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.

Radical (And Jewish?) Filmmaking

Film looks at the history of experimental cinema.
07/23/2012 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

For Pip Chodorov, the link between being an experimental filmmaker and a Jew is surprisingly straightforward. He finds his position as the former — caught between an unresponsive art world and a disdainful film industry — comparable to that of the Jew in the diaspora.

Chodorov, whose delightful film “Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film” opens on Aug. 3, harkens back to period before Emancipation, a time of both oppression and, yet, a certain freedom for the Jews of Europe.

Major experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs being interviewed in “Free Radicals.” Courtesy of Pip Chodorov

Daddy’s Girl?

In new Israeli film, ‘Off-White Lies,’ the roles of parent and child can be ambiguous.
06/05/2012 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

Sometimes a film’s first few shots tell you almost everything you need to know. Consider the case of “Off-White Lies,” the 2011 directorial feature debut of Maya Kenig, playing here Tuesday, June 12. In the film’s first shot we see a close-up of Libby (Elya Inbar), an adolescent girl dragging a suitcase and carefully carrying a potted plant across an air terminal, her face a mix of uncertainty and determination. Kenig cuts to an overhead shot that isolates the girl in the frame; she is surrounded by the unreadable space of the terminal’s featureless floor.

Elya Inbar and Gur Bentwich in "Off-White Lies."

A Lens For Healing

The Palestinian and Israeli filmmakers behind '5 Broken Cameras', a portrait of life in a West Bank village, look beyond their anger.
05/21/2012 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

Seen together, filmmakers Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi could be one of those clichéd “odd couple” pairs so beloved of unimaginative contemporary Hollywood action comedies. Davidi is Israeli, tall, thin, weedy, mercurial. Burnat is Palestinian, shorter, solid, graying and insistently sober in demeanor. The peculiarly theatrical atmosphere of a morning with them is amplified by the central object in the chic quiet of their Midtown hotel — a large cylindrical aquarium filled with exotic fish.

Burnat with his damaged video cameras.

Second Avenue Redux

Michael Tilson Thomas remembers his grandparents, the Thomashevskys, the first family of Yiddish theater.
05/14/2012 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

The story of Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky is a classic American success narrative. Although they were born only a few miles apart in “the middle of a Ukrainian nowhere,” as their grandson Michael Tilson Thomas puts it, they met in Baltimore when he was performing with a traveling Yiddish theater troupe and she was a star-struck girl working in a tobacco factory. They went on to fame and acclaim, stars of the Yiddish theater from the late-19th Century until the Depression.

Judy Blazer as Bessie and Shuler Hensley as Boris Thomashevsky in new DVD, top. Right, Blazer and Eugene Brancoveanu.

Netanyahu Recalls His Heroic Brother

05/14/2012 - 20:00

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, commenting on “Follow Me,” a documentary film opening here this week on the life of his heroic older brother, Yonatan, told The Jewish Week: “This film will show an American audience about Yoni’s humanity, his leadership, and his commitment to Israel.”

Yonatan Netanyahu, a highly decorated Israeli soldier, was killed leading the Entebbe rescue in Uganda in 1976 that saved the lives of more than 100 Israeli hostages.

Yonatan Netanyahu, with his wife Tutti, and dog, Lara, in new documentary, “Follow Me.”
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