July 12 screening to whet appetites for next year’s Jewish Film Festival

On the heels of the San Diego Jewish Film Festival’s 25th Silver Anniversary, festival organizers are aiming to build on last year’s success.

The 26th annual festival is set for Feb. 4-14. Films will be screened at five theaters across San Diego County.

“We had a very successful event that was well received by the community,” said Craig Prater, director of the San Diego Jewish Film Festival.

The executive film committee is now accepting and reviewing submissions.

The deadline for the 2016 film festival is Sept. 15. The committee will make its selections by early October. By that time, each of the committee members will have seen close to 300 films.

“There are 10 on the committee, and we all watch all of the films that are submitted to us,” said event co-chair Christina Fink. “All of us come from a very different point of view. It’s this mélange of ideas and backgrounds that really fine-tunes the selections that we bring forth.”

Established in 1990, the San Diego Jewish Film Festival is managed by the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla.

The first festival featured four films at the Sherwood Auditorium at the La Jolla branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Last year’s festival featured 48 full-length and 50 short films screened in five different theaters across the county, with 18,000 tickets sold last year.

“We allow our films to drive us,” said Prater, who has been with the organization for three years. “Whatever films are being submitted, that’s what we zero in on. It’s the quality of the films that we secure that gets the attention of everyone.”

The February festival is the largest event, but on average, the San Diego Jewish Film Festival holds four to five more screenings throughout the year.

In June, the San Diego Jewish Film Festival presented Becca Roth’s “One: A Story of Love and Equality,” a documentary about the filmmaker and her girlfriend’s time in North Carolina in the two months leading up to the Amendment One vote to ban same-sex marriages. Roughly 200 people attended the screening at the Carlsbad Library.

“Her film was quite timely, and it was the West Coast premiere,” Prater said.

On July 12, the festival will present the world premiere of “Marilyn Monroe Declassified,” a documentary directed by Paul Davids.

“We’ve had contact with the director of this film for a number of years,” Prater said. “We always follow his work. He was ready to do the world premiere in Los Angeles, which would be the normal thing to do, but we did a little arm-twisting and got it here in San Diego for the Jewish Film Festival.”

The screening begins at 6 p.m. at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center’s David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre, at 4126 Executive Drive in La Jolla. For tickets, contact the film festival box office at 858-362-1348.

A discussion with Davids, as well as other members of the film team, will follow the screening.

“A lot of our audience — certainly myself included — is going to remember the Marilyn Monroe period of time, her death and the things that we remember about it,” said Prater, adding that the film highlights declassified FBI and CIA documents about her life and death. “It’s now an awakening of new information that causes us to maybe re-evaluate any opinions that we might have formed at the time.”

Just weeks after the screening, the film festival season will be officially kicked off Aug. 23 at the Garfield Theatre. The film slated for the event has yet to be announced. About 500 people are expected to attend.

“That’s one of our nicer events of the year, because not only do we have the film at night, but it’s a program earmarked exclusively for our underwriters and pillars, where we have dinner around the pool,” Prater said.

“There’s not a lot of film festivals that can put a 25-, 26-year credit behind their name,” he added. “I think their success has to be attributed to the selection of quality films down through the years.”

For information about the San Diego Jewish Film Festival, visit http://www.sdcjc.org/sdjff.

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