The Jewish Museum & Film Society of Lincoln Center Present 23rd Annual NEW YORK JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
The Jewish Museum and The Film Society of Lincoln Center will present the 23rd annual New York Jewish Film Festival at the Film Society's Walter Reade Theater and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Jan. 8-23, 2014. The festival's 49 features and shorts from ten countries - 23 screening in their world, U.S. or New York premieres - provide a diverse global perspective on the Jewish experience. This year, the festival expands to include a number of "beyond the screen" programs including its inaugural symposium; a master class on filmmaking with acclaimed director Amos Gitai; a program focusing on the work of artist Yael Bartana; exhibitions of the posters and title sequences of designer Saul Bass; and a special 30th anniversary screening of "Paris, Texas" along with two other films selected by celebrated filmmaker Wim Wenders.
The festival opens on Wednesday, January 8 with the U.S. premiere of Anne Weil and Philippe Kotlarski's "Friends from France." Set in 1979 in the midst of the Cold War, young French cousins join an organized tour to Odessa, visiting monuments and museums by day, but slipping away into the underground world of "refuseniks" - Jews persecuted by the Soviet regime - by night. While Carole is motivated by her political commitments and a taste for risk, Jérôme is motivated by his attraction to Carole. In a meticulous recreation of Brezhnev-era Odessa, the two connect in a deep way with those resisting oppression - whether through literary efforts or escapism via sex and drugs.
Closing Night on January 23 will feature the New York premiere of Pawel Pawlikowski's "Ida." The film explores the life of Anna, an orphan brought up in a convent in Poland. Just before taking her vows, Anna visits her only living relative for The First Time and discovers her real name - Ida - and her family history. This startling revelation leads to a probing of dark secrets from the time of the Nazi occupation of Poland.
Music plays a large role in three festival films also receiving New York premieres. Maurice Linnane's "Amy Winehouse: The Day She Came to Dingle" follows the late singer to the remote, southwestern corner of Ireland to perform for Other Voices, an acclaimed Irish TV music series filmed in Dingle every winter. Following the concert, Winehouse spoke about her music and her influences, revealing a side of the singer rarely seen. Eytan Fox's "Cupcakes" is a colorful musical trip to the faraway land of 1970s Tel Aviv, where a group of friends cope with the stresses of everyday life and work together to write a song to cheer up a woman in an unsuccessful marriage. Ayal Goldberg's "Rita Jahan Foruz" is an intimate documentary about Iranian-born Israeli singer Rita Janah Foruz, who rose to fame with the release of her first album on the eve of her forty-ninth birthday, and has found fans in both Israel and Iran, despite tensions between the two countries.
Four films offer glimpses at life in Israel, past and present. Acclaimed director Amos Gitai's drama, "Ana Arabia", receiving its New York City premiere, draws back the curtain on a moment in the life of a small community of outcasts, Jews and Arabs, who live together in a forgotten enclave surrounded by public housing near Jaffa. Filmed in one sequence shot of 81 minutes, this virtuosic film follows a young journalist to this retreat, where she finds a range of characters far removed from the cliches expected in the region. Yuval Adler's drama, "Bethlehem," receiving a sneak preview, tells the story of the unlikely bond between Razi, an Israeli secret service officer, and Sanfur, a teenage Palestinian informant to whom he has an almost fatherly attachment. Sanfur, however, is faced with an impossible dilemma as his loyalty to his brother, a senior Palestinian militant, is tested. The film won six Ophir Awards (Israeli Academy Awards), including best picture, and is Israel's 2013 submission for the Academy Award for best foreign language film. Two films making their New York premieres are Michal Aviad's documentary, "The Women Pioneers" and Gur Bentwich's "Up the Wrong Tree." Aviad's The Women Pioneers brings to light the stories of women who emigrated from Europe to Palestine 100 years ago to realize the dream of creating a new, independent woman. Using dramatic vignettes based on diaries, letters and other texts, as well as archival footage, the film tells these pioneers' tales in a direct and intimate manner. In Bentvich's Up the Wrong Tree, a slacker named Nitz returns to Israel from Australia hoping to reunite with his girlfriend and their dog. When she refuses, he moves into an empty lot across from her apartment, just as real estate sharks are planning to pave it over for parking. Climbing an ancient tree, Nitz finds himself at the center of an environmental battle. This warm and funny drama was nominated for five Ophir Awards (Israeli Academy Awards), including Best Actor and Best Screenplay.
