New name, new outlook

Innovative storytelling shines at the 41st annual Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival

2 minute read
A young Iranian Jewish man faces the camera, straight-faced, the Star of David on a wall behind him.
'Wet Dog' is part of the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival. (Image courtesy of PJFM.)

One of Philly’s most-loved festivals is returning as its parent organization rebrands with a new name, a new logo, and an expanded mission. Philadelphia Jewish Film and Media (formerly the Gershman Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival) unveils the 41st edition of the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival, which begins on November 7 and runs through November 20.

A legacy looking forward

“Our main objective this season is to introduce festival-goers to what we perceive to be the next wave of Jewish storytelling,” said PJFM’s executive artistic director Olivia Antsis. “While Jewish cinema will continue to be PJFM’s focus and legacy, it’s important to explore the innovative new ways Jewish stories are being created and shared today.”

The festival is bookended by one night only, in-person/virtual presentations of Damir Lukacevic’s Wet Dog and Not Going Quietly, a cinematic portrait of activist Ady Barkan. Opening night film Wet Dog examines the intersection of religious identity and cultural assimilation through the eyes of Solheil, an Iranian Jewish teen who moves with his family into a predominantly Muslim neighborhood in Wedding, Berlin. Solheil tries to fit in with the cool kids of the Wedding Tigers gang until their exploits hit too close to home. Festival closer Not Going Quietly chronicles Barkan’s journey of creating a people-powered healthcare movement as he battles ALS. As the disease gradually begins to take away his voice, Barkan makes it clear that, until everyone has access to affordable healthcare, he will not go quietly.

Philly film lovers will be pleased to see the return of the festival’s New Media Day on November 14. Described by Antsis as “the perfect way to sample and connect to a wide range of Jewish storytelling,” this year’s slate for New Media Day boasts an eclectic mix of digital stories, including a “happier hour” livestream from mixologist Rebecca Antsis about Eastern European Folk medicines and a virtual performance on the Jewish concept of beshert from Roxie Roz Burlesque collective of Atlanta.

The most anticipated film to come out of this year’s edition of the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival is The Conductor. The documentary explores Marin Alsop’s extraordinary life, from learning the craft as Leonard Bernstein’s protégé to becoming the first woman in the world to conduct a major symphony orchestra.

Jewish storytelling is vital, and this year’s Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival offers many traditional and innovative opportunities to experience it.

What, When, Where

The 41st Annual Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival: Fall Fest. November 7-20, 2021, in-person at various locations and streaming on-demand. (215) 545-4400 or

Sign up for our newsletter

All of the week's new articles, all in one place. Sign up for the free weekly BSR newsletters, and don't miss a conversation.

Join the Conversation