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The Jewish Museum and Film at Lincoln Center are delighted to continue their partnership to bring you the 29th annual New York Jewish Film Festival, presenting films from around the world that explore the Jewish experience. This year’s festival presents an engaging lineup of narratives, documentaries, and shorts, from restored classics to world premieres.
Dani Menkin’s documentary Aulcie is the Opening Night selection, screening in its New York premiere on Thursday, January 16. When a scout for the Israeli basketball team Maccabi Tel Aviv spotted Aulcie Perry on Harlem’s Rucker Court in 1976, he recruited the athlete to join their fledgling team. Less than a year later, Perry led the team to a win in the 1977 European Championship, a victory that he repeated four years later. Aulcie delves into the riveting story of this legendary player, who put Israeli basketball on the map, converted to Judaism, became an Israeli citizen, and overcame his demons.
The Closing Night film is the New York premiere of Dror Zahavi’s Crescendo. When a world-famous conductor (played by Toni Erdmann’s Peter Simonischek) accepts the job to create an Israeli-Palestinian youth orchestra, he steps into a firestorm of conflict and mistrust as he tries to bring the two factions of young musicians together in harmony.
The Centerpiece selection focuses on the career of Marceline Loridan-Ivens, the French film director, author, producer, and actress who died in 2018. The Birch Tree Meadow (2003), starring Anouk Aimée and August Diehl, is Loridan-Ivens’s autobiographical drama about an Auschwitz survivor who returns to the camp to confront her past and the young descendant of an SS guard she meets there. This screening is part of an annual initiative highlighting work by women filmmakers that merit broader American recognition.
The 2020 NYJFF marks the 50th anniversary of legendary director Vittorio De Sica’s Academy Award–winning The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. This beloved Italian drama, based on the classic novel by Giorgio Bassani, is set amidst the rise of Fascism in the 1930s. The wealthy, intellectual Finzi-Contini family’s estate serves as a gathering place for the local Jewish community that tries to remain sheltered from the country’s growing anti-Semitism. While romance unfolds behind the tall, stone walls of the garden, an increasingly hostile reality sets in.
The NYJFF will present the World Premiere of the new restoration of Charles Davenport’s long-lost 1919 silent film Broken Barriers (Khavah), the first film based on the Sholem Aleichem stories that inspired Fiddler on the Roof. This story is uniquely told from the perspective of Khavah, Tevye the milkman’s daughter, who falls in love with the gentile boy Fedka and navigates the reverberations from her community and family. Donald Sosin will provide live piano accompaniment. (The restoration was completed by the National Center for Jewish Film.)
This year’s New York Jewish Film Festival was selected by Rachel Chanoff, Director, THE OFFICE performing arts + film; Gabriel Grossman, Coordinator, New York Jewish Film Festival/The Jewish Museum; and Aviva Weintraub, Associate Curator, The Jewish Museum and Director, New York Jewish Film Festival; with Dennis Lim, Director of Programming, Film at Lincoln Center, as adviser.
The New York Jewish Film Festival is made possible by the Martin and Doris Payson Fund for Film and Media.
Generous support is also provided by Wendy Fisher and Dennis Goodman, Sara and Axel Schupf, Louise and Frank Ring, The Liman Foundation, Mimi and Barry Alperin, an anonymous gift, the Ike, Molly and Steven Elias Foundation, Amy and Howard Rubenstein, Robin and Danny Greenspun, Steven and Sheira Schacter, and through public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with City Council.
Additional support is provided by the Polish Cultural Institute New York, Dutch Culture USA, the German Consulate General New York, and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States.
Fiona Drenttel, Intern; Joan Dupont, Film Critic; Nicola Galliner, Jewish Film Festival Berlin & Brandenburg; Stuart Hands, Toronto Jewish Film Festival; Annette Insdorf, Columbia University; Marlene Josephs, Volunteer; Linda Lipson, Volunteer; Richard Peña, Columbia University; Sophie Rupp, Intern.
Additional support is provided by The Jack and Pearl Resnick Foundation.
Opening Night · New York Premiere · Aulcie Perry, Dani Menkin, and Nancy Spielberg in PersonIn 1976, Aulcie Perry was playing basketball in Harlem when scouts from Maccabi Tel Aviv spotted and signed him. A year later, he led the team to their first European Championship, converted to Judaism, and become an Israeli citizen. Dani Menken’s documentary tells the story of this legendary athlete.
Centerpiece Selection · Introduced by Richard Peña at 8:15pm screeningAnouk Aimée and August Diehl star in this astounding autobiographical drama by Marceline Loridan-Ivens, an iconoclastic filmmaker and memoirist from France who passed away in 2018. The film follows an Auschwitz survivor who returns to the camp to confront her past and the young descendant of an SS guard she meets there.
Closing Night · New York Premiere · Alice Brauner and Michael Zechbauer in PersonWhen a world-famous conductor (played by Toni Erdmann’s Peter Simonischek) accepts the job to help establish an Israeli-Palestinian youth orchestra, he steps into a firestorm of conflict and mistrust. Can the two factions of young musicians come together in harmony?
World Premiere of the Restoration · Live Piano Accompaniment by Donald SosinThis long-lost 1919 silent gem, based on the same Sholem Aleichem stories as Fiddler on the Roof, follows Tevye the milkman’s daughter Khavah, who falls in love with the gentile boy Fedka and must navigate the reverberations from this with her community and her family. Restored by the National Center for Jewish Film. With live piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin.
