New York Jewish Film Festival 2010

January 13 - 28, 2010

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

Come in from the cold for some riveting firsts at this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival, co-presented by the Jewish Museum and The Film Society of Lincoln Center. Ajami debuts in New York having already won five “Ophirs”—Israeli Film Academy Awards—including Best Picture. In a rare co-direction by a Palestinian and an Israeli, this feature film is set in multi-ethnic Jaffa, where lives become tragically entangled.

Never before has the NYJFF offered claymation, until now, with Adam Elliot’s Mary and Max, which opened the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. The feature-length film centers around Mary Dinkle, a chubby, lonely 8-year-old Australian girl and Max Horovitz, a 44-year-old, Jewish New Yorker with Asperger’s syndrome. Voice talents include Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Bana, Toni Colette and Barry “Dame Edna” Humphries.

Leap of Faith is the first long-form documentary to intimately explore religious conversion. Four families are shown letting go of old practices to accept Orthodox Judaism. There’s an impressive range of people—Messianic Jews in Colorado; a recent bat mitzvah whose admission to a Jewish school is challenged; a single mother and U.S. Army reservist; and a Trinidadian nanny in New York.

The many who attended the 2009 New York Jewish Film Festival were among the first audiences to see the following films which went on to theatrical release: Karin Albou’s Wedding Song and Daniel Burman’s Empty Nest. Broadcast releases included Michal Goldman’s At Home in Utopia and Juan Mandelbaum’s Our Disappeared, which aired on PBS’s Independent Lens series.


