New York Jewish Film Festival 2009

January 14 - 29, 2009

An extraordinary international film showcase since 1992, this collaboration between the Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center celebrates the Jewish experience through dramas and comedies, documentaries, and short films.

Welcome to the 18th annual New York Jewish Film Festival, a global survey of innovative and provocative films—most receiving their New York or U.S. premieres—that explore the multi-faceted Jewish experience. A total of 32 films from 15 countries add up to an exhilarating worldwide journey. Many screenings are followed by discussions with directors and other special guests. Visit our site frequently for up-to-the-minute information, or check out

Screenings, unless otherwise noted, are at:

The Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center, 165 West 65 Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, upper level. Due to construction at Lincoln Center, please walk west on 65th Street for Walter Reade Theater access.

Tribute to Solomon Mikhoels
In conjunction with the current Jewish Museum exhibition Chagall and the Artists of the Russian Jewish Theater, 1919-1949, The New York Jewish Film Festival presents two films starring Solomon Mikhoels (1890–1948), actor, artistic director of GOSET (Moscow State Yiddish Theater), and a victim of Stalin’s post-World War II anti-Semitic purges.
Jewish Luck / Yevreiskoye Schastye / Menakhem Mendl
Director: Alexander Granovsky
(USSR, 1925, 100m)
Silent with English intertitles
Screening introduced by Sharon Pucker Rivo, co-founder & Executive Director of The National Center for Jewish Film.
One of the first Soviet Yiddish comedies to be released in the U.S.A., Jewish Luck is based on Sholom Aleichem’s stories about a daydreaming entrepreneur who specializes in doomed strike-it-rich schemes. The film is an adaptation of the GOSET stage production. Restored by The National Center for Jewish Film. Silent film with live piano.
The Return of Nathan Becker / Nosn Becker Fort Aheym
Director: Boris Shpis and Rokhl M. Milman
(USSR, 1932, 72m)
Yiddish and Russian with English subtitles
Screening introduced by J. Hoberman, senior film critic of The Village Voice and author of Bridge of Light: Yiddish Film Between Two Worlds.
This restored film, featuring new English subtitles, the only Russian-Yiddish “talkie” from Soviet Russia, celebrates Socialist industrial productivity while critiquing shtetl life as primitive and grotesque. An American Jewish bricklayer returns to his Byelorussian village, accompanied by his black friend Jim. Restored by The National Center for Jewish Film.
Refusenik’s Mother / Ima Shel Shimri
Director: Ori Ben Dov
U.S. Premiere
(Israel, 2008, 50m)
Hebrew with English subtitles
Marit Zameret in attendance
Former kibbutznik Marit Zameret’s firstborn child Shimri takes a stand against all that Marit believes in by refusing to be recruited into the Israeli army. This riveting and sensitive documentary accompanies Marit as she confronts one of Israeli society’s most profound and personal dilemmas, while attempting to maintain a bond with her son.
screening with
Yideshe Mama
Director: Fima Shlick and Gennady Kuchuk
New York Premiere
(Israel, 2008, 63m)
Hebrew and Russian with English subtitles
Guess who’s coming to dinner? Israeli documentary filmmaker Gennady Kuchuk announces to his mother Zina (both from the former Soviet Union) that he is engaged to an Ethiopian woman. Mustering all of her energy and influence, Zina tries to sabotage the union.
A Road to Mecca: The Journey of Muhammad Asad / Der Weg nach Mekka -Die Reise des Muhamm ad Asad
Director: Georg Misch
U.S. Premiere
(Austria, 2008, 92m)
English, German, Urdu, Ukrainian, Spanish and Arabic with English subtitles
Director Georg Misch in attendance
Leopold Weiss, the scion of an Austrian family of rabbis, reinvented himself in 1926 as Muhammad Asad, a scholar, political activist and Muslim by choice. His accomplishments included helping to establish the modern state of Pakistan, writing one of the best translations of the Quran, and promoting Islam as a religion of thought, pluralism and tolerance.
At Home in Utopia
Director: Michal Goldman
New York Premiere
(USA, 2008, 57m)
Director/producer Michal Goldman & co-producer Ellen Brodsky in attendance.
