The year 2017 marks the 26th edition of the New York Jewish Film Festival. We are delighted by continuing our partnership between the Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center to bring you the finest narrative and documentary films from around the world that explore the diversity of Jewish experience.
This year’s festival features a wide-ranging and exciting lineup of films and shorts from the iconic to the iconoclastic. Including global, U.S., and New York premieres, a tribute to actress and cabaret artist Valeska Gert, a 50th anniversary screening of Mel Brooks’s The Producers, and a related poster exhibition honoring the life and work of Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, this year’s NYJFF will entertain film lovers from all backgrounds.
This year’s New York Jewish Film Festival was selected by Rachel Chanoff, Director, THE OFFICE performing arts + film; Jaron Gandelman, Curatorial Assistant for Media, Jewish Museum and Coordinator, New York Jewish Film Festival; Jens Hoffmann, Director of Special Exhibitions and Public Programs, Jewish Museum and Curator for Special Programs, New York Jewish Film Festival; Dennis Lim, Director of Programming, Film Society of Lincoln Center; Aviva Weintraub, Associate Curator, Jewish Museum and Director, New York Jewish Film Festival; and Tyler Wilson, Programming Coordinator, Film Society of Lincoln Center.
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, Mimi and Barry Alperin, an anonymous gift, the Ike, Molly and Steven Elias Foundation, Ruth and Stephen Hendel, Amy and Howard Rubenstein, 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 Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs, the Polish Cultural Institute New York, and the German Consulate General New York. The Film Society of Lincoln Center receives additional support for the New York Jewish Film Festival from The Jack & Pearl Resnick Foundation.
Dakota Arkin, Volunteer; Nicola Galliner, Jewish Film Festival Berlin & Brandenburg; Stuart Hands, Toronto JFF; Judy Ironside, UK Jewish Film; Marlene Josephs, Volunteer; Aviva Kempner; Frances Kilgour, BBC; Philippa Kowarsky, Cinephil; Claudia Landsberger, BaseWorx For Film; Julija Lazutkaite, Visiting Assistant; Linda Lipson, Volunteer; Joanna Ney; Miriam Niedergang, Film Festival Intern; Richard Peña; Sharon Rivo, Lisa Rivo, National Center for Jewish Film; Oren Rudavsky; Sam Sarowitz, Posteritati; Barton Byg, Hiltrud Schulz, DEFA Film Library; Isaac Zablocki, JCC in Manhattan
For Valeska Gert programming, special thanks to Gian Luca Farinelli, Il Cinema Ritrovato/Cineteca Bologna; J. Hoberman; Volker Schlöndorff; and the following archives: British Film Institute; Deutsches Filminstitut; and the National Film Archive, Czech Republic.
The 2017 New York Jewish Film Festival features a wide-ranging and exciting lineup of films and shorts from the iconic to the iconoclastic. Including global, U.S., and New York premieres, a tribute to actress and cabaret artist Valeska Gert, a 50th anniversary screening of Mel Brooks’s The Producers, and a related poster exhibition honoring the life and work of Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, this year’s NYJFF will entertain film lovers from all backgrounds.
Click here to download the festival brochure as a PDF.
Opening Night · Q&As with Dorit Hakim and actress Yuval ScharfWhen two estranged young sisters— Lenny who stayed in their childhood home to take care of their father, and Mira, who left for a fast new life in Tel Aviv—are reunited, they must come to terms with each other and the circumstances that tore them apart. Love and affection bind the characters and lead them toward fragile redemption.
Centerpiece · U.S. Premiere ·Q&As with Bernard-Henri LévyIn 2015, French Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy sought to understand the psychology and culture of those embroiled with ISIS in the Middle East. Travelling with a team of cameramen through Iraqi Kurdistan, he captures an unprecedented view of a war that rages in our own time, and whose stakes are of global importance.
Closing Night · Introduction by author Leo Spitzer and Q&A with actor Stephen Singer at 9pmKnown for her performances in Aimée and Jaguar and In Darkness, Maria Schrader goes behind the camera to chronicle the years of exile of Stefan Zweig, one of the most widely read German writers of his time.
Q&As with Alon Schwarz & Shaul SchwarzBorn inside the a displaced persons camp in 1945 and sent for adoption in Israel, 70-year-old Izak never knew of his brother, Shep, or his mother, Aida, until an emotionally wrought search leads him to find them both in Canada, unbeknownst to one another, in this thought-provoking story about resilience, compassion and what makes us who we are.
