Joseph Cedar’s learning curve has been impressive. The New York-born Israeli filmmaker has made only three feature films to date, and each has been the Israeli representative to the Academy Awards. From his intelligent but uneven first feature, “Time of Favor,” through his sophomore effort, “Campfire,” to his new film, “Beaufort,” is a series of quantum leaps in assurance, control of tone, creative use of screen space and sheer cinematic intelligence.
The second week of the New York Jewish Film Festival is heavily weighted towards documentaries, but these days that label covers such a huge swatch of territory that you can’t know what to expect. The movies included in this year’s event are no exception to the trend toward the unconventional in nonfiction cinema.
Now in its 17th year, the New York Jewish Film Festival, which opens Jan. 9, is truly a fixture on the local film calendar, so much so that this year’s event includes one world premiere, 10 U.S. premieres and 12 New York premieres. If you subtract the seven retrospectives (see sidebar), that means that all but one of the 32 films in this year’s festival are so new that the prints are still wet from the lab.
At the risk of sounding like Walter Cronkite, what kind of a year has it been in Jewish music? You wouldn’t know it from this annual compilation of five-star records — there are only eight this year, the fewest in the decade I’ve been doing this — but it’s been a very good year.
The American film industry’s record regarding the Shoah is spotty at best. “Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust,” a documentary by Daniel Anker that opened this week, is a frequently vivid reminder that despite the domination of the front offices of the major studios by men of Jewish ancestry, American filmmakers remained nearly silent about the murder of Jews by the Nazis until more than a decade after the events had taken place.
At the height of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Markus Preminger, a brilliant young lawyer, was offered the position of chief prosecutor, an honor never bestowed on a Jewish attorney. There was only one catch: he had to convert to Catholicism. He refused but got the appointment anyway.
Two decades later, his soon-to-be-famous son, Otto Preminger, was offered the post of head of the Vienna State Theater, as prestigious in its field as the chief prosecutor’s job was in his father’s. Same catch: he had to convert to Catholicism.
It’s common wisdom that the best comedy is essentially serious. Of course, clichés often have an underlying truth, so maybe that explains why Rob Tannenbaum, one half of the comedy-music duo Good for the Jews playing at the Highline Ball Room on Dec. 23, is both a very funny guy and yet someone who discusses his work in surprisingly sober terms.
It is estimated that there are 4.2 million closed-circuit TV surveillance cameras operating in Great Britain, one for every 15 residents of the country. Don’t worry, though: the United States is rushing to catch up. Baltimore, for example, already has 400 such cameras in place and, as filmmaker Adam Rifkin notes, “Mayors Bloomberg and Daley [of Chicago] and Villaraigosa [of Los Angeles] all want to put in more cameras.”