Film

‘Afternoon Delight’ For Days Of Awe

Jewish screenwriter Jill Soloway grapples successfully with transgression, forgiveness and feminism.

08/27/2013
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It wasn’t planned that way, but “Afternoon Delight,” the first feature film directed and written by author and television veteran Jill Soloway, is opening at a perfect time in the Jewish year. A mordantly funny and deeply felt film about transgression and forgiveness, it is just the thing for the end of Elul and the coming of the Days of Awe.

Jill Soloway

Inside Indonesia’s Killing Fields

‘The Act of Killing’ filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer on the persistence of genocide: ‘This is family history for me.’

07/25/2013
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“The Act of Killing,” currently playing here, is a mysterious film, a documentary that appears to be equal parts South Asian musical epic, gangster noir and political/historical essay. The movie’s oddly hybrid nature is largely the result of the strange and sinister reality that Joshua Oppenheimer, the director, found when he first went to Indonesia, the film’s location and subject.

A scene from the documentary “The Act of Killing.” Photo courtesy Drafthouse Films

Comedy U.

New documentary tells the story of the Catskills hotels and the comics who ‘went to school’ there.

07/23/2013
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The evocative term “baggy-pants comic” has its roots in burlesque, but you could apply it with some justice to the new documentary film “When Comedy Went to School,” which opens on July 31 in New York City and Aug. 2 on Long Island. The film, directed by Mevlut Akkaya and Ron Frank, tells the story of the Catskills hotels as a training ground for stand-up comedians and, like the burlesque funny man’s trousers, it’s rather shapeless. But, like the guy inside the trousers, it is also very funny.

Mountains men: “When Comedy Went to School” narrator Robert Klein, above. Left, Mort Sahl.

Kindertransport Film Elides Hero's Role

Matej Minac’s ‘Nicky’s Family’ is director’s third film about Shoah-era efforts of Sir Nicholas Winton, Holocaust rescuer and baptized former Jew.

07/19/2013
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Matej Minac has made the story of Sir Nicholas Winton his life’s work. “Nicky’s Family,” Minac’s new documentary, which opens on July 19, is his third feature film as a director. Each of his films has been a reworking of Winton’s story.

Children rescued by Nicholas Winton leaving Prague, in scene from “Nicky’s Family.”

'Comedians In Cars' Gets Coffee, And Laughs

07/09/2013
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“Seinfeld” is the second or third best scripted show of all-time, according to The Writers Guild of America and Entertainment Weekly. So how do you top that? Not in a sitcom.

Jerry Seinfeld and David Letterman

The Rewards And Limits Of Home Movies

Eliav Lilti’s found-footage documentary about Israel is poignant but also arbitrary.

07/02/2013
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There is an ineradicable quality of melancholy in old home movies. If they’re your own, you can’t help but yearn for a younger, more energetic and healthier version of yourself, and for the ghostly images of family and friends long dead to take corporeal form once more. But even the home movies of total strangers call out to us with reminders of the evanescence of human existence. When you look at film footage of some stranger’s young son leaving a factory in Birmingham, England, in 1912, it is impossible not to wonder if he would be dead in the trenches only two or three years later.

A couple of newlyweds and an Independence Day celebration: Scenes from “Israel: A Home Movie.” Photos courtesy of Alma Films

Museum Piece

Jem Cohen’s contemplative new film is a rich tapestry of art history and human communication set in a Vienna museum.

06/25/2013
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The world is a palimpsest, a densely layered series of texts to be deciphered and read by all who live there. The sages of the Talmud seemed to think so, the great modernist Jewish writers surely thought so, and Jem Cohen, whose new film “Museum Hours” opens June 28, clearly agrees.

Bobby Sommer in Jem Cohen’s “Museum Hours.” Photo courtesy Cinema Guild

‘The Whole Experience Opened My Eyes’

The making of the nuanced ‘The Attack,’ with a crew of Israelis and Palestinians, gave Ziad Doueiri a new view of the Jewish state.

06/18/2013
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Ziad Doueiri is nothing if not frank.

“I’m pissed off,” the Lebanese-born filmmaker says. “They think they’re punishing Israel. Well, they’re punishing me.”

“The Attack,” Photos courtesy of Cohen Film Collection

A Different Kind Of ‘Aliyah’

Elie Wajeman’s first feature is French New Wave-ish.

06/11/2013
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For many Jews, making aliyah is a response to a commandment, an edict from the Creator. And for some, it’s an escape from a life that has spiraled out of control. That would seem to be one of the messages of the new French film “Aliyah,” directed and co-written by Elie Wajeman. It’s a deft, smart first feature and, not surprisingly, Wajeman’s protagonist seems doomed to find that the problems he will encounter in Tel Aviv are not so different from the ones he is leaving behind in Paris.

Pio Marmai and Cedric Kahn in scene from “Aliyah.” Below, Kahn and Adele Haenel.

Are The Igbos Of Nigeria Jewish?

Engaging, if messy, documentary seeks to answer the question.

05/28/2013
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“Re-Emerging: The Jews of Nigeria” is one of those peculiar documentary films that makes a sort of nonsense of everything I know about film and art. On the one hand the film, which is produced, written, directed, shot and edited by Jeff L. Lieberman, is a baggy, often shapeless mess, meandering and repetitive, filled with side roads that lead nowhere and a narration that borders on the amateur.

 Rabbi Howard Gorin, right, from Rockville, Md., reads from the Torah to a group of  Nigerian Ibos, in scene from “Re-Emerging:
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