In the mid-1920s, thousands of immigrant workers escaped tenement life by pooling their resources to build housing collectives in the Bronx. This moving documentary focuses on the United Workers Cooperative Colony—aka, the Coops—the most grassroots and member-driven of the Jewish labor housing cooperatives, where many residents were Communists or sympathetic to the Communist movement.
screening with
Yosl Cutler and His Puppets / Yosl Kotler un Zayne Marioneten
Director: Joseph Burstyn
(USA, 1935, 18m)
Yiddish with English subtitles
Multi-talented artist, writer, poet, and Yiddish Art Theater designer Yosl Cutler is probably best known as the cartoonist for the Jewish Communist newspaper, The Freiheit. This delightful film with a biting political edge presents Yosl Cutler in performance, featuring the marionettes he designed, built and brought to life. Restored by The National Center for Jewish Film.
Being Jewish in France / Comme un Juif en France
Director: Yves Jeuland
New York Premiere
(France, 2007, 185m)
French with English subtitles
Director Yves Jeuland in attendance
Poised to become the definitive film on the complex history of French Jewry, this sweeping documentary begins with the Dreyfus Affair and ends with contemporary charges of rising anti-Semitism. Narrated by celebrated actor Mathieu Amalric, the film includes rare archival materials and riveting interviews with some of France’s leading intellectuals, artists and politicians.
Camp Girls
Director: Gay Block
World Premiere
(USA, 2008, 48m)
Director Gay Block in attendance
In 2006, acclaimed visual artist Gay Block (Bertha Alyce, NYJFF 2003) re-photographed and interviewed women who were girls in her 1981 series from Pinecliffe, a summer camp in Maine. This subtle documentary reveals volumes about gender, class and Jewish identity in America.
screening with
Driving Men
Director: Susan Mogul
New York Premiere
(USA, 2008, 67m)
Director Susan Mogul in attendance.
A free-spirited filmmaker rides shotgun with some of the men in her life. Her road trip conversations with her ex- and almost-lovers, brothers, and father inspire thoughts on art, identity and love.
Darling! The Pieter-Dirk Uys Story
Director: Julian Shaw
New York Premiere
(Australia, 2006, 52m)
Writer/director Julian Shaw creates an inspiring and intimate portrait of South African political satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys, a Jewish Afrikaner who risked his life in the 1980s by criticizing his country’s apartheid government. Renowned for his outrageous drag persona Evita Bezuidenhout, Uys currently uses his celebrity to educate school children about HIV /AIDS.
screening with
The Woman from Sarajevo
Director: Ella Alterman
New York Premiere
(Israel, 2007, 56m)
Serbian, English, and Hebrew with English subtitles
Sara Pizatnich’s mother was the first Muslim woman to be honored as “Righteous Among the Nations” for hiding the Jewish Kabilio family during World War II. In a reversal of roles 50 years later, the Kabilios rescued Sara’s family during the Bosnian War and brought them to Israel. Now, Pizatnich, a Bosnian woman who received Israeli citizenship and converted to Judaism, travels back to Sarajevo to reunite with her multi-faith family.
Emotional Arithmetic
Director: Paolo Barzman
New York Premiere
(Canada, 2007, 95m)
Emotional Arithmetic follows three former inmates at Drancy, a World War II transit camp in France, who have reunited in Québec’s picturesque countryside 35 years later. They find themselves recreating complicated and painful relationships. With stellar performances by Susan Sarandon, Christopher Plummer, Max von Sydow and Gabriel Byrne.
Empty Nest / El nido vacío
Director: Daniel Burman
U.S. Premiere
(Argentina/Spain/France/Italy, 2008, 91m)
Spanish and Hebrew with English subtitles
Director Daniel Burman in attendance
Daniel Burman (Waiting for the Messiah, NYJFF 2002; Lost Embrace, NYJFF 2005) returns with his newest dramatic feature. With the kids grown up and gone, dyspeptic playwright Leonardo and hyperactive housewife Martha (played with gusto by Cecilia Roth) try to redefine themselves and their relationship as Leonardo struggles to distinguish between reality and fantasy. When the couple travels to Israel to visit their youngest daughter and her husband, their vacation at the Dead Sea becomes a floating, surreal experience.
Every Mother Should Know / Teda Kol Em Ivriya
Director: Nir Toib
U.S. Premiere
(Israel, 2008, 120m)
Hebrew with English subtitles
Director Nir Toib in attendance
In Nir Toib’s soul-searching new documentary, two generations of Israeli reservists reflect on the painful failures of the second Lebanon war. They criticize the senior military command’s leadership skills and describe what they feel is a crisis of moral values. Out of their anger and disillusionment, these elite fighters offer a new set of societal values concerning war, sacrifice and heroism.