New York PremiereWhen the adolescent daughter of a prominent Tel Aviv veterinarian expresses a wish to end her life, father and child embark on a journey of mutual discovery in this tender debut feature.
New York PremiereAfter a terrorist attack in Rome leads to anti-immigrant hysteria, a freethinking Jewish Nobel Prize–winner living in Tuscany boldly speaks out against the European perspective, and her comments wreak unexpected havoc.
World Premiere · Julia Mintz in PersonThis essential documentary tells the stories of the Jewish partisans who took up arms against Hitler's war machine in World War II. The last surviving partisans tells their stories to director Julia Mintz who shines a spotlight on their bravery through interviews, archival footage, and historic war records.
50th Anniversary Presentation · Introduction by André Aciman on January 26Presented for its 50th anniversary, this classic, Oscar-winning Italian drama is set amid the rise of Fascism in the 1930s. The wealthy, intellectual Finzi-Contini family’s estate serves as a gathering place for the local Jewish community that tries to remain sheltered from the country’s growing anti-Semitism.
New York PremiereA concert pianist from a respected musical family with the dream of raising a musical prodigy is devastated when her son is born deaf. When she doubles down on her expectations for him, her obsession threatens to crush her child.
New York PremiereA young office clerk meets a charismatic man from a bourgeois family, and amid their whirlwind romance a daughter is born. Over the next 50 years, mother and daughter attempt to preserve their love, despite an absent and abusive father.
New York Premiere · Yaron Zilberman and Tamar Sela in PersonThis gripping historical drama, Israel’s submission for the 2020 Academy Awards, follows the radicalization of Israeli ultranationalist Yigal Amir in the year leading up to his assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
New York PremiereThe year is 1940, and the French-Jewish socialist reformer Prime Minister Leon Blum has been imprisoned at Buchenwald. This touching drama tells the story of Jeanne Reichenbach, who has loved Blum since they were teenagers and risks everything to reunite with him in prison.
U.S. Premiere · Yiscah Smith, Eyal Ben Moshe, and Rachel Rusinek in PersonThis beautiful documentary tells the story of Yiscah Smith, who was living as an ultra-orthodox married man with six children and deep ties in the Hasidic community before abruptly leaving Israel. Twenty years later, Smith returned—as a woman. Screens with Butterflies in Berlin: Diary of a Soul Split in Two.
New York City Premiere · Isaac Cherem in PersonA young Jewish woman in Mexico City struggles to do the right thing as she navigates a forbidden love in this heartfelt, dramatic, and contemporary take on a timeless love story.
U.S. PremiereThe Israeli transit camps of 1948-1952 were built to accommodate the surge of immigrants following World War II. This documentary explores the controversial initiative, in which over 300,000 immigrants lived in tents, tin huts, and contributed to the divide between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews in Israel.
New York PremiereThe effervescent and brilliant French director, author, producer, and actress Marceline Loridan-Ivens dazzles in this documentary portrait, which dives into her life as a radical filmmaker, Holocaust survivor, and loving partner.
New York Premiere · Dalit Kimor, Keren Ben Horin & Miriam Ruzow in personThe Gottex swimwear empire was founded by legendary designer, Holocaust survivor, and larger-than-life character Lea Gottlieb. Her unyielding vision and complex relationships with her daughters are on display in this inspiring documentary. Screening with Gurit Kadman.
New York Premiere · Elise Otzenberger in PersonWhen two French newlyweds take their honeymoon in Poland, the home of their Jewish grandparents, excitement about their families’ histories gives way to anxiety and culture clash in this dark romantic comedy.
New York Premiere · Dani Menkin, Amos Nachoum, and Nancy Spielberg in Person on January 15Yom Kippur War veteran Amos Nachoum is one of the greatest underwater photographers of all time, but he has struggled to safely photograph one beautiful predator: the polar bear. Picture of His Life is the breathtaking portrayal of Nachoum’s search for the formidable bear and, with it, some semblance of inner peace.
New York PremiereThis synthesis of archival footage, animation, and interviews chronicles the 1964 Rivonia Trial in apartheid South Africa, which led to Nelson Mandela and his nine other black and Jewish co-defendants being sentenced to life imprisonment. There were no cameras in court, but this rousing documentary puts 256 hours of newly discovered audio to brilliant use.
World Premiere · Brad Rothschild and Tamar Manasseh in PersonThis moving and timely documentary tells the story of Tamar Manasseh, the African-American rabbinical student who is combating gun violence on the South Side of Chicago with magnetic, self-assured energy through her organization MASK, or Mothers Against Senseless Killing.
New York Premiere · Introduction by Columbia University Film Professor Annette Insdorf at the 9pm screeningThe 42-year-old Aldo lives a solitary life in Budapest in the years following his imprisonment and the loss of his wife and child during the Holocaust. When he meets 16-year-old Klara, whose family was also murdered by the Nazis, they form a father-daughter connection that helps them both heal. Screening with Life Is All There Is.
New York PremiereThis stunning drama, based on the best-selling novel by Judith Kerr, tells the story of a 9-year-old girl and her family’s jarring dislocation, experienced by so many German Jews who fled the country before the war.
Danielle Durchslag and Pearl Gluck in PersonThese five compelling shorts directed by women offer bold, incisive, and darkly funny looks at contemporary Jewish femininity.
Free and open to the public! · Presented by HBOJoin Yaron Zilberman, writer and director of NYJFF selection Incitement, for a master class on screenwriting and directing. In addition to Incitement, Israel’s submission for the 2020 Academy Awards, Zilberman is the award-winning writer-director-producer of A Late Quartet and Watermarks.
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