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Christmas Is Over.....Bring On The Jews

With a rare Christmas weekend blizzard extending the holiday in the Northeast corridor of the United States, and before Christmas dinners are completely digested, it is time to clear the palate for a smorgasboard of Jewish-themed films. The Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center will present the 20th annual New York Jewish Film Festival at the Film Society's Walter Reade Theater, The Jewish Museum, and The JCC in Manhattan from January 12 to 27. In all, 36 features and shorts from 14 countries, including 31 premieres, provide a diverse global perspective on the Jewish experience. In celebration of the festival's 20th anniversary, several film screenings will be followed by filmmakers and special guests in onstage discussions and/or performances.

The festival opens on January 12 with the New York premiere of "Mahler on the Couch," Percy and Felix Adlon's witty examination of composer Gustav Mahler's relationship with his tempestuous wife, Alma, and his consultations with Sigmund Freud.  The film is filled with Mahler's sublime music, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.  It joins the closing night film, Avi Nesher's "The Matchmaker", a New York premiere about a teenage boy in 1968 Haifa who gets a job working for a matchmaker who is a Holocaust survivor. The film was nominated for seven Israeli Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

 

As Lilith (Eytan Harris, Israel)

Festival documentary screenings include three world premieres. Daniel Burman's "36 Righteous Men" ("Los 36 Justos") follows a group of Orthodox Jews on their annual pilgrimage to the tombs of Tzaddikim (righteous men) in Russia, Ukraine and Poland, culminating in a visit to the tomb of the founder of Hasidism, the Baal Shem Tov.   Jonathan Gruber's "Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray" is the first film to address the struggles that American Jews faced on the battlefield and at the home front on both sides in the Civil War, and features the voice of Sam Waterson as Abraham Lincoln.  Joseph Dorman's "Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness" is a moving portrait of the great Yiddish writer, whose stories inspired the Broadway musical classic Fiddler on the Roof.

Four documentaries examine facets of contemporary Israeli life.  Eytan Harris' "As Lilith," receiving its New York premiere, takes the viewer through the aftermath of a teenage girl's suicide. Anat Zuria's "Black Bus," also a New York premiere, chronicles the lives of two women who leave the close-knit Haredi community and are consequently estranged from their families.  Shlomi Eldar's "Precious Life," tells the complex and touching story of Israeli and Palestinian doctors' attempts to save the life of a Palestinian baby born without an immune system.  Lisa Gossels' "My So-Called Enemy," yet another New York premiere, tells the story of six Palestinian and Israeli girls who participate in a program meant to bridge the gap between the two sides.

 

 The Roundup (Roseleyne Bosch, France)

The Holocaust provides a never-ending stream of morality lessons and two exceptional films will be featured at this year's event. French director Raphaël Delpard's documentary, "Convoys of Shame" ("Les Convois de la Honte"), receiving its United States premiere, explores how SNCF (the French national rail company) transported thousands of Jews, Roma and members of the resistance to Nazi concentration camps.  Roselyne Bosch's "The Roundup" ("La Rafle"), a New York premiere, dramatizes the infamous "Vel d'Hiv" roundup of 13,000 Jews in 1943 Nazi-occupied Paris.  The film, which has created a sensation in France, features Jean Reno (The DaVinci Code) and Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds). A Festival highlight includes a special screening of George Marshall's 1953 "Houdini" in memory of Tony Curtis and in conjunction with The Jewish Museum's current exhibition, Houdini: Art and Magic.  This film stars Curtis as the legendary magician and escape artist Harry Houdini and Janet Leigh as his wife.  The screening will be followed by a performance by contemporary magical entertainer Josh Rand.

 Lies My Father Told Me (Jan Kadar)

The Festival also provides an opportunity to view restored film classics that rarely get big screen revivals. Ján Kádar's 1975 film, "Lies My Father Told Me," follows 6-year old David, who lives in 1920s Montreal with his Canadian-born parents and his beloved grandfather, a junk peddler who emigrated from Russia.  In Max Nosseck's 1956 work,"Singing in the Dark," Yiddish star Moishe Oysher plays a concentration camp survivor suffering from traumatic amnesia.  One of the first feature films to dramatize the Holocaust, this was Oysher's only English-language film.  There will also be a special screening of the classic 1939 "Tevye," directed by and starring Maurice Schwartz, at The Jewish Museum.  Restored with new subtitles by The National Center for Jewish Film, this adaptation of the Sholem Aleichem play will be followed by a book signing with J. Hoberman, author of the newly expanded Bridge of Light: Yiddish Film Between Two Worlds.

For more information on this year's New York Jewish Film Festival, visit: www.filmlinc.com

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor

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