Browsing the archives for the Film category.

The 34th Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival NOVEMBER 11–14, 2010

Film, Lily's notes

The 34th Annual Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival, held at the AMNH, will screen films chosen from more than 1,000 submissions. The selected films feature exceptional story-telling. The Mead Festival strives to  evolve beyond ethnographic filmmaking and screens innovative films that they hope represent the best in documentary, animation, experimental nonfiction, and archival footage.

The festival is a unique showcase for films that illuminate the complexity and diversity of peoples and cultures around the world, and features  post-screening discussions that include visiting filmmakers and experts.

Films that will have U.S. premieres at the Mead Festival and feature the filmmakers in person following the screenings include

  • Roscoe Holcomb. John Cohen uses intimate footage as well as interviews with family and community members to trace the life of this seminal banjo player’s early years. Roscoe was featured in Cohen’s first film The High Lonesome Sound, which will also be shown during the festival. (world premiere). Cohen will also play live music with his band the Dust Busters at the after-screening discussion.

  • Eisenwurzen: Das Musical (A Mountain Musical). Filmmaker Eva Eckert tells the humorous and fascinating story of how the Austrian tradition of yodeling is carried on in the warbling of an aging population.
  • The Electric Mind. Nadav Harel’s film is an intimate portrait of an octogenarian widow, a middle-aged artist, and a pre-teen girl looking for relief from their brain disorders through cutting edge technologies and “awake” brain surgeries.
  • My Beautiful Dacia. On a road trip from communism to capitalism, filmmakers Stefan Constantinescu and Julio Soto follow different generations of Romanians with one common love: the Dacia car.

  • Nel Giardino dei Suoni (In the Garden of Sounds). Nicola Bellucci tells the extraordinary story of Wolfgang Fasser, a blind musician and therapist who uses sound to initiate dialogues with severely handicapped children, helping them uncover ways to express themselves and find a place in a world not designed for them.
  • Tankograd. Directed by Boris Bertram, the film tells the story of Chelyabinsk, Russia. Once the site of a top-secret Cold War atomic bomb factory, the town is now the most radioactively polluted city in the world. But it’s also the unlikely hometown of a unique cultural institution: the vibrant, inspiring Chelyabinsk Contemporary Dance Theatre.

Special Presentation

The festival will feature a special presentation of the Museum’s collection of original glass lantern slides, some of which were recently rediscovered in the home of a former Museum library archivist. In the 19th century, these unique slides formed the foundation of a popular series of lectures conducted by Albert Bickmore, the Museum’s founder. With over 40,000 original glass lantern slides in the Museum Library’s collection, the breadth of subjects includes landscapes, scientific specimens, and expedition photography. Many were painstakingly hand-painted, and each is a stunning work of art.

  • American Museum of Natural History, on Central Park West,  77th ST -81 St
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Events, Film, Uncategorized
The JEWISH WOMEN’S FILM FESTIVAL is a presentation of
films submitted in competition and never before exhibited
commercially in the New York metropolitan area. The films
focus on experiences, aspirations, and accomplishments of
Jewish women through the ages and throughout the world.
The festival is organized by the ELEANOR LEFF JEWISH
and was rededicated and named in honor of Eleanor Leff in
2000. JWRC explores, documents, and celebrates the full
range of Jewish women’s experiences – religious, secular,
public and private. Its goals are achieved through ongoing
programs, special events, conferences, publications, book
discussions, lectures, seminars, workshops, and readings.
The National Council of Jewish Women is a grassroots
organization of volunteers and advocates who turn
progressive ideals into action. Inspired by Jewish values,
NCJW strives for social justice by improving the quality of
life for women, children and families and by safeguarding
individual rights and freedoms.

The JEWISH WOMEN’S FILM FESTIVAL is a presentation of films submitted in competition and never before exhibited commercially in the New York metropolitan area. The films focus on experiences, aspirations, and accomplishments of Jewish women through the ages and throughout the world. The National Council of Jewish Women is a grassroots organization of volunteers and advocates who turn progressive ideals into action. Inspired by Jewish values, NCJW strives for social justice by improving the quality of  for women, children and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms.

There are 2 sessions

THE JEWISH WOMEN’S FILM FESTIVAL    Sunday, November 14, 2010

Baruch Performing Arts Center at Baruch College E. 25th Street between Lexington & 3rd Avenues 55 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

SESSION 1 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM


Director: Gay Block. (47 Minutes) – Women who were together at Camp Pinecliffe in 1981 reminisce about their camp experience – happy, sad, funny, sentimental, life-changing – more than 25 years later. With whom

do you identify?


Director: Ruth Fertig. (22 Minutes) – Creatively using live-action and animation, the filmmaker, via her grand-mother’s memoirs, takes us on a journey recreating the experiences of the family during the Holocaust. It is a

story of resilience, survival, and hope.


(Directors: Ron Ofer and Yohai Hakak. (50 Minutes-subtitles) – Through determination, ingenuity, resource-fulness and their own personal magnetism, two Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) women, Adina Bar-Shalom and Rachel

Chalkowski (Bambi), effect major social change among the women in their community.


Director: Y. Enav. (24 Minutes-subtitles) – A seemingly generous and compassionate dentist confronts repressed memories of the Holocaust, resulting in an unexpected assault on one of her patients that leads

to her arrest. Be a spectator to the unraveling mystery and its surprising denouement.


2:30 PM – 5:30 PM


Director: Yael Kipper. (61 Minutes-subtitles) – Nine years after being critically wounded and losing her younger brother in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, Maytal embarks on her biggest challenge – her decision to undergo fertility treatments to have a child as a single mother.


Director: Susan Schwarzwald. (26 Minutes) – On the 11th birthday of her own child, Lily – daughter of a refugee from Hitler’s Germany – reminisces about a childhood trip her family took back to her father’s native city of

Vienna. Through the lens of memory, she re-visits the pain of remembering, tinged with the fear of forgetting, that silently haunts her father, herself, and her young daughter. (Director’s comment).


Directors: Noam Demsky, Mordi Kershner. (48 Minutes-subitles) – Who is a Jew? How about Incas from Peru? View this fascinating commentary about the Valderama family and their struggle to convert to Judaism, and, finally, their arrival in Israel.


Director: Y. Enav. (5 Minutes) – The briefest of come-

dies depicting a worldwide problem with which all

women can identify and have often experienced!


The Eleanor Leff Jewish Women’s Resource Center will present its Ellie Award

to the Director of the Best Film as selected by an independent panel of judges.


