The official poster of the Seventh Annual Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival.
The official poster of the Seventh Annual Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival. Photo by Courtesy of LAJFF
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The seventh annual Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival is set to open on Thursday, with 26 films from 10 countries to be screened throughout the weeklong event. 

The films include world premiers and what LAFF Executive Director Hilary Helstein describes as some of the “newest, thought provoking documentaries, laugh out loud comedies, outstanding dramatic features and Oscar-winning short films.”

“We premiered three Oscar winning short films in the past before they received their Oscars,” explained Helstein. One of them was the Israeli film “Strangers No More”, which debuted at last year’s festival and went on to receive an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject.

This year’s festival combines two themes: homage to Hollywood and a tribute to Jewish visionaries. “Driven to Stardom”, a film on movie star Tony Curtis, whose career has spanned six decades and various genres, will open the festival at a red carpet event on Thursday followed by a panel discussion, while Woody Allen and award-winning author Philip Roth will be featured in films the following week.

Other festival highlights include the silent classic “Moon of Israel”, directed by Michael Curtiz, whose illustrious career began with classics such as "Casablanca." At its first screening in 88 years, this silent film from the early 1920's will be accompanied by renowned Austrian pianist, Gerhard Gruber at a screening hosted by “The Artist” co-star Penelope Ann Miller.

The festival will also pay tribute to Jews described by Helstein as “visionaries”, in such films as “The Price of Kings: Shimon Peres", a new documentary that reveals the unseen side of Israel's president and one of the world's longest serving statesman, and “Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story”, about the late brother of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who was killed in 1976 during an operation to release the hostages in Entebbe, Uganda. The premier’s brother, Ido Netanyahu, is scheduled to introduce the film along with Consul General of Israel David Siegel, but due to the particularly sensitive timing of the film’s Los Angeles debut, just nine days after the passing of patriarch Benzion Netanyahu, it is not yet clear as to whether this will eventuate.

According to Helstein, the Los Angeles audience takes great pride in films about Israel, for it gives them an insight into a side of the Jewish state they would never otherwise have an opportunity to see. “Everyone was rooting for Footnote this year at the Oscars,” she said.

The Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival will close on May 10 with “Dorfman”, a romantic comedy about a young Jewish woman who desperately needs to reinvent her life. The fictional tale sees 27-year-old Deb Dorfman get uprooted from the comfort of the suburban San Fernando Valley and caught up in the whirlwind of a newly revitalized downtown L.A. The yet-to-be released Hollywood film will be followed by a discussion with screenwriter Wendy Kout and cast members.

For more information, see the LAJFF website.