Scene from "All We Carry," a documentary about Honduran migrants showing at Jewish Film Institute's WinterFest.
Scene from "All We Carry," a documentary about Honduran migrants showing at Jewish Film Institute's WinterFest.

Have a film-forward February in the Bay Area

Updated Feb. 7

This month offers several chances to catch new and classic Jewish-themed movies across the Bay Area.

The Jewish Film Institute’s WinterFest in San Francisco and the East Bay International Jewish Film Festival both begin Feb. 24. Below are the highlights from each fest. In addition, the SF Indie Fest, which starts on Thursday, includes a few films of Jewish interest. There are also a few one-off screenings of classics and documentaries this month.

WinterFest

Offerings at the weekend-long little brother of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival run the gamut from a documentary about refugees to an uncomfortably cutting-edge sex comedy.

“All We Carry,” which received a grant from the Jewish Film Institute, is a harrowing documentary about the 2018 journey of a family of Honduran refugees making their way through incredible dangers to a new life in the U.S. They are separated for a time and later reunite in Seattle, where a synagogue community adopts them and supports them through two years of struggle with the immigration system. One Jewish family invites them to live for free in their house. Bay Area-based director Cady Voge will be on hand for a Q&A after the screening at 12 p.m. Feb. 25.

Joanna Arnow (left) wrote, directed and stars in "The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed," screening this month at SF Indie Fest and Jewish Film Institute's WinterFest.
Joanna Arnow (left) wrote, directed and stars in “The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed,” screening this month at SF Indie Fest and Jewish Film Institute’s WinterFest.

The evocatively titled “The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed,” screening at 9 p.m. Feb. 24, is proof that the sex comedy isn’t completely dead. This deeply awkward film, which stars writer-director Joanna Arnow, paints a picture of millennial life that is lonely, disjointed and future-less. The main character has a long-running BDSM relationship with an older man and a series of variously hapless, amusing and degrading interactions with men closer to her age. Sexual vignettes are interspersed with moments from her bland corporate job and encounters with her family of shabby East Coast Jewish lefties. I found it to be a relatable, if uncomfortable, depiction of the lives of my peers.

WinterFest, which features eight films, will also include a Feb. 25 talk by an Israeli documentarian, “Subjective POV: Filmmaker Barak Heymann Reflects on Israel’s Complex Reality.” Clips from 20 years of Heymann’s work will be used “to give audiences a layered and nuanced view into what he has learned and his hopes for the future,” according to the event description.

Feb. 24-25 at Vogue Theater, 3290 Sacramento St., S.F. $18 individual films, $120 festival pass. jfi.org/year-round/winterfest-2024

East Bay International Jewish Film Festival

Now in its 29th year, the EBIJFF features 27 films in total, with in-person screenings this month in Pleasant Hill, followed by one day of screenings at Vine Cinema in Livermore on March 17 and streaming March 9-22.

The opening night film is “The Shadow of the Day,” a period piece set in pre-war Italy, about a restaurant owner who is a fascist sympathizer and a waitress with a secret. (Guess what it is.)

“Remembering Gene Wilder” was the opening-night feature of the 2023 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, where the documentary delighted fans of the comedy giant. If you have fond memories of watching Wilder’s films in theaters, don’t miss this in-person screening at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25. (And keep reading for a chance to see “The Frisco Kid” with an audience, too.)

Another highlight is “My Neighbor Adolf,” a dark comedy set in Colombia in 1960, which screens at 4 p.m. Feb. 28. A lonely Holocaust survivor slowly becomes convinced that his neighbor is none other than Adolf Hitler, albeit with a comically large beard. Of course, no one believes him, including the impatient staff at the Israeli embassy. Though tragic at times, it almost becomes a farce at others. Just when I thought there could be no meaningful resolution to the neighbor’s identity, writer-director Leon Produvsky pulls out a memorable and satisfying twist.

Feb. 24-29 at Century 16, 125 Crescent Drive, Pleasant Hill. $12-$15 individual films, $180 festival pass. eastbayjewishfilm.org

San Francisco Independent Film Festival

If you want to catch “The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed” a little earlier, JFI is co-sponsoring a screening at SF Indie Fest on Saturday. The same day, Indie Fest is showing “I Never Was a Hippie, I Just Looked Like One,” a documentary short following S.F. native Hank Sultan, the 85-year-old son of Jewish Marxist parents who chronicles his life in self-portraits. On Feb. 14, the fest presents “Finding Lucinda,” a documentary that follows nonbinary Jewish bluegrass singer-songwriter Ismay as she traces the life and career of iconic country musician Lucinda Williams. These films are screening at the Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., S.F.

And Walter Sobchak may not roll on Shabbos, but you can. That’s right, “The Big Lebowski,” my all-time favorite movie, is showing at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16 — and for the “shomer f— Shabbos” crowd, as Walter would say, it plays again at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17. A live cast will act out the Coen Brothers’ stoner noir cult classic in front of the screen, a la midnight “Rocky Horror Picture Show” screenings. (See you there? I’ll be at the Saturday performance.) 4 Star Theater, 2200 Clement St., S.F.

Feb. 8-18. $15-$17 individual films, $195 festival pass. sfindie.com

One-offs

Another personal favorite of mine is showing at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 17 at Congregation Beth Am. “The Frisco Kid” is a touching Western dramedy that stars Gene Wilder as a Polish rabbi making his way west across America with a Sefer Torah bound for a new shul in San Francisco — in the company of an outlaw played by Harrison Ford. Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills. Free. betham.org/event/frisco-kid

The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is screening two Jewish-themed films this month. “Vishniac,” a documentary about Roman Vishniac, famed for his photos of pre-Holocaust Eastern Europe, will show at 4 p.m. Feb. 23. “Lifetime Guarantee: Phranc’s Adventure in Plastic,” a 2001 documentary about Jewish butch lesbian folk singer and Tupperware sales champ Phranc, will run at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25. Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2155 Center St., Berkeley. $14. bampfa.org

Correction: An earlier version of this story included outdated information about the East Bay International Jewish Film Festival.

David A.M. Wilensky
David A.M. Wilensky

David A.M. Wilensky is director of news product at J. He previously served as assistant editor and digital editor. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @davidamwilensky