Film Sessions:

NCJW Members: $12.00 per session

(If Purchased in Advance)


$15.00 per session

Reception (Advance Purchase Required):

Dietary Laws Observed

NCJW Members: $75.00 (Includes session 1 or 2)

Nonmembers: $90.00 (Includes session 1 or 2)

Friends of NCJW:

Patron: $125.00

(Includes reception, sessions 1 and 2, and name

in program)

$60.00 tax deductible

Benefactor: $150.00

(Includes reception, sessions 1 and 2,

and name in program) $85.00 tax deductible


In Person: Purchase tickets at NCJW NY offices

Monday – Thursday: 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Friday: 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

By Phone: (212) 687-5030, ext. 14

Monday – Thursday: 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Friday: 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

At the Door: $18.00 per session


The JEWISH WOMEN’S RESOURCE CENTER began in 1977 and was rededicated and named in honor of Eleanor Leff in 2000. JWRC explores, documents, and celebrates the full range of Jewish women’s experiences – religious, secular, public and private. Its goals are achieved through ongoing programs, special events, conferences, publications, book discussions, lectures, seminars, workshops, and readings.

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Israeli Comedy and a Moving Personal Portrait

Film, Lily's notes

A Matter of Size, is a fun Israeli comedy, about the revolt of overweight people who find their new positive self-image and self confidence as Sumo wrestlers, yes, Sumo wrestlers in Israel. Sumo is a sport where fat people are honored.

This comedy is so perfectly over the top that we frequently squirmed as we laughed: the scene at a Weight Watchers type meeting led by an hysterical raving critical monster of a group leader was any one’s nightmare! And funny! Sumo wrestlers walking barefoot in their Sumo “diapers” followed by the pe0ple of the small town taking photos with their cells was hilarious.

This film could travel and be enjoyed by audiences here in the US, we  just need  Americans to agree to read sub-titles; it is a well-made comedy.

In contrast, Fiestaremos, is an intimate, moving portrait of  the musician and musicologist, Judith Frankel. This is an American film. Judith Frankel painstakingly researched Sephardic songs sung in Ladino,  by meeting with families and learning their songs, pronunciation and building long-term friendships.

This personal collecting in the field is a  very specialized form of musicology, and Frankel was a fine singer and guitarist, who was able to collect and play these songs beautifully. It was a complete pleasure to be  embraced by this warm and lovely film. The American Sephardi Federation/Sephardic House had her excellent CDs on sale and we have been enjoying listening to them.

Fiestaremos and A Matter of Size were both screened at The Sephardic Film Festival of 2010, and illustrate well the spectrum of films which were shown.

This is a small, but fine festival which I would recommend you put on your list for next year.

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ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival, “Mary and Max”

Film, Lily's notes

ReelAbilities film festival is a completely unique festival and describes itself as “devoted to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different disabilities.

They will screen award winning films in various locations throughout the NYC metropolitan area. Discussions and programs are also planned.

GothamGirl attended the screening of one of the films in this festival which was included in the  recent Jewish Film Festival at the Walter Reade Theater, and if this film  is any indication of the quality of the films in this festival, then select a few to see.

We saw MARY & MAX, a claymated, award-winning,  feature film by Adam Elliot. Claymation is a demanding form of stop-motion animation and this film is a absolutely terrific example of the technique.

New York City, Australia the characters etc, etc are all formed of “clay” and the result is it’s own unique universe of action. If you go to the film’s site, there is a section which shows their behind-the-scenes technique.

It is based on a story of pen-pal  friendship between two very different people; Mary Dinkle, a  lonely, eight year old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max Horovitz, a 44 year old, lonely Jewish man with Aspergers Syndrome, living on his own, coping as best as he can with his situation,  in New York City. We see NYC through his eyes. He is “voiced” by Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Mary and Max’s friendship endures for 20 years, and the story explores the nature of friendship, autism, and communication. It also mentions: taxidermy, psychiatry, alcoholism, where babies come from, kleptomania, sexual difference, depression, trust, agoraphobia and more.

Try not to miss this one but please remember that this is a film for adults.

This is a sad film and it is not for children.

Please see the ReelAbilities site for tickets, showtimes, programs and venue.

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Cosmic Ocean Trip at the Hayden Planetarium Space Theater

Events, Film, Lily's notes, exhibit

Travel through the  the COSMIC OCEAN at the Hayden Planetarium Space Theater at the AMNH with their program: Virtual Universe: The Farthest Reaches of the Cosmic Ocean with Jason Kendall.

The museum says that this is the  world’s largest cosmic atlas, and that we can cruise through intergalactic space, and explore the immense distances between galaxies,  learning about the universe and how it has changed with time. We New Yorkers will just have to accept that the program begins and ends in the Himalayas and not in Manhattan.

Virtual Universe, travels through our solar system and beyond in live, interactive programs that include question-and-answer on the first Tuesday of each month.

A preview is available on YouTube.  Some of the viewers comments on YouTube following the Virtual Universe video are so inane and weird that they seem to map the inner  infinity of the universe of human strangeness, you may enjoy those too.

Tuesday, February 2, 6:30 pm, $15 Adults $13.50 Members, students, seniors

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14th Sephardic Film Festival

Events, Film, Lily's notes

It seems to be film festival season. Don’t mix this festival up with the NY Jewish Film Festival (see previous posts),  the Sephardic festival is the only  annual film festival in America devoted solely to the rich and colorful stories, customs and culture of Sephardic Jewry. Thirteen films, including three American and seven New York premieres will be shown. Also, there are talk backs with directors scheduled.

We always enjoy this festival, especial the variety of countries encountered, the music in the films, Sephardim in the audience greeting each other with warm smiles, and the variety of languages, this year: English, Hebrew, Ladino, Amharic, French, Japanese, Bulgarian, Moraccan, Spanish, etc …Yiddish….. ok, ok,  probably not Yiddish. But some of us are “Ashke-Phardic ” and enjoy all of the possibilities.

Please see The Sephardic Film for screening details and tickets.

Sponsored by the  American Sephardi Federation/Sephardic House (ASF) and Yeshiva University Museum. Supported by the Consulate General of Israel in New York. Here is their schedule at a glance.

