‘Simon And The Oaks’ Has Too Many Branches

Swedish film, set during the Nazi era, suffers from inconsistency.
10/10/2012 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

The nuclear family breeds secrets, lies, resentment and anguish. The Jews have known that since Eve enticed Adam with a lunch snack. The entire book of Genesis is a catalog of such behaviors, and it could be argued that all Western literature has followed its example. It would be absurd to expect filmmakers to do otherwise.

In Lisa Ohlin's film, the lives of a working-class boy and the son of wealthy Jewish refugees intersect in World War II Sweden.

Magic, L’ Dor-V-Dor

N.Y. Film Festival documentary looks at the life of prestidigitator Ricky Jay.
10/09/2012 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

Once the walls of the ghetto came down, the range of career opportunities for Jews became similar to the one for non-Jews. Even with the burdens of anti-Semitic quota systems, the Jewish people have made a global impact in the physics, medicine, government, literature, the visual arts and — magic.

Magic, you say? Well, there was Harry Houdini, born Erich Weiss, a rabbi’s son but...
Yes, there was Houdini, but he was only the most prominent of many Jewish practitioners of the mysteries of prestidigitation.

Ricky Jay in scene from “Deceptive Practices.”

From A Haredi Family To Shin Bet Chiefs

N.Y. Film Festival features three Israeli offerings that encompass the personal and the political.
10/02/2012 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

In a recent interview in these pages, Richard Peña, the retiring director of the New York Film Festival, remarked on the explosive growth of the Israeli film industry during his quarter-century in that post. Appropriately enough, this year’s festival, celebrating its 50th anniversary, offers three examples of how the industry has matured.

Hadas Yaron and Yiftach Klein in Rama Burshtein’s “Fill the Void.”

The Holocaust As Family Affair

‘Six Million and One’ charts the emotional toll the Shoah has exacted on the filmmaker’s clan.
09/23/2012 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

The first image one sees in David Fisher’s new documentary “Six Million and One” is a crumbling stone doorway bridged by a spider web. The visual irony is striking, with the rough yellow stone breaking down, the wispy lacework sturdy and undamaged. That irony is, perhaps, at the center of Fisher’s film.

Retracing dad’s footsteps: Filmmaker David Fisher and his siblings at Mauthausen, top, and on park bench.

An Activist Voice In The Night

New documentary is valentine to WBAI’s Bob Fass.
09/10/2012 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

Bob Fass, who has hosted the pioneering “free-form” radio show “Radio Unnameable” on New York’s WBAI-FM since 1963, is a vivid and living reminder of a certain generation of Jewish radicals both cultural and political. “Radio Unnameable,” the motion picture that opens on Sept. 19, is a loving portrait of Fass and, quite consciously, of that generation.

A rising young actor, Bob Fass found a career, and a home, at WBAI-FM. Photos courtesy of Bob Fass

Despite Matisyahu, ‘The Possession’ Lacks Jewish Soul

Dybbuk film from Danish director disappoints.
09/03/2012 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

The Jewish people have a long tradition of interest in the occult and the supernatural — not that you’d know it from Hollywood’s version. Wonder-working rabbis animated the inanimate; the souls of the newly dead took over the bodies of the living. We did werewolves and demons — the whole haunted nine yards. (OK, Jewish tales are a little weak on vampires, although it’s not a stretch to read the Dracula story as anti-Semitic — another subject for another movie review.) From the legends of Lilith to the short fiction of I.B.

Matisyahu, left, Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick in scene from "The Possession." Diyah Pera

Coming Of Age In Haifa’s ‘Low-Rent District’

Avi Nesher’s ‘The Matchmaker’ steers clear of the pitfalls of a popular film genre.
08/13/2012 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Coming-of-age movies are easier to find these days than political consultants, and about as useful. Young directors trying to follow the advice to “write/film what you know” only know about coming of age (or old movies and TV). Boomers trying desperately to cling to their threadbare youths replay first love on camera to little effect. Unless your story really does have something to offer beyond the sentimental clichés of the genre, you should keep your coming-of-age story to yourself.

Adir Miller (the matchmaker) and Tuval Shafir in “The Matchmaker.”

From Herzl To The Holocaust

Two new documentaries at the Quad.
08/07/2012 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

Zionism and the Holocaust are, obviously, the two central facts of 20th-century Jewish history. Each is, in its way, intimately linked with the history of cinema. Theodor Herzl’s awakening as a Jew is usually dated to his covering the Dreyfus Trial in 1894-’95, the year in which the Lumière brothers offered the first public screening of motion pictures. Both the Nazis and their opponents used film as a key element in their propaganda; film footage of the death camps has always been one of the most powerful forms of testimony to the Shoah’s horrors.

Sir Ben Kingsley narrates "It Is No Dream: The Life of Theodor Herzl."

The Argentine-Chinese-Jewish Connection

Sebastian Borensztein’s ‘Chinese Take-Away’ at Latinbeat festival.
08/06/2012 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

The centrality of Jewish filmmakers to the New Argentine Cinema is often remarked upon (frequently in these pages, we admit). The dry humor of Martin Rejtman, the behavioral charms of Daniel Burman and the deadpan frenzy of Diego Lerman are an important part of the ongoing renaissance of filmmaking in the Southern Cone. You can add another name to that list, courtesy of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual Latinbeat festival, which begins on Aug. 10.

Ricardo Darín and Ignacio Huang in scene from “Chinese Take-Away.”

A Young Girl’s Reverse Aliyah

`Foreign Letters’ captures friendships and tensions of Israeli pre-adolescent’s move to U.S.
07/30/2012 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

The lessons imparted by “Foreign Letters,” the debut feature of Israeli-American director Ela Thier, are ones that will be familiar to anyone who has gone through the tweener-girl film canon of titles like “Mean Girls,” and similar television tales. It’s not exactly controversial to argue in favor of loyalty to friends, self-defense against class bullies of any gender and a vaguely liberal disdain for the rudely arrogant rich.

Ellie (Noa Rotstein) and Thuy (Dalena Le) in Foreign Letters.
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