The 21st New York Jewish Film Festival (January 11 - 26, 2012)

by NY Jewishfilmfestival | created - 05 Jan 2012 | updated - 05 Jan 2012 | Public

The 21st annual New York Jewish Film Festival, a preeminent showcase for world cinema exploring the Jewish experience, is presented by The Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

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1. 100 Voices: A Journey Home (2010)

91 min | Documentary

A musical documentary that uniquely tells the history of Jewish culture in Poland. It highlights the current resurgence of Jewish culture through the personal reflections and musical ... See full summary »

Directors: Matthew Asner, Danny Gold | Stars: Ari Brown, Charles Fox, Nathan Lam, Alberto Misrachi

Votes: 25

A compelling and uplifting documentary that looks at Jewish culture in Poland, past and present, through a unique focus—100 cantors from around the world come together for concerts at the Warsaw Opera House and the Nozyk Synagogue. The film traces a lineage from cantorial superstar Moishe Oysher, also star of the Yiddish stage and screen, to contemporary counterparts including Alberto Mizrahi and Jacob Mendelson.

2. Mabul (2010)

100 min | Drama

Everything is complicated in Yoni's life. He's almost 13, real gifted, but physically undeveloped and struggles daily to grow up before his threatening up-coming Bar Mitzva; He sells ... See full summary »

Director: Guy Nattiv | Stars: Ronit Elkabetz, Tzahi Grad, Michael Moshonov, Yoav Rotman

Votes: 180

Everything is complicated in Yoni’s life. He’s almost 13 and smart, but physically underdeveloped. His classmates bully him and his parents barely say a word to each other. As if this weren’t enough, his 17-year-old autistic brother Tomer returns home from an institution right before Yoni’s bar mitzvah. Buried secrets come to light and Yoni’s bar mitzvah Torah portion—Noah and the flood—becomes a metaphor for the family’s fragile and frozen existence. Nominated for six Ophir Awards (Israeli Academy Awards), Mabul features unforgettable performances by Ronit Elkabetz (The Band’s Visit), Tzahi Grad (Eyes Wide Open, NYJFF 2010; Someone to Run With, NYJFF 2008) and Michael Moshonov (Tehilim, NYJFF 2008).

3. Die verlorene Zeit (2011)

105 min | Drama, Romance, War

A Polish man rescues a Jewish woman during the chaos of WWII, but they become separated until a chance encounter over thirty years later in New York reunites them.

Director: Anna Justice | Stars: Alice Dwyer, Mateusz Damiecki, Dagmar Manzel, Lech Mackiewicz

Votes: 1,759

Inspired by actual events, Remembrance depicts a remarkable love story that blossomed in the terror and squalor of a Nazi concentration camp in 1944 Poland. In a daring escape, Tomasz, a young Polish prisoner, rescues his Jewish lover, Hannah. In the chaos of the end of the war, they are forcibly separated and each is convinced that the other has died. More than 30 years later in New York City, Hannah believes she has seen her Tomasz interviewed on television and she begins to search for him again. Anna Justice (Max Minsky and Me, NYJFF 2009) directs this powerful and artfully crafted drama.

4. Boker Tov Adon Fidelman (2011)

Not Rated | 102 min | Drama

A drama about a family's effort to save their antique restoration business.

Director: Yossi Madmoni | Stars: Henry David, Nevo Kimchi, Ruti Bornstein, Rami Danon

Votes: 203

Joseph Madmony (The Barbecue People, NYJFF 2004) returns with this sensitive drama in which a Tel Aviv man struggles to keep his antique restoration business afloat. Amidst conflicts with his son, a stranger comes to town and a complex love triangle complicates his plans. Featuring outstanding performances by Sasson Gabai (The Band’s Visit) and Sarah Adler (Ultimatum, NYJFF 2010). Nominated for 11 Ophir Awards (Israeli Academy Awards), and winner of the Dramatic Screenwriting Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

5. 400 Miles to Freedom (2012)

61 min | Documentary, Biography, Drama

In 1984, the Beta Israel, a secluded 2,500-year-old community of observant Jews in the northern Ethiopian mountains, fled a dictatorship and began a secret and dangerous journey of escape. ... See full summary »

Directors: Avishai Mekonen, Shari Rothfarb Mekonen

In 1984, the Beta Israel—a secluded 2,500-year-old community of observant Jews in the northern Ethiopian mountains—began a secret and dangerous journey of escape. Co-director Avishai Mekonen, then 10 years old, was among them. In this film, he breaks his 20-year silence about the kidnapping he endured as a child in Sudan during his community’s exodus. This life-defining event launches an inquiry into identity, leading him to other African, Asian and Latino Jews in Israel and the U.S.