Opening Night
Feb. 4th @ 7:30pm COCO
Followed by Opening Night Reception
Saturday Feb. 6th @ 7:30pm A MATTER OF SIZE
Feb. 6th @ 9:30pm HONOR
Sunday Feb. 7th @1:00pm LÉON- A NEW ENCOUNTER
Feb. 7th @ 3:30pm MASHALA
Feb. 7th @ 3:30pm FIESTAREMOS!
Feb. 7th @ 5:30pm REVIVRE – PART 1
Feb. 7th @9:00pm REVIVRE – PART 2
Monday Feb. 8th @ 2:00pm COCO
Feb. 8th @ 6:30pm ACROSS THE RIVER
Tuesday Feb. 9th @ 6:30pm REVIVRE – PART 2
Feb. 9th @ 9:30pm PILLAR OF SALT
Wednesday Feb. 10th @ 2:00pm SALVADOR
Feb. 10th @ 6:30pm AZI AYIMA
Feb. 10th @ 7:30pm HONOR / AT THE JCC – MANHATTAN
Feb. 10th @ 8:30pm QUEEN KHANTARISHA
Closing Night
Feb. 11th @ 7:00pm CHILDREN OF THE BIBLE
Followed by Closing Night Reception
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Protektor and Leap of Faith

Film, Lily's notes

Protektor, a film by Marek Najbrt, is a sophisticated, artful and  intelligent film which takes place in Prague during the Nazi occupation. It is an unusually nuanced film which feels truer to what it must have felt like to live through that time period…it is heads and shoulders above the many films produced in a “heroic”, or even worse , the new “vengeful mode” .

The cross currents of the love story intertwined with the severe time period, the ambivalence of some of the characters, and the aspect of chance in life is completely absorbing. Also, this film has a film-within-a-film,  which evokes the films of the 40’s perfectly. The film visually makes reference to art of the 40’s, and is in Czech.

I would put Protektor on my must-see list.


Leap of Faith, a documentary About Converting to Orthodox Judaism in America, follows four diverse families, who live in the United States, as they consider conversion to Orthodox Judaism.

Since Judaism does not seeks converts,  those of us who were born Jewish are frequently fascinated by converts to Judaism and want to know a great deal about their attraction, decision, experiences and the reaction of their families. This film will satisfy a some of that interest, without having to be tempted to be rude and actually ask a convert you may know any overly personal questions.   The film examines only a very specific part of the story: converts to Orthodox Judaism in the  US. This particular scope is quite understandable considering that the film-makers themselves are Orthodox Jews married to women who have converted to Judaism.

We meet  a lovely Trinidadian woman raised in a warm religious Christian home.  Her loving family, her story of attraction to Judaism, her personal struggle,  and the reactions and kindness of her supportive family are a lovely example of the best of family values. There is a single mother and her son, an elderly couple, and a once devout Christian family with teenage children who all convert.

All of the families are fascinating to watch. In one family, we meet a woman so upset by the conversation of a relative, that she asks the interviewer “What do you call your religion” and she says that even the name “sounds ugly” to her. Makes you squirm, we really do not expect such a blatant anti-Semitic remark.

The most revealing question of all is never verbally answered: the interviewer asks one of the Hasidic Rabbis involved in the conversions if he would like a child of his to marry a convert.

I left with the feeling that although this is a fascinating and worthwhile film, I had seen only an extremely limited picture of people who convert to Judaism in the US.

These films are included in the current 19th Annual New York Jewish Film Festival at the Reade Theater in Lincoln Center. More details are on the festival site.

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“Eyes Wide Open” (Eynaim Pekukhot)

Film, Lily's notes

Eyes Wide Open (Eynaim Pekukhot) directed by Haim Tabakman opens the viewers eyes, with insight, to see into the attitudes and complications of being gay within the ultra-Orthodox community in contemporary Jerusalem.  There is no possible hiding from the eyes of this community or from ones’ family. No light ever enters this film which could guide a path to acceptance which includes remaining within the community. The attitude towards gayness in this community is not identical with the attitude among ultra-right wing Christians. In the ultra-orthodox community, gayness is not a “sin” but an “evil urge” which should be resisted.

This fine point does not help much at all to relieve an individual’s suffering , especially when you consider how any scandal, shame or any myriad of other problems can have a terrible effect on the future acceptance and happiness of a person’s innocent children and other family members within the ultra-orthodox community.

In Jewish tradition, lesbians are not even mentioned as a possibility, (and therefore sexual relationships between women are not prohibited), and this film makes very little reference to women at all. We meet a long-suffering, kind wife and a young women marrying a man she does not love. We see the face of the extremists of this community and the kindness and caring of others, including the Rabbi.

This is a strong, quiet and painful film, well acted and well made, starring Zohar Strauss and Ran Danker.

In an interview, Haim Tabakman is quoted as saying, “The film can be part of the evolution in the orthodox world”.

Let’s hope so.

This will be shown at the Jewish Film Festival on January 19 (at the Manhattan JCC) and January 23rd (at the Walter Reade Theater). See schedule in my previous post and buy tickets in advance.

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Coming soon:The 19th Annual Jewish Film Festival

Film, Lily's notes

We always enjoy this film festival immensely and would encourage you to get your tickets to the screening in advance since many screenings sellout.  GothamGirl will be attending some preview screenings and write about them shortly.

Presented by The Film Society of Lincoln Center and The Jewish Museum, Jan. 13-28

Here is a preview of their schedule:

Screenings at the Walter Reade Theater unless otherwise indicated.

165 West 65th Street close to Amsterdam Avenue

Wednesday, Jan. 13

1:00          Saviors in the Night

3:45          Gruber’s Journey

6:15          Saviors in the Night

9:00          Gruber’s Journey

Thursday, Jan. 14

1:15          Bar Mitzvah

3:30          Gruber’s Journey

6:15          Ahead of Time with Making the Crooked Straight

9:00          Ajami

Saturday, Jan. 16

6:30          Ajami

9:15          The Jazz Baroness

Sunday, Jan. 17

1:30          The Axe of Wandsbek

4:15          The Jazz Baroness

6:30          Happy End with Point of View

9:00          Protector with With a Little Patience

Monday, Jan. 18

12:30        Leon Blum with Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness

3:30          Protector with With a Little Patience

6:15          Forgotten Transports: To Poland

8:30          The Jazz Baroness

Tuesday, Jan. 19

1:00          Happy End with Point of View

3:30          Protector with With a Little Patience

6:15          Happy End with Point of View

7:30          Eyes Wide Open with Kallah*

8:45          Leon Blum with Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness

Wednesday, Jan. 20

1:00          Forgotten Transports: To Poland

3:30          Leon Blum with Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness

6:30          Einsatzgruppen

Thursday, Jan. 21

1:00          Human Failure

3:30          Berlin ’36

6:15          Human Failure

8:45          The Peretzniks with Happy Jews

Saturday, Jan. 23

6:30          Eyes Wide Open with Kallah

9:00          Mary and Max

Sunday, Jan. 24

1:00          Bar Mitzvah

3:15          Berlin ’36

6:00          Eyes Wide Open with Kallah

8:45          Mary and Max

Monday, Jan. 25

1:00          Gevald! with Chronicle of a Kidnap

3:00          Valentina’s Mother with Pinhas**

3:30          Leap of Faith

6:15          Gevald! with Chronicle of a Kidnap

8:30          Leap of Faith

Tuesday, Jan. 26

1:30          Valentina’s Mother with Pinhas

4:00          Human Failure

6:30          A History of Israeli Cinema

Wednesday, Jan. 27

1:00          Within the Whirlwind

3:30          The Peretzniks with Happy Jews

6:15          Valentina’s Mother with Pinhas

8:45          The Peretzniks with Happy Jews

Thursday, Jan. 28

1:00          Ultimatum with Prrrride

3:45          Within the Whirlwind

6:15          Ultimatum with Prrrride

8:45          Within the Whirlwind

*At The JCC in Manhattan

334 Amsterdam Avenue at West 76th Street


Tuesday, Jan. 19

7:30          Eyes Wide Open with Kallah

**At The Jewish Museum

1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street

Monday, Jan. 25

3:00          Valentina’s Mother with Pinhas

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Bright Star: a Stunningly Beautiful Film


Bright Star , the film by Jane Campion, is not to be missed. It is a beautifully made film which seems to suspend time.

The actors, Ben Wishaw as the Romantic poet John Keats is completely perfect and engrossing.  I hope that someone will please feed that talented, compelling boy some rich food and put some weight on his bones to keep him around for a long, long time. Abbie Cornish as his love, Fannie Brawne ,  gives a stunning performance.  All of the cast is wonderful.

This film deserves a large audience and  to win many awards but it will have to be seen if such a different, and movingly intimate movie can find a mass audience.

You will want to stay through the entire credits at the end of the film and enjoy Ben Winshaw’s wonderful reading of Keats poetry. Here are two of John Keats poems to enjoy.

I would assume that  the “bright star ” of the poem refers to Venus, the symbol of beauty and longing.


By John Keats

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon in death.



Ode to A Nightingale

by John Keats

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
    My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
    One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
    But being too happy in thine happiness, -
        That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
                In some melodious plot
    Of beechen green and shadows numberless,
        Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
    Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
    Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
    Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
        With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
                And purple-stained mouth;
    That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
        And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
    What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
    Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
    Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
        Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
                And leaden-eyed despairs,
    Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
        Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
    Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
    Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
    And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
        Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
                But here there is no light,
    Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
        Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
    Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
    Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
    White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
        Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
                And mid-May’s eldest child,
    The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
        The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
    I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
    To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
    To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
        While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
                In such an ecstasy!
    Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain -
        To thy high requiem become a sod.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
    No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
    In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
    Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
        She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
                The same that oft-times hath
    Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
        Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
    To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
    As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
    Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
        Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
                In the next valley-glades:
    Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
        Fled is that music: – Do I wake or sleep?

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Julie & Julia: See It Only for Meryl Streep’s Fine Performance


I did not like Julie & Julia at all,  the Julie segments felt completely contrived and especially  false.

The only highlight is Meryl Streep’s wonderful performance as Julia Child. I remember watching Julia Child on TV, she was intelligent, very capable, funny, large, open, adorable, and so very unique a public woman for the times. There was no one else in media even remotely like her. She was a one of a kind, lovely, unusual woman.

Meryl Streep captures this with delight.  It is wonderful to have this unique woman of substance remembered and depicted for a new audience.

But the modern segments of the story about Julie Powell are just awful.

I do not believe that Julie Powell cooked the dishes she wrote about.  I think that her cooking blog was a novel which was serialized in 365 parts in the old tradition of newpapers printing novels in segments over time. That is fine, but it is necessary to say so.

As a woman who loves to cook, has a family, works, lives in New York City, has owned the Mastering the Art of French Cooking for many years, blogs, I can assure you , without any doubt that there is no time to work full time, ride the train to and from work, relate to your family and friends and do the specialty shopping and then cook these demanding dishes, and then write about it, every day, for an entire year.

It made me squirm to have this very, very  light novel of  no substance, intertwined with a real person’s life. Dropping an aspic (so sad, boo-hoo) does not equate with having one’s spouse  questioned by the government during the McCarthy era.

The phone never rings when Julie is cooking  or they are at home eating.

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Yoo-Hoo Mrs Goldberg, an Excellent Documentary


Yoo-Hoo Mrs Goldberg,is an excellent documentary by Aviva Kemptner about the beloved radio and television pioneer Gertrude Berg. This film is beautiful! It tells the story of Ms Berg with class and insight about Ms Berg, the early days of American media,  the America that was, and spans the years before the Great Depression through WWII and through the McCarthy era witch hunts.

Aviva Kemptner described her film this way : ”Gertrude Berg was the was the creator, principal writer, and star of “The Goldbergs,” a popular radio show for 17 years, which became television’s very first character-driven domestic sitcom in 1949. Berg received the first Best Actress Emmy in history, and paved the way for women in the entertainment industry.” 

Ms Berg wrote over 12,000 scripts and her lead character,  Molly Goldberg,  was beloved across America. Ask anyone of a certain age if they watched this show and their faces glow and through a broad smile  they say, “of course! We loved her”. 

If you are interested accomplished women in society, media, America, sit-coms, interviews with a wonderfully surprising list of people, the Catskills great gifts to our culture, wry family comedy, sweet family comedy, and getting to know a women of great talent with the strength of all of her convictions, then this is a film for you.

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Resistance Through Art and Yom ha-Shoa on the Upper West Side

Concert, Events, Film, Lily's notes, Literary event

Each year there are many worthwhile events to mark Yom ha-Shoa, Holocaust Rememberance Day, this year on April 20-21, 2009. Here are some of those events:

“Sixty years ago we performed this opera [Brundibar] at Terezin.  Only a few of us survived.  But when we were performing Brundibar, we forgot where we were, we forgot all our troubles.  Music was part of our resistance against the Nazis.  Music, art, good teachers, and friends mean survival.”    –Ela Weissberger, member of the original cast

Congregation Ansche Chesed’s Yom Hashoah program will be dedicated to the incredible phenomenon of Resistance through Art and will feature music created and performed in Theresienstadt concentration camp. 

