A Story I’ll Never Forget
For the first time, the Jewish Film Festival in New York will be held in a virtual format
Memory of the Holocaust and the problems of the younger generation. So you can summarize the two main trends of the New York Jewish Film Festival (NYJFF). It opens on January 13 and will be held in virtual format for the first time in the history of the festival due to the coronavirus pandemic..
As in previous years, the show was co-organized by the Jewish Museum and the Lincoln Center Film Society. One of the oldest and most influential Jewish film festivals in the world, NYJFF this time will present seventeen feature films and seven short films filmed in the USA, Israel and many other countries..
How to adjust to streaming
The organizers of NYJFF chose the Israeli psychological drama directed by Nir Bergman Here We Are as the opening film. The tape was included in one of the programs of the Cannes Film Festival. Shai Avivi convincingly plays Aron, the father of the autistic young man Uri. At the cost of great efforts, Aron hides his feelings, trying in any way to strengthen communication with his son, to help him adapt to the world around him..
Here we are
The forced transition to streaming was a challenge for us, which we accepted, – said long-term director of the festival Aviva Weintraub, answering questions via e-mail from Voice of America. We are glad that cinema as a medium adapts well to streaming, and that viewers enjoy viewing, although they cannot physically be present in cinemas. But we tried to preserve such an important component of the festival as the discussion of films with their creators, which, of course, was also transferred online..
One of the most important documentaries on Aviv Weintraub’s program is the Shared Legacies directed by Shari Rogers, tracing the uneasy history of the relationship between African American and Jewish communities in America. Shari Rogers used a lot of archival material and invited several dozen commentators as talking heads. Among them are the recently deceased associate of Martin Luther King, John Lewis, former US ambassador to the UN Andrew Young, singer and public figure Harry Belafonte, historian professor of Dartmouth College Suzanne Heschel and many others. The viewer will see how, in a common struggle against segregation, violence and double standards, the relationship between African Americans and American Jews developed, experiencing both ups and downs..
An unusual genre mix is offered by the Danish-German film Winter Journey, directed by Anders Estergård and Erzsebet Rat, shown as the central event of the screening. The plot is inspired by the book by radio host Martin Goldsmith, The Everlasting Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love. An adult son, remaining behind the scenes, asks his elderly musician father about his life in Nazi Germany and in emigration to America. The father is played by the outstanding German actor Bruno Ganz, who recently died. Archival footage is combined with stylized dramatization and home video filming.
The theme of World War II and the Holocaust dominates the program.
The protagonist of the Latvian film City by the River (English name – The Sign Painter), an awkward and modest guy, a graphic designer by profession, specializing in street signs and signboards. The turbulent and troubled time of the 30-40s of the last century is shown by director Viesturs Kairish through the prism of the hero’s perception. The guy manages to survive in the most dramatic circumstances of war and occupation, first Nazi and then Soviet. The explanation may be the simplest: signs, slogans and street signs are needed by all changing authorities.
Norwegian director Johanna Helgeland adapted Maya Lunde’s bestseller about the happy rescue of a group of children from the pursuing Nazis in Norway in 1942 into the action film The Crossing. Two of the young fugitives are Jews, sheltered by Norwegians risking their own lives.
The same motive for saving Jews from genocide by people of goodwill is the basis of the Albanian short-length feature film Ismail’s Dilemma and the Swedish documentary Kindertransports to Sweden..
Another unusual example of a mixture of genres is offered by the director of the film The Red Orchestra, Karl-Ludwig Rettinger. The history of the formation, heroic struggle and tragic finale of the most ramified secret network of anti-Nazi resistance in Europe is told through the montage of interviews with eyewitnesses and historians and episodes of feature films filmed about the Red Chapel in West and East Germany before the reunification of the country..
From the life of our
Among the films on a contemporary theme, one can single out the chamber drama Asya (Asia) by debutant director Ruthie Pribar, which received a bunch of national awards and was nominated by Israel for an Oscar. This is a touchingly sad story of the relationship between Asya, a single mother, an emigrant from the former Soviet Union, and her adult daughter Vika, who fell ill with an incurable illness..
17-year-old David, the hero of the film Minyan (Minyan) directed by Eric Steele, lives in the Russian area of Brooklyn and, like many of his peers, joins the canons of Jewish religious life. The screen version of a work by Canadian writer David Bezmozgis touches upon the problem of intolerance of the conservative part of the Jewish community towards representatives of the gay community.
Israeli paintings Breaking Bread immerses the viewer in the world of culinary ambitions of a whole group of chefs, Jews and Arabs. They participate in a prestigious competition-festival. Fierce competition and ethnic prejudice do not prevent them from making friends.
On Broadway, directed by Oren Jacoby, respectful and sometimes enthusiastic, bows to several generations of Broadway artists, at the same time a quick run through the main theatrical premieres and stage hits of New York in the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st.
The program also features the world premiere of a new digital restoration of Edgar Ulmer’s 1939 classic film The Light Ahead A romantic comedy with elements of satire based on the prose of the Jewish writer Mendel Moicher-Sforim, a chronicler of pre-revolutionary townships.
The festival will close on January 26 with streaming of the documentary drama Irmi.
Like several other films of the festival, this is the story of the ordeal that befell European Jews during the Nazi era. Irmi Zelver, the heroine of this biographical story, was born in Chemnitz to the family of a manufacturer. Her family miraculously eluded Hitler in the 1930s with a visa to Chile. But tragedy struck. The Nazis blew up a passenger ship, which was, among other refugees, the husband, son and daughter of Irmi. After the war, she lived in Europe and America, remarried, started a new family and children. And the last years she spent in the bosom of nature, in the quiet resort town of Truro on the Cape Cod Peninsula, where she warmly received many friends. The film was co-directed by Irmi’s daughter Veronica Zelver, and the voiceover on behalf of the heroine is read by German actress Hanna Shigula.