On March 3-6, you better quit your kvetching, stock up on plenty of your bubbe’s kugel and make the shlep downtown for the first annual Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival (SBJFF). What promises to be low on the schmaltz, but more fun than your nephew’s circumcision, the SBJFF features seven fresh films from around the world, including documentaries of Irish and Ugandan communities, a neurotic Moroccan/Israeli family and one man’s quest to save his family and escape Nazi Germany. Five of the seven entries are foreign films and offer a glimpse into Jewish life from fresh perspectives. The films range from documentary, comedy, drama and, in the typical Israeli style, all three genres neatly mashed in one.

“Judaism has moved beyond the synagogue,” said Alon Shachar, a UCSB senior commissioned by the Forest Foundation as special coordinator of the festival. “People associate more with art and film than temple prayer.” Founded by Barbara Greenleaf, a retired dedicated member of the local thriving Jewish community, SBJFF will be inaugurated tonight, with plans to continue year after year. “There are now over 100 Jewish film festivals around the world: including Berlin, Hong Kong and Buenos Aires,” Greenleaf. “It’s a great way for everyone in the Jewish community – young, old, observant, non-observant or disaffected – to touch base with their cultural roots.”

The festival is sponsored mainly by private donations from across the country. Roughly two hundred of the $50 all-festival passes have been sold, a considerable accomplishment and clear indication of the community’s support.

A VIP opening gala will take place at the La Cumbre Hotel on Friday night, while the films will be screened at the Plaza de Oro Theater on Hitchcock Road, located between State Street and Calle Real – behind La Cumbre Plaza. Tickets for individual films are $10 or $7.50 for students. For more info call (805) 689-4881 or check out www.sbjff.com.

Oh, and don’t forget to wear a jacket. I don’t want you to catch a cold while you’re out enjoying the movies.

Thursday, March 3: 7:30 p.m.

“Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi” (2003) Directed by Shemi Zarhin. Hebrew with English subtitles.

This hilarious Israeli comedy centers on 16-year-old Shlomi, who lives with his restless mother, his soldier brother and their ill grandfather. Although not doing well in school, Shlomi is a gifted cook and takes care of most household chores. The school’s principal finds out he is actually a genius and tries to get him into a more suitable curriculum. However, Shlomi is more interested in taking care of his Moroccan family and his new love interest, the beautiful girl next door.

Friday, 1:30 pm.
What makes a film Jewish? – Jewish Federation: 524 Chapala St.
UCSB religious studies professor Richard Hecht and writer/filmmaker Patricia Morrill use movie clips to explore this exciting topic; a must-see for Film Studies majors.

Saturday, March 5
5:30 pm.
“Paper Clips” (2004) Directed by Elliot Berlin and Joe Fab.

Whitwell Middle School in rural Tennessee is the setting for this documentary about an extraordinary experiment in Holocaust education. Struggling to grasp the concept of six million Holocaust victims, the students decide to collect six million paper clips to better understand the extent of this crime against humanity. The film details how the students met Holocaust survivors from around the world and how the experience transformed them and their community.

8 p.m.
“Le Grand r