Humor In Unexpected Places

Polanski’s dark wit and a bleakly funny IDF tale on tap at this year’s Tribeca festival.

Special To The Jewish Week

Note: This is the first of two stories on this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

There are many ways to be a Jewish filmmaker, just as there are many ways to be a Jew. If there is one thing that would seem to unite most Jewish directors working in the field (and some non-Jews who frequently visit Jewish themes) it might be humor. The humor may pop up in unexpected places or come from unlikely artists, but it’s there just the same. Consider some of the new films on offer in the first week of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

NYU chaplains Imam Khalid Latif, left, and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna in “Of Many.”  Samuel Adiv Cohen

For Single-Mom Clergy, Public Role, Private Path

New documentary chronicles stories of four women and their non-traditional choices.

Culture Editor

While davening in her parlor office one sunlit morning several years ago, Rabbi Felicia Sol had a revelation: If she were to pursue her dream of becoming a mother even though she was single, she would still have the possibility of finding a husband — she might just be shifting the order around. The notion that pursuing parenthood on her own wasn’t all about loss proved to be liberating. Soon after, she went to see a doctor to explore possibilities. Rabbi Sol, one of the spiritual leaders of B’nai Jeshurun and one of the most prominent women rabbis in New York City, is now the single mother of a son and daughter.

Rabbi Felicia Sol, with her daughter in scenes from “All of the Above.” Courtesy of Diva Communications

The Dance Of Coexistence

Teaching ballroom dancing (and perhaps larger lessons) to Israeli Jewish and Arab pre-teens in Jaffa.

Special To The Jewish Week

There is very little that a couple can do together in public that is more intimate than ballroom dancing. Even in its most chaste form, it requires two people to place one hand in the other’s hand, and one hand on the partner’s shoulder or waist. To do it really successfully, they have to look into one another’s eyes, and, in a sense, think as one.

Pierre Dulaine, instructs his young charges in “Dancing in Jaffa.”  IFC Films

‘Noah’ Co-Writer Stands Up For His Story speaks

Neuroscientist Ari Handel switched fields to write with former suitemate Darren Aronofsky.

Jewish Week Correspondent

Ari Handel on set. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Downward Mobility In Israel

In Tom Shoval’s ‘Youth,’ the strains of the middle class are on full view.

Special To The Jewish Week

There is a new generation of Israeli filmmakers out there, and its practitioners are taking the Israeli cinema in some fascinating new directions. Whether it’s the insider’s view of the haredi world given by Rama Burshtein in “Fill the Void,” the deeply disturbed teens in Jonathon Gurfinkel’s “S#x Acts” or the calculated ultra-violence of Aharon Keshales and Navot Pupashado in “Rabies” and “Big Bad Wolves,” these filmmakers are taking a subversive look at elements of Israeli society through the lens of the genre film. You can add another name to that list: Tom Shoval, whose first feature film, “Youth,” is on display in this year’s edition of New Directors/New Films, which runs from March 19-30.

David and Eitan Cunio as the brothers Yaki and Shaul in "Youth." Courtesy of United King Films

Feminist Seder Pioneer Esther Bronner Is Subject Of New Documentary

Culture Editor

At the feminist seders led by novelist E.M. Broner, the women would go around and introduce themselves matrilineally, naming as many ancestors as they knew. Broner wanted to be sure that they remembered the generations of women who spent the seder in the kitchen, preparing and serving, leaving the telling of the Passover story to the men.

Esther Broner, second from left, pioneered the first feminist seder in 1976. Joan Roth

Catalan Film Puts New Spin On Spanish Anti-Semitism

‘The Stigma?’ leads the 17th annual Sephardic Film Festival.

Special To The Jewish Week

At this stage of Jewish history, one might think that the last thing needed is a documentary that traces the ideological roots of ant-Semitism. We should know all this stuff by now, right? But “The Stigma?,” the new Catalan film that has its U.S. premiere as part of the 17th New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, which begins this week, puts that history in a subtly different context that makes all the difference.

Right, the poster for Martí Sans’ “The Stigma?” Below,  “The Rabbi’s Cat.” Courtesy of Sephardic Film Festival

Disabilities Film Festival Making Big Strides

Sixth installment brings subject of deafness to the fore.

Special To The Jewish Week

Six years ago, when he was putting together the inaugural ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival, Isaac Zablocki sensed he was on to something.

Tova, a matchmaker stricken with muscular dystrophy, is the central character in “Do You Believe in Love?”

‘She’ll Help You Live A Happier Life’

Doc featuring Alice Herz-Sommer, world’s oldest Holocaust survivor, wins Oscar just days after her death.


Los Angeles — In her 110 years, Alice Herz-Sommer was an accomplished concert pianist and teacher, a wife and mother — and a prisoner in Theresienstadt.

Alice Herz-Sommer, the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary. “Music is God,” she would say.  JTA

The Battle Of Stalingrad, In 3-D

Fedor Bondarchuk’s ‘Stalingrad’ tries to balance the epic with the intimate.

Special To The Jewish Week

Vasily Grossman’s monumental novel “Life and Fate” is surely one that, like its inspiration “War and Peace,” defies easy adaptation to the movie screen. Frederick Wiseman’s “The Last Letter” took a masterful minimalist approach, using a single chapter from the 900-page volume and turning it into a monodrama showcasing Catherine Samie as a Jewish doctor recounting the coming of the Nazi murder machine to her hometown. The BBC turned “Life and Fate” into an eight-hour radio drama anchored by Kenneth Branagh and David Tennant. And Russian television tackled it in 2012 in a nine-hour miniseries.

Fedor Bondarchuk, left, filming “Stalingrad.” Wikimedia Commons
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