NY’S PREEMINENT SHOWCASE FOR WORLD CINEMA EXPLORING THE JEWISH EXPERIENCE
Presented by Film Society of Lincoln Center and The Jewish Museum, Jan. 11-26
NEW YORK, NY—The Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center will present the 21st annual New York Jewish Film Festival at the Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Jan. 11-26, 2012. The festival’s 34 features and shorts from 11 countries - 27 screening in their world, U.S. or New York premieres - provide a diverse global perspective on the Jewish experience. Many film screenings will be followed by filmmakers and special guests in onstage discussions.
The festival opens on Wednesday, January 11, with the New York premiere of Guy Nattiv’s “Mabul (The Flood).” Yoni, almost 13 and smart but physically underdeveloped, faces bullying by classmates, parents who barely say a word to each other, and a 17-year-old autistic brother who returns home from an institution right before Yoni’s bar mitzvah. Buried secrets come to light, and Yoni’s bar mitzvah Torah portion - Noah and the flood - becomes a metaphor for the family’s fragile and frozen existence. Nominated for six Ophir Awards (Israeli Academy Awards), “Mabul” features unforgettable performances by Ronit Elkabetz, Tzahi Grad and Michael Moshonov.
The closing night film, the world premiere of Caroline Laskow and Ian Rosenberg’s “Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort,” focuses on the last surviving Jewish resort in the Catskills, in its heyday one of the legendary “Borscht Belt” hotels. These resorts were not only a Jewish vacation paradise, they also had significant influence on entertainment, stand-up comedy and sports. This enjoyable documentary features a young Wilt Chamberlain play¬ing ball and working as a bellhop at Kutsher’s, Freddie Roman’s classic comedy routine, ice skating instructor Celia Duffy hopping up on the Zamboni, and an abundance of hearty kosher feasts.
Four other documentaries receive their world premieres. Jonathan Gruber and Ari Daniel Pinchot’s “Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story” presents a moving portrait of Jonathan “Yoni” Netanyahu, who was killed at the age of 30 leading Israeli special forces in the 1976 hostage rescue mission at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda. Yoni’s life is explored through his own poetry, prose, and letters. The film also includes rarely seen footage of the Entebbe raid itself, as covered by journalism legend Walter Cronkite, home movies, and interviews with such figures as Yoni’s brother, Benjamin Netanyahu. Avishai Yeganyahu Mekonen and Shari Rothfarb Mekonen’s “400 Miles to Freedom” documents the 1984 escape from Ethiopia to Israel of the Beta Israel, a secluded 2,500-year-old community of observant Jews in the northern Ethiopian mountains. Co-director Avishai Mekonen breaks his silence about the kidnapping he endured as a ten-year-old child in Sudan during the community’s exodus. Joel Katz explores what it means to be white in America through the story of his own family across generations in “White: A Memoir in Color.” Katz’s father’s role as a white professor at Howard University, a traditionally black college, during the civil rights era comes to bear on his and his wife’s decision to adopt a mixed-race child. Sam Ball’s fascinating portrait, “Joann Sfar Draws from Memory,” details the life of graphic novelist and filmmaker Joann Sfar, author of the popular The Rabbi’s Cat series and director of the recent film, Serge Gainsbourg (Vie Héroïque), as he visits favorite Parisian neighborhood spots, and muses on his artistic process and the influence of his Algerian and East European family heritage.
Music plays a large role in four Festival films. In Eytan Fox’s drama “Mary Lou,” receiving its New York premiere, a young man searching for his glamorous mother, years after she mysteriously disappears, learns about love with the help of the Tel Aviv gay community and Israeli pop music while performing as a drag queen. A cross between the television series Glee and the musical Mama Mia, by way of La Cage aux Folles, Mary Lou garnered the equivalent of the Israeli Emmy Award for best mini-series. Gili Gaon’s “Iraq ‘N’ Roll,” also a New York premiere, reveals the story of Salah al-Kuwaiti and his brother Daud, highly acclaimed Jewish musicians in 1930s Iraq considered the creators of modern Iraqi music; and details the efforts of Salah’s grandson, popular Israeli rock musician Dudu Tassa, to remix the old tunes for contemporary listeners. Danny Gold and Matthew Asner’s “100 Voices: A Journey Home” is a compelling and uplifting documentary that looks at Jewish culture in Poland, past and present, through a unique focus: 100 cantors from around the world who come together for concerts at the Warsaw Opera House and the Nozyk Synagogue. Richard Oswald’s 1933 musical, “My Song Goes Round the World,” showcases the talents of the great tenor Joseph Schmidt (1904-1942), known as the Jewish Caruso, telling the tale of a talented singer who faces challenges in his career and love life because he is less than five feet tall.