Saviors in the Night / Unter Bauern: Retter in der Nacht
Ludi Boeken, Germany/France, 2009; 100m
U.S. Premiere
Based on the memoir of Marga Spiegel, this powerful World War II drama portrays how courageous German farmers in Westphalia risked their lives to hide a Jewish family. Passing as Aryan, Marga and her daughter develop a warm relationship with the Aschoff family, particularly young Anni, who is initially faithful to Nazism. Meanwhile Marga’s husband, sheltered by another farmer, runs the daily risk of discovery. Marga Spiegel, Ludi Boeken, Director, and Actors Margarita Broich, Veronica Ferres, and Lia Hoensbroech will be in attendance.
Within the Whirlwind
Marleen Gorris
Germany/Poland/Belgium, 2009; 98m
New York Premiere
Jewish poet and professor Evgenia Ginzburg lived a privileged life in Stalinist Russia—until faced with trumped-up charges of conspiracy. Stripped of her Communist Party membership and teaching post, Ginzburg served a ten-year sentence in a Siberian gulag, surviving through the kindness of her fellow inmates and the power of poetry. Based on Ginzburg’s memoirs, this epic from Oscar-winner Marleen Gorris (Antonia’s Line) features stunning performances by Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves) and Ulrich Tukur (The Lives of Others). Marleen Gorris, Director, and Christine Ruppert, Producer, will be in attendance.
Ahead of Time
Bob Richman, USA, 2009; 73m
U.S. Premiere
Born in Brooklyn in 1911, Ruth Gruber had an extraordinary career as a foreign correspondent and photojournalist spanning seven decades. The first journalist to enter the Soviet Arctic (in 1935), she escorted Holocaust refugees to America in ’44, covered the Nuremberg trials in ’46, and reported on the plight of the ship Exodus in ’47. In this riveting documentary Gruber recounts her adventures with gentle humor and deep insight. Ruth Gruber and Zeva Oelbaum, Producer, will be in attendance at all screenings. Bob Richman, Director, will be in attendance on 1/14.
preceded by
Making the Crooked Straight
Susan Cohn Rockefeller, USA, 2008; 29m
New York Premiere
Dr. Rick Hodes, an Orthodox Jew born on Long Island, has dedicated the past 20 years of his life to helping heal the sick and poor of Ethiopia, focusing on patients with tuberculosis of the spine. This extraordinary documentary explores his work, his unusual family life—he has fostered 17 children—and the spirituality guiding his choices. Courtesy HBO Documentary Films. Susan Cohn Rockefeller, Director, will be in attendance.
Scandar Copti & Yaron Shani
Israel/Germany, 2008; 120m
New York Premiere
Co-directed by a Palestinian and an Israeli, Ajami is a visceral crime drama with a strong ensemble cast. In a multi-ethnic Jaffa neighborhood, a powerful Bedouin clan wages a vendetta against a poor family. A teenage worker from the Occupied Territories desperately tries to raise money to help his ailing mother. A Jewish police detective struggles with the disappearance of his brother. And an affluent Palestinian and his Jewish girlfriend dream about the future. As these stories intersect, we witness the dramatic collision of different worlds. Ajami is the winner of five Ophirs (Israeli Oscars), including Best Picture, and is Israel’s submission to the 2010 Academy Awards®. Scandar Copti, Director, and Yaron Shani, Director, will be in attendance.
The Axe of Wandsbek / Das Beil von Wandsbek
Falk Harnack, East Germany, 1951; 111m
New York Premiere of Restored Print
Adapted from the 1947 novel by Arnold Zweig, this gripping drama set in 1934 follows a man who is paid by the Nazis to serve as a public executioner and goes on to be rejected by his community. The Axe Of Wandsbek considers the role that common citizens played in Nazi crimes. Barton Byg, DEFA Film Library/UMass-Amherst, will be in attendance.
Bar Mitzvah
Henry Lynn, USA, 1935; 83m
U.S. Premiere of Restored Print
In this classic of Yiddish cinema, a mother miraculously survives a shipwreck and shocks the family by appearing at her son’s bar mitzvah. Giving up his wife for dead, the husband has remarried a scheming gold-digger. Starring the legendary Boris Thomashefsky in his only film performance, this melodrama not only features wails and moans, but also classic songs, vaudeville jokes, and fancy dancing. Newly restored and subtitled by The National Center for Jewish Film. Sharon Rivo, National Center for Jewish Film, will be in attendance.
Berlin ’36
Kaspar Heidelbach, Germany/UK, 2009; 110m
New York Premiere
