In Praise Of Ronit Elkabetz

The great Israeli actress is a featured guest at this year’s Sephardic Film Festival.
Special To The Jewish Week

Let us sing the praises of Ronit Elkabetz.

The actress, writer and director is one of the featured guests at this year’s Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, which opens on March 10, and her presence onscreen gives considerable life to several of the films in this year’s event.

Ronit Elkabetz

Guess Who’s Coming To (Shabbos) Dinner?


The question of whether people can escape their fate is at the center of Chana Porter’s new play, “Besharet” (the Yiddish word for destiny). In the play, the inaugural production of AliveWire Theatrics, an encounter with the supernatural upends the lives of a Jewish attorney and his wife, causing deeply submerged memories and feelings to erupt. “Besharet” opens this weekend at P.S. 122 in the East Village.

Olivia Rorick, MacLeod Andrews and William Green in scene from “Besharet.”

Eran Riklis’ New Role Player

In Eran Riklis’ ‘Human Resources Manager,’ the bakery-employee protagonist struggles to transcend a mere job.
Special To The Jewish Week

At the heart of Eran Riklis’ last three films — “The Syrian Bride” (2004), “Lemon Tree” (2008) and “The Human Rights Manager” (2010), which opens here on March 4 — are protagonists who have been so crushed by daily routine and pressure that they can only be brought back to real life by being shaken and stirred by circumstance.

Mark Ivanir as the human resources manager in Eran Riklis’ “The Human Resources Manager.”

Claude Lanzmann, Briefly

Rare screening of three of the ‘Shoah’ director’s more recent short films at Film Comment Select series.
Special To The Jewish Week

In the death camp at Treblinka there was a fake railroad station that included a clock on which the painted hands always read 6 o’clock. The entire construction was a grotesque joke perpetrated by the camp’s commandant Fritz Stangl; in Treblinka, time stood still because all those brought there were dead from the moment they entered.

A scene from Lanzmann's "Sobibor."

Foreigners But Not Strangers

Film about unique south Tel Aviv school garners Oscar nomination.
Special To The Jewish Week

To read the Israeli papers is to see a steady stream of stories bemoaning the country's public education system, especially those citing Israeli students' low test scores in science and math.

But American filmmakers Kirk Simon and Karen Goodman found a unique south Tel Aviv school that is doing all the right things with a dizzyingly diverse student body. Their documentary about the Bialik-Rogozin school, "Strangers No More," was just nominated for an Oscar in the documentary short category.

The Bialik-Rogozin school in S. Tel Aviv teaches a dizzyingly diverse group of youngsters, many the children of foreign workers

For Jewish-Kashmiri Filmmaker, ‘Identity Is Never Fixed’

Tariq Tapa’s debut film is in part a mirror of his complicated life.
Special To The Jewish Week

Tariq Tapa had a complicated childhood. Not unpleasant, mind you, just unusually busy.

Bridging identities: Mohamad Imran Tapa in Tariq Tapa’s “Zero Bridge.” (The actor is a distant cousin of the filmmaker’s).

‘Confidence’ Man

Hungarian filmmaker Istvan Szabo and the nature of trust.
Special To The Jewish Week

More than many filmmakers, Istvan Szabo understands issues of fear and trust viscerally. He and his parents, both of them Jewish doctors, survived the Holocaust in Hungary because friends hid them.

Scene from Istvan Szabo’s “Mephisto.”

A Gentler Richler In ‘Barney’s Version?’

Special To The Jewish Week

Published four years before his death at 70, Mordecai Richler’s last novel, “Barney’s Version,” has a certain valedictory feeling, a summing-up at the end of the journey that is uncharacteristically devoid of the nasty edge of early works like “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.”

“Barney’s Version," a film adaptation of Mordecai Richler’s last novel

Realistically Speaking

Four documentaries at NY Jewish Film Festival — from a look at haredi bus lines to a hip-hop deejay — approach reality on film very differently.
Special To The Jewish Week

 Sometimes, after watching a really good documentary, I find myself wondering why anyone would want to make a fiction film when reality is so much more compelling, frightening, entertaining, funny and so on. I had that feeling several times while watching films from the last week of the New York Jewish Film Festival, and never more so than after viewing “Crime After Crime,” “The ‘Socalled’ Movie” and “Black Bus,” three of the strongest non-fiction films to turn up at this event in many years.

Josh Dolgin, aka Socalled, top, in “The ‘Socalled’ Movie.” A blogger named Shira models a sheitel for riding on the “Black Bus.”

Jewish Film Fest’s ‘Open Destiny’

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