The New York premiere of “Shoah: The Unseen Interviews” offers a rare opportunity to see powerful unused footage from three interviews filmed for Claude Lanzmann’s landmark documentary Shoah - Abraham Bomba, who was a barber in Treblinka; Peter Bergson, who struggled to publicize Nazi crimes against the Jews; and the deeply affecting Ruth Elias. Following the January 15 screening, Raye Farr, director of the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, will discuss the painstaking process of preserving the 16mm film and editing these segments for viewing.
A restored version of the archival film, “Breaking Home Ties,” directed by Frank N. Seltzer and George K. Rowlands, will receive its United States premiere. Long thought lost, this 1922 drama about a Jew who flees pre-revolutionary Russia for America, is a gem of the silent era, presented in a new restoration by the National Center for Jewish Film, with piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin.
Three dramatic works receive their United States premieres. Adrian Panek’s dazzling period drama, “Daas,” explores the influence of 18th-century false messiah Jacob Frank. The film presents a tale of intrigue and conspiracy, showing Frank’s influence as seen through the lives of a Viennese lawyer investigating him as a threat to the Austrian Empire, and a Jewish former disciple seeking justice. Branko Ivanda’s “Lea and Darija” tells the story of Lea Deutsch, known as the Croatian Shirley Temple, and her friend and dancing partner Darija Gasteiger, talented and exuberant 13-year-old girls who were great stars in Zagreb before World War II. Nazi persecution of Jews and, later, German nationals’ flight from communists test their friendship. In Thierry Binisti’s “A Bottle in the Gaza Sea,” a 17-year-old Frenchwoman living in Jerusalem writes a letter expressing her refusal to accept that only hatred can reign between Israelis and Palestinians, and has her brother throw it into the sea near Gaza. A few weeks later, she receives a response from a mysterious young Palestinian named Naïm. This engrossing and hopeful drama starring Hiam Abbas is based on the award-winning novel by Valérie Zenatti.
The documentary, “The Silent Historian,” receiving its United States premiere, explores the life of director Simonka de Jong’s grandfather, the Dutch historian Loe de Jong, known for his research on the history of the Netherlands during World War II. After his death, the family made a discovery - Loe had concealed personal documents about his twin brother Sally, who didn't survive the war. Why did Loe never give these letters to Sally’s children, who spent their lives looking for information about the family that was broken apart by the war?
Four other dramas receive New York premieres. In Katia Lewkowicz’s romantic comedy, “Bachelor Days Are Over,” a young man (Benjamin Biolay) prepares for his wedding, and copes with his fiancée, who has seemingly flown the coop. Faced with a charming chanteuse, demands from family, and workers renovating his apartment, he is forced to decide between marriage or passionate love, family past or marital future. Ami Drozd’s “My Australia” portrays two brothers in a poor neighborhood in 1960s Łódź, Poland. Members of a gang with a strong anti-Semitic bent, they are stunned to discover that though raised as Catholics, they are in fact Jews. Telling the younger brother they are going to Australia, the land of his fantasies, the family boards a ship to Israel. Inspired by actual events, Anna Justice’s “Remembrance” depicts a remarkable love story that blossomed in a Nazi concentration camp in 1944 Poland, only to end when the lovers are forcibly separated after the war, each convinced that the other has died. More than 30 years later in New York City, the woman believes she has seen her lover interviewed on television and begins to search for him again. Joseph Madmony’s sensitive drama “Restoration” depicts a Tel Aviv man struggling to keep his antique restoration business afloat. Featuring outstanding performances by Sasson Gabai and Sarah Adler, the film was nominated for 11 Ophir Awards (Israeli Academy Awards), and won the Dramatic Screenwriting Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
Also receiving New York premieres are: Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher’s “Dressing America: Tales from the Garment Center,” focusing on the post-World War II heyday of the garment district in Manhattan and the Jewish immigrant roots of the industry; Duki Dror’s “Incessant Visions: Letters from an Architect,” a meditation about architect Erich Mendelsohn, based on his letters and a memoir by his wife Louise, who helped him become the busiest architect in Germany after World War I; and Michal Tkaczynski’s “The Moon Is Jewish” telling the story of a Warsaw skinhead who discovers he has Jewish ancestry and undergoes a complete spiritual and physical transformation to become an Orthodox Jew.
Judy Lieff’s “Deaf Jam,” receiving its New York City premiere, explores the beauty and power of American Sign Language (ASL) poetry through the story of deaf teen Aneta Brodski’s bold journey into the spoken word poetry slam scene. In a remarkable twist of fate, Aneta - an Israeli immigrant living in New York - meets and then collaborates with Tahani, a hearing Palestinian slam poet.