Based on actual events, Berlin ’36 tells a dramatic story of friendship during that year’s infamous Olympics. After the Americans threaten a boycott if no Jewish athletes are on the German team, Gretel Bergmann, a Jewish champion high jumper, is invited to train. Contriving a scheme to spoil Gretel’s victory, the Reich promotes an unknown athlete named Marie Ketteler. Neither Gretel nor her teammates have any idea that Marie is a man passing as a woman, nor did the Nazis predict that the pair could become friends. Let the games begin! Margaret Bergmann-Lambert will be in attendance on 1/21.
Einsatzgruppen: The Death Brigades / Les Commandos De La Mort
Michaël Prazan, France, 2009; 180m
U.S. Premiere
This meticulous documentary looks at the Einsatzgruppen, mobile commandos who carried out the murder of 1.5 million Jews, Roma (gypsies), Communists, disabled people, partisans, and Soviet prisoners of war. Highly educated officers delegated most of the killing to those commandos. Featuring newly discovered archival material, this extraordinary film also includes testimony from Holocaust survivors, witnesses, and perpetrators. Part I: The Mass Graves (1941-1942); Part II: The Funeral Pyres (1942-1945). Shown with one intermission. Michael Prazan, Director, will be in attendance.
Eyes Wide Open / Eynayim Pekuhot
Haim Tabakman, Israel, 2009; 90m
New York Premiere
Aaron, an ultra-Orthodox butcher in Jerusalem and a dedicated husband and father, hires Ezri, a handsome student, as his apprentice. When his time with Ezri comes at the expense of his family life, Aaron faces threats from neighbors and town elders. Haim Tabakman’s sensitive feature debut explores the devastating consequences of forbidden passion. Haim Tabakman, Director, will be in attendance.
preceded by
Kallah (Bride)
Miri Shapiro, UK, 2007; 15m
U.S. Premiere
Burdened with a sick parent, Sarah struggles with the preparations for becoming a “kosher Jewish bride.”
Forgotten Transports: To Poland / Zapomenute Trasnporty: Do Polsko
Lukás Pribyl, Czech Republic, 2009; 90m
New York Premiere
Lukás Pribyl (Forgotten Transports: To Estonia, NYJFF 2009) returns with a moving documentary on Czech Jews deported by the Nazis to camps and ghettos in Eastern Poland’s Lublin region. Using meticulous research methods and declassified archival footage and photographs, Pribyl delves into the psyche of individuals on the run. Of the nearly 13,000 Czech and Moravian Jews deported to Poland, only 50 survived; several provide testimony for the first time. Lukas Pribyl, Director, will be in attendance.
Ron Ofer & Yohai Hakak, Israel, 2009; 50m
New York Premiere
This astonishing documentary juxtaposes the lives of two of Israel’s most prominent ultra-Orthodox leaders. Shmuel Chaim Pappenheim is an anti-Zionist radical activist who organizes mass protests against the secular state. The late Avraham Ravitz was a former IDF soldier and a longtime Knesset member who worked within the system to advance his constituency’s religious agenda. This film closely follows them as the 2006 elections approach.
preceded by
Chronicle of a Kidnap
Nurit Kedar, Israel, 2008; 55m
New York Premiere
In this riveting documentary, activist Karnit Goldwasser steps into the media spotlight on behalf of her husband Ehud (Udi), a soldier abducted in 2006 by Hezbollah in Lebanon. The film is an intimate portrait of Karnit’s heroic efforts to lobby for Ehud’s release.
Gruber’s Journey / Calatoria Lui Gruber
Radu Gabrea, Romania, 2008; 100m
Suffering from severe allergies, Italian journalist and consul Curzio Malaparte must navigate the outrageous bureaucracy of Nazi-occupied Romania as he desperately searches for a Jewish doctor named Josef Gruber. This involving drama with elements of farce is based on the experiences of Malaparte, a disaffected supporter of fascism. Radu Gabrea, Director, will be in attendance.
Happy End
Frans Weisz, Netherlands, 2009; 87m
U.S. Premiere
“One hour above ground is worth more than an eternity underneath it.” So says patriarch Simon as family and friends gather around him. Meanwhile, the younger generation of this much-haunted Jewish Dutch family steps forward. Frans Weisz (Qui Vive, NYJFF 2002) returns with the final chapter of his dramatic trilogy, in which a circle of friends and family (and at least one ghost) struggle with the traces of World War II, deep secrets, and their intertwined relationships. Frans Weisz, Director, will be in attendance at all screenings. Jip Loots, Actor, will be in attendance on 1/17.
preceded by
Point of View / Eynayim Sheli
Avishag Leibovich, Israel, 2008; 18m
U.S. Premiere
