Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
THE NEW YORK JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
Presented by The Jewish Museum and The New York Film Society of Lincoln Society
January 13 -28, 2010
This year is the 19th annual New York Jewish Film Festival which takes place at The Film Society's Walter Reade Theater, The Jewish Museum, and The JCC in Manhattan. The festival will present 32 features, and shorts from 13 countries. 28 screening will be making their U.S. or New York premieres presenting a diverse global perspective on the Jewish experience.
SELECTED FILMS PREVIEWED:
"LEAP OF FAITH"
Directed by: Stephen Z. Friedman and Anthony Benjamin
USA, 2009, 95 minutes - Documentary (NY Premiere)
In this in depth examination of religion, four families experience the difficulties of abandoning their traditions and embracing Judaism. Subjects include Messianic Jews in Colorado; a recent bat mitzvah whose admission to a Jewish high school is challenged and a single mother who is also a U.S. Army reservist whose 10 year old son is deeply confused with his focus over religious and family allegiances. Also included is the story of a motivated woman of color from Trinidad and a once devoted gentile, now relocated in New Jersey/New York who works as a nanny for a Jewish family.
This feature-length documentary is the first film that looks deeply in the thoughts of what propels individuals to go down the road of profound spiritual change. It also takes the audience to the point where the personal truth translates into life altering action.
Leap of Faith caused me to ask myself, "How does one absorb the major lifestyle adjustments, to say nothing of dealing with the emotional turmoil involved in confronting confused and family members, skeptical friends and ambivalent clergy?"
This is a story of ultimate devotion and a journey that moves people to a different system of belief and practice of worship.
"MARY AND MAX"
Directed by: Adam Elliot
Australia, 2008, 92 minutes - Animation (NY Premiere)
Oscar winning director Adam Elliot's claymation feature is a tale based on a true story of an extraordinary long distance correspondence relationship between Mary Dinkle, a chubby, lonely 8 year old girl who lives in the suburbs of Melbourne and Max Horovitz, a 44 year old severely obese Jewish New Yorker with Asperger's Syndrome.
Spanning 20 years and 2 continents, this animation shows the pen-pal relationship between two very different people. The movie chronicles Mary's trip from adolescence to adulthood, and Max's passage from middle to old age. It explores the bond that survives much more than the average friendship's ups and downs, yet it is both poignant and hilarious. The journey takes on autism, taxidermy, psychiatry and alcoholism. Other topics tackledin this stimulating film include where babies come from, kleptomania, sexual differences, trust and religious differences .
Mary and Max features the voice talents of Toni Collette, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Humphries and Eric Bana.
"SAVIOURS IN THE NIGHT" (Unter Bauern: Retter in Der Nacht)
Directed by: Ludi Boeken
Germany/France, 2009, 100 minutes - Drama (NY Premiere)
This period piece set from World War I and World War II (1918-1945) and is based on the memoir of Marga Spiegel. This powerful narrative portrays how courageous German farmers in Westphalia risked their lives to hide a Jewish family from Nazis.
UNTER BAUERN-Retter in der Nacht is a film adaptation from Marga Spiegel's 1965 published book. The movie documents how farmers in southern Munsterland hid Marga (brilliantly portrayed by Veronica Ferres), her husband Menne (Armin Rohde) and their little daughter Karin (Luisa Mix) from 1943 until 1945. Thus the family was saved from deportation to the extermination camps in the East.
This is a story of survival with a sense for the absurd in daily life. The movie is not without humor. In fact, the focus of this movie isn't typical of a survival themed film. It delivers a special story about friendship, reliability and humanity during dangerous situations guided by humane instincts and codes of ethics.
"WITHIN THE WHIRLWIND"
Directed by: Marleen Gorris
Germany/Poland/Belgium, 2009, 98 minutes (NY Premiere)
Within The Whirlwind is an autobiographical period piece exposing the life of Russian poetess Eugenia Ginzburg. The film is based on her memoir of the imprisonment in the Soviet Union during the rule of Joseph Stalin in the 1930s. Because Ginzburg herself couldn't publish it in the highly restrictive USSR, the manuscript was smuggled out of the country and later sold in many different languages.
The film opens with Eugenia Ginzburg (Emily Watson) who is a literature professor married with two boys. As it turns out, she is arrested for her association with revolutionaries. She is stripped of her Communist party card and teaching post. The court found her guilty of not being loyal to the Stalin regime and as a result, she was sent to 10 years hard labor in Siberia.
Having lost everything, and no longer wishing to live, Eugenia meets the camp doctor portrayed by Ulrich Tukur and begins love relationship. Surviving the hash and brutal ordeal in the Siberian gulag, she shows her fellow inmates powerful kindness. All the while, Eugenia keeps her memoirs and poetry. With a stunning performance by Emily Watson, this epic feature is a challenging movie.
FOR MORE INFORMATION GO TO WWW.FILMLINC.COM, WWW.THEJEWISHMUSEUM.ORG, AND WWW.JCCMANHATTAN.ORG.