It isn’t an enviable task organizing an Israeli culture festival for a New York audience. For one thing, in seven days — with most performances concentrated on the weekend — how do you balance the realities of an Israeli cultural scene that often focuses more on benign subjects like nature, love and fantasy rather than politics and war — the subjects most prescient to Israel’s foreign supporters?
From a pioneering journalist to a Jazz Baroness and beyond, all in week two of the N.Y. Jewish Film Festival.
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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.
Award-winning film ‘The White Ribbon’ may distort picture
of how Nazis rose to power, new scholarship asserts.
Though Michael Haneke’s recently released film “The White Ribbon,” which won the prestigious Palme d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival, focuses on one small German village, in 1914, the director has made it clear that the issues it raises are much larger. “Why do people follow an ideology?” the director asks in the film’s official press release. “German fascism is the best-known example of ideological delusion,” he adds, and while his film is not an explanation of German fascism per se, he certainly encourages viewers to ponder the relationship. In the opening scene, the narrator even says that he hopes the story about to unfold might “clarify things that happened later in our country.”
Israel’s celebrated filmmaker uses the material of his own life to craft the dazzling yet infuriating ‘Carmel.’
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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.
The Bettouns are a traditional kind of family. They decorate their homes with menorahs and affix mezuzahs to their doorposts. They gather in the synagogue for bar mitzvah services and celebrate in lavish style. And when someone dies, they immediately say the Shema: even when that person has just been thrown from a helicopter into the backyard of the family compound.