With her failing vision, Herta needs care and companionship from her granddaughter, Noa. When not reading aloud the subtitles to Herta’s favorite telenovela, Noa tries to bring some romance into her own life.
A History of Israeli Cinema
Raphaël Nadjari, France/Israel, 2009; 210m
Raphaël Nadjari (Tehilim, NYJFF 2008) returns with an extraordinary documentary on the evolution of Israel’s cinema and its parallels with the country’s history. Clips and interviews with directors, scholars and critics—including NYJFF alumni Joseph Cedar, Amos Gitai, and Moshe Mizrahi—explore early Zionist propaganda films, ethnic comedies aimed at Sephardic immigrants, political films of the ’80s, and more. Part I covers 1933–1978. Part II covers 1978–2005. Shown with one intermission.
Human Failure / Menschliches Versagen
Michael Verhoeven, Germany, 2008; 91m
New York Premiere
In this chilling documentary, Michael Verhoeven (director of the Oscar-nominated feature The Nasty Girl) reveals the expropriation and sale of Jewish assets that benefited innumerable citizens of the Third Reich. Using documentation from recently opened German archives and riveting interviews with archivists, historians, and descendants of Jewish families who lost apartments, bank accounts and property, Verhoeven uncovers involvement at all levels, from tax officials to merchants to the next-door neighbors.
The Jazz Baroness
Hannah Rothschild, UK, 2009; 90m
New York Premiere
A descendant of the famous Jewish dynasty, Baroness Pannonica “Nica” Rothschild de Konigswarter abruptly leaves her family and creates a new one among celebrated jazz musicians in postwar New York. She goes on to become Thelonious Monk’s close friend and muse, a patron saint for the bebop world. Documentary filmmaker Hannah Rothschild delves into her great aunt’s biography, Monk’s troubled mental health, and the pair’s different backgrounds. Featuring illuminating interviews with Quincy Jones, Sonny Rollins, Clint Eastwood, The Duchess of Devonshire—and the voice of Helen Mirren as Nica.
Leap of Faith
Stephen Z. Friedman & Antony Benjamin
USA, 2009; 95m
New York Premiere
Four families experience the difficulties of abandoning their traditions and embracing Judaism in this groundbreaking documentary. Subjects include former Messianic Jews in Colorado; a recent bat mitzvah whose admission to a Jewish high school is challenged; a single mother and U.S. Army reservist whose 10-year-old son is deeply conflicted over religious and filial allegiances; and a motivated Trinidadian nanny in New York. Directors Antony Benjamin and Stephen Friedman, will be in attendance. The 8:30 p.m. screening will be followed by a panel discussion including Leslie Rawlins, Subject.
Leon Blum: For All Mankind
Jean Bodon, France, 2009; 58m
U.S. Premiere
This powerful documentary tells the story of a prominent French leader—a Jew who at different times was prime minister of France and a prisoner in the Buchenwald concentration camp. Blum devoted his life to improving the well-being of French workers and was an early champion of women’s rights. In 1936, he became prime minister; during his time in office, he led the Popular Front. In 1940, his socialist views and Jewish heritage placed him in jeopardy. The Vichy government sentenced him to five years in Buchenwald. After the war, Blum was welcomed home by the French people and was reelected prime minister. Jean Bodon, Director, and Antoine Malamoud, Grandson of Leon Blum, will be in attendance. Jean Bodon will be attending on 1/18 and 1/19.
preceded by
Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness
Llewellyn Smith, USA, 2009; 57m
Co-presented by the Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival. By tracing Black cultural roots directly to Africa, Melville J. Herskovits (1895-1963), a white Jewish anthropologist, instilled pride in many African Americans. However, he simultaneously undercut the scholarship of African American social scientists, dismissing their work as subjective and agenda driven. Interestingly, Herskovits’s work ultimately fueled the Black Power movement of the late 1960s. Using innovative animation and reenactments, this brilliant documentary examines the politics and power brokering associated with cultural history. Llewellyn Smith, Director, will be in attendance on 1/18.
Mary and Max
Adam Elliot, Australia, 2008; 92m
New York Premiere
Oscar-winning director Adam Elliot’s claymation feature is a tale of an extraordinary epistolary relationship between Mary Dinkle, a chubby, lonely eight-year-old girl in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max Horovitz, a 44-year-old, severely obese, Jewish New Yorker with Asperger’s Syndrome. Featuring the voices of Eric Bana, Toni Colette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Barry “Dame Edna” Humphries. Paul Hardart, Executive Producer, will be in attendance on 1/23.
