George Robinson

Out Of Africa, Into Uncertainty

02/02/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

How do you preserve a culture and yet move forward in a changing world? That dilemma is at the heart of the Jewish experience, so it comes as no great shock that almost all the films in this year’s New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival center on that theme. The documentaries in this year’s event are particularly sensitive to the nuances of evolving cultures and the results are frequently as dramatic and poignant as you will find in any fiction feature this year.

Identity Crisis, Times Two

For the filmmaker and the subject of ‘Off and Running,’
adolescence means self-evaluation.

01/28/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Adolescence is a miserably difficult time. That’s about the time that Nicole Opper decided that she was going to be Jewish. That’s about the time that Avery Klein-Cloud, the subject of Opper’s first feature-length film, “Off and Running,” began to struggle with questions of her own identity, questions not unlike those the filmmaker had wrestled with a decade or so before, only much more complicated.

‘A Lie That Speaks The Truth’

The stunning paradox behind Andre Techiné’s ‘Girl on a Train.’

01/22/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Andre Techiné has the flu. Appropriately if unhelpfully, the conference call line from Paris is also a bit buggy, but the filmmaker is insistent on completing an interview, repeatedly cutting off his assistant and his publicist when they try to bring the conversation to a halt before he is finished making his point.

That, too, is appropriate, because Techiné’s films, including “The Girl on the Train,” which opens Jan. 22, are insistent, probing and highly intelligent like their creator.

 

Jeanne (Emilie Duquenne) outside of Paris after alleging, falsely, that she had been the subject of an anti-Semitic hate crime.

In Praise Of Jewish Women

From a pioneering journalist to a Jazz Baroness and beyond, all in week two of the N.Y. Jewish Film Festival.

01/15/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

One of the most thankless tasks of a film critic is to troll around the depths and breadth of a festival looking for a theme that unites all the films on offer. Of course, the New York Jewish Film Festival’s entries all reflect on the Jewish experience in some way — “Doh,” as Homer Simpson might say — but this year there seems to be a bit more than that going on. Many, indeed most of the films in this year’s festival seem to be imbued with the spirit of a particularly resilient and indomitable Jewish womanhood. Push aside all the Jewish mother jokes, the Jewish American Princess jokes, all that self-defiling “comical” claptrap, and you find that she ferocity with which Jewish women have defended their heritage and their families is a significant reason why the Jews have survived for four millennia.

Ruth Gruber, a pioneering journalist who is the subject of “Ahead of Time,” covered the Holocaust and the historic voyage of Exo

Amos Gitai, The Movie

Israel’s celebrated filmmaker uses the material of his own life to craft the dazzling yet infuriating ‘Carmel.’

01/06/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

There is a strain of narrative cinema that aspires to the conditions of lyric poetry. Densely allusive, rhythmically complex, frequently abstract and personal to the point of opacity, it can range from the downright magical (think Andrei Tarkovsky at his best) to the thunderously ponderous. Either way, it is not a type of filmmaking one readily associates with Amos Gitai.

For all of his other narrative complexities, Israel’s best-known filmmaker is a hardheaded realist whose background in architecture has made him a master of the purpose-built film, a film that has something very specific to say and to do, says it and does it, then waits for your response. His is a materialist cinema, in the philosophical sense, rooted in the Israeli reality.

Karen Mor, who plays Gitai’s mother as a young woman. The boy plays Gitai himself as a child. Courtesy Kino International, NY

MUSIC

02/13/2009
Special To The Jewish Week
Resurrection: Two classical ensembles and a new Web site pay tribute to the music of the Shoah. Holocaust scholars and intellectuals in allied fields have argued for most of the past six and a half decades whether there was such a thing as a cultural resistance to the Shoah. Did creating works of art in the confines of Terezin constitute a rebuke to the Nazis or an unwitting submission? In the face of such brutal inhumanity, how powerful a subversive act could a piece of music, a painting or a performance be?
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