World Premiere · Q&A with Andrea SimonThis documentary portrait of a Bulgarian Jewish filmmaker, novelist, partisan warrior, and lifelong revolutionary introduces American viewers to a brilliant and charismatic artist, for whom art became a form of resistance against a series of oppressive and corrupt regimes. Screening with: Stars (Sterne) (Konrad Wolf, 88m).
U.S. Premiere • Free Event · Q&A with Samantha PetersFor five decades the woman they call "The Divine Miss M" forged a path that has taken her from a pineapple canning factory in Honolulu to the highest echelons of Hollywood. The BBC’s Imagine series joins Bette Midler on her journey through the chorus lines of Broadway, the bathhouses and nightclubs of New York City in the 1970s, and to the top of the film industry.
U.S. Premiere · Q&As with Michal AviadThis stunning documentary focuses on women from North Africa and Poland who journeyed to Israel by ship in the 1950s and 1960s and were sent to Dimona, a newly established town in the desert. Intimate conversations are interwoven with stunning archival footage and music of the time.
U.S. Premiere · Q&As with Gabrielle Zilkha and producer Jenn MasonEncouraged by her mother to celebrate the Jewish High Holidays while volunteering in Ghana, documentary filmmaker Gabrielle Zilkha discovers a little-known Jewish community in rural Sefwi Wiawso where she befriends a man whose family had been practicing Judaism there for centuries. Screening with Kol Nidre #3 (Tatiana McCabe, 4m).
Q&As with Oren Rosenfeld & producer Michal Lee SapirThree Israelis with little in common share one important characteristic: their love for hummus, the tahini and chickpea-based spread that is one of the country’s dietary staples. In this lively and heartfelt documentary, filmmaker Oren Rosenfeld demonstrates how a simple food can help us transcend religious and cultural divides. Screening with Numbers Guy (Vanessa Jung, 33m).
U.S. Premiere · Q&As with Emmanuel BourdieuThis drama is based on the real-life encounter between the controversial French author Louis-Ferdinand Céline, who was accused of collaborating with the Nazis, and Milton Hindus, a young American Jewish professor, in 1948. Denis Lavant (Holy Motors) brings us into the mind of the great, if deeply troubled, artist.
Q&As with Marie NoëlleAn intimate biography of the Nobel Prize–winning physicist and chemist. Famous for her study of radioactivity, Marie Curie’s personal life was no less electric. From her trailblazing path through male-dominated academia to her romantic adventures and happy marriage, this Polish film portrays a woman who revolutionized science and followed her own heart.
Q&As with Danae ElonIn 2005, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in Jerusalem was accused of selling properties to Jewish Settlers. He was deposed and confined to his room in the Old City for eleven years. Documentarian Danae Elon (Another Road Home, P.S. Jerusalem) forges a special relationship with the Patriarch to unravel the twisted story.
Q&As with Nili Tal & Laurel ChitenAfflicted with a rare genetic disease, nine-year-old Nur has only one chance of survival: crossing the border from Gaza into Israel, where doctors are capable of performing a liver transplant. This documentary from filmmaker Nili Tal (Ukraine Brides, Etched in My Body, Sixty and the City) demonstrates the transformative power of humanity and hope. Screening with: My Travels with Oliver (Laurel Chiten, 7m).
Set in 1937, Scarred Hearts, inspired by Romanian author Max Blecher's novel, centers on a young intellectual in a sanatorium on the Black Sea coast. Despite his physical condition, Emmanuel encourages his fellow patients to live life fully, listen to jazz, and throw the occasional drunken party. Meanwhile, outside the sanatorium walls, fascism is on the rise.
World Premiere · Q&As with Amos GitaiShalom Rabin is a film diary that follows director Amos Gitai as he journeys to Washington, Cairo, Gaza, and Jerusalem at the time of the Oslo Accords. With footage taken from Gitai’s exclusive archive, it includes excerpts from a profoundly moving, extended interview with Yitzhak Rabin and some of the leaders of the time shortly before Rabin’s assassination in November 1995.
Angel Wagenstein wrote this drama based on what happened to him during the Holocaust in the Balkans, shedding light on the Sephardic experience. In a secluded Bulgarian village in 1943, Walter, an artist and sergeant in the Wehrmacht, lives an almost idyllic life far away from the war. When a transit camp is set up for Jews arriving from Greece, he must decide whether to listen to their appeals for help.