The Peretzniks / Perecowicze
Slawomir Grünberg, Poland/U.S., 2009; 92m
U.S. Premiere
Alumni of the Jewish Peretz School recall their adolescence in Lodz before the 1968 anti-Semitic campaign. The Peretzniks never fully said goodbye to Poland or their beloved schoolmates and teachers. Documentary filmmaker Grünberg gathers the diaspora of alumni to share memories of friendship, crushes, mischief, and the trauma of forced exile. Slawomir Grunberg, Director, will be in attendance.
preceded by
Happy Jews
Jonathan Rozenbaum, Israel/Poland, 2008; 6m
U.S. Premiere
With home movies and a sense of humor, a young filmmaker reflects on a reunion of Polish Jews who emigrated as a result of the anti-Semitic campaign in 1968.
Protector / Protektor
Marek Najbrt, Czech Republic, 2009; 98m
New York Premiere
Set in Nazi-occupied Prague in the late 1930s, Protector is a stylish drama focusing on the marriage of radio journalist Emil (Marek Daniel) and his Jewish wife Hana (Jana Plodková), a famous film star. Emil seizes a chance at career advancement, becoming the official mouthpiece of the Reich, in order to offer a measure of protection to Hana. Their fraying relationship reaches a crisis point after the assassination of SS Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich by Czechoslovak paratroopers. Protector is the Czech Republic’s submission for the 2010 Foreign Language Oscar. Marek Najbrt, Director, Benjamin Tucek, Co-Writer, and Milan Kuchynka, Producer, will be in attendance.
preceded by
With a Little Patience
Laszlo Nemes, Hungary, 2008; 14m
New York Premiere
In one wordless take, this finely crafted short shows an enigmatic woman at work while a man waits for her.
Valentina’s Mother / Ima Shel Valentina
Matti Harari & Arik Lubetzky, Israel, 2008; 75m
New York Premiere
After resisting her son’s attempts to find live-in help, Paula agrees to hire Valentina, a young Polish housekeeper. Speaking and singing in Polish, the two enjoy each other’s companionship until Paula’s repressed memories of the Holocaust start to emerge. Based on a novella by Israeli writer Savyon Liebrecht, this haunting drama features strong performances and an unforgettable ending. Matti Harari, Director, will be in attendance.
preceded by
Pini Tavger, Israel, 2008; 32m
New York Premiere
A nine-year-old son of Russian immigrants in Israel seeks out the warmth and companionship of his religious neighbors.
Alain Tasma, France/Israel/Italy, 2008; 101m
New York Premiere
In this multinational thriller set during the 1990/91 Persian Gulf War, a young couple in Jerusalem declares battle with each other while Iraq threatens Israel with the possibility of chemical warfare. Luisa, a beautiful French-Italian student, her tempestuous lover Nathanaël, and their friends seal rooms, don gas masks, and wait in fear. Starring French heartthrob Gaspard Ulliel, the glamorous Jasmine Trinca, and an ensemble of Israel’s most talented actors, including Hana Laszlo, Lior Ashkenazi,and Sarah Adler. Alain Tasma, Director, will be in attendance.
preceded by
Eitan Efrat and Sirah Foighel Brutmann, Netherlands/Israel, 2008; 3m
New York Premiere
A young Israeli performs as a one-man marching band while relating his mother’s fears about his military service.

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 NYJFF, the Jewish Museum.

Ariella J. Ben-Dov, Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival, Olli Chanoff, Lori Cearley, The Office; Foundation for Jewish Culture; Nicola Galliner, Berlin Jewish Film Festival; Annette Insdorf, Columbia University; Judy Ironside, UK Jewish Film Festival; Aviva Kempner; Irena Kovarova, Czech Film Center; Les Rabinowicz, Festival of Jewish Cinema—Australia; Sharon Rivo, Lisa Rivo, Juliet Burch, National Center for Jewish Film; Sara L. Rubin, Boston Jewish Film Festival; Chana C. Schütz, Centrum Judaicum, Berlin; Peter L. Stein, Nancy Fishman, San Francisco Jewish Film Festival; Alla Verlotsky, Seagull Films; Isaac Zablocki, The JCC in Manhattan; Stuart Hands, Toronto Jewish Film Festival; The Film Society of Lincoln Center staff; the Jewish Museum staff; Festival interns: Jaron Gandelman, Rudabeh Shahid; and Festival volunteers: Daniela Bajar, Marlene Josephs, Linda Lipson.
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 and the French Embassy provided travel assistance.


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