A scene from the documentary "On the Banks of the Tigris"
A scene from the documentary "On the Banks of the Tigris"

Sonoma County Jewish film fest’s 22nd run features Jewish influences in Iraqi music

The annual JCC Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival — which opens on Tuesday, Oct. 10 and concludes on Nov. 28 — is putting a spotlight on the Jewish influences on popular Iraqi music with a special event on Nov. 2.

The documentary “On the Banks of the Tigris” will be screened at 7:30 p.m. that day, followed by a live concert by the Qadim Ensemble and Iraqi mint tea and sweets from the Sonoma Wine Shop. The 2015 documentary is about an Iraqi-Australian’s journey to uncover the Jewish role in Iraqi music.

“It’s about musicians who had to flee [Iraq] in the late ’40s to early ’50s, leaving behind their music,” said Doron Hovav, director of the film festival. “[Their music] is still getting played and people don’t even know who wrote it.”

Hovav, who took over as festival director and cultural arts director at the Sonoma County JCC in January, said the evening will satisfy a personal mission. His mother grew up in Iraqi Kurdistan.

“It’s a pet project, a documentary about music from my family’s neck of the woods. It’s a story I wanted to tell,” he said. “This is unusual for American Jews. It’s a Jewish story that doesn’t get told here often.”

The 22nd annual festival mostly will feature films that have been seen at other Bay Area Jewish film festivals but are making their debut in Sonoma County. Films from five nations, including Israel, are in the lineup.

Aside from the Nov. 2 special event, all of the films, as well as a showcase of short films, will be screened on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. (with reduced prices for seniors) and 7:30 p.m. at the 260-seat Rialto Cinemas, 6868 McKinley St., Sebastopol. No screenings will be held on Oct. 31 and Nov. 21.

The lineup includes “Harmonia” from Israel, “Fanny’s Journey” from France and “Family Commitments” from Germany. For the full schedule, ticket prices and other details, visit jccsoco.org/2017jff. For additional information, call (707) 528-4222.