Browsing the archives for the Film category.

Aviva, My Love; Souvenirs; I Got No Jeep and My Camel Died


Aviva, My Love, is beautifully written and directed by Shemi Zarhin. Against all the odds of a hard-working life: financial problems, a maddeningly demanding family, gender prejudice, Aviva is an aspiring author of poetic story. The interaction between her personal reality and her story writing very skillfully brings to mind the interaction of the love affair and the war in Hiroshima, My Love.

Three generations of women are depicted, each with a distinct set of expectaions and coping skills which reflect their changed status in society over time. The film is engrossing and entertaining and will be shown in NYC again in March.


I Got No Jeep and My Camel Died  and Souvenirs, are both documentary road-trip films with father-and-son relationship themes but are they feel extremely different.

 I Got No Jeep and My Camel Died  is a desert road-trip, with jeeps and camels, and a stop in Brazil(!). It is the personal musical journey of Yair Dalal filled with absolutely splendid music. Yair Dalal is a World Music star and you can hear his music on his site.

Souvenirs an entertaining and moving  father and son road-trip film about  truth and memory. Travel starts in Israel, through Italy, and Germany to Holland and takes us through 60 years of a father’s stories to the source of his experience. The end is wonderful.

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“Making Trouble” and “Orthodox Stance” by NYCGuy

Film, Guest Author: NYCGUY

Five Real Jewish Women – Three of them Mothers – All Dead of Cancer Before 60 ….by guest author NYCGuy.

 I sat between Lily and my mom at the afternoon screening of Making Trouble, a doc about three generations of Jewish comediennes, three of whose careers I experienced in real time: Gilda Radner, Wendy Wasserstein and Madeline Kahn. A Q and A followed with director Rachel Talbot and editor Philip Shayne in the Jewish Museum hall that could only be described as a sea of silver-haired ladies. I asked the director what it was like to deal with three boomer women whose lives had been cut short way too soon.

Talbot, a boomer, seemed taken aback, but Shane interceded that they were filming Wasserstein vis-a-vis Kahn’s acting career and her role in her Sisters Rosensweig when the playwright died. So, she became one of those profiled as well as the segue into the Kahn segment. I later discovered I’d erred about the very sexy, sharply funny Kahn. Her birth preceded the baby boom by four years.

 The film used the vehicle of four contemporary Jewish comics or comedy writers fressing at Katz’s delicatessen, for propulsion, but I don’t somehow recall mention of lives foreshortened. The film, with significant support from the Jewish Women’s Archive, is ostensibly about six pioneers – Molly Picone, Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker and the still kicking Joan Rivers – but the sadly serendipitous inclusion of Wasserstein, a single mom and sole non-performer, added a woman as shammas whose extraordinary gift for story telling set ablaze the careers of many fine actresses.

So, you ask, who were the other two whose lives were cut short?

This evening I attended the closing festival screening with my friend M. The documentary, Orthodox Stance, looked at the boxing career of a Soviet immigrant, Dmitriy Salita, who takes on what was the sport of the earlier generation inter-war Jewish immigranmt boys who also sought a route out of poverty.

Dmitriy, who sat on the step next to us as the film rolled, began his training in the Starrett City Boxing Gym, a white kid among Black and Latin youths, with a legendary elderly Black trainer, Jimmy O’Pharrow, who, during the Q+A, Dmitriy named as his surrogate grandfather.

Early in his training, his mother develops and eventually succumbs to cancer. The husband of her Orthodox Jewish hospital roommate connects Dimitriy with a Chabad Lubavitch rabbi in Flatbush, setting a different spin on the young man’s life. His focus on boxing was also a way of dealing with the loss of his mother. The film opens theatrically at Cinema Village on January 25. Go see it!

Lily alread wrote about Praying with Lior. Isaw this with Lily and her husband sitting on one side and my friend G on the other. I had immediately checked off that film as a must see by the compelling picture of Lior in the Frestival brochure. In the course of the doc, via family film footage, we see the loss of Lior’s birth mother, a rabbi, and later discussion about this threaded throughout. His dad, also a rabbi, Mordechai Liebling,  a prominent thinker in the Reconstructionist movement eventually remarries. Lior’s new mom sees him into his current adolescence and with his dad to the pivotal preparation for the celebration of his bar mitzvah. On the eve of this event there is a scene with Lior and his dad at the birth mom’s gravesite. If there’s anyone unmoved their heart is clearly made of stone.

I don’t know if the organizers of what was the NY Jewish Film Festival 17 realized that the loss of vibrant women not due to the holocaust was woven through three very different documentaries that very much need to travel and be discussed.

