Film

Jewish Professor, Black Culture

01/26/2010
Staff Writer

About five years ago, Vincent Brown, a historian at Harvard, had to teach a seminar on the birth of black studies. Though the discipline has flourished since the 1960s, its origins were not well known, so Brown, an iPod-generation professor, thought a documentary on the topic might help. He was an amateur filmmaker himself, deft with a Camcorder, and figured he might try to make one on his own.

Identity Crisis, Times Two

01/26/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Adolescence is a miserably difficult time. That’s about the time that Nicole Opper decided that she was going to be Jewish. That’s about the time that Avery Klein-Cloud, the subject of Opper’s first feature-length film, “Off and Running,” began to struggle with questions of her own identity, questions not unlike those the filmmaker had wrestled with a decade or so before, only much more complicated.

Caught On Jaffa’s Mean Streets

01/26/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

When you hear about the latest collaboration between a Palestinian filmmaker and his Israeli counterpart, the last thing you would expect to see is a gritty urban crime film. On the other hand, as Tolstoy observed that you can tell a lot about a nation by the state of its prisons, you can learn a lot about a culture by its crime fiction. After all, as the new Israeli film “Ajami” reminds us forcefully, the reasons that people enter into criminal activity speak pretty loudly about the most elemental forces at play in their daily lives.

Sontag’s Israel

02/02/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Although she continued to write film criticism throughout her life, Susan Sontag’s filmmaking career was fairly brief, basically consisting of three feature films made between 1969 and 1974 (she also made a telefilm for RAI in 1983). After  two fiction features, “Duet for Cannibals” (1969) and “Brother Carl” (1971), Sontag turned her hand to documentary and what would prove to be her most overt statement on Jewish matters, “Promised Lands” (1974). That rarely shown film is getting a weeklong run beginning on Feb. 4.

Out Of Africa, Into Uncertainty

02/02/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

How do you preserve a culture and yet move forward in a changing world? That dilemma is at the heart of the Jewish experience, so it comes as no great shock that almost all the films in this year’s New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival center on that theme. The documentaries in this year’s event are particularly sensitive to the nuances of evolving cultures and the results are frequently as dramatic and poignant as you will find in any fiction feature this year.

Identity Crisis, Times Two

For the filmmaker and the subject of ‘Off and Running,’
adolescence means self-evaluation.

01/28/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Adolescence is a miserably difficult time. That’s about the time that Nicole Opper decided that she was going to be Jewish. That’s about the time that Avery Klein-Cloud, the subject of Opper’s first feature-length film, “Off and Running,” began to struggle with questions of her own identity, questions not unlike those the filmmaker had wrestled with a decade or so before, only much more complicated.

Jewish Professor, Black Culture

Documentary chronicles the controversial ideas and internal conflicts of a
Northwestern University anthropologist who pioneered African-American studies.

01/28/2010
Staff Writer

About five years ago, Vincent Brown, a historian at Harvard, had to teach a seminar on the birth of black studies. Though the discipline has flourished since the 1960s, its origins were not well known, so Brown, an iPod-generation professor, thought a documentary on the topic might help. He was an amateur filmmaker himself, deft with a Camcorder, and figured he might try to make one on his own.

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‘A Lie That Speaks The Truth’

The stunning paradox behind Andre Techiné’s ‘Girl on a Train.’

01/22/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Andre Techiné has the flu. Appropriately if unhelpfully, the conference call line from Paris is also a bit buggy, but the filmmaker is insistent on completing an interview, repeatedly cutting off his assistant and his publicist when they try to bring the conversation to a halt before he is finished making his point.

That, too, is appropriate, because Techiné’s films, including “The Girl on the Train,” which opens Jan. 22, are insistent, probing and highly intelligent like their creator.

 

Jeanne (Emilie Duquenne) outside of Paris after alleging, falsely, that she had been the subject of an anti-Semitic hate crime.

In Praise Of Jewish Women

From a pioneering journalist to a Jazz Baroness and beyond, all in week two of the N.Y. Jewish Film Festival.

01/15/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

One of the most thankless tasks of a film critic is to troll around the depths and breadth of a festival looking for a theme that unites all the films on offer. Of course, the New York Jewish Film Festival’s entries all reflect on the Jewish experience in some way — “Doh,” as Homer Simpson might say — but this year there seems to be a bit more than that going on. Many, indeed most of the films in this year’s festival seem to be imbued with the spirit of a particularly resilient and indomitable Jewish womanhood. Push aside all the Jewish mother jokes, the Jewish American Princess jokes, all that self-defiling “comical” claptrap, and you find that she ferocity with which Jewish women have defended their heritage and their families is a significant reason why the Jews have survived for four millennia.

Ruth Gruber, a pioneering journalist who is the subject of “Ahead of Time,” covered the Holocaust and the historic voyage of Exo

Amos Gitai, The Movie

Israel’s celebrated filmmaker uses the material of his own life to craft the dazzling yet infuriating ‘Carmel.’

01/06/2010
Special to the Jewish Week

There is a strain of narrative cinema that aspires to the conditions of lyric poetry. Densely allusive, rhythmically complex, frequently abstract and personal to the point of opacity, it can range from the downright magical (think Andrei Tarkovsky at his best) to the thunderously ponderous. Either way, it is not a type of filmmaking one readily associates with Amos Gitai.

For all of his other narrative complexities, Israel’s best-known filmmaker is a hardheaded realist whose background in architecture has made him a master of the purpose-built film, a film that has something very specific to say and to do, says it and does it, then waits for your response. His is a materialist cinema, in the philosophical sense, rooted in the Israeli reality.

Karen Mor, who plays Gitai’s mother as a young woman. The boy plays Gitai himself as a child. Courtesy Kino International, NY
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