With a storied past and plenty to tell, Jamie Walker speaks to Judy Ironside, organiser of the Jewish Film Festival, to talk about its long awaited return to Brighton.

Hi Judy, tell us about the history of the Jewish Film Festival.

The festival started from what is now UK Jewish Film Festival.

It started in Brighton, which is a wonderful place to start things, in 1997.

We showed films at the little cinema-tech in Middle Street and at the Duke Of York’s.

Unfortunately, they only had one screen at the time which makes it tough to close it for a festival.

We had some great years in Brighton and then realised that to develop the festival, and funding it needed to survive, we had to take it to London.

We moved in 2002 still with screenings in Brighton, but then we had to stop them and focus on London.

Now we tour, of course coming back to Brighton.

Apart from Manchester, which is growing a great deal, we are taking the highlights of the festival to other cities.

We have also developed our relationship with Picturehouse Cinemas which means we can come back to Brighton.

And it must be a great feeling to be returning to the city after that absence?

For me, I still live in Brighton, it’s wonderful.

I’m delighted that we can come back with two screenings and I hope we get some terrific audiences.

I hope we’re also able to develop the number of events so we can bring back more next year.

So talk to us about the cinemas you’ll be visiting.

I think they’re absolutely wonderful.

It seemed such a good move when Duke Of York’s added Komedia to their family.

With Picturehouse behind them, Komedia is assured of a great future, and it’s such an exciting venue.

We don’t generally try to go to big cinemas, it doesn’t give a festival venue.

We brings films that would not normally be shown in the UK, yet alone bigger cinemas.

These films don’t have huge budgets, sometimes they have stars but normally they’re hidden gems that we source from across the world.

The main festival this year has 85 films from across the world and 51 of those are UK premieres.

How do you choose the films for the festival?

I think it’s a fascinating process and I’m delighted to be part of it.

We get around 600 films sent to us each year, which are on Jewish culture, history, politics etc.

We have a whole team who watch the films, they go through a lot of processes on how it will be perceived.

We can’t choose all the films so we have a balanced programme; drama, documentary and short films.

Often these films will get picked up by other festivals.

I think what’s important to stress is that you do not have to be Jewish to come to the festival.

We show international films that are relevant to all communities and walks of life.

It must be very rewarding work?

It’s a huge amount of work but we work all year round now, we have films screening throughout the year.

We have an education department as well.

That enables us to have a top class team to work with us.

We programme the next festival from the day the last one closes.

So what do you think makes Brighton such a great place for the festival?

I think Brighton is the most brilliant city I know, I get such a sense of joy when I walk through Brighton.

It’s such a hub for activities and creativity and there are so many open minds, it gives Brighton such a special feel.

We have a fantastic venue in the Dome, we have Brighton Festival, it’s a brilliant place to be.

So what films will be on in Brighton?

We have two award-winning films in Brighton.

On November 28 we have Promise At Dawn; it’s a French-Belgian film, with English subtitles, and it follows an overbearing Jewish mother.

It’s an adaptation of a famous French literary giant Romain Gary.

It’s a heart-breaking, funny, story about a mother-son relationship.

It’s a real feel good film, it’s closing our festival gala in London.

Then on November 29 we have The Testament, an Israeli-Austrian production in Hebrew and Yiddish with English subtitles, it’s based on real life events.

It’s about an Israeli historian who investigates a hidden holocaust atrocity and discovers a hidden truth about his mother, who has lived under an assumed identity for decades.

So why should people come and check out these films?

I’d just encourage people to support the festival coming to Brighton.

We want it to be a success and to come back with more films next year.

I’m just looking forward to seeing the Brighton audiences who are so amazing.