A Little Cinematic Home Cooking

Documentaries on Jews in the performing arts and the latest from Daniel Burman.

01/19/2015 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Note: This is the third of three articles on this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival.

One of the comforting aspects of a film festival designed around a theme is that there will be certain familiar standbys. With the New York Jewish Film Festival, wrapping up its 24th annual event, one is drawn to two regular aspects of home cooking: the presence of a director who can be counted on for a reliably intelligent film, and the inevitable documentaries about Jews in the performing arts.

Sophie Tucker with longtime accompanist Ted Shapiro in “Gay Love.” Menemsha Films

Israeli Films, Front And Center

The Elkabetzes’ ‘Gett,’ two from Yossi Aviram and the latest Amos Gitai offering show off the country’s cinematic creativity.

01/12/2015 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Note: This is the second of three articles on this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival.

In the first of three articles on this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival, now underway at Lincoln Center, the continuing growth of the event was attributed in part to the splendid creative effulgence of the Israeli film industry during the nearly quarter-century of the festival’s existence. This year’s festival, the 24th annual, is an excellent example, with the final film in a splendid trilogy and a debut feature of consummate art and feeling contributed by Israeli filmmakers.

Ronit Elkabetz as Viviane Amsalem in “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,”: Courtesy of Music Box Films DUNE: Filmsdupoisson

‘Family Is Not Only Blood’

Yael Reuveny’s roots journey in her debut documentary ‘Farewell, Herr Schwarz.’

01/06/2015 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Yael Reuveny is at her parents’ home in Israel, visiting family and friends and escaping from the relentlessly Christmas-y atmosphere of her current residence in Berlin.

Yael Reuveny, director of “Farewell Herr Schwarz.” Kino Lorber

A Film Festival’s Growing Reach

From the Israeli air force, to a Houston deli, to I.B. Singer, non-fiction cinema is key to the Jewish Film Festival.

01/05/2015 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Note: This is the first of three articles on this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival.

As the New York Jewish Film Festival nears the quarter-century mark with its 24th annual edition opening on Wednesday, Jan. 14, the surprise isn’t the event’s longevity. Backed by two formidable New York institutions, The Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and located in an urban center that includes a goodly percentage of the world’s Jews, the failure of such a program would be more of a shock.

Scenes from “The Muses of Isaac Bashevis Singer,” above, “Above and Beyond,” top right, and “Deli Man,” right.

Freedom Has Its Costs

Ridley Scott’s theologically tentative and sluggish ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings.’

12/15/2014 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

It is unlikely that anyone could have made a satisfying film out of “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” the Ridley Scott-directed biblical epic that opened last weekend. The script, by four different writers including Steve Zaillian of “Schindler’s List” fame, is a sluggish, unbalanced mess; the first third of the film is an entertaining irrelevance and the most important part of the story is relegated to the last 10 minutes of a long two-and-a-half hours.

Christian Bale as Moses in “Exodus: God and Kings.” Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

‘Zero Motivation’ Director Surprised By Reaction Here

Talya Lavie’s debut feature about life in the IDF, which opens here this week, has reach far beyond Israel.

12/01/2014 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Comedy is serious business.

Consider the new Israeli film “Zero Motivation,” which has its U.S. theatrical premiere here this week at Film Forum. A debut feature for writer-director Talya Lavie, it focuses on three hapless female members of the Israel Defense Forces stationed in a dead-end army camp in the middle of nowhere. They encounter everything from a glass ceiling for woman officers to sexual frustration, from date rape and the generally vile behavior of their male counterparts to the soul-grinding boredom of utterly pointless office work.

‘Zero Motivation’ writer-director Talya Lavie. Wikimedia Commons

Audiences School ‘The Sturgeon Queens’ Director

Instead of answering questions about her film, documentarian chats about brisket and babka.

11/24/2014 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

An independent filmmaker relishes the chance to present a new film to large, live audiences, so I was excited as I set off this year for Jewish Film Festivals and JCCs all over the country with “The Sturgeon Queens,” my documentary about the century-long history of the iconic Lower East Side smoked fish store Russ & Daughters.

Narrators for “The Sturgeon Queens.”  Rich White

Creating An Identity, However Difficult

Three offerings at DOC NYC deal with various searches for Jewishness.

11/10/2014 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

The complexities of Jewish identity — what it is, how it is determined/created/lived — lie at the heart of several films at this year’s DOC NYC film festival. Opening on Nov. 13 for its fifth year, DOC NYC offers a dauntingly wide range of non-fiction films, a category that is nearly as protean as Jewishness.

Scene from “Above and Beyond,” about Jewish volunteers in the Israeli air force during the 1948 war.

‘Sweet’ Spots At Other Israel Festival

A documentary about Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and a dark comedy about the candy business on tap.

10/27/2014 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Contemplating the eighth edition of the Other Israel Film Festival, which opens Nov. 6, it occurs to me that the event, which underwent a subtle shift in focus a few years ago, has become a richer, more interesting program as a result. While the festival originally sought to showcase films by or about the segments of the Israeli population that were neither Jews nor Palestinians (and hence shunted to the margins of our perception of the country), it now presents the reality of “otherness” in Israeli society.

Scenes from the offbeat dark comedy “Sweets,” about an Arab Christian candy entrepreneur. Courtesy of Other Israel Film Festival

For Young Polish Jews, ‘Return To A New Life’

Adam Zucker’s documentary looks at the rebirth of Jewish life through the lens of four women.

10/20/2014 - 20:00
Staff Writer

A veteran film editor and director-producer of several documentaries, all of which center on the African-American experience, Adam Zucker won a travel grant to Poland in 2008. He had not been there before, and had only distant family ties to the country.

Scenes from “The Return,” which premieres here this week.
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