Q&A with Tomer Heymann on January 14; Q&A with Barak Heymann on January 22
An HIV-positive gay man living in London, Israeli expat Saar finds refuge in the British capital from the religious kibbutz where he grew up. Saar and his fellow members of the London Gay Men's Chorus provide a glorious soundtrack for this documentary about the necessity of forgiveness and the power of home.
Q&As with producer Andrea PatiernoTriumphs and Laments documents one of contemporary artist William Kentridge’s most ambitious and controversial projects: a colossal frieze along the banks of the Tiber river in Rome portraying the glories and tragedies of the Eternal City that was commissioned in the summer of 2016.
Q&As with Emil Ben-ShimonAn accident during a bar mitzvah celebration leads to a gendered rift in an Orthodox community in Jerusalem in this rousing, good-hearted tale about women speaking truth to patriarchal power. Emil Ben-Shimon's feature debut is a warm portrait of a community seeking to balance protocol with practical and progressive values.
Q&A with Francine ZuckermanA collection of five short films transport us from 1930s Czechoslovakia to a contemporary Tel Aviv museum.
Tribute to Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder
Q&A with actor Josh Mostel and screenwriter Walter BernsteinJoin us for Mel Brooks’s hilarious directorial debut, starring Zero Mostel as the down-on-his-luck theatrical producer Max Bialystock, and Gene Wilder as his timid accountant Leo Bloom. The Producers won the 1968 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
On view in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery.
On loop from noon to 9pm daily in the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center Amphitheater, except during other programming.
Honoring Valeska Gert
Born to a German Jewish family, Valeska Gert (1892-1978) was an eccentric dancer, a star of Weimar cabaret, and one of the forgotten pioneers of performance art. Gert appeared in three movies for director G. W. Pabst, including The Threepenny Opera, and made others with the experimental filmmakers Carl Junghans and Alberto Cavalcanti. Fleeing Europe but too radical for Hollywood, Gert opened cabarets in New York and Provincetown. Late in life, she was discovered by young German filmmakers Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Volker Schlöndorff—who, shortly before her death made the irrepressible octogenarian the subject of an hour-long documentary.
—J. Hoberman, film critic and author.
Introduction by film critic and author J. HobermanThis naturalistic portrait of working-class Prague was among the strongest Czech films of the 1920s. The international cast includes Valeska Gert, typically uninhibited in a featured role as the provocative waitress who takes up with the movie’s loutish protagonist. This new digital restoration features an electronic musical score by Czech musician Jan Burian.
Introduction by Mel Gordon, professor emeritus of theater arts at the University of California, BerkeleyLoosely based on the 1928 Brecht-Weill musical, itself adapted from John Gay’s 18th-century The Beggar’s Opera, G. W. Pabst’s film features several members of the original Berlin cast—including Lotte Lenya as Pirate Jenny and Ernst Busch as the Street Singer—as well as Valeska Gert in the role of heroine Polly Peachum’s mother.
Introduction by Mel Gordon, professor emeritus of theater arts at the University of California, BerkeleyRemarkably spry in her mid-eighties, Valeska Gert holds forth on her life and even recreates a number of her dances in Volker Schlöndorff’s documentary portrait. She recounts her eventful life, from her performances as the self-described “Grotesque Dancer” in 1920s Berlin, Moscow, and Paris, to her later years. Screening with: Pett and Pott: A Fairy Story of the Suburbs (Alberto Cavalcanti, 32m).
Free EventMel Gordon, professor emeritus of theater arts at the University of California, Berkeley, speaks about self-described “Grotesque Dancer” Valeska Gert, who defied all contemporary classification and was considered one of the most inventive and original entertainers of the Weimar Era. The lecture includes rare illustrations and film clips.
Free EventTomer Heymann leads a behind-the-scenes master class on documentary filmmaking. Together with his brother, Barak, he has directed a number of films including past NYJFF favorites like The Queen Has No Crown (2011). The brothers’ current films, Mr. Gaga and Who’s Gonna Love Me Now?, are screening in this festival.
Free EventThis panel discussion examines the role and format of biopics and filmic portraits and the expanded understanding of this genre in today’s filmmaking. Panelists include filmmakers from this year’s festival lineup and other guests, moderated by Jens Hoffmann, Director of Special Exhibitions and Public Programs.
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