On March 3rd, the annual Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia kicked off its monthlong 22nd season with a slapstick caper, Maktub, marking only the beginning of the festival’s biggest year ever. In honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary — and with the support of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia — the Festival has expanded its screenings to locations across Greater Philadelphia, bringing Israeli art and a diverse view of its culture to all residents of our region.

“We want to expose the audience to everything that Israel has to offer,” says Mindy Chriqui, Founder and Artistic Director of the Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia. To seek out the best films, many Festival committee members travel to Israel multiple times each year. In total, they watch up to 40 Israeli films a year before whittling the Festival’s lineup down to their 11 favorites. “The goal is to humanize beyond the headlines,” Mindy says. “We don’t shy away from anything. We try to present a balanced picture and we don’t let politics get in the way.”

And this year is no different, with films running the gamut from documentary to drama to thriller. An Israeli Love Story depicts the 1947 courtship of an artist and a kibbutznik who is secretly helping to smuggle Holocaust survivors into Palestine. Muhi chronicles the daily life of a 7-year-old Palestinian boy spending his childhood in an Israeli hospital. On Sunday, March 18th, the Kimmel Center features a doubleheader of music-themed films — Itzhak and A Quiet Heart — revealing the power of music to transform lives and dismantle cultural barriers. The Festival closes on March 25th with the spy thriller Shelter that’s sure to keep you at the edge of your seat.

For Mindy, cinema provides a unique way of connecting to Israel. “Film can be provocative, but in the theater, no one is judging your experience. You are free to engage however you want,” she says. “All we want is to make people think, by showing the best Israeli films of the year.”

The Israeli Film Festival runs through March 25th. For the full schedule and to purchase tickets click here.

And for all you film buffs, on March 11th at Ohev Shalom in Richboro and April 22nd at Temple Judea in Furlong, the Bucks County Kehillah presents the award-winning documentary Brave Miss World, which follows former Miss World Linor Abargil’s courageous fight for justice against sexual assault. Contact evebcjc@gmail.com for more information or to reserve your seat.