Featuring live performances of chamber music by Gideon Klein, a Czech pianist and composer of classical music, teacher and organizer of cultural life in Terezin, as well as an excerpt from the children’s opera “Brundibar” by Hans Krasa, originally performed by the children in Terezin, and now sung by the children of Ansche Chesed. 

There will also be an opportunity to learn and sing songs of the ghetto and resistance together as a community.   While much of this music did not survive, the remaining pieces impress listeners to this day and make us long for more of what might have been written.

Monday Evening, April 20 at Congregation Ansche Chesed 100th St, West End and Broadway

Monday, April 20, 10pm – Tuesday, April 21, 6pm
During the the annual Yom HaShoah commemoration, the Reading of the Names, members of synagogues and the JCC, students and other groups on the Upper West Side take turns reading the names of victems of the Shoa. This begins at 10pm and continues through the night, and through the next day until late afternoon.

This year we are reading from Memorial to the Jews Deported from France 1942-1944 by Serge Klarsfeld. This extraordinary volume is organized by the date of the “convoys” which transported Jews from France to the camps in the east.  This year the all-night reading will take place at Congregation Shaare Zedek, 93rd Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.


honors Yom HaShoah with a special marathon of films remembering the righteous saviors of Jews during the Holocaust. Co-sponsored by the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation and The Simon Wiesenthal Center.


And my friend, Ernie Adams, has had his book published! You have the opportunity to meet him, hear his moving story and experience his warmth and humor.

From Ghetto to Ghetto: An African American Journey to Judaism
A Memoir by Ernest Adams
From Harlem to the south to the Upper West Side, Ernest Adams’ new book is a fascinating memoir that delves into race and religion in America today.
Thu, Apr 30  Meet the Author Talk: 6:30 pm; Reception and Book Signing: 7:30 pm FREE

 JCC of Manhattan. 76th Street and Amsterdam Avenue

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In Search of the Bene Israel and The Fire Within: Jews in the Amazonian Rainforest

Film, Lily's notes

In Search of the Bene Israel by Sadia Shepard is a moving and compelling documentary about the 2000 year old Jewish community of the Mumbai region. The film-maker is a descendant of this community and she shares the story of the BeneIsrael and of her beloved grandmother very tenderly and thoughtfully with us, the lucky viewers.

Her Jewish grandmother eloped as a young person with a Muslim man, they moved to Pakistan and then to the US where eventually, the film-maker was born. SadiaShepard returned to spend a full year working with the remaining Jewish community in and around Mumbai. The majority of this community has emigrated and now lives in Israel.

Also, the Bene Israel say that they have never experienced anti-Semitism in their 2000 years in India, -what a wonderful heritage. They clearly love India deeply but want more economic opportunity and to stem the tide of assimilation.

The documentary explores the myths, history and current reality of this fascinating community.

We saw this in a screening at the Walter Reade Theatre as part of the Jewish Film Festival and this film  will be screened again at the 13th Annual Sephardic Film Festival at the Center for Jewish History. It is a marvelous film not to be missed.

See the post below this for more details about the 13th Sephardic Film Festival.

At the same afternoon screening, we travelled from crowded Mumbai of the Bene Israel, and a community in the midst of emigrating to Israel, into the lush Amazon rainforest in Peru in The Fire Within: Jews in the Amazonian Rainforest by Lorry Salcedo Mitrani. This film is about a community of Jews from the Amazon who have relocated in the Negev desert in Israel.

These 300 to 400 Jews are the descendants of Jewish men who came to the Amazon seeking their fortunes in the rubber boom during the late 1800’s, and their indigenous wives and girlfriends. We follow their journey to become fully recognised as Jews, their mass conversion to Judaism, and their emigration and stunningly remarkable adjustment to life in Israel. We meet the scholar, Ariel Segal, and the Rabbis who took part in this remarkable education and conversion. Engrossing.

Clearly, the Jews of the Amazon have a real historical and cultural claim on their Jewish ties as certainly do the Bene Israel of Mumbai. 

These films also brought to mind what we learned when we were in Israel in the summer 0f 2007.  We learned that many desperate people from Africa make their way across the African continent each year to the Egyptian border with Israel and beg for political and economic asylum and the right to live in Israel. They say that the Jews should know what it is to be homeless, destitute and war-tossed, and not wanted by other countries, and they ask to be admitted into Israel for a chance to make a new more prosperous life.

Israel sorts through their claims and tries to find the true political asylum seekers for admission into Israel and sort them out from the economic immigrants since no country can admit all comers.  We do not know why this human story has not been the topic of any reporting we have seen in the regular press.

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Another Film Festival! The 13th NY Sephardic Film Festival

Events, Film

The 13th New York Sephardic Film Festival will run for one week screening 15 films from 14 countries.

These will be shown at three venues: The Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, The JCC of NY on Amsterdam Avenue at 76th st and in Miami,  Sunrise Cinema at the Intercoastal Mall.  Please click on their site above for ticket and event details.

February 5 through February 12.

GothamGirl hopes to have at least 3 reviewers attend the various screenings and events.

Each year we love this festival!

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Limmud NY 2009 at the Nevele Grande in Ellenville

Art, Events, Film

We will be heading off to the extremely frozen Catskills for a warm, long MLK, JR weekend to attend LimmudNy 09. I hope to tell you about it as it occurs.

There is so much scheduled for the convention ….a constantly running Film festival, theatre, classes, workshops, musicians and a cafe to sit around with friends, catch up and compare notes and choose what to do next.

About 1000 people will be at the Nevele Grande for this four-day convention.

We will drive 2 hours north and west from NYC, park the car, and let Limmud and the resort absorb and take care of us for the next few days.

No work. Just art, Shabbat and learning, a true pleasure.

My 7 year-old neighbor, Hannah,  informed me during an elevator ride yesterday, that the Nevele Grande will shut down after this coming summer season.

This was shocking. First because this savvy 7 year-old was in the know. Her friends summer there each year and they are very sad that this will be their last summer, and the Nevele is among the very last of the old time Catskill resorts.

It is so remarkable to learn that such young New Yorkers care so much about this and that we all share such affection for “the mountains” and for this not-new resort.

