Mandel Maven's Nest Lilith Watch:
Guide to Jewish Women in Film





- “America for the ‘Americans’!” by Werner Hahmann, 1934, Issue #23 of Berlin’s satirical Kladderadatsch (from Prof. Randall Bytwerk’s German Propaganda Archive at Calvin College). This cartoon promotes a Nazi caricature of a Jewish female (lower left) that still dominates in movies and TV, with her mocking mouth, dark curly hair, immodest dress -- the “impudent behavior of Jewish women” that Nazis objected to in the mid-1930’s. (quoted in Saul Friedlander’s Nazi Germany and the Jews: Vol 1: The Years of Persecution 1933-1939, 1997, Harper). Even as the minstrel show images of African-Americans have been discredited as racist “Negrobilia”, so called by Whoopi Goldberg, who culturally appropriated a transgressive stage name. On the right is “Frau Ipelmeyer” (portrayed by Inge van der Straaten) in Hans H. Zerlett’s Robert und Bertram (1939), the Nazis’ only musical comedy about Jews – and the image of Jewish matrons hasn’t really changed since. [Still from Kino Lorber’s Hitler’s Hollywood]

”Some Viennese coined an expression to describe the exotic, dark-haired allure of Klimt’s models: la belle Juive or Jewish beauty. They too were promoting a stereotype, but this time it was appreciative. . . Jewish…women [then] were officially referred to by the ugly term Judensau, or Jewish sow.”

--Anne-Marie O’Connor, The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klilmt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, quoting Tobias Natter and Gerbert Frodl in Klimt’s Women, though I find no evidence that the Nazis used that medieval anti-Semitic term towards Jewish women.

  • The Lilith Watch: Critical Guide to Jewish Women on TV: Reviews and commentary

    Jewish Women in (and Missing from) the Flicks


    Nora Lee Mandel is a member of New York Film Critics Online and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists. Her reviews are counted in the Rotten Tomatoes TomatoMeter:


    A graduate film student next to me at a 2011 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center press screening overheard me describing this page to a colleague who writes for Hadassah Magazine. His immediate connection to Jewish women by and in movies was only Joan Micklin Silver’s Hester Street (1975) (a paradigm of Jewish women immigrants) and Crossing Delancey (1988) (with Amy Irving as the iconic visual representation of contemporary Jewish women) – the equivalent of Seinfeld being cited for TV. When I demurred that I have been looking for images and stereotypes in more recent films, he immediately jumped to The Social Network (2010) because evidently the young woman “Erica Albright” (played by Rooney Mara) arguing with the fictionalized Mark Zuckerberg at the opening of Aaron Sorkin’s script can be perceived as a putative Jew because she went to Boston University and he later was seen at a Jewish fraternity party. Besides that when I was in graduate school everyone always misheard and automatically switched the identifications when we said that I was the one at Harvard and my boyfriend (now husband) was at B.U., there does seem to be the need for me to continue to analyze even putative Jewish women in the movies. (11/11/2011)
    At least he didn’t cite Woody Allen films. It would take an academic dissertation beyond the scope of this site for me to detail my opinions of the mixed-leaning-way-to-negative impact of his oeuvre on the cinematic image of Jewish women. Even though his sister, Letty Aronson, is extensively interviewed about his family and biography in PBS’s American Masters 3 ½ hour Woody Allen: A Documentary, the Jewish angle was skirted by only having Diane Keaton’s chuckling explanation that her character’s family’s anti-Semitic views in Annie Hall came straight from her grandmother. (11/24/2011)
    Maybe I should create The Lilith Test for how Jewish women are portrayed in films?
    As of mid-2014, I am marking my own stricter application than others to fiction features of the Bechdel-Wallace Test
    Originally suggested by Allison Bechdel, as inspired by her friend Liz Wallace (so her name was added to the symbol as of 2016), in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985 to note a film that features (1) at least two named female characters; (2) who talk to each other; (3) about something besides a man. Symbol first designed by the Swedish chapter of Women in Film and Television; thanks to The Hot Pink Pen for the updated image. But my own criteria consider a substantive interaction about substance.


    Complete Index to Nora Lee Mandel's Movie Reviews

    Since August 2006, edited versions of most of my reviews of documentaries/indie/foreign films are at Film-Forward; since 2012, festival overviews at FilmFestivalTraveler; and, since 2016, coverage of women-made films at FF2 Media. Shorter versions of my older reviews are at IMDb's comments, where non-English-language films are listed by their native titles.


    13, a ludodrama about Walter Benjamin In this very creative, part animated, 13 chapter bio-doc of the German Jewish philosopher, the narrator avoids the negativity between him and his sister Dora (seen in archival photographs), and focuses instead on how she supported him, provided places for him to live (visited in the film), and fled the Nazis with him in France; she made it to Switzerland. His cousin Hannah Arendt saved one of his last manuscripts. (seen at MoMA’s 2018 Documentary Fortnight) (3/3/2018) 24 Days (24 Jours) (5/25/2015)

    27 Dresses (As it’s set in NYC, at least one of her friends had to be Jewish, but “Shari Rabinowitz”s wedding is an intermarriage, presumably for extra humor, with a Jewish-Hindu ceremony for which the bridesmaid’s dress is a sari.) (1/21/2008)