Facing the Wind / Margish Et Haruach
Director: Gilad Reshef
New York Premiere
(Israel, 2006, 50m)
Hebrew with English subtitles
Oran Almog is an Israeli teen who lost his eyesight and five family members in a suicide bombing in Haifa. Here, Oran displays extraordinary character and perseverance as he prepares for his bar mitzvah, establishes a competitive sailing club for the blind, and lives life as a regular kid.
screening with
My Father’s Palestinian Slave / Min Pappas Palestinska Slav
Directors: Uri Appenzeller and Nathanel Goldman Amirav
New York Premiere
(Sweden, 2007, 52m)
Director Nathanel Goldman Amirav in attendance
Having grown up with his mother in Sweden, documentary filmmaker Nathanel Goldman spends a year living in Jerusalem with his Israeli father Moshe Amirav, a veteran peace activist. After Goldman befriends his father’s landscaper, an undocumented Palestinian, he grapples with his own privilege and skeptically observes his father’s employment practices and politics.
Forgotten Transports: To Estonia / Zapomenuté transporty: Do Estonska
Director: Lukás Pribyl
New York Premiere
(Czech Republic, 2008, 85m)
English and Czech with English subtitles
Director Lukás Pribyl in attendance
Forgotten Transports: To Estonia documents the incredible odyssey of a group of Czech women who survived a series of concentration camps in a bubble of naiveté, denial and camaraderie. Using meticulous research and rarely seen archival images, the film gives voice to survivors who share their testimony for the first time.
In Search of the Bene Israel
Director: Sadia Shepard
New York Premiere
(USA, 2008, 38m)
English and Hindi with English subtitles
Director Sadia Shepard in attendance
Filmmaker and author Sadia Shepard, the daughter of a Christian and a Muslim, travels to India to connect with her grandmother’s Jewish community in and around Mumbai (formerly Bombay).
screening with
The Fire Within: Jews in the Amazonian Rainforest
Director: Lorry Salcedo Mitrani
New York Premiere
(Peru/USA, 2008, 60m)
English and Spanish with English subtitles
Directors Lorry Salcedo Mitrani in attendance
This documentary follows the conversion process of a contemporary Peruvian community descended from indigenous women and Jewish men who settled the Amazon during the late 19th century rubber boom. Raised with mixed religious traditions and faced with numerous challenges, some residents remain in the Amazon while others become Israeli citizens.
Director: Jacob Dammas
New York Premiere
(Poland/Denmark, 2007, 26m)
Danish and Polish with English subtitles
Somewhere in Warsaw, Poland, a 150-kilogram German-made credenza holds in its sturdy cupboards the 80-year-old history of Jacob Dammas’s Polish-Jewish family. They left the heirloom behind when forced to leave Poland in 1968. Dammas defies his mother’s wishes and follows the credenza’s trail in this humorous and beautifully rendered wild goose chase.
Stumbling Stone / Stolperstein
Director: Dörte Franke
U.S. Premiere
(Germany, 2007, 75m)
German with English subtitles
With his project Stolpersteine, German conceptual artist Gunter Demnig has made it his ongoing mission to create one of the largest Holocaust memorial projects in Europe. Images of the fabrication and placement of engraved, brass-capped cobblestones in front of the last-known residences of Jews, Roma and other victims of the Nazis are interwoven with interviews with enthusiasts and critics of the project throughout this captivating bio-doc road movie.
Max Minsky and Me / Max Minsky und ich
Director: Anna Justice
New York Premiere
(Germany, 2007, 95m)
German with English subtitles
Adapted from the best-selling novel by Holly-Jane Rahlens, Max Minsky and Me is a charming, family-friendly comedy set in contemporary Berlin. Nelly, a bookish bat mitzvah candidate and outer space enthusiast, desperately wants to be on her school basketball team and dreams of one day meeting her prince charming. In exchange for doing his homework, a reluctant jock offers Nelly athletic training and, ultimately, his respect.
Mr. Rakowski
Director: Jan Diederen
New York Premiere
(Netherlands, 2007, 77m)
Director Jan Diederen in attendance
Richie Rakowski struggles to bridge an emotional gap with his aging father Sam, a stubborn and stoic Holocaust survivor. Dutch documentary filmmaker Jan Diederen unintentionally takes on the role as mediator between two men who have spent their lives struggling against personal traumas and tragedies. He captures the remarkable transformation of a relationship and the healing of two souls.
Our Disappeared / Nuestros desaparecidos
Director: Juan Mandelbaum
New York Premiere
(USA, 2008, 99m)
English and Spanish with English subtitles
Director Juan Mandelbaum in attendance on Jan 18 & 20
Director Juan Mandelbaum returns to his native Argentina on a very personal mission to uncover what happened to beloved friends who were kidnapped, tortured and murdered during the military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983. Mandelbaum utilizes stunning archival footage and dramatic testimony from parents, siblings, friends and children of the disappeared.