6. Une bouteille à la mer (2010)

Not Rated | 100 min | Drama

58 Metascore

Tal is 17 years old. Naim is 20. She's Israeli. He's Palestinian. She lives in Jerusalem. He lives in Gaza. They were born in a land of scorched earth, where fathers bury their children. ... See full summary »

Director: Thierry Binisti | Stars: Agathe Bonitzer, Mahmud Shalaby, Hiam Abbass, Riff Cohen

Votes: 950 | Gross: $0.00M

Tal is a 17-year-old Frenchwoman who has settled in Jerusalem with her family. She writes a letter expressing her refusal to accept that only hatred can reign between Israelis and Palestinians. She slips the letter into a bottle, and her brother throws it into the sea near Gaza, where he is carrying out his military service. A few weeks later, Tal receives a response from a mysterious “Gazaman,” a young Palestinian named Naim. This engrossing and hopeful drama starring Hiam Abbas is based on the award-winning novel by Valerie Zenatti.

7. Pourquoi tu pleures? (2011)

99 min | Comedy

Arnaud nicknamed "Cui Cui" no longer knows which way to look. He is about to marry Anna but he is not sure he really loves her. To make matters worse, he falls in love during the stag party... See full summary »

Director: Katia Lewkowicz | Stars: Benjamin Biolay, Emmanuelle Devos, Nicole Garcia, Valérie Donzelli

Votes: 192

A few days before his wedding, a young man (Benjamin Biolay) has to make unexpected decisions, and cope with his fiancée, who has seemingly flown the coop. Enter a charming chanteuse (Sarah Adler), his preoccupied mother, critical sister (Emmanuelle Devos, Coco Before Chanel), unintelligible in-laws, patient pals and workers renovating his apartment. Marriage or passionate love, family past or marital future, balloons or no balloons, flower petals or sugar almonds…how can he deal with such crucial issues at stake?

Thinking he has killed his friend Paul in a jealous rage, David Bergmann flees pre-revolutionary Russia for America. In New York he becomes a successful lawyer and woos smart, independent Rose, also the boss’s daughter. Meanwhile, his wealthy parents sell their fancy home in St. Petersburg and emigrate to New York. Unable to find their son, they fall into poverty. Will David marry Rose? Will the Bergmanns be reunited? And what happened to Paul? This drama, long thought lost, is a gem of the silent era, presented in a new restoration by the National Center for Jewish Film.

9. Daas (2011)

102 min | Drama, History

Into 18th century Poland new "messiah" arrives from Turkey. He promises eternal life on earth to everone who joins him. 25 years later he is in Vienna. 2 men, each of them on their own and ... See full summary »

Director: Adrian Panek | Stars: Andrzej Chyra, Mariusz Bonaszewski, Olgierd Lukaszewicz, Janusz Chabior

Votes: 174

A dazzling period drama, Daas explores the influence of 18th-century false messiah Jacob Frank. Claiming powers of mystical healing and prophecy, Frank promises immortality to his converts. A Viennese lawyer investigates Frank, seeing him as a threat to the Austrian Empire, and a former disciple seeks justice. Adrian Panek brings us a tale of intrigue and conspiracy, conjuring the time and place with a painterly aesthetic.

10. Deaf Jam (2011 Video)

70 min | Documentary

In Deaf Jam, a Deaf New York City teen is introduced to sign language poetry and boldly enters the spoken word slam scene.

Director: Judy Lieff | Stars: Aneta Brodski, Tahani Salah

Votes: 26

This high-energy documentary explores the beauty and power of American Sign Language (ASL) poetry through the story of deaf teen Aneta Brodski’s bold journey into the spoken word poetry slam scene. In a remarkable twist of fate, Aneta—an Israeli immigrant high school student living in New York—meets and then collaborates with Tahani—a hearing Palestinian slam poet. Poetry, friendship and respect transcend politics as the two young women create a hearing/deaf duet.

11. Dressing America (2009)

Documentary, Biography, History

New York's fashion district - otherwise known as the Garment Center - has always held sway over the imaginations of the style-conscious and those seeking glamour. This little slice of ... See full summary »

Directors: Steven Fischler, Joel Sucher | Stars: Regina Blaszczyk, Jon Boyarsky, Neal Boyarsky, Scot Cohen

Votes: 13

12. Orbit (I) (2011)

19 min | Short, Drama

Caught in the space between childhood and adulthood, a girl at her father's second wedding tries to cope with the increasing gap between the intimacy she craves and the distance she feels.