That apparently is the desire of all the film makers.

In January 2009, the Festival turns 18, chai, life in Jewish numerology. What might this bring? Who might be missed?

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“Praying With Lior”


Praying With Lior will open shortly at the Village Cinema, and perhaps elsewhere. We saw it at the Jewish Museum as part of the  Jewish Film Festival followed by a fascinating discussion panel.

Make time to see this film.

This is a loving, compelling documentary about the world of Lior, a young man with Down’s Syndrome, his amazing family which includes four siblings, his community, how he deals with loss, and his preparation for his Bar Mitzvah. (warning:bring tissues).

It is most interesting to see how people choose to project onto Lior what they would like to see- a Magical Child- and how Lior, his parents and siblings deal with reality. It is wonderful to spend time with this family.

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Four films in the Jewish Film Festival


This film festival has had so many special films that I want to comment only very briefly on just a few of them. Most of these will be shown in other festivals in the future, try to see them:

The Hebrew Lesson, documentary in Hebrew, Chinese, Russian and other languages, the drama of real peoples’ lives, with the kind of uniqueness and details that fiction can not dream up.

Someone to Run With, in Hebrew based on a novel by David Grossman- a riveting drama which takes place in Jerusalem. Extremely well done.

Love One Another, a restored print of a 1922 silent film with Danish and English titles, by Carl Dreyer (not Jewish) is a protest against anti-semitism in Csarist Russia. Very remarkable film. We saw it with a live pianist. Some of the actors are from the Moscow stage and eventually performed in the NY Jewish theatre of the 20’s and 30’s and in Hollywood.

Two Ladies,in  French and Arabic, Jewish Esther and Moslem Selima’s mother, are both Algerian born and living in France. They share a fascinating friendship in spite of the surrounding extremism and prejudice.

Each year I go to this festival and no matter how many films I manage to see, friends see a few I haven’t seen, they tell me how wonderful they were, and I have the feeling I have missed too much!

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17th Annual NY Jewish Film Festival, Film Society of Lincoln Center


I have only one peeve about this fabulous film festival: how can they have so few showings of some of these films? We bought our tickets well in advance of the screenings and we were lucky enough to buy the last available tickets to at least two of the showings. If you hope to see any of these films, review the listings on the link and buy the tickets now since many showings will be sold out. Here is the description from their brochure:

“Presented by The Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln CenterWelcome to the 17th annual New York Jewish Film Festival, a global survey of innovative and provocative films—most receiving their New York or U.S. premieres—that explore the multi-faceted Jewish experience. To mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, this year’s festival showcases ten new Israeli films. We pay tribute this year to the late Austrian stage, television, and film director Axel Corti with screenings of four of his masterpieces. A total of 32 shorts, dramas, and documentaries from Germany, France, Argentina, Russia, Hungary, the United States, Mexico, Canada, Israel, the United Kingdom and Austria add up to an exhilarating worldwide journey.”

In a future post, I will comment on four of the films seen so far.

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Jock Soto on film and in person

Film, Lily's notes

Here is a handsome photo of Jock Soto, the retired NYC Ballet principal dancer, taken by Daniel C. Miller in the lobby of the Walter Reade Theatre in Lincoln Centre after a showing of Jock Soto“Waters Coming Together” the documentary about his life and  career by Gwendolen Cates.  The film was wonderful.

We had seen some of the exerpts of dance shown live in performance.

His personal story, as a young dancing boy on the Navaho reservation in Arizona, then as a young teen completely on his own in New York, his devotion to dance, his beautiful talent and career  were all very compelling.

We witness the tough work and behind the scenes pain of dance not often depicted in film.  Also, so many other wonderful dancers are shown.

Makes you want to dance.


Film, Film, Film, Film, Film


During the holiday week we saw five films. Two were new releases, After The Devil Knows, and The Bucket List and three were Bob Fosse revivals which we saw at the Reade Theatre at Lincoln Centre,  Lenny, All That Jazz, and Caberet.

In just a breath: The Fosse films knock the pants off of the new films we saw.

After The Devil Knows was chilling and very well done,  The Bucket List has a concocted “charm”.  Please just explain to me how can running away from it all, and leaving the people you love, be the right thing to do if you know that you do not have long to live? My “bucket” list would be vastly different. It was “charming”, entertaining and pretty dumb. It probably has all it needs to win some awards.

The Fosse films all hold up extremely well over time. This is a good time period to either be reminded about Lenny Bruce or learn about him for the first time, All That Jazz, about the life of Bob Fosse, is a great film and if you love dance you should certainly see it, and Caberet is devastating to see again. Rent them.

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