The Gift to Stalin / Podarok Stalinu
Director: Rustem Abdrashev
New York Premiere
(Kazakhstan/Russia/Poland/Israel, 2008, 99m)
Kazakh and Russian with English subtitles
Producer Aliya Uvalzhanova in attendance
In rural Kazakhstan in 1949, Muslim railroad worker Kasym rescues Sashka, a Jewish boy from Moscow who is a victim of Stalin’s ethnic deportations. Adopted by Kasym’s multiethnic clan and renamed Sabyr, the city boy quickly adapts to the new customs, as well as the pastoral landscape. But with hopes of reuniting with his birth family, Sashka participates in a Sovietwide contest to offer Stalin a present for his 70th birthday in exchange for a private audience. Narrated by Sashka, the film shifts from past to present, and from the stunning steppes of Kazakhstan to the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Jester / Der Purimshpiler
Director: Joseph Green and Jan Nowina-Przybylski
New York Premiere of the Restored Print
(Poland, 1937, 90m)
Yiddish with English subtitles
Screening introduced by Sharon Pucker Rivo, co-founder & Executive Director of The National Center for Jewish Film.
Star-crossed lovers sing and dance in this touching musical comedy set in pre-World War I Poland. This newly restored 1937 Yiddish feature offers a taste of Warsaw’s thriving entertainment scene—a mix of shtetl sensibility with European sophistication. Restored by The National Center for Jewish Film.
The Wedding Song / Le chant des mariées
Director: Karin Albou
New York Premiere
(France, 2008, 84m)
French, Arabic, and German with English subtitles
Director Karin Albou in attendance
During World War II, the Nazi occupation of Tunisia strains the friendship of Nour and Myriam, respectively Muslim and Jewish and both preparing for marriage. Karin Albou (La Petite Jerusalem, NYJFF 2006) again portrays interfaith conflicts and the intimate rituals associated with Sephardic Jewish women with supreme power and sensitivity.
Two Lives Plus One / Deux vies… plus une
Director: Idit Cebula
New York Premiere
(France, 2007, 86m)
French with English subtitles
Director Idit Cebula in attendance
The magnetic Emmanuelle Devos stars in this charming and fanciful drama as Eliane, a Parisian schoolteacher in mid-life crisis, who attempts to rewrite her life by becoming a serious author. Suffocated by work and family, Eliane escapes to a graveyard, imagining conversations with her deceased father and finding her voice in the process.
This year’s New York Jewish Film Festival was selected by Rachel Chanoff, Independent Curator; Andrew Ingall, Assistant Curator, The Jewish Museum; Richard Peña, Program Director, The Film Society of Lincoln Center; Aviva Weintraub, Associate Curator and Director of The New York Jewish Film Festival, The Jewish Museum.
Acknowledgements: Daniel Böhm, Gabriela Böhm; Olli Chanoff, Lori Cearley, The Office; Nicola Galliner, Berlin Jewish Film Festival; Faye Ginsburg, NYU Center for Religion & Media; Annette Insdorf, Columbia University; Judy Ironside, UK Jewish Film Festival; Aviva Kempner, Simon Kilmurry, P.O.V./American Documentary, Inc.; Les Rabinowicz, Festival of Jewish Cinema—Australia; Sharon Pucker Rivo, Lisa Rivo, Juliet Burch, National Center for Jewish Film; Sara L. Rubin, Boston Jewish Film Festival; Owen Shapiro, Syracuse International Film Festival; Peter L. Stein, Nancy Fishman, San Francisco Jewish Film Festival; Paula Webster; Isaac Zablocki, The JCC in Manhattan; Helen Zuckerman, Stuart Hands, Toronto Jewish Film Festival; 92YTribeca staff; The Film Society of Lincoln Center staff; and the Jewish Museum staff and Festival interns Joseph Valle, Ronit Waisbrod, and Daniel Wentworth.
The New York Jewish Film Festival is sponsored, in part, by The Martin and Doris Payson Charitable Foundation. Generous funding was also provided by The Liman Foundation, The Jack and Pearl Resnick Foundation, Mimi and Barry Alperin, and other donors. Additional support has been provided through public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency; and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Israel Office of Cultural Affairs in the USA, the French Embassy, the Austrian Cultural Forum New York, Czech Airlines, the Swedish Film Institute, and others provided travel assistance.
Media sponsorship provided by Time Warner Cable; partnership support from Nextbook > a new read on Jewish culture.