documentary film

Unorthodox: A New Film Explores Gap Year Journeys

The gap year in Israel is a phenomenon that has sprung up in recent decades in most Modern Orthodox communities. The idea is simple: 18-year old boys and girls who have just graduated high school spend a year of intensive study in yeshiva or seminary in Israel before they return to attend college. It is intended to be a year of reflection and growth, and it is not uncommon for many participants to return more religiously connected and observant than when they left.

Deep prayer, and light. Nadja Oertelt and Anna Wexler

‘Unorthodox’ Filmmaking

Documentaries about rebellious Modern Orthodox teens and downtown photographer Saul Leiter are part of DOC-NYC festival.
11/11/2013 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Arthur Hertzberg once said that for Judaism to survive in the 21st century it had to be more than just “anti-anti-Semitism and ‘hooray for Israel.’” You could say the same about Jewish documentary films. Regular readers of these pages know that the bulk of non-fiction film with Jewish themes focus their attention on the Shoah and the Jewish state.

Lens on downtown Manhattan: Saul Leiter, right, with filmmaker Tomas Leach. Tomas Leach

Making Art Against The Odds

Surviving as artists and Jews in the Soviet Union, in ‘Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here.’
11/11/2013 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Midway through Amei Wallach’s sparkling new documentary “Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here,” an art historian is explaining the workings of one of Ilya’s museum installations. The center of the room is filled with large tables, forcing museumgoers to walk close to the walls on which various paintings are hung. “The center is already occupied, and you are forced into the margins,” the interviewee says.

Emilia and Ilya Kabakov in scene from a new documentary about the artists’ lives and works. Jacques De Melo/Gert Liter

Comedy U.

New documentary tells the story of the Catskills hotels and the comics who ‘went to school’ there.
07/22/2013 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

The evocative term “baggy-pants comic” has its roots in burlesque, but you could apply it with some justice to the new documentary film “When Comedy Went to School,” which opens on July 31 in New York City and Aug. 2 on Long Island. The film, directed by Mevlut Akkaya and Ron Frank, tells the story of the Catskills hotels as a training ground for stand-up comedians and, like the burlesque funny man’s trousers, it’s rather shapeless. But, like the guy inside the trousers, it is also very funny.

Mountains men: “When Comedy Went to School” narrator Robert Klein, above. Left, Mort Sahl.

Are The Igbos Of Nigeria Jewish?

Engaging, if messy, documentary seeks to answer the question.
05/27/2013 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

“Re-Emerging: The Jews of Nigeria” is one of those peculiar documentary films that makes a sort of nonsense of everything I know about film and art. On the one hand the film, which is produced, written, directed, shot and edited by Jeff L. Lieberman, is a baggy, often shapeless mess, meandering and repetitive, filled with side roads that lead nowhere and a narration that borders on the amateur.

 Rabbi Howard Gorin, right, from Rockville, Md., reads from the Torah to a group of  Nigerian Ibos, in scene from “Re-Emerging:

Tuesday The Rabbi Made Porn

08/20/2012 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

A rabbi and a pornographer walk into a coffee shop. Insert your own crude punch line here.

That’s essentially the plot of “Your Good Friend,” a feature film/mockumentary directed by Matthew Jacobs. The film, which is still on the festival circuit and looking for a distributor, stars and is co-written by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, a prominent Reform leader and author of over a dozen books on mysticism including the novel, “Kabbalah: a Love Story.”

Matthew Jacobs, left, and Rabbi Lawrence Kushner in “Your Good Friend,” about the friendship between a rabbi and porn maker.

‘Belonging To The Land’

Documentarian Gideon Koppel explores the Welsh-Jewish connection.
03/06/2012 - 19:00
Special to the Jewish Week

Gideon Koppel bristles a little when you call his lyrical debut feature film ‘sleep furiously’ a documentary.

“For me the film is a fictional construct,” he says. “I’m at loggerheads with the way in which many academics and critics use the word ‘documentary.’ For me [the documentary] has always been linked to the world of the lyrical, the poetic and the avant-garde.”

One of the amazing landscapes of the Welsh countryside from “sleep furiously.”  Courtesy of Gideon Koppel
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