Film & TV

Miami Jewish Film Festival 2019 Lineup Focuses on Female Filmmakers

Starring Arnie Hammer and Felicity Jones, On the Basis of Sex  is part of the festival's new Spotlight on Women initiative.
Starring Arnie Hammer and Felicity Jones, On the Basis of Sex is part of the festival's new Spotlight on Women initiative. Courtesy of Focus Features/Miami Jewish Film Festival
For 21 years, the Miami Jewish Film Festival (MJFF) has brought a myriad of world-class movies intended to inspire and evoke change to the Magic City. Next year, for its 22nd edition running January 10 through 24, MJFF will screen a whopping 80 films from 25 countries, making it the Jewish film festival with the most film premieres in the world.

The numbers tell a tale unprecedented for the annual showcase: Six official entries for the Academy Awards, 12 world premieres, 10 signature programs, 29 Israeli films, 22 movies directed by first-time filmmakers and 27 films directed by women, all taking place at 15 venues across Greater Miami. It'll even take advantage of January's cooler weather and screen three free movies under the stars, a brand-new component of the program encouraging attendees and South Florida residents to enjoy the classic cinema experience, with a twist.

MJFF is about bringing together a global community, says executive director Igor Shteyrenberg. "In presenting a wealth of undiscovered stories and unique perspectives — including those of a record number of female directors — these 80 films offer a collective journey toward narrower divides and smaller obstacles. We take pride in celebrating each of these beautifully rich, distinct, and emotional stories. They are a testament to film’s unending capacity to fill us with hope and discovery.”

In the past, MJFF premieres have hosted stars like Natalie Portman, Logan Lerman and Nancy Spielberg as special guests. The 2018 festival attracted a total of 30,000 attendees, a meteoric rise from an audience sized 2,000 in 2013. MJFF remains the largest Jewish cultural event in the state of Florida.

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An Israeli drama directed by Alamork Davidian, Fig Tree took home 2018 Toronto Film Festival's award for Best Female Director.
Courtesy of Menemsha Films/Miami Jewish Film Festival
The Unorthodox, one of Israel’s big-time box office hits of the year, will open the festival on January 10, while closing night will wrap up with the premiere of The Other Story, directed by prominent Israel filmmaker Avi Nesher. Other standout movies on the lineup include My Survivor, the sole film on the list made in Miami. A raw, heartrending portrait of how the devastating realities of the Holocaust are being understood anew by the next generation, My Survivor joins a bundle of titles premiering that peel back the layers of issues plaguing society, like the water crisis in Sustainable Nation.

Most buzz-worthy is the sweeping bow MJFF is making in the 2019 lineup, with an ode to female filmmakers. "Spotlight on Women" is a new initiative for the festival, featuring 27 productions directed by women to screen. Among these are the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On the Basis of Sex starring Felicity Jones; Toronto Film Festival award-winner Fig Tree; and a #MeToo-inspired film, Working Woman.

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Directed by Asaf Galay, Hasidistock will have its world premiere at MJFF.
Courtesy of Miami Jewish Film Festival
As always, live music is a given. Seven events presenting live performances are set, including an appearance by Israeli singer Ehud Gad at the premiere of Hasidistock, a live synth score performance for the silent film The City Without Jews and a live musical accompaniment of a commissioned score for The Ancient Law.

MJFF will also dedicate segments to the memory of two epic human beings. Honoring the timing of the festival, which coincides with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, MJFF has announced a partnership with the Overtown Performing Arts Center for a live blues performance leading into a free screening of Satan & Adam, billed as a documentary about music and friendship. Distinguished director Stanley Kubrick will be commemorated as well. A 20th-anniversary tribute to Kubrick's final film Eyes Wide Shut is scheduled to be shown in a program partnership with Coral Gables Art Cinema.

Miami Jewish Film Festival. January 10 through 24, 2019, at various venues; Single screening tickets cost $14; festival passes cost $295. For tickets and more information go to  
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Ayurella Horn-Muller is a South Florida native, Florida State University alumna, and freelance journalist. She covers arts, culture and music for Miami New Times, and news for New Times Broward-Palm Beach. You can also catch her work in Forbes, Elite Daily, Film Threat, Elephant Journal, and Face the Current.