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Darling! The Pieter-Dirk Uys Story, The Woman from Sarajevo, and Milk: Three Films

Film, Guest Author: NYCGUY

Darling! The Pieter-Dirk Uys Story,  by a very youthful director from Oz,  Julian Shaw, will screen just twice on Thursday, January 29 at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, as part of the 18th Annual New York Jewish Film Festival. Ironically, it’s paired with another doc, The Woman from Sarajevo, about a Muslim woman from the city famous for its Haggadah, the daughter of a Righteous Gentile, who becomes an Israeli and a Jew.

Evita Bezuidenhout, the Most Famous White Woman in South Africa, was profiled by the Gray Lady during the height of apartheid and the hype of its  supporter, Ronald Reagan. (If you recall, he was an actor who added politician to his CV while retaining a, um, TV presence.) 

Mrs Bezuidenhout, the ambassador to a Bantustan just outside her posh suburban Johannesburg door, was and still is satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys. Pieter/Evita remains a national presence as his/her country transitioned to democracy. As Uys – pronounced “ace” notes – “politics no longer kills, it just irritates.”

The son of two concert pianists – a Calvinist Afrikaner father and a Jewish Nazi-Berlin refugee mother – with a London-resident sister who hewed to her parents’ career tradition, Uys is clearly a concert artist him, um, her self.

Nowadays this good friend of two giants, Nelson Mandela & Desmond Tutu, uses the tricks of his/her trade – to battle public ignorance about HIV/AIDS, a serious problem in what is supposed to be the moral beacon of much of the continent.

The audience is the rainbow of South African youth.

They love the Pieter/Evita transformations. These personalities, the subject of a documentary, Darling! The Pieter-Dirk Uys Story, by Julian Shaw, will screen just twice on Thursday, January 29 at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, as part of the 18th Annual New York Jewish Film Festival. Ironically, it’s paired with another doc, The Woman from Sarajevo, about a Muslim woman from the city famous for its Haggadah, the daughter of a Righteous Gentile, who becomes an Israeli and a Jew.

If you’ve been culturally closeted of late, you may have missed, but must go see the much praised performance of Sean Penn,  the straight, agnostic son of a once backlisted Russian-Lithuanian Jewish actor/director father and an Italian-Irish Catholic actress mother as the Long Island-reared,  closeted , athletic, funny  Jewish guy in the gray flannel suit – Harvey Milk – who makes a break from New York to San Francisco, at the tender age of 40. The Gus Van Sant eponymous film traces the stirred up ex-New Yorker’s emerging political clout in the western city of seven hills and the Shaar Zahar state.

This emotionally powerful, dramatic work weaves in documentary footage reaches a crescendo in a nationally-observed statewide political referendum that mirrors the recent, closely-watched referendum that rolled back marriage right.

Released on the 30th anniversary of the protagonist’s assassination, Milk can be seen at several New York area theaters.

Perhaps imbibing Milk’s coalition-building skills, a New York State LGBT rights group ESPA has linked with major unions, a tenants rights organization and progressives to
challenge three Democratic State Senators who’ve threatened to block the voters will and much legislation in Albany.

No documentary or dramatic film, as yet.

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“Waiting for Armageddon” at the NY Jewish Film Festival


“Waiting for Armageddon” will be screened at the NY Jewish Film Festival in January 2009. This fascinating and absorbing documentary brings us into the personal lives of extreme Evangelical Christians. It is a troubling film and I would recommend seeing it.

These Christian fundamentalists believe that the Jewish people and the state of Israel will play a central role in an apocalypse that will happen so soon, that they believe that their own children do not have time to grow to adulthood before the destruction of the world. The film also examines the effect of Christian fundamentalism on American policy in the Mideast.

The film travels with them from their homes and churches in America to Israel and we hear their alarming views, such as their happy expectation that the Dome of the Rock will be destroyed at any moment. We stand with them on peaceful looking Har Megiddo in Israel, which is the Armageddon of the Christian Bible, as they happily anticipate the ingathering and total destruction of the Jewish people closely followed by the destruction of everyone else in the world who does not believe as they do. They have that weird glow in their eyes of strange cultists with sweet smiles.

Christianity teaches that God is love, yet these fundamentalists are steeped in a happy anticipation of graphic, cruel, death and destruction by means of horrible violence. The film asserts that there are about 50 million American Christian fundamentals of this sort. They seem to be close cousins of the Americans who believe in alien abductions, although the “abductees” are not as violent in their visions.

Both groups seem to have mental health issues. Perhaps a poor adjustment to the truly hard realities of the world. A therapist friend says that the “abductees” are pshychotic, that is they are already living in a complete delusion while the “Soon-To-be-Raptureds” have a different disorder: they are incomplete as individuals and are afraid of disappearing or being erased.

Watching the fundamentalists at home, indoctrinating their children, raises questions about what kind of parents they might be considering that they believe these children will not reach adulthood. It is very troubling.

 The film includes a clip of Ehud Olmert happily welcoming these nuts to Israel, how extremely naive Olmert appears in this film. It is said that you should choose your enemies with care, this goes for choosing friends as well.

A Jewish extremist who would like to rebuild the Third Temple on the site of the Dome of the Rock and re-establish the ancient rituals of animal sacrifice appears in the film. The Jewish people substituted prayer for sacrifice 2 millenia ago. I wish he had been better defined in this film so as to be clear that here presents a minority of extremists. Main stream Judaism hopes for a Messianic Age brought about by the positive actions of people, such as treating each other with compassion, and not by apocolypse, Armageddon, animal sacrifice, or tearing down other’s sacred places etc.

It is creepy to watch these Christian fundamentalists who are so normal looking, and seemingly educated people happily expecting the most violent end of the world and death of millions of human beings.

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“A Road to Mecca: The Journey of Muhammad Asad”

Film, Guest Author: NYCGUY

The 18th Annual Jewish Film Festival, review by NYCGUY of “A Road to Mecca: The Journey of Muhammad Asad”.

During the 1950s & 60s, The Jewish Museum, not MoMA, was THE avant garde showcase in New York City. After decades of taking a safer route, the doyenne of the nation’s Jewish museums seems to be, at least in part, taking this path again, most recently evinced by the stunning exhibit, “Sarah Bernhardt: The Art of High Drama,” which asked, in part, just what is a Jew?

