Movies Around The Clock

From wristwatch metaphors in ‘Restoration’ to the cross currents of past and present in ‘Remembrance,’ Jewish film fest meditates on the passage of time.
01/09/2012 - 19:00
Special to the Jewish Week

Jewish thought tends to classify time in highly specific quantities: seven days from Shabbat to Shabbat, 49 days of counting the Omer, generation to generation.

A scene from Joseph Madmony’s “Restoration,” about an antique furniture craftsman whose business is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Identity In The Spotlight

Questions of culture and race in first week of N.Y. Jewish Film Festival.
01/02/2012 - 19:00
Special to the Jewish Week

Identity is who we are, what we are. For Jews, identity is complicated, the product of 4,000 years of history, several thousand years of exile across the entire globe, initiating contact with people and cultures unlike our own. The result of all that intermingling is the savory stew that is Jewish culture, and a principal theme of the first week of this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival.

Scenes from “Mabul,” above, and “400 Miles to Freedom,” two selections in this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival.

Putin’s Prisoner

Documentary spotlights the rise and fall of jailed Russian Jewish oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
11/22/2011 - 19:00
Special to the Jewish Week

Russian history in the past century has consisted of a series of leaps from the frying pan of czarist rule into a relentless series of fires of varying degrees of infernal intensity.

The “return” to power of Vladimir Putin — does anyone really think he was away? — bodes ill for any dream of positive change in the former Soviet Union. It certainly spells continued prison time for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of the Yukos oil company, who has been imprisoned in Siberia for more than seven years on charges of tax evasion.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of the Yukos oil company, who has been imprisoned in Siberia.

What Lies Beneath

Two Holocaust films represent radically dissimilar visions of the relationship between Judaism and death.
11/14/2011 - 19:00
Special to the Jewish Week

The objects themselves are insignificant. Seven gold coins, a dirt-encrusted wristwatch, a bracelet. Taken together, they might be worth several hundred dollars but their value really can only be calculated in human suffering and the power of memory.

Ella Prince, a Maidanek survivor, returns to the Polish camp many years after their escape. ©2011 Unfinished Business One, LLC

Behind Heifetz’s Genius

‘God’s Fiddler’ chronicles the violin virtuoso’s life and career.
11/10/2011 - 19:00
Special to the Jewish Week

Genius is pure enigma. It has been called “an infinite capacity for taking pains,” but that quality describes drudgery too. There must be some inexplicable spark, some breath of the Divine that transforms mere technical perfection, simple virtuosity into something transcendent.

Jascha Heifetz

The Melancholy Israel Film Festival

From a thwarted aliyah bid to a failed Arab-Jewish friendship, the tone at the JCC’s ‘Other’ film series is discouraging.
10/31/2011 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

The overriding tone of this year’s edition of the Other Israel Film Festival is one of melancholy, tinged with a degree of exhaustion. It is as if the intractable problems of the Jewish state and its Palestinian neighbors have worn down all the participants, the ossified positions that all sides have taken for so long have become so deeply ingrained that they seemingly will not admit the possibilities of positive change.

The festival’s opening-night film, “Dolphin Boy,” right. Below, the BBC production “The Promise.”

The Love Triangle Of All Love Triangles

Inside the Freud-Jung-Sabine Speilrein relationship.
10/10/2011 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

David Cronenberg has always been fascinated by the relationship between mental state and bodily consequences. So it was perhaps inevitable that he would make a film about Sigmund Freud and the psychoanalytic movement. His very first film, a seven-minute short, “Transfer,” is about the relationship between a psychiatrist and a patient.

 Fassbender and Keira Knightley as Sabine Speilrein.

The Banality Of Violence?

Film festival includes Polanski working of ‘God of Carnage’ and Israeli piece on dysfunctional cops.
10/03/2011 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

There is a tiny detail in “Carnage,” the new Roman Polanski film that opened this year’s New York Film Festival, something small but telling in the excellent production design by Dean Tavoularis. The film, which is almost a verbatim rendering of Jewish playwright Yasmina Reza’s “God of Carnage,” is a sardonic reflection on how well-intentioned and soi-disant sophisticated New Yorkers deal with the intrusion of violence on a small scale into their lives.

Jodie Foster, left, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet in Roman Polanski’s “Carnage.” Guy Ferrandis/Sony Pictures

One Hungarian Town’s Lost Jews

There Was Once’ is an unusually effective and moving Holocaust documentary.
09/19/2011 - 20:00
Special to the Jewish Week

Eva Gregory recalls the moment when she realized that her family was in great peril. Then a young girl, she had accidentally dropped and shattered an entire set of expensive china. Horrified at what she had done, she braced for her mother’s explosion, but all her mother said was, “It’s all right. This doesn’t matter anymore.” Gregory, now an elderly woman, says, “That’s when I realized how bad the situation was.”

The elementary school in Kalosca, Hungary, in 1942.

The Last Jewish Olympiad Of Berlin

New film falls flat in its attempts to tell the story of Gretel Bergmann, the female high jumper pressured off the German team.
09/12/2011 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Racism is a virulent form of insanity. It makes people do stupid, self-defeating things. Consider the case of the Nazis and their preparation for the 1936 Olympics, held in Berlin. Among the best athletes preparing to compete was Gretel Bergmann, probably the finest female high jumper in the world. Only one small problem for the German track-and-field team: she was Jewish. So after the Nazis contrived to have her rejoin the team, apparently a response to American threats to boycott the Games, they did everything in their power to drive her off the team.

Members of the German track-and-field team with Nazi Party officials.
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