This weekend, the San Luis Obispo Jewish Film Festival celebrates five years of film, food and spirited discussion.
“It’s really a slice of cultural life in San Luis Obispo,” said Lauren Bandari, executive director of the JCC Federation of San Luis Obispo, which sponsors the program.
According to Bandari, the festival draws about 600 attendees each year.
“The last two years have been completely sold out,” she said, adding that the festival brings together a cross-section of filmgoers from San Luis Obispo County and elsewhere. “It’s just been tremendous to see that demand.”
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In response, the festival is expanding slightly to include five screenings at the Palm Theatre in San Luis Obispo. Nearby restaurant Luna Red will host a reception on Saturday and a dinner and kibbitz hour on Sunday.
When deciding which films to screen, Bandari said, she and festival co-director Muara Johnston look for engaging, intellectually stimulating movies that “make you laugh, learn or connect you to (the) community.”
Offerings this year range from the documentary “The Jewish Cardinal,” about a convert to Catholicism who became archbishop of Paris, to “Gefilte Fish,” a short film about a Russian widow preparing for Passover. There’s also a preview of the documentary “Lives Well Lived” by Cal Poly professor Sky Bergman, which deals with aging gracefully.
This year’s festival puts a special emphasis on Israel.
In the drama “Bethlehem,” an Israeli secret service officer forms a father-son relationship with a Palestinian informant, while the short film “Machsom” follows an Israeli soldier stationed at a West Bank checkpoint.
While organizers try to avoid overtly political programming, Bandari said, “We do want to foster discussion in the community — not in a polarizing way, but in an engaging way.”
For more information, and a full schedule of events, visit www.jccslo.com/slojff.html.