Director: Jessica Dorfman | Stars: Will Brittain, Scot Friedman, Shlomi Harif, Mckenna Marmolejo

In this short drama, a young girl ponders her place and develops a crush on a waiter at her father’s second wedding.

13. Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story (2012)

Unrated | 87 min | Documentary

58 Metascore

The story of Yonatan Netanyahu, commander of an elite Israeli army commando unit who was killed during Operation Entebbe, a hostage-rescue mission carried out at Entebbe Airport in Uganda ... See full summary »

Directors: Jonathan Gruber, Ari Daniel Pinchot | Star: Yonathan Netanyahu

Votes: 144 | Gross: $0.11M

Jonathan “Yoni” Netanyahu, then a commander in the Israeli army, was killed at the age of 30 leading the 1976 hostage rescue mission at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda. In Follow Me, co-directors Jonathan Gruber (Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray, NYJFF 2011) and Ari Daniel Pinchot (Producer, Paper Clips) present a moving portrait of Yoni’s life through his own poetry, prose and letters. Ultimately a portrait of a young country through a young man, the documentary also features fascinating rarely seen footage of the 1967 war and the Entebbe raid itself, as covered by journalism legend Walter Cronkite. An Ari Daniel Pinchot Film.

14. Incessant Visions (2011)

71 min | Documentary, Biography, Drama

He drew sketches on tiny pieces of paper and sent them, from the WW1 trenches, to a young cellist, who was waiting for him in Berlin. She thought he was a genius and helped him become the ... See full summary »

Director: Duki Dror | Stars: Debbie Irwin, Seann Shaffer

Votes: 17

A cinematic meditation about architect Erich Mendelsohn, based on his letters and a memoir by his wife Louise. As a young man, he drew sketches on tiny pieces of paper and sent them, from the trenches, to the young cellist waiting for him in Berlin. She believed in his genius and after World War I helped him become the busiest architect in Germany. When she planned to leave him for a communist poet, he built a perfect house for her. When the Nazis came to power, the couple escaped the house and Germany, and he turned his talents to creating buildings in the U.S. and Israel.

15. Lea i Darija (2011)

101 min | Biography, Drama, Music

It's inspiring true story about two thirteen year old girls who were, on the eve of World War II, great dancing and acting stars in Zagreb. Selling out theater venues, they weer praised in ... See full summary »

Director: Branko Ivanda | Stars: Klara Naka, Tamy Zajec, Zrinka Cvitesic, Linda Begonja

Votes: 225

A captivating drama tells the story of Lea Deutsch, known as the Croatian Shirley Temple, and her friend and dancing partner Darija Gasteiger. The two talented and exuberant 13-year-old girls were great stars in Zagreb on the eve of World War II. They played to sold-out houses around Europe, were filmed by Pathé Paris and Berlin’s UFA and lived in the rarefied world of the 1930s Croatian National Theater’s “Children’s Realm.” The Nazi persecution of Jews and later, German nationals’ flight from communists, tests their friendship.

16. Howl (II) (2012)

7 min | Animation, Short, Drama

A mother's struggle to come to terms with her daughter's strange behavior.

Director: Natalie Bettelheim

Votes: 27

An intriguing hand-drawn animated short featuring a “wild child” wolf girl and her loving mother.

17. Moja Australia (2011)

97 min | Drama

City of Lodz in Poland, after the Second World War. Two brothers, Tadek and Andrzej, grow up without a father, and their mother, so busy at work, does not notice when the boys join a rowdy ... See full summary »

Director: Ami Drozd | Stars: Naama Amit, Lana Ettinger, Gabriel Levin, David Mizrachi

Votes: 68

18. Moy otets Evgeniy (2010)

77 min | Documentary, Biography, Drama

Two filmmakers, father and son, reconnect across time, space and the ruins of the Soviet epoch.

Director: Andrei Zagdansky | Stars: Leonid Brezhnev, Fidel Castro, Simone de Beauvoir, Gerald Ford

Andrei Zagdansky (Interpretation of Dreams, NYJFF 1992) returns to the NYJFF with a moving portrait of his father, who was editor-in-chief of the Kiev Popular Science Film Studio. Father and son worked in the same studio for 11 years, until Andrei immigrated to New York with his family. Evgeni’s letters to Andrei and Andrei’s narrative of his father’s life intertwine, creating a portrait of the man and a particular moment in Soviet culture.

