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Established 1995 filmfestivals.com serves and documents relentless the festivals community, offering 92.000 articles of news, free blog profiles and functions to enable festival matchmaking with filmmakers.

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New York Jewish Film Festival wrap impressions

New York Jewish Film Festival, January 11-26, 2006

Among the more than 60 Jewish film festivals held in the United States the NY Jewish Film Festival (NYJFF) has after 15 editions become well established and is now considered as important as the Sans Francisco Jewish Film the oldest and biggest at 23 years. Organized by the influential Jewish Museum of New York, the NYJFF’s alliance with the Film Society of Lincoln Center has added to its prestige.

As a community based film festival, the 2006 edition struck an excellent balance between the expectations of its predominantly Jewish audience to have its memories and customs refreshed and re-affirmed on one hand and the need to incorporate artistically demanding and innovative productions on the other hand. Having Richard Pena, the director of the New York film festival on the selection committee ensured that cinematic demands were met. Thus the craving for some outstanding films and documentaries were met as was the desire for entertaining movies and screw ball comedies.

This year there were several striking aspects. For once women directors and producers were prominently represented with superb productions which in turn had frequently been supported financially by the famed Franco German ‘arte’ television channel or film funds from the European Union. Further numerous noteworthy productions were backed by Israeli agencies. Last not least the festival’s captive audience appeared to be old, compared to the larger proportion of young people at other community based film festivals such as the Indo-American Diaspora fest or ethnic screenings at the Asia Society. This may be a future problem for the NYJFF but hardly matters now since virtually all screenings for 32 productions selected from all over the world, including numerous US and New York premiers and silent film classics, were sold out.

Focusing on the traditions and conflict of Jewish life in the United States and other countries, the contradictions in contemporary Israeli society, and the related contemporary issues, the NYJFF seems to be moving away from the holocaust period as a dominant theme. There were only few productions delving into that area such as the demystification of Dutch tolerance during the Nazi occupation in Willy Lindwer’s documentary GOODBYE HOLLAND and ROSEHILL a feature by Mari Cantu. Cantu depicts with a superb acting cast a Communist government functionary’s family turmoil prompted by the 1956 Hungarian uprising, a turmoil reinforced by the father’s guilt for abandoning his lover for political gain to the Fascist during the fourties. LA PETITE JERUSALEM, a first class debut film by writer-director Karin Albou presents Laura a young philosophy student from a strict orthodox family who immures



herself in the study of Kant as defense against her family and emerging sexuality. She emancipates from the strictures after falling in live with a Palestinian. Equally engaging is Esther Goldberg’s documentary THE TWO LIVES OF EVE, the reconstruction of her mother’s family history with the passage from a privileged existence of a Lutheran German in Poland in the thirties to that of a proud Jew living in Paris after the war… through cowardice, guilt, and survival. Several superb documentaries dealt with woman’s issues in contemporary Orthodox Judaism in Israel, or as put by Aviva Weintraub, who helms the NYJFF
“... challenges faced by observant Jews who feel both blessed and burdened by aspects of their religious devotion”. Of great interest is KEEP NOT SILENT, ORTHO-DYKES. a debut film by Ilil Alexander on several Orthodox lesbian's attempt to reconcile their sexual orientation with their religious beliefs. Alexander demonstrates an impeccable approach to this sensitive and potentially explosive subject matters, providing insights otherwise inaccessible while retaining a critical yet respectful distance to the people she interviewed. This film contrasts strongly wit another film, Ira Wohl’s documentary BEST SISTER , though an audience pleaser, falls short in depicting its subject, his 80 year old cousin Frances. In this ‘home movie’ Wohl intervenes but does not represent or reflect about the interior landscape of his Jewish family, thus we do not transcend the obvious. In the short selection Jack Feldstein stood out. In THE LOSER WHO WON he applies his new production technique ‘neonism’ and tells an old story, a shlemil finding true love. Feldstein who will premier another ‘neonized’ short at the Rotterdam fest, is re-animating animated and other film material by contouring shapes, images, and sequences and using them for his own stories.


Claus Mueller, New York Correspondent
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