Documentary film has always played a significant role at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, which is the oldest and largest such festival in the world. Over the years it has earned a national and international reputation for bold programming that takes on political and social issues. As an independent nonprofit arts organization, the SFJFF is able to screen a wide range of work and reach out to a broad – not solely Jewish – audience. Other U.S.-based Jewish film festivals are programs of Jewish community centers or institutions and are beholden to the policies and views of their organizations.

Last years SFJFF  screened more than 55 films from 16 countries, including more than two dozen documentaries. Examples were Phnom Penh Lullaby, a disturbing film by Polish director Pawel Kloc, about a couple – an Israeli man and a Cambodian woman – struggling to survive in Phnom Penh; Israeli filmmaker Duki Dror’s Incessant Visions: Letters from an Architect, a fascinating work about German Jewish architect Erich Mendelsohn; and Between Two Worlds, a personal essay by Bay Area filmmakers Deborah Kaufman and Alan Snitow, which delves into Jewish identity and politics.

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