New York Jewish Film Festival 2007
Submitted to: Events 
Posted: December 27 2006


27 December 2006 ( - The Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center will present the 16th annual New York Jewish Film Festival from January 10 through 25, 2007. One of the longest running collaborations of two arts institutions in New York City, the festival will take place at The Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center, 165 West 65th Street, with two screenings at The Jewish Museum, Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street.

Featuring two world, nine United States, and nine New York premieres, the festival will present 31 productions illuminating the rich diversity of the international Jewish experience from Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Mexico, The Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. Dramas, documentaries, shorts and comedies including films concerned with art, women, families and alternative families are among the diverse array of festival offerings. A number of the filmmakers will be in New York during the festival to discuss their films.

Director Alejandro Springall’s My Mexican Shivah will receive its United States premiere. In this charming comedy, family and friends in Mexico City mourn the passing of a much beloved patriarch. Mourners include a Catholic ex-lover, an Orthodox ex-convict grandson and a troupe of mariachi musicians, while two Yiddish-speaking spirits observe events and account for the dead man’s soul. Based on a story by Ilan Stavans, this film is co-produced by John Sayles and Maggie Renzi with a score by the Klezmatics.

Four documentaries and one feature focus on contemporary life in Israel. Renowned director Amos Gitai’s News from Home/News from House, receiving its New York premiere, concerns a West Jerusalem house and its Israeli and Palestinian inhabitants, which Gitai previously visited in his 1998 film, A House in Jerusalem. Observing the changes in the building’s residents and neighborhood, Gitai reveals a complex labyrinth of destinies. Director’s Yoav Shamir’s 5 Days chronicles the evacuation of 8,000 Jews from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. With exclusive access to settlers and soldiers, Shamir and his seven film crews simultaneously document key players at this tumultuous moment.

Director David Noy’s Family Matters follows an Israeli alternative family of two gay men and a straight woman who choose to have a baby from planning to pregnancy to birth, over a two-year period. Director David Gavro’s Sisai is a documentary portrait of an Ethiopian man and his adopted family in Israel. Startling news about his birth parents draw him closer to his roots and takes him on a pivotal trip to Ethiopia. Director Eyal Halfon’s What a Wonderful Place, set in a dreary border town in the Negev Desert, interweaves an ensemble of characters in a multi-layered narrative concerning foreign workers.

Six films address various facets of the Holocaust and its legacy. Director Christian Delage’s documentary, Nuremberg: The Nazis Facing Their Crimes, receiving its United States premiere, reconstructs the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, Germany, using rare footage from the National Archives. The film, narrated by Christopher Plummer, also includes contemporary interviews with survivors and former prosecutors.

The Rape of Europa, receiving its New York premiere, is directed by Richard Berge, Nicole Newnham and Bonni Cohen, and is based on Lynn Nicholas’ award-winning book detailing the systematic theft, deliberate destruction and miraculous survival of Europe’s art treasures during World War II. The history of Nazi art looting is interwoven with the heroic story of U.S. “Monuments Men” who safeguarded and returned displaced art after the war. The riveting Agnès Jaoui stars in the late filmmaker Richard Dembo’s final film, Nina’s Home. Receiving its New York premiere, this film depicts the dramatic story of the tireless director of a children’s shelter in France after World War II. When Polish and Russian concentration camp survivors arrive, cultures clash but the children come together and find the courage to live again in the wake of catastrophe.

Directors Natan Gross and Shaul Goskind’s Our Children (Unzere Kinder), the last Yiddish feature made in Poland, stars the comedy team of Shimon Dzigan and Israel Schumacher performing a dramatization of Sholom Aleichem’s Kasrilevke is Burning for an audience of children from an orphanage and school for Holocaust survivors. When audience and performers change places, the kids demonstrate the healing power of music, dance and storytelling. Director Jes Benstock’s short film, The Holocaust Tourist: Whatever Happens to Never Again?, receiving its New York premiere, takes viewers on a whistle-stop tour of kitsch Judaica in Krakow and tour buses in Auschwitz. Director Anthony Green’s short, Pigeon, recounts a startling act of kindness during World War II.