Inspired by her family history, Diane Kurys's drama "For a Woman" will make its U.S. premiere at the NYJFF. The drama moves between post-World War II France and the 1980s, where a novelist goes on a quest to understand her family's past. Equipped with recently discovered letters and photos, she begins to shed light on the tangled relationship between her parents and a mysterious uncle, thought dead, who appeared on their doorstep in 1947 Lyon.
The festival features four dramatic works making their New York premieres. Ilan Duran Cohen's "The Jewish Cardinal" recounts the true story of Jean-Marie Lustiger, son of Polish-Jewish immigrants to France, who maintained his cultural identity as a Jew even after converting to Catholicism at a young age and later joining the priesthood. Lustiger was appointed Archbishop of Paris in 1981 by Pope John Paul II, and found a new platform to celebrate his dual identity as a Catholic Jew, earning him friends and enemies from both groups. In Idit Cébula's dramedy, "Rue Mandar (Where We Grew Up)," three siblings are brought together for their mother's funeral in Paris. Memories, rivalries and insecurities bubble to the surface as they debate what to do with their childhood home. Mixing live-action and psychedelic animation, "The Congress" is the highly anticipated new film by Ari Folman, director of the acclaimed Oscar-nominated Waltz with Bashir. Robin Wright plays an aging, out-of-work actress (named Robin Wright) who reluctantly accepts her final offer: preserving her digital image for future Hollywood productions over which she will have no control. Twenty years later, she enters a "restricted animated zone," where she rocks the complacent film/pharmaceutical industry, and finds out, with the help of an animated character voiced by Jon Hamm, what it was she really signed away. The film also features performances by Harvey Keitel and Paul Giamatti. Antonin Svoboda's "The Strange Case of Wilhelm Reich" recounts the life and times of psychiatrist and scientist Wilhelm Reich, who fled Nazi Germany to the U.S. in 1939. His sometimes eccentric activities raised suspicions during the paranoid 1950s, leading to criminal charges and a prison sentence. Academy Award nominee Klaus Maria Brandauer stars as Reich.
The main slate includes two additional dramatic works. In Vincent Bal's "The Zigzag Kid," based on the acclaimed novel by David Grossman, a soon-to-be-bar-mitzvah boy's boring trip with his uncle suddenly becomes a mystery-solving challenge. The son of a workaholic police detective, the boy embarks on a mission to learn about his deceased mother, escaping to the South of France with a twinkly-eyed jewel thief, encountering a celebrated cabaret singer, and sending his father spiraling into a panic. The film features an enchanting performance by Isabella Rossellini as the chanteuse. In Edan Zeira's "Lonely Planet," a documentary film crew embarks on a quest via trans-Siberian rail to find the legendary Mischka, said to have spent three years of his childhood hiding among wolves in the vast Belarus forests during World War II. On their journey, the team encounters people who seem to have materialized from the pages of Gogol and Dostoevsky's Russia.
Four documentaries will be making their U. S. premieres at NYJFF. In "Ain't Misbehavin'," veteran filmmaker Marcel Ophüls returns to filmmaking after 18 years with this personal stroll through cinema history, in particular touching on his own work and that of his father, the great Max Ophüls. Weaving excerpts from such films as The Sorrow and the Pity and the Academy-Award winning Hôtel Terminus, and recounting friendships with Stanley Kubrick, Otto Preminger, Woody Allen and Jeanne Moreau, the film pays tribute to a brilliant era in cinematic history on both sides of the Atlantic. From a single surviving photo, director Diana Groó brings to life the story of the world's first woman rabbi in "Regina." Regina Jonas (1902 - 1944) grew up the daughter of a peddler and made history by being ordained as a rabbi in Berlin in 1935. Artfully arranged archival footage recreates the rich, pulsating street life of Berlin through compelling scenes from synagogues, schools, and Jewish cultural life. Film and Broadway actress Rachel Weisz provides the voice of Regina. Alan Zweig's light-hearted "When Jews Were Funny" explores the question of why so many comics in the 1960s and 70s were Jewish. Zweig interviews comedians such as Shelley Berman, Jack Carter, Shecky Greene, David Steinberg, and Super Dave Osborne, and includes hilarious archival stand-up footage. For 13 years, documentarian Nili Tal has followed the ups and downs of women from Ukraine who married Israeli men. In her "Ukraine Brides: 13 Years Later," she tells the sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes mystifying, always compelling stories of these women's lives.