Other documentaries in the Festival include: Yasmine Novak’s “Lost Love Diaries,” a combination detective story and love saga in which a woman confronts the past when after 65 years she reads a diary sent to her by her first love on the day of her wedding to another man; “My Father Evgeni,” a moving portrait of filmmaker Andrei Zagdansky’s father, who was editor-in-chief of the Kiev Popular Science Film Studio; “The Queen Has No Crown,” Tomer Heymann’s poignant meditation on family and loss, using home movies as well as more recent footage shot over the past decade to navigate the intimate lives of five brothers and their mother; and Ronit Kertsner’s “Torn,” the remarkable journey of an ordained Polish Catholic priest who discovers that he was born to Jewish parents, and, unable to renounce either identity, finds himself rejected by both religions and the state of Israel.
This year’s New York Jewish Film Festival was selected by Rachel Chanoff, Independent Curator, Scott Foundas, Associate Director of Programming, Film Society of Lincoln Center; Richard Peña, Program Director, Film Society of Lincoln Center; and Aviva Weintraub, Associate Curator and Director of The New York Jewish Film Festival, The Jewish Museum; with assistance from Jaron Gandelman, Curatorial Assistant for Media and Film Festival Coordinator, The Jewish Museum.
The New York Jewish Film Festival is supported, in part, through public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; Northern Trust; The Liman Foundation; Mimi and Barry Alperin; and the Martin and Doris Payson Fund for Film and Media. Additional support has been provided by The Office of Cultural Affairs, Consulate General of Israel in New York; the French Embassy; and the Polish Cultural Institute New York.
The majority of The New York Jewish Film Festival’s screenings will be held at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, located at 165 West 65th St. between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway. Two screenings will be at the Film Society’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center at 144 West 65th St.
Single screening tickets for The New York Jewish Film Festival are $13; $9 for students and seniors (62+); and $8 for Film Society and Jewish Museum members.
Tickets for New York Jewish Film Festival screenings go on sale January 2, 2012 at the Walter Reade Theater Box Office; and online at www.FilmLinc.com. For complete festival information, visit www.FilmLinc.com, www.TheJewishMuseum.org, or call 212.875.5601.
About The Jewish Museum
Widely admired for its exhibitions and collections that inspire people of all backgrounds, The Jewish Museum is one of the world’s preeminent institutions devoted to exploring the intersection of art and Jewish culture from ancient to modern times. The Museum organizes a diverse schedule of internationally acclaimed and award-winning temporary exhibitions as well as broad-based programs for families, adults, and school groups. The Jewish Museum was established in 1904, when Judge Mayer Sulzberger donated 26 ceremonial art objects to The Jewish Theological Seminary of America as the core of a museum collection. Today, the Museum maintains a collection of 26,000 objects – paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, archaeological artifacts, ceremonial objects, and broadcast media. For more information, visit www.TheJewishMuseum.org.
About the Film Society of Lincoln Center
Under the leadership of Rose Kuo, Executive Director, and Richard Peña, Program Director, the Film Society of Lincoln Center offers the best in international, classic and cutting-edge independent cinema. The Film Society presents two film festivals that attract global attention: the New York Film Festival, currently planning its 50th edition, and New Directors/New Films which, since its founding in 1972, has been produced in collaboration with MoMA. The Film Society also publishes the award-winning Film Comment Magazine, and for over three decades has given an annual award—now named “The Chaplin Award”—to a major figure in world cinema. Past recipients of this award include Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep, and Tom Hanks. The Film Society presents a year-round calendar of programming, panels, lectures, educational programs and specialty film releases at its Walter Reade Theater and the new state-of-the-art Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.
The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Royal Bank of Canada, 42BELOW, American Airlines, The New York Times, Stella Artois, the National Endowment for the Arts, WNET New York Public Media, the National Endowment for the Arts and New York State Council on the Arts. For more information, visit www.filmlinc.com.
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The New York Jewish Film Festival, Jan. 11-26, 2012
Press Screening Schedule
Please join us for an advance press screening at The Walter Reade Theater, 165 W 65th St. close to Amsterdam Avenue, take the escalator, elevator or stairs to the upper level.
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Thursday, Dec. 15
Mabul (The Flood)
Guy Nattiv | Israel/Canada/France | 2010 | 101m | Hebrew with English subtitles
Friday, Dec. 16
Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort
Caroline Laskow & Ian Rosenberg | U.S. | 2012 | 73m | English
Monday, Dec. 19
Anna Justice | Germany | 2011 | 105m | English, German and Polish with English subtitles
Bachelor Days Are Over
Katia Lewkowicz | France | 2011 | 96m | French with English subtitles
Iraq ‘N’ Roll
Gili Gaon | Israel | 2011 | 52m | Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles
Wednesday, Dec. 21
White: A Memoir in Color
Joel Katz | U.S. | 2012 | 59m | English
The Moon is Jewish
Michal Tkaczynski | Poland | 2011 | 45m | Polish with English subtitles
400 Miles to Freedom
Avishai Yeganyahu Mekonen & Shari Rothfarb Mekonen | U.S./Israel | 2012 | 60m | English, Hebrew and Amharic with English subtitles