For their 18th annual New York Jewish Film Festival, now a long running partnership with the Film Society of Lincoln Center, they’ll be screening an Austrian made- for-TV doc, “A Road to Mecca: The Journey of Muhammad Asad,” the story of the scion of a long line of Orthodox rabbis from Czernowitz (now Czernovtsy), born in 1900 in Lemberg (now Lviv), both then part of Austria-Hungary, who began schooling with a religiously rich education until WWI caused his family to move to the secular capital Vienna.

Leopold Weiss would attend university, acquire new languages, dally with the intellectual brilliance of 1920s Berlin, becoming a screenwriter & then a journalist, trek to Saudi Arabia, befriend the king Ibn Saud, convert to Islam, spin a 1st name meaning lion to an analogous last name & in effect, become a light for the then contemporary Islamic awakening as the colonial domains began their march to independence. 

In india he became an intimate of the western trained poet/philosopher Muhammad Iqbal (a follower of among others, the French Jewish Nobel Laureate philosopher Henri Bergson) & together with others conceive of a Muslim state – or at least autonomous region – within NW British India that would become Pakistan. Weiss/Asad would become a minister & early UN rep for the new state created to protect Muslims from increasing Hindu hostility.

Before this he would sojourn in mandatory Palestine, where he’d engage with uncles from both sides of his family, one Zionist, one clearly not, adopting the latter’s views, writing for the then liberal Frankfurter Zeitung (indirect forerunner of the similarly named modern journal), living amongst the wandering Bedouin who he came to feel were more like the ancient Hebrews, penning the once influential, now out of print, but still cited The Road to Mecca, visit Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Soviet Central Asia.

He fell out of favor with Pakistan’s governing circles & became saddened with the trajectory of its governance which he envisioned as naturally democratic, settled in Tangiers, wrote what is considered one of the best translations of the Qur’an, fell out of favor in Morocco & made his last home the once glorious Andalusia.

The film covers his wanderings from Lviv to Vienna to Jerusalem to Mecca to Lahore to New York to Tangiers & concludes at his gravesite in Spain. He was always in places that at least once contained a cosmopolitan mix of peoples & engaged with artists, writers, philosophers & politicians who were no less at home in the world of ideas.

The documentary maker Georg Misch – whose film company is named Mischief – takes on the naming this past April of a square by the UN complex in Vienna  for Asad – a first for a Muslim in Europe (& a site created by the Jewish Social Democratic Prime Minister Bruno Kreisky), he follows Palestinians making Hajj to Mecca via a flight from Amman, looks in at a gathering of Asad acolytes in Pakistan’s intellectual hub, the decaying beauty of Lahore, engages with two Sephardi sisters in Tangiers who Asad assiduously visited bearing Sachertorte, travels around Manhattan on 9/11/06 with Asad’s son Talal, a distinguished professor of anthropology at the CUNY Grad Center, reflecting, like his father, on the West’s perceptions of Muslims.  

One hopes the Museum will pair the two screenings with a symposium or panel. The filmmaker, his co-writer, anthropologist Miriam Ali de Unzaga, an Ismaili & Talal Asad come to mind. Meanwhile, to learn more about the subject, check out the extensive or the shorter For a brief excerpt from the film’s namesake book, see

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18th Annual New York Jewish Film Festival January 14- 29, 2009


The upcoming 18th Annual New York Jewish Film Festival will have an excellent mix of 32 features, documentaries, and short films, including world, United States, and New York premieres from 15 countries, with many fine actors and directors.

It will be held at a few venues including The Jewish Museum , the Walter Reade Theatre at Lincoln Center,  the JCC of Manhattan and 92ndStYTribeca from January 14 through January 29, 2009.

This week Lily and NYCGuy are previewing some of these films and we will have our reviews posted over the next few days.

Tickets go on sale Thursday December 18, 2008, many screenings sell out.

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Women in 3 Films: The Changeling, The Secret Life of Bees and Desert Brides

Film, Lily's notes

These three films would not seem to have much in common. The Changeling and The Secret Life of Bees are big budget American films and the Desert Brides is an Israeli made low budget documentary. They had very different budgets, production, and settings but all portrayed vulnerable women and their experiences in their society. All three have shared themes of isolation and friendship, child care, women at work, clothing and transformation, death and cruelty, hospital scenes, abuse, judges or elders, and the effect of traditional roles of women and the theme of justice.

The Changeling (directed by Clint Eastwood) is the most problematic of the three.  It has the star quality of the cast, starring Angelina Jolie, distractingly beautifully scene-styling evoking the 1920-1930’s in Los Angeles and the great clothes of the time.

But be prepared: this is a very disturbing film with gratuitous violence and great graphic cruelty towards women and children.

It is based on a “true story”. It depicts a cruel, unjust past with no real redemption or justice for the woman at the heart of the story. She looses what means the most to her, her only son, she is treated unjustly and cruelly, and remains a stoic sufferer. Very traditional. She does have the strength to stand up to the “system” and still she suffers right up to the end. It was enough to give my friend bad dreams.

The Secret Life of Bees by Gina Prince-Bythewood is an example of satisfying story-telling, lovely acting and filming and the redemptive quality of mutual love and respect. Of these three films, it is the one not to miss.  There are decent men and women in this story along with the troubles and injustices of society .

The viewer is not abused by the film-maker while watching the film.

Queen Latifah stars and is depicted in a sky blue dress, like Mary, throughout the film.

Desert Brides is an Israeli award-winning documentary by Ada Ushpiz, which won the Best Film, 2008 DocAviv. She is a journalist and film-maker.

Three relatively educated and independent women try to cope with a life of polygamy and their personal suffering. 

If anyone ever tries to “explain” to you that you do not like the idea of a man having several wives at once because this this is just your cultural bias, and that traditional women actually like the traditional system of of their husbands having many wives, please recommend that they see this film.

It depicts men and women trapped between their personal desires for a happier life and partners of their own choosing, and the demands of tradition society which many (not all) can not free themselves of.

It is a rare, and sympathetic, look inside of Bedouin homes and wedding celebrations, as well. This film has some rougher scenes but is not as violent nor anywhere as disturbing as the Changeling and is very worthwhile.  In Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles.

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The Jewish Women’s Film Festival

Events, Film

This is a fine, focused and unique film festival.

The National Council of Jewish Women New York Section has an open film competition which is held every two years. The focus is films on the “experiences, aspirations, accomplishments of Jewish women”,  and the selected films are screened in a one-day film festival.  These films have never before been shown commercially in the New York area. This year it will be held on Sunday, October 26, at the JCC in Manhattan (76th and Amsterdam.)

