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7 must-see films at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

Written by
Erika Milvy

From July 19 through August 5, The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival will bring 67 movies to theaters around the Bay Area. Here are our top picks for this special fest. 

Love, Gilda 

The festival’s opening night film, directed by Lisa D'Apolito, is a tribute to the late Gilda Radner, the first cast member in the first season of Saturday Night Live. Her memorable SNL characters included Bill Murray’s nerdy girlfriend Lisa Loopner and Weekend Update correspondents Roseanne Roseannadanna and Emily Litella. Her life with husband Gene Wilder was cut short by ovarian cancer. The film includes home movies and interviews with current and former SNL cast members such as Amy Poehler, Cecily Strong, Laraine Newman and Martin Short. 

July 19 at 6:30pm; Castro Theater. $35–$75. 

Sammy Davis Jr: I've Gotta Be Me

The festival's closing night film reveals the complex personal and political life of the only Black member of the legendary Rat Pack. The film reveals his contradictions: He was a Civil Rights activist who supported J.F.K. and then, in 1972, Richard Nixon. Director Sam Pollard’s film includes interviews with Billy Crystal, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis and Whoopi Goldberg.

July 22 at 1:45pm; July 29 at 7:45pm; Aug 4 at 4pm; Aug 5 at 4:10pm; various locations. $15.  

To Dust

This dark comedy won the Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award for Best Narrative. Géza Röhrig plays a Hasidic cantor in upstate New York. The recent widow is obsessed with the nuts and bolts of death and decay. He seeks out a community college biology professor (Matthew Broderick) and the two investigate the underworld. 

July 25, 30 at 8:30pm; Aug 5 at 6:35pm; at various theaters. $18. 

The Waldheim Waltz

This new film uses old footage that director Ruth Beckermann shot in the 1980s when former United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim ran for president of Austria. During his campaign, documents surfaced accusing him of war crimes as a Nazi officer. Beckermann filmed the heated street confrontations between Viennese activists and Waldheim’s anti-Semitic supporters. In 1986, Waldheim was elected president of Austria. Inspired by the election of Donald Trump, Beckermann took her long-shelved footage and decided to revisit the material.

July 24, 25, 30 at 6pm; Aug 4 at 4:05pm; at various theaters. $18. 

The Fourth Estate

This year’s Freedom of Expression Award goes to Liz Garbus's The Fourth Estate, which examines the inner workings of the New York Times during Trump’s first year in office. Garbus's camera captures Times journalists as they try to keep up with Trump's tumultuous first hundred days in office and how they battle against the title of "fake news." 

July 26 at 5:30pm; Aug 1 at 4pm; various theaters. $18. 

Who Will Write Our History + The City Without Jews

These two world premieres focus on anti-Semitism in Europe during World War II. Roberta Grossman's Who Will Write Our History is the story of Emanuel Ringelblum and the Oyneg Shabes Archive, the secret archives he collected that provide eyewitness accounts of the Warsaw Ghetto. The City Without Jews is an Austrian silent film from 1924 that has just been restored. The Expressionist film is described as a dystopian satire about anti-Semitism in Austria between the World Wars. The film was adapted from a very popular novel by Hugo Bettauer who was murdered by a former member of the Nazi party.

Who Will Write Our History: July 21 at 6:15pm; July 22 at 4pm; July 28 at 6pm; various theaters. $15. 

The City Without Jews: July 22 at 7pm; Castro Theater. $25. 

The Jewish Film Festival runs July 19–Aug 5 (

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