Making its New York City premiere is Dan Shadur's documentary "Before the Revolution." During the 1960s and 1970s, thousands of Israelis living in Tehran enjoyed a special relationship with the Shah and his dictatorial rule. Protected by large arms deals and complex financial ties, this community enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle, failing to note that the despised ruling power to which they were connected was collapsing. Using rare 8mm footage, interviews with diplomats, Mossad agents, businessmen and their families, the director - whose family had been part of the very same community - reveals a unique perspective on the revolution that changed the world.
New Israeli Shorts will include four works about summertime romance: Ohad Regev's "First Days," David Shadi's "GentleDog," Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon's "Summer Vacation," and Mihal Brezis and Oded Binun's "Aya." These shorts will be shown for free in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center's amphitheater on Saturday, January 18.
The festival will present an Artist Focus on Yael Bartana, whose video trilogy, "... And Europe Will be Stunned", depicts the not quite fictitious or entirely ironic Jewish Renaissance Movement in Poland, a campaign replete with mass rallies and youth groups, supported by both Poles and Israelis, to restore Jewish life in Poland. Bartana's iconography alludes to the tragedy of 20th Century European Jewry while drawing both on the Soviet propaganda of the '20s and the Zionist propaganda of the '30s, archival examples of which will be shown along with her work. This special program will include an introduction and discussion with J. Hoberman, New York-based critic and the co-author, with Jeffrey Shandler, of Entertaining America: Jews, Movies and Broadcasting.
MASTER CLASS: AMOS GITAI
Sunday, January 19
This in-depth conversation on filmmaking features renowned director Amos Gitai, whose new film, Ana Arabia, is included in the festival. Gitai, one of the most respected filmmakers on the international scene, continually explores new narrative and stylistic methods while maintaining a close relationship with contemporary realities. His work spans over 40 years and includes over 80 films, plus books, exhibitions, and theater pieces. The session will be conducted by Richard Peña, Director Emeritus of the New York Film Festival, former Program Director at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and Professor of Film at Columbia University's School of the Arts; and Aviva Weintraub, Associate Curator, The Jewish Museum and Director, The New York Jewish Film Festival.
GUEST SELECTS: WIM WENDERS
The NYJFF inaugurates a new "Guest Selects" series, each year showcasing a director who has shaped the course of film history. The series begins with a special screening of Paris, Texas on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of its release. Acclaimed filmmaker Wim Wenders will also select two accompanying films that relate to Jewish culture. One of the most important figures to emerge from the "New German Cinema" period in the 1970s, Wim Wenders is director of such beloved feature films as Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas, and documentaries Buena Vista Social Club and Pina. His atmospheric auteur films often engage with the themes of memory, time and movement.
SYMPOSIUM: TALKING MOVIES
Sunday, January 12
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center Amphitheater at the Film Society of Lincoln Center
The New York Jewish Film Festival introduces its inaugural symposium, "Talking Movies," co-presented with Film Comment magazine, featuring two panel discussions that examine the role of culturally specific and identity-driven film festivals and the blurring line between film genres. Confirmed participants include Jens Hoffmann, Deputy Director, Exhibitions and Public Programs, The Jewish Museum and Curator for Special Programs, The New York Jewish Film Festival; Mahen Bonetti, Founder and Director, New York African Film Festival; Carlos A. Guttierez, Co-founder and Executive Director, Cinema Tropical; Adam Baran, Co-Curator, Queer/Art/Film; Michel Lipkes, director, Malaventura; and Edan Zeira, director, Lonely Planet.
