the legendary Russian journalist Leonid Parfenov.

Along the lines of the Moscow Jewish Film Festival, the Ekaterinburg festival’s program featured public talks by leading film directors, writers, critics and Jewish educators.

“The most important thing for me is that the festival in Ekaterinburg happened,” said Egor Odintsov, the festival’s general producer. “It was not only welcomed, but truly supported by the city. And I can promise today that in a year, we will be back to celebrate the second annual Jewish film festival here.”

Added Ilia Salita, Genesis Philanthropy Group president and CEO, “Bringing this program to Ekaterinburg was a natural next step for the Moscow Jewish Film Festival and an excellent fit for our grantmaking in the former Soviet Union, as we find it important to widen the geography, scale and diversity of thoughtful and impactful Jewish experiences, and to promote a meaningful dialogue between different generations of Russian-speaking Jews in Russia and beyond. Exploration of Jewish arts and culture in general, and this festival in particular, achieve precisely that.”