19. Three Promises (2011)

19 min | Documentary, Animation, Short

The story of a brave Catholic priest who saved a Jewish mother and her two daughters during the Holocaust in Belgrade. This 18-minute multimedia film, comprised of 90 old family photographs... See full summary »

Directors: Edward Serotta, Wolfgang Els, Stefan Sablic | Stars: Djurdjija Cvetic, Nebojsa Ljubisic, Jelisaveta 'Seka' Sablic

Through family photographs, sisters Breda and Matilda Kalef take us into the world of Sephardic pre-World War II Serbia and the dramatic story of their flight to safety. The family photo album, containing 169 pictures, remained in Belgrade. When the Kalefs returned after the war, the album was still there, but nearly all those in it had been killed.

20. My Song Goes Round the World (1934)

68 min | Drama, Musical

Ricardo is a brilliant singer struggling for success in Venice. He gets a contract in a recording house and his voice becomes famous, but his short stature makes performances still elusive.... See full summary »

Director: Richard Oswald | Stars: Joseph Schmidt, John Loder, Charlotte Ander, Jack Barty

Votes: 14

A musical film showcasing the talents of the great tenor Joseph Schmidt (1904-1942), known as the Jewish Caruso. Paralleling Schmidt’s own life story, this drama by Richard Oswald (Different from the Others, NYJFF 2000) tells the tale of a talented singer who finds challenges in both his career and his love life because he is less than 5 feet tall. Schmidt, who also performed as a cantor and radio star, sings with great power and passion in this charming and humorous film set in Venice.

21. The Queen Has No Crown (2011)

52 min | Documentary, Biography, Family

Poignant meditation on family, loss, and the mental maps of homelessness. The film navigates the intimate lives of 5 brothers and their mother, over the course of a decade, through the ... See full summary »

Director: Tomer Heymann | Star: Tomer Heymann

Votes: 24

Tomer Heymann (Paper Dolls) brings us this poignant meditation on family and loss using 8 and 16mm home movies and more recent footage he shot over the past decade to navigate the intimate lives of five brothers and their mother. Three of the Heymann sons take their families and leave Israel for "better" lives in America. They fulfill their own dreams, but shatter those of their mother. She is left in Israel with her two bachelor sons—one straight and the other, Tomer, gay. Exploring the politics of belonging, displacement and sexuality, the film examines the hard decisions one family has to make and the intractable bonds that unite them in the face of difficult life choices.

22. Torn (II) (2011)

72 min | Documentary, Biography

Can one be a Catholic priest and an observant Jew at the same time?

Director: Ronit Kertsner

Can one be a Catholic priest and an observant Jew at the same time? Twelve years after he was ordained as a priest, Romuald Waszkinel discovers that he was born to Jewish parents. This powerful documentary by Ronit Kertsner (The Secret, NYJFF 2002) follows his amazing journey from conducting mass in a church in Poland to life as an observant Jew on a religious kibbutz in Israel. Romuald is torn between two identities. Unable to renounce either one, he finds himself rejected by both religions and the State of Israel.

23. Welcome to Kutsher's: The Last Catskills Resort (2012)

72 min | Documentary, History

Kutsher's Country Club is the last surviving Jewish resort in the Catskills. One of the legendary Borscht Belt hotels during its heyday, Kutsher's has been family-owned and operated for ... See full summary »

Directors: Caroline Laskow, Ian Rosenberg

Votes: 25

Kutsher's Country Club is the last surviving Jewish resort in the Catskills, and in its heyday was one of the legendary "Borscht Belt" hotels. The resorts were not only a Jewish vacation paradise, they also had significant influence on entertainment, stand-up comedy and sports. In this enjoyable documentary, watch Wilt Chamberlain playing ball and working as a bellhop at Kutsher’s; laugh with Freddie Roman as his classic routine still brings down the house; see ice skating instructor extraordinaire Celia Duffy hop up on the Zamboni; and marvel at the abundance of hearty kosher feasts.

24. White: A Memoir in Color (2012)

58 min | Documentary, Biography, Family

WHITE: A MEMOIR IN COLOR is a personal memoir film about what it means to be white in America. It tells an emotional multi-generational story about my (white) family that encompasses ... See full summary »

Director: Joel Katz | Star: Joel Katz

In this personal documentary, Joel Katz (Strange Fruit, NYJFF 2002) explores what it means to be white in America through the story of his own family across generations. His father’s role as a white professor at Howard University, a traditionally black college, during the civil rights era comes to bear on his and his wife’s decisions about race and adoption. Original score by Don Byron.

25. Letters Home (II) (2010)

Documentary, Short

Letters Home is a three channel video created around the text of letters Freda Birnholz (the great-aunt of director Melissa Hacker) wrote to her family in New York as she traveled through ... See full summary »

Director: Melissa Hacker | Star: Iris Klein

An elegantly made short based on correspondence from the director’s great-aunt Freda, written as she traveled through Germany and Austria in the American Army Women’s Corps in 1945.