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Sussex Jewish Film Club

What was it that prompted a few people to get together in 2010 to start a local Jewish film club – which eventually became the Sussex Jewish Film Club (SJFC) at Ralli Hall? It was really the move of the Brighton Jewish Film Festival to London that did it. There was no longer the opportunity… Read more »

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What was it that prompted a few people to get together in 2010 to start a local Jewish film club – which eventually became the Sussex Jewish Film Club (SJFC) at Ralli Hall? It was really the move of the Brighton Jewish Film Festival to London that did it. There was no longer the opportunity to see films of Jewish interest from all over the world in our local cinemas (except the very occasional film that comes out on general release). The Brighton festival was missed and so the answer was to try starting something ourselves on an informal basis. It would also be a way of bringing Jewish and Jew-ish people together through an interest in Jewish culture even if they were not synagogue members, and the club could also be open to a general membership, just as the BJFF had been.

The new group had no idea whether it would work but thought it was worth a try. In fact it did work and the SJFC is now an established part of the local Jewish social calendar more than five years later. The club has been showing about nine films of Jewish interest per year, roughly every six weeks on a Sunday evening, and the organising team has tried to put on a varied programme of films originating from all over the world, including both newer films and classics, and all genres: comedies, drama, thrillers, historical, documentaries, and some dealing with thought-provoking subjects.

Guests are welcomed and sometimes become regular members. Attendance over the five years has varied between 25 and 105, the average being about 40-60. Not everyone can come to every screening, of course, but over the current five years of the club’s existence just under 400 people have attended at least once and a loyal core of people attend virtually all the films.

Occasionally the film club puts on an evening with a difference. For example, in January 2012, we showed some old black and white silent films depicting Jewish life in the Ukraine dating from about 1910. These were accompanied by a live score by Merlin and Polina Shepherd written specially to accompany the films.

In June 2015, there was an evening with local award-winning documentary film maker Phil Grabsky when he talked about his film making and showed excerpts from some of his films. Phil Grabsky also kindly agreed to become patron of the film club.

The small planning group meets annually to decide on the following year’s programme and a rota is organised to cover the various tasks for the film evenings. As well as choosing a varied programme of films for the coming year, the group also tries to mark particular events, such as Holocaust Memorial Week, with an appropriate film.

Despite developments in home entertainment media, the Sussex Jewish Film Club at Ralli Hall currently seems to meet a need in our local community – one which we are happy to continue.

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