Ladies and gentlemen, its showtime!

Later this month, the annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival kicks off another two-and-a-half weeks of challenging, disturbing and utterly irresistible cinema from around the world. It’s an opportunity the Bay Area Jewish community should not miss.

As it has done every year for 24 years, the SFJFF reflects a broad artistic palette. No matter where you stand politically or religiously, there is something on the schedule to delight or outrage, to bring smiles or tears.

Of note this year are three special programs encompassing such hot-button issues as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hollywood and the Holocaust, and Jewish filmmakers’ response to Christianity. Festival attendees will not only have a chance to see several compelling films on those topics, they will also meet the filmmakers and can engage in dialogue after the house lights go up.

Festival Executive Director Peter Stein came on board just this year and brings all the enthusiasm of “the new kid on the block.” As he told j. for our cover story this week, “We have a core audience that’s passionate about certain things, but the Jewish Film Festival is a place for everybody.”

That is indeed true, but the festival is also a unique gathering place for the Jewish community in particular. There is much anecdotal evidence to show that the festival is the most significant Jewish-related activity for a sizeable number of non-affiliated Jews in the Bay Area.

While we would encourage all Jews to expand the Jewish content of their lives, it’s good to know that the festival helps provide a window into Jewish life for many who might otherwise neglect their heritage.

Equally important, given the Bay Area’s still-struggling economy, the festival must have strong community support. The S.F. Jewish Film Festival is the oldest and most expansive festival of its kind in the country, and a cornerstone of the region’s thriving arts scene. It matters that our community turns out, fills the seats and shows that we back our film festival in good times and bad.

With screenings in San Francisco, Berkeley, Mountain View and San Rafael, the festival is coming to a theater near you. So come on down to the Jewish Film Festival, settle in with a big bucket of popcorn, and be prepared to have your paradigm shifted.

The box office is now open.


Coming attractions

Film fest opener takes cricket bat to big themes

Complete schedule for 24th annual Jewish Film Festival