On the documentary front, the festival includes two world premieres. In Sonia, director Lucy Kostelanetz explores the life of her aunt, Sofia (Sonia) Dimshitz-Tolstaya, a Russian avant-garde painter and utopian visionary inspired by the promise of the Russian Revolutions. Using interviews and archival footage, Kostelanetz captures the spirit of a bohemian who continued to make personal art under the oppressive Soviet regime. Director Gabriela Bohm’s The Longing: The Forgotten Jews of South America is a moving portrait of South Americans who, after discovering that their Jewish ancestors converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition, undertake profound and personal journeys of faith. Dismissed by local Jewish authorities, these determined men and women study via the Internet with an American Reform rabbi who ultimately travels to Ecuador to complete their conversions.

Three newly restored classic films will also be screened. Filmmaker George Roland’s Love and Sacrifice, a 1939 melodrama, is a prime example of shund, escapist fare that originated on the Yiddish stage. Shot over two days on a miniscule budget, the film portrays a middle-class matron who goes to jail for shooting t1qhe man who compromises her. The film’s star, Esta Salzman, will make a special appearance at the screening. Director E. Mason Hopper’s 1922 silent drama, Hungry Hearts, is based on the short stories of Anzia Yezeierska, the first writer to bring stories of American Jewish women to a wide audience. With scenes filmed on the Lower East Side, this bittersweet classic focuses on a family newly arrived from Europe and captures the hopes and hardships of Jewish immigrants. A new score has been created for Hungry Hearts by the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. Singer Moshe Oysher makes his screen debut in the 1937 Yiddish musical drama, The Cantor’s Son, directed by Ilya Motyleff (and Sidney Gordon, uncredited), about a wayward youth who tries to make it in America. Called an “anti-Jazz Singer” by J. Hoberman, The Cantor’s Son parallels Oysher’s own struggle to reconcile his cantorial calling with a career in show business.

Two documentaries, both receiving their United States premieres, look back at aspects of life in the former Soviet Bloc. Director Alexey Fedorchenko’s David juxtaposes rare newsreel footage from the Russian State Archive with the story of a man whose life took him from Auschwitz to an internment camp in Cyprus to a Soviet gulag. Director Alexandru Solomon’s The Great Communist Bank Robbery investigates the 1959 theft of a car belonging to the Romanian National Bank carrying $1.6 million and the arrest of six Jews, all former elite members of the Communist Party, for the crime. While exploring various theories on the robbery, the film deconstructs the tragic and complex history of post-war Romania.

The documentary White Terror, directed by Daniel Schweizer, receives its United States premiere. This film reveals a new generation of anti-Semitic publishers, music producers and Internet entrepreneurs, from Stockholm to Dallas to Moscow.

Three features will receive their New York premieres. Director Lisa Azuelos’ Gorgeous! (Comme t’y es belle!) is a light comedy set in Paris about four Sephardic women who meet regularly for frank discussions about men, marriage and children. Although each comes from a traditional North African Jewish home, these are worldly, attractive women struggling to balance their needs, careers, families and love lives. In director Henry Meyer’s Four Weeks in June, Sandra, a troubled young woman in a remote Swedish town, develops an unexpected friendship with Lily, a secretive Holocaust survivor. Though Lily bears the memory of forbidden love during wartime, she encourages Sandra to open herself to the attention of a handsome worker from Poland. Director Lorraine Levy’s The First Time I Was Twenty, set in the suburbs of Paris during the 1960s, follows Hannah, a zaftig 16 year old who auditions for her school’s all-male jazz band. Though the odds are against her, she uses brains, talents and perseverance to overcome sexism and anti-Semitism.

The documentary Matchmaker: In Search of a Kosher Man, directed by Gabrielle Antosiewicz, receives its New York premiere. The filmmaker details her search for a Jewish man in Switzerland, getting to know her most promising suitors by inviting them to bake a challah with her. While the dough is rising, viewers learn of the travails of Internet dating and the secrets hidden beneath an Orthodox woman’s wig.

The festival will include two other documentaries. Director Kristi Jacobson’s Toots, a portrait of Toots Shor, owner of legendary saloon on West 51st Street (and grandfather of the director), who became an unlikely den mother to the icons of the 1940s and 50s. The film includes interviews with Walter Cronkite, Mike Wallace, Yogi Berra, Frank Gifford and Gay Talese, among others. Director Irena Fayngold’s Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish High School chronicles one student’s fight to establish a gay-straight alliance at a Jewish high school in the Boston area. The film depicts the impact of her campaign on peers, teachers, administrators and parents.

