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TJFF Staff Selections for Hanukkah and the Holiday Season

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December 9, 2020

tjff winter films

To celebrate Hanukkah and the holiday season, TJFF’s staff have recommended a selection of films from Israel, France and Canada exploring Jewish identity, stories and community. These films are free to watch from the comfort of your living room, so grab your favourite holiday snack and enjoy!

J-Flix is an initiative of the Toronto Jewish Film Foundation showcasing the rich legacy of films from Canada’s leading presenter of Jewish-content film for 27+ years. Currently, over 135+ curated titles are available for streaming (for free!) including documentaries, feature length narratives, shorts, along with beloved archival films, all of which represent the global flavour of TJFF programming.

Register for J-Flix for free on j-flix.com

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Short Films:

Ave Maria 
15 mins | France, Germany | 2015
Director: Basil Khalil | Genre: Comedies | Languages: English, Hebrew, Arabic
In this Oscar®-nominated comedy, the silent routine of five Palestinian nuns living in the West Bank wilderness is disturbed when the car of an Israeli settler family breaks down right outside the convent, just as the Sabbath is about to begin.

Don’t Tell Santa You’re Jewish
4 mins | Canada | 2010

Director: Jody Kramer | Genre: Shorts | Language: English
In this brightly animated film, a little girl sits on Santa’s knee, waiting for her present. Will she remember NOT to tell him she’s Jewish?

(Rock the) Belz
5 mins | Canada | 2009
Director: Kaveh Nabatian | Language: English
Featuring the music of Socalled, Theodore Bikel and Sans Pression, this whimsical and bittersweet short mixes a traditional Yiddish ballad with rap and puppetry.

Matzo & Mistletoe
58 mins | United States | 2007
Director: Kate Feiffer | Genre: Documentaries | Language: English
Being a Jew is a matter of struggling with your Jewish identity and many Jews in America seem to be doing this. This film is a fascinating look at secular, non-affiliated Jews and their connection to Judaism. Many of them grew up in homes that had a Christmas tree as well as Chanukiahs. They often celebrate the rituals and observances of Christian holidays as well as Jewish ones. Are these assimilated Jews a vanishing species, or do they simply have a way of looking at their Judaism through a different lens? Jules Feiffer, father of the filmmaker, offers fascinating observations and comments on his own upbringing.

Feature Narratives:

The Zigzag Kid
92 mins | Netherlands | 2012
Director: Vincent Bal | Genre: Dramas | Languages: English, French, Dutch
Family-friendly selection: recommended for ages 10+
Based on the acclaimed novel by David Grossman, The Zigzag Kid is a witty, spirited and entertaining coming-of-age tale for children and adults alike. Nono dreams of being like his father, a famous police inspector, but his free spirit and imagination keep getting him into trouble. With his Bar-Mitzvah days away, Nono is sent to his uncle to shape up. On the train he receives a mysterious letter that leads him to master criminal Felix Glick. Disguised and on the run, the pair set off on an action-packed adventure to the French Riviera, where Nono begins gathering clues about the identity of the mother he never knew. An exciting and uplifting story of discovering who you are.

The Hebrew Hammer
85 mins | United States | 2002
Director: Jonathan Kesselman | Language: English
Jew Power! The Hebrew Hammer, aka Mordecai Jefferson Carver (Adam Goldberg), swings into action when Santa Claus’ evil son, Damien (Andy Dick) decides to destroy Hanukkah. Allied with Muhammad Ali Paula Abdul Rahim (Mario Van Peebles), head of the Kwanzaa Liberation Front, Hammer, the self described ‘baddest Hebe in the neighbourhood’, prepares to kick some gentile ass. Throwing political correctness out the window, and guaranteed to offend everyone, The Hebrew Hammer is the most outrageous spoof to come along since The Producers. As the earlock-wearing, Manishewitzswigging, leather-jacketed Hammer, Goldberg is a hoot, a tough as borscht super-hero who can’t handle the pressure of saving the Jewish world or going home for a Sabbath dinner. Sacrilegious, fearless and hysterically funny!

Documentary:

Sheldon Leonard’s Wonderful Life
55 mins | United States | 2014
Director: Allan Holzman | Genre: Biographies | Language: English
A loving tribute to a forgotten pioneer of the golden age of television. Starting out as a Runyonesque character actor, Sheldon Leonard went on to produce some of the most beloved and groundbreaking shows of all time, such as The Andy Griffith Show, The Danny Thomas Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Spy. A rare treat, this film is a delightful retrospective of Leonard’s body of work, including priceless clips from his productions— as well as his hilarious appearances on shows such as The Jack Benny Program—and interviews with many of his friends and colleagues, including Mary Tyler Moore, Andy Griffith, Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Ron Howard and Leonard himself.

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