For more than a quarter of a century, the Jewish Film Festival Berlin & Brandenburg has made it their job to bring the best films about Jewish topics to the cinema screens of German capital. Despite the tenuous difficulties of trying to put on a film festival amidst a pandemic, this year’s program involved a wide variety of different genres of film and managed to persevere despite the added struggles of restrictions due to the pandemic response. Using a hybrid model for the first time with films available both in the cinemas and online, the festival managed to present films from around the world to audiences throughout Germany from the 6th until the 13th of September, 2020. The online aspects of the festival were a great opportunity to broaden the reach of the normally local festival, and this was aided by a well-designed website and streaming portal.
Each year, the Gershon-Klein Awards are kindly funded by the Klein family in remembrance of Gerhard Klein, who passed away in 1999 at age 79. A refugee from the Holocaust who settled for a time in Palestine, Klein co-founded the avant-garde Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv. In 1952, he returned to Germany and founded the Capitol Dahlem Kino in Zehlendorf which was an influential cinema for West Berlin students. He would go on to receive several awards for his lifetime of work, including the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz), one of the country’s highest honors.
In 2020, three Gershon-Klein Awards were given out: Best Director of a Feature Film (3,000 Euro) Best Newcomer Film (2,000 Euro), and Best German Film with a Jewish Theme (2,000 Euro). Keren Ben Rafael took home the Best Director award for his work on the film The End of Love, a tale of virtual love in the modern age. Best Newcomer Film went to the short Masel Tov Cocktail, which follows a Jewish youth in Germany and deconstructs the cliches about Jewishness and the imperfections of the German culture of remembrance. The final award for Best German Film with a Jewish Theme went to Kiss Me Kosher which premiered at the festival and has been widely released in Germany since September 10th. A comedy about a cross-cultural LGBT romantic comedy about a German and an Israeli who fall in love and face the consequences of planning a wedding with two wildly different families, and a grandmother who is deeply opposed to the match.
With an evocative and broad program, the Jewish Film Festival Berlin & Brandenburg is certainly a festival to watch in the future. One can only hope that the digital component remains into the future as it allows the films to have a much broader reach across Germany. With so much thought-provoking content, the JFBB is a great opportunity for everyone in Germany to take a moment to reflect, learn, and continue to move forward in our attempts to make a more accepting society.