In 1997, former member of the British Association of Drama Therapists Judy Ironside founded the Brighton Jewish Film Festival to promote respect and understanding about Jewish cultures worldwide. The inaugural edition of the festival was held in Brighton from November 8–16, 1997. In 2003, the event expanded to become a national film festival. It was renamed to the UK Jewish Film Festival and moved to London.
The festival screens films from different countries which cover Jewish history and culture in all their diversity. The main goal of the festival program is to promote tolerance, mutual respect and understanding between people of different faiths as well as those who do not profess any religion. There are no restrictions when it comes to film genres and categories. The UKJFF screens feature films, documentaries, short films and animated films.
The festival itself lasts about 2 weeks, but it’s not the only event produced by UK Jewish Film. The organization holds a string of events across the United Kingdom and even abroad (such as the annual Geneva International Jewish Film Festival and a film festival in Tel Aviv that took place in 2014). UK Jewish Film focuses on supporting and educating up-and-coming filmmakers as well as organizing educational events for students and young people which explore Holocaust, racism, genocide and interfaith themes.
The program of the UK Jewish Film Festival is divided into several sections including Galas (the most awaited UK premieres), Believers (stories inspired by seemingly impossible dreams and strong beliefs), Comics (smart, witty and funny stories), Fighters (stories of determination and courage, many of which revolve around the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict), First Timers (films that feature rising stars), Lovers (stories of romance and desire), Outlaws (films about risk-takers who are not afraid to take the law into their own hands), Radicals (stories of people who’ve changed the world), Strangers (films revolving around marginalized characters), and Witnesses (works featuring courageous storytellers).
The UKJFF is a non-competitive festival. However, in 2015 it launched the Best Debut Feature Award. The winner is selected by the jury. The first film to receive the award was László Nemes’s Holocaust film Son of Saul (Hungary).