This year’s selected films are:

Making Trouble, director: Rachel Talbot. Four Jewish comedians reminisce about the careers of the women who paved the way for them with lots of great archival footage. See my previous review of this film on this blog on January 25, 2008. Click on calender or enter title in search.

Family Picture, director Itzhak Haluzi (31 minutes) A dinner invitation transports them to their past during the Holocaust and provides an opportunity for revenge. 

Not Old Yet, directors: Miri Shnera and Moshe Timor, (27 Minutes) Anna goes from being a successful opera singer in Ukraine to becoming a cleaning woman in Israel. A touching story of her determination, good humor and faith in pursuing her lost career.

Passages, director: Gabriela Bohm (66 minutes) When the film maker learns that she is pregnant, she searches for her family history of myths, mysteries and secrets on a journey that takes her to Israel, Argentina, Hungary, and the US.

Westerbork Girl, Director Steffie Van Den Ord (48 minutes) The story of Hannalore Cahn, who was freed from Westbork Transit Camp during WWII. A film about survival, memory and love. And about an impossible decision that still haunts.

My Nose, director Gayle Kirschenbaum (13 minutes) A mother’s preoccupation with her daughter’s nose. Will she or won’t she?

Here’s the link to their festival information.

An organizer wrote this note to me: “Some film makers will be attending the sessions and the reception… we will be honoring Jane Rosenthal (of the Tribeca Film Festival, etc) and the winner of the best film award at our festival (only the award maker and one or two of the staff knows who that is… even the committee does not know). The festival is a competition and the judging was done by an independent panel.”

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A Thousand Years of Good Prayers


Just before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year ( it is now 5769 for those of you who are counting), we saw A thousand Years of Good Prayers, a wonderful Wayne Wang film based on the book of stories about China and the US by Yihun Li.

It is a story about relationships: communication,  truth, silence and healing.

The story very moving, it is shot delicately and the cast is excellent. Put this on your list of “must see” films.

A  man travels from his home in China to America to visit his daughter after her recent divorce. His trip starts off as a mission to comfort her and give her support through a difficult time, although their personal history has been marked by distance.

The quality and types of communication by all of the characters makes this story so poignant. I would write more but I do not want to spoil one single moment of this story.

 It is currently at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema on Broadway and 62nd St. The NY Film Festival rightfully attracts so much attention, but I would urge you not to miss this film.

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“Fugitive Pieces” opens in New York


Last night we saw a preview screening of Fugutive Pieces, the Canadian film by Jeremy Podeswa,  which is based on the award winning novel by Anne Michaels. It open tommorrow, May 2, 2008,  at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema (Broadway and 62ndst).

Even though novelized versions of Holocaust stories always give me pause, since the telling of true stories of actual survivors are so moving and shocking and much more important to remember, I still found that this film of survival, the blessed actions of decent people, the effect of memory and loss, and intimacy was extremely moving, poetic and very worthwhile. 

The cast is wonderful and much of the film is shot in beautiful locations Greece, and in claustophobic apartment interiors. Good metaphor for the main character’s exterior and interior life.

Go see the film.

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“The Counterfeiter” and “Who Will Carry the Word?”

Film, Theater

This weekend we saw Who Will Carry the Word ? by Charlotte Delbo performed at the Red Fern Theatre by a very dedicated and moving cast and the Oscar winning The Counterfeiter.

Both pose the question of what is moral behavior under the most extreme immoral conditions of a concentration camp during the Shoah (Holocaust).

Our society is so based on the individual, we tend to want to focus this question on an individual’s behavior and choices but what emerges in both works is how the sum of the behaviors of individual actions adds up to something much more than what any one person does. In The Counterfeiter, we are in the male barracks of the Nazi concentration camp, Sachsenhausen,  in the unique prisoner blocks dedicated to conterfeiting currency. *More on this camp and the specific barrack blocks later.

The lead character, Solly,  a Jewish counterfeiter, goes by his moral code: never be a rat even if you can’t stand the other guy, do anything to keep alive and help others stay alive. Adolf, the communist prisoner has a different code: don’t cooperate with the Nazis and sabotage the counterfeiting work, come what may and perhaps martyrdom is an honorable outcome. This code could easily enrage the Nazis to kill them all. The other inmates depicted just try to stay alive. 

In the end, both of these  points of view are needed by the group for moral and physical survival.

In this film, the “criminal” Solly is much more likable and much less frightening than the ”high-minded” Adolf. The Nazis are portrayed correctly as collectively dispicable, the worst of the worst, of course. Thankfully, there is no trace of any romanticizing  of them or of their motives. No individual action “overcomes” their collective guilt.

This excellent film is very worth seeing and deserves its award.

Who Will Carry the Word, was written by  Charlotte Delbo who was a survivor. The Red Fern Theatre Company partnered with the Remember the Women Institute for this production.

By contrast, we are in the women’s barracks of Auschwitz. These women do not have any skill such as counterfeiting, that they might be able to play for survival’s sake. They are trapped and helpless. Much of the overt dialog of the play involves the question of how to retain the will to live and whether to retain the will to live. What emerges is the way these women try to support and comfort each other. Again, the collective actions surpass any one individual’s action.

This was the first event on the Shoah I have attended in which much of the audience was young, and many probably were not Jewish. After the play, a camp survivor, Bronia Brandman, told her moving, harrowing, determined story of survival as a young pre-teen (and of becoming a teenager) and took questions afterwards. She was asked “Do you believe in God?” and replied with her family’s history which includes descent from illustrous Rabbis, and her love and devotion to Judaism and Jewish culture.

This was tremendously moving. She is an excellent soft-spoken  speaker, and a woman able to convey her experiences and emotions. She is a docent at the Museum of Jewish Heritage a Living Memorial to the Holocaust in Battery Park, New York City, and she speaks regularly to school groups. Some in the audience said that this was their first experience meeting an actual survivor.

The film, play and museum are all very, very worthwhile.

If you haven’t ever spoken with a survivor, try to do so before one can not do so any longer- time is running out as they age.

More on this camp and these specific barrack blocks: I will add  the fascinating experiences of  Remember the Women colleagues who visited the precise barracks depicted in the film.  I should receive the comments in a day or two.

Here are Bronia Brandman, Rochelle Saidel, and  the Red Fern Theatre’s, Melanie Williams and Emilie Miller.

Bronia, Rochelle, Melanie and Emilie

Photo courtesy of the Red Fern Theatre Company

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