Film

Jewish Film Fest’s ‘Open Destiny’

Grace Paley documentary and Eran Riklis film top series at JCC and Walter Reade.

01/12/2011
Special To The Jewish Week

In one of her short stories, Grace Paley writes, “Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life.” Such a splendid statement, the quotation turns up twice in Lilly Rivlin’s splendid new documentary on Paley’s life and work, “Grace Paley: Collected Shorts,” which plays in this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival. The sentiment behind the sentence is so open-handed and wholehearted that it could be applied to the best films in the festival, including Rivlin’s own offering.

Grace Paley and friends outside a draft board office during the Vietnam War in scene from “Grace Paley: Collected Shorts.”

‘Vir Bist Du, Romeo?’

‘Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish’ features a cast of young dropouts from New York’s chasidic community.

01/11/2011
Special to The Jewish Week

He was a Satmar dropout, a street kid getting by on credit card and airport baggage claim scams. She was a prodigal daughter, also from a Satmar family, knocking around as a student in Europe and Israel, asking the questions and plying the lifestyle no good chasidic girl should.

Lazer Weiss and Melissa Weisz in Yiddish retelling of star-crossed lovers tale.

Phil Ochs: No Direction Home

New documentary shows Phil Ochs caught between folk and rock.

01/04/2011
Special To The Jewish Week

It is undoubtedly simplistic to suggest that a single incident can shape the way a person lives his entire life. Even the survivor of a catastrophic accident is more than the accumulated scars and physical deficits thus incurred. But watching Kenneth Bowser’s new documentary, “Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune,” it is impossible not to register a story that the great singer-songwriter’s brother Michael recalls from their childhood in small-town Ohio.

Protest singer Ochs committed suicide at 35.

The Life And Times Of The Jewish Artist

Four NY Jewish Film Festival works explore tensions in the creative life.

01/04/2011
Special To The Jewish Week

The price one pays for being an artist is frequently sizeable. The call to the arts is often rooted in alienation and a sense of difference. To follow that path is to risk ostracism and penury. And other than your fellow artists, who else will understand your choices?

Alma (Barbara Romaner) and Gustav Mahler (Johannes Silberschneider) in scene from “Mahler on the Couch.”

Culture Group Rebuffs Bid To Condemn Boycotts

Fight at Foundation for Jewish Culture over film content spotlights increasingly testy, and muddy, issue.

12/28/2010
Staff Writer

In recent years David Eisner and Karen Lehmann Eisner, prominent funders of the Foundation for Jewish Culture, had become uncomfortable with the some of the films the organization helped produce.

The foundation has given grants to films like “Waltz With Bashir,” the Oscar-nominated Israeli film about the massacre of Palestinians in the 1982 Lebanon war, as well as a documentary the foundation funded this year about military tribunals in the Occupied Territories. Content like that, the Eisners felt, was beyond the pale of acceptable Israel criticism.

Theodore Bikel, renowned Jewish actor, took a stand this fall in support of the Ariel theater boycott.

The Year Of Myth-Busting

The best films of 2010 were assaults on conventional genres and archetypal characters.

12/28/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

The schlemiel is dead. A beloved figure in post-World War II Jewish-American fiction, drama and film, he suffered a spectacular death by vivisection over the course of a couple of fascinating years of films that re-imagined him in a rather less affectionate light.

Fernando Lujan looks for a suitable place to bury his dead ex-wife in “Nora's Will.”

Answering The Call

PBS documentary ‘The Calling’ follows seven young men and women studying for the clergy.

12/14/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Albert Maltz, blacklisted screenwriter, novelist and one of the Hollywood Ten, once said that the trouble with America was that “everyone has a job when what they’re really seeking is a calling.” But how many of us would recognize a calling if we heard it? And what would it mean to be called?

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, top, and Father Steven Gamez are two of the seven seminarians profiled in “The Calling.”

Of Rabbits And Mourning

Two short documentaries about German history complement each other surprisingly well.

12/08/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Sometimes all it takes to make a short film work is a strong central metaphor. Consider the fascinating pairing of short documentaries about German history, “Rabbit a la Berlin” and “Loss,” opening at Film Forum on Dec. 8. Each is structured around a single overriding conceit and both rise or fall on the strength of that spine. Happily, both films are pretty effective and as a pair they complement one another surprisingly well despite a wild disparity in tone.

Rabbit a la Berlin

Sleepless In Seattle

Documentary explores the manic life of
Steven Jesse Bernstein, father of ‘grunge’ and outsider artist.

12/07/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Steven Jesse Bernstein only lived 40 years, but to judge from the new documentary about him, “I Am Secretly an Important Man,” which opens on Dec. 15, his four decades were a whirlwind that encompassed enough writing, performing, sex, drugs and alcohol for a small army, and ended with an inexplicable but unsurprising suicide. That makes it all the more surprising that his advice to other poets, performance artists, musicians and, most of all, to himself was six simple words: “Just go and do your job.”

Bernstein, above, who eventually settled in Seattle, as pursued by demons.

‘Shoah’ At 25: ‘Nothing Will Be Forgotten’

Claude Lanzmann says his monumental film will stand ‘as an absolute barrier against forgetting.’

11/30/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Claude Lanzmann is in a bad mood. The director of “Shoah” is here to publicize the 25th anniversary re-release of that classic documentary and, whether he is jet-lagged or bored or subject to the cantankerousness that frequently befalls a man less than a week shy of his 85th birthday, he is in a bad mood and making no effort to conceal it.

The classic documentary “Shoah,” “does not age,” according to its director Claude Lanzmann, top.
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