Several additional short films will be shown in the festival. A rabbi candidly shares trade secrets in director Sarah Jane Lapp’s hand-drawn animated film, Chronicles of a Professional Eulogist. In director Zohar Lavi’s Chronicle of a Jump, a relaxing picnic turns tense when a young Israeli tries to prove his courage. In director Jason Brandenberg’s 113, time is running out for an abandoned house and its secrets. In Julia Kots’ Naturalized, Russian-born parents are alarmed and somewhat bewildered by their Americanized son’s decision to have a circumcision. A Dutch boy is apprehensive about his first Passover seder in Margien Rogaar’s Matzes.

The 16th annual New York Jewish Film Festival has been organized by a committee consisting of Rachel Chanoff, independent curator; Andrew Ingall, assistant curator, The Jewish Museum; Richard Peña, program director, Film Society of Lincoln Center; and Aviva Weintraub, associate curator and director of the New York Jewish Film Festival, The Jewish Museum.

TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets for each screening are $10 for the general public; $7 for students (with valid photo ID); $6 for Film Society and Jewish Museum members. Monday through Friday before 6 pm, senior citizens with valid ID will be admitted for $5.

Beginning December 19th tickets are available online at or at the Walter Reade Theater box office. The Walter Reade Theater is located at 165 West 65th Street, Plaza Level. For box office hours and schedule information call 212 875 5600. Ticket purchases at the box office are cash only. Complete schedule and program information will be available online at and at To request a brochure please call 212 423 3337.

Please Note: Tickets for the January 16 screenings of The Rape of Europa at The Jewish Museum are available only at the Museum (please call 212 423 3337 or visit

Additional screenings of selected New York Jewish Film Festival films will take place at Makor/Steinhardt Center of the 92nd Street Y on January 17, 23 and 24 (35 West 67th Street, 212 601 1000 or

The 16th Annual New York Jewish Film Festival is made possible by a lead grant from The Martin and Doris Payson Charitable Foundation. Additional funding is provided by The Liman Foundation, The Jack and Pearl Resnick Foundation, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency, Mimi and Barry Alperin, The Israel Office of Cultural Affairs in the USA, the Consulate General of Sweden, the French Embassy, and other donors.

Our thanks to The Mexican Cultural Institute of New York and Corona Extra for their generous assistance.




Please join us for an advance press screening at The Walter Reade Theater, 165 W 65th St. at Broadway on the plaza level of Lincoln Center.

RSVP to Oleg Dubson, 212-875-5578 or

Monday, December 18


2 p.m.:

My Mexican Shivah

Alejandro Springall, Mexico, 2006; 102m

My Mexican Shivah is a charming comedy based on a story by Ilan Stavans and co-produced by John Sayles and Maggie Renzi and featuring an original score by The Klezmatics.

3:45 p.m.:


Lucy Kostelanetz, U.S., 2006; 96m

Lucy Kostelanetz explores the life of her great aunt Sofia (Sonia) Dymshitz-Tolstaya, a Russian avant-garde painter and utopian visionary who was inspired by the promise of the Russian Revolutions.

Wednesday, December 20

10 a.m.:

Our Children / Unzere Kinder

Natan Gross and Shaul Goskind, Poland, 1948; 70m

In this last Yiddish feature made in Poland, virtuoso comedy duo Shimon Dzigan and Israel Shumacher play all the parts in a dramatization of Sholem Aleichem’s story Kasrilevke Is Burning.

11:30 a.m.:

White Terror

Daniel Schweizer, Switzerland/France/ Germany/Finland, 2005, 90m

White Terror reveals a new generation of racist and anti-Semitic publishers, music producers, and Internet entrepreneurs who exploit the benefits of globalization, new technology, and youth culture.

Thursday, January 4

10 a.m.:

News From Home/News From House

Amos Gitai, Israel/France/Germany/Belgium, 2005; 97m

The final production of Amos Gitai’s film trilogy concerns a West Jerusalem house and its Palestinian and Israeli inhabitants.

11:45 a.m.:


Alexsey Fedorchenko, Russia, 2002; 30m

Juxtaposed with rare newsreel from the Russian State Archive, a man describes his incredible odyssey as a teenager in Auschwitz, an internment camp in Cyprus, and a Soviet gulag.


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