LOOKING AT SAUL BASS
The New York Jewish Film Festival pays homage to the well-known Jewish graphic designer and Academy Award winning filmmaker Saul Bass (1920 - 1996), who designed title sequences and film posters for directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, and Martin Scorsese during his prolific 40-year career. During the festival, a selection of movie posters by Bass will be on display in the Furman Gallery, adjacent to the Walter Reade Theater. A sequence of title designs by Bass will screen on a continuous loop in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center's amphitheater. In addition, there will be a special midnight screening of Bass's only feature film, "Phase IV" on Saturday, January 18. Originally a box office flop, this sci-fi tale of an Arizona farm town taken over by hyper-intelligent ants garnered cult status a year after its release. This version of the film includes a newly discovered ending that was long believed lost.
Saul Bass: A Selection of Short Films features works that the graphic designer Saul Bass directed in collaboration with his wife, Elaine, including "From Here to There," "Notes on the Popular Arts," "Why Man Creates," and the science fiction short "Quest."
FOCUS ON OTTO PREMINGER
The legendary director and Austrian-Jewish emigré Otto Preminger helped jumpstart Saul Bass's career as a movie poster and title sequence designer by asking him to design the poster for his film Carmen Jones (1954). Preminger was so impressed that he asked Bass to design the movie titles as well, and the two would go on to have a longstanding professional relationship. In this mini-retrospective, the festival presents three of Preminger's masterpieces for which Bass designed titles: the lively courtroom drama "Anatomy of a Murder," a world premiere of the new digital restoration, starring James Stewart, Ben Gazarra, and George C. Scott; the epic film "Exodus," with Paul Newman as Ari Ben Canaan, who smuggles 600 Jewish refugees from the island of Cyprus to British Mandate Palestine aboard a stolen cargo vessel; and "The Man with the Golden Arm," one of the first films to address drug addiction, starring Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak.
FROM THE VAULTS
Four archival films will screen at this year's festival. The presentation of Joseph Green and Konrad Tom's Yiddish-language "Mamele," will mark the U.S. premiere of a restored version of the film. Mamele stars musical queen Molly Picon as a dutiful daughter so busy cooking, cleaning, and matchmaking for her brothers and sisters that she has little time for herself, until she discovers a handsome violinist across the courtyard. Set in Lodz, this musical comedy drama features Picon's trademark song Abi Gezunt and embraces the diverse gamut of Jewish life in interwar Poland. Chaim Halachmi's silent "Oded the Wanderer," the first feature film produced in pre-independence Israel, retells the allegorical tale of the Jewish wanderer through the story of young Oded, who gets lost on a class outing in the scenic Jezreel Valley near Haifa, encountering Bedouins, an eccentric tourist, and various animals that spark his curiosity. Pioneering filmmaker Georges Méliès's silent short "The Wandering Jew" portrays the Jewish character of legend as a lost soul wandering throughout the ages. Donald Sosin will provide live piano accompaniment for Oded the Wanderer and The Wandering Jew. Made in the Soviet Union in 1938, Adoph Minkin and Herbert Rappaport's "Professor Mamlock" was one of the first films worldwide to directly tackle Nazi anti-Semitism. It will be presented with a post-screening discussion led by Olga Gershenson, author of The Phantom Holocaust: Soviet Cinema and Jewish Catastrophe.
This year's New York Jewish Film Festival was selected by Rachel Chanoff, Independent Curator; Marcela Goglio, Programming Associate, Film Society of Lincoln Center; Jaron Gandelman, Curatorial Assistant for Media, The Jewish Museum and Coordinator, The New York Jewish Film Festival; Jens Hoffmann, Deputy Director, Exhibitions and Public Programs, The Jewish Museum and Curator for Special Programs, The New York Jewish Film Festival; Dennis Lim, Director of Cinematheque Programming, Film Society of Lincoln Center; and Aviva Weintraub, Associate Curator, The Jewish Museum and Director, The New York Jewish Film Festival.
The New York Jewish Film Festival is made possible by the Martin and Doris Payson Fund for Film and Media.
Major support is provided through public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; The Liman Foundation; and Mimi and Barry Alperin.
Most 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. Title sequences by Saul Bass, the "Talking Movies" symposium, the Amos Gitai master class and the New Israeli Cinema shorts program will take place at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street, between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway.