VIDEO: One-day WinterFest offers 5 Jewish films at new Alamo Drafthouse

Five films from Israel, Europe and the United States will screen Feb. 27 at San Francisco’s new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in the Mission District during the Jewish Film Institute’s WinterFest.

Natalie Portman directs and stars in “A Tale of Love and Darkness.” photos/courtesy jewish film institute

The Jewish Film Institute, presenters of the annual San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, holds its largest public event over the summer, when it hosts more than 120 film screenings and events throughout the Bay Area. The single-day winter festival, now in its third year, offers a small but compelling selection of films for audiences who just can’t wait until summer.

“We found our audiences really had a thirst for more than just the summer festival,” said Jay Rosenblatt, the Jewish Film Institute’s program director. “There are certain films that we couldn’t get for the festival because they would be released before the festival theatrically. It was really a bridge in some ways. It keeps the organization in people’s minds.”

This will be the first WinterFest at the Alamo Drafthouse, which opened in December and includes dinner and drink service during the films. There are about 300 seats available for each film. Previous WinterFests were held at the city’s Vogue and Roxie theaters.

“We’re excited to introduce our audiences to this new venue. We’ll be one of the very first media nonprofits to show a festival there,” said Lexi Leban, the Jewish Film Institute’s executive director. “It’s sort of dinner at the movies instead of dinner and a movie.”

Still from “Tikkun,” winner of four Jerusalem Film Festival awards

“A Tale of Love and Darkness,” based on the memoir of Amos Oz and making its Bay Area premiere, is one of the most eagerly anticipated WinterFest offerings. The Hebrew-language movie is actress Natalie Portman’s directorial debut; the native Israeli also stars in the film as Oz’s mother. The film, which was screened at film festivals in Cannes, Toronto and Jerusalem, focuses on Oz’s childhood. It screens at 6:25 p.m.

“It’s pretty amazing to see Natalie Portman in this leading role and speaking Hebrew throughout the whole movie,” Leban said.

Another Israeli film on the schedule is “Tikkun,” about an obsessive ultra-Orthodox man who nearly dies but is brought back to life by his father after medics pronounce him dead. The film, which screens at 1:40 p.m., won four awards at the Jerusalem Film Festival. It has surrealist tones, Rosenblatt said: The “dead” man “comes back, but he’s kind of a changed person, questioning his faith.” 

The other films in the WinterFest lineup are “Oriented,” from Germany, Israel and Jordan (screens at 11:30 a.m.); “Potsdam Revisited: Overture to the Cold War” by local filmmaker Sam Ball (4:25 p.m., see side bar below) followed by a filmmaker discussion and performance by violinist Stuart Canin, 89, the subject of the film; and “Demon” (8:50 p.m.) from Poland and Israel.

The Jewish Film Institute holds other community events over the course of the year, including a “Best of the Jewish Film Festival” series in February and March at the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael, showing four films from last summer’s festival.

WinterFest, Feb. 27 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema,

2550 Mission St., S.F.

Drew Himmelstein
Drew Himmelstein

Drew Himmelstein is a former J. reporter who writes about education, families and Jewish life. She lives with her husband and two sons.