    36 Righteous Ones (Los 36 Justos) (briefly reviewed at 2011 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nuSome sources incorrectly translate the original Spanish title as a masculine plural in English, but this traditional Elul pilgrimage through Eastern Europe includes a stop at the grave of a rebbitzin--and her husband. I spent considerable time trying to track down exactly who this female tzaddik was, other than I think she was named Rivka, and where was her grave, to no avail, I'm embarrassed to admit. (1/28/2011)

    51 Birch Street (10/18/2006) (emendations coming after 4/18/2007)

    77 Steps (previewed at 2011 Other Israel Film Festival) (So, nu: The Israeli Arab director aggressively debates with a hostess at the kibbutz and provokes her to change from genial to negative about local Arabs, amidst reminisces of the old days. That exchange helps to precipitate the break-up with her Canadian-Jewish boyfriend, who thought she was being rude after the older woman’s hospitality.) (11/26/2011)

    93Queen - When feature debut director Paula Eiselt, who identifies in the press notes as an Orthodox Jewish woman, observes over four years of filming the group of Hasidic women who form Ezras Nashim (“women’s help”) the women’s alternative to the politically powerful Hatzolah volunteer ambulance corps in Borough Park, Brooklyn, this is a fascinating look at taking on the biased male authority structure in the community. We can see just how political rabbinical decision-making is, how prohibitions against lashon hara is used against women – but not against men who criticize women, including calling them “feminists”, which is synonymous with being “secular” and challenging “modesty” (as seen in nasty online comments). The diversity of the insistently frum women is also revealing, from the leading “Yocheved”, a single mother long-time professional EMT who has only recently become so observant and quits over the politically compromised issue of banning single women who she can so personally relate to; a divorced woman who loves popular culture; older women who have been marginalized by the increasingly insular community because they only speak English; younger women with medical-related education and aspirations; and, by the way, is childbirth educator Yitty Mandel related to me? But, unfortunately, too much time is spent promoting the singular dynamic powerhouse community organizer Rachel “Ruchie” Freier, who managed to go to college and law school while working and raising her supportive family, and during the filming of the organization’s first year on the ground fulfilled her professional goal of running for civil court judge and became first Hasidic woman elected to office in the United States, despite Hatzolah running an opposition candidate. At least during the campaign, she finally acknowledges she has become a feminist.
    Eiselt is rightfully proud of the documentary’s music: “The vocals interlaced into Laura Karpman’s masterful score are sung by Hasidic singer Perl Wolfe. Perl is the former lead singer of the first all-female Hasidic band, Bulletproof Stockings [who I featured onLilith Pop]. The vocals are a combination of traditional Hasidic melodies known as niggunim that are almost always sung by men, as well as an original song built with lyrics from a Jewish prayer that highlights the power of women. Perl’s vocals inherently reclaim another male-dominated space and serve as a “Greek chorus” for our story.”(seen on PBS’s POV) (9/21/2018)

    100 Voices: A Journey Home (briefly reviewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: While the documentary covers some of the same ground as A Cantor’s Tale (2005), a new element is the several women cantors interviewed, though there is no explanation/discussion of their relatively new role in synagogues, even as the documentary carefully shows them singing in secular concerts, not in the synagogue, as the ones in Poland are presumably Orthodox, though this tour was organized by the Conservative cantors’ association.) (1/21/2012)

    400 Miles to Freedom (review forthcoming) (previewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (The mother of co-director/narrator Avishai Yeganyahu Mekonen has a clear memory and testifies to the faith and terrors of the long trek her observant family took from Ethiopia to Israel, with the special fears of her son kidnapped to be a child soldier and then the difficulties of assimilation.) (1/21/2012)

    Above and Beyond (previewed at 2014 DOC NYC Festival) (5/4/2015)

    Acts & Intermissions

    (Abigail Child’s (above) bio-doc of Emma Goldman well uses her autobiography and personal letters to get across the woman behind the anarchist stereotypes, though the style is a bit confusing. (The re-enactments are amateurishly acted like a tour through the
    Lower East Side Tenement Museum unfortunately, and the first-person voice-over is in an odd accent.) Though there’s several references that her union organizing and other public speeches are especially effective when she spoke in Yiddish, not mentioned is that she was from a Jewish background or that she was therefore reaching Jews. The repetitive intersection of footage of contemporary demonstrations, particularly of The Occupied Movement, helps the audience relate to the historical incidents and movements seen in archival photographs and films, but her views on love, sex, and (too fleetingly mentioned) contraception sound just as contemporary and similarly controversial, though not mentioned is that her Comstock Act violations got her jailed more than for her politics. (seen in the World Premiere at MoMA’s 2017 Documentary Fortnight) (2/18/2017)

    Adam (review forthcoming) (The only reason that the family of "Bethany Buchwald" (Rose Byrne) is Jewish seems to be that they are in NYC and the dad "Marty" (Peter Gallagher also played a Jewish dad in The O.C.) is an accountant indicted for financial skullduggery to help an old friend, somewhat similar to the non-Jew in Say Anything. And the daughter has a similar reaction of betrayal, especially to the revelation of an affair, pushing her into the new boyfriend's arms as he prepares to leave town. The dad drops one Yiddish word ("gonif lawyers") and expects her home for Friday night dinner. She's on the rebound from an investment banker boyfriend who her dad liked but who she now rejects as a cheating "dick". But though the film takes place in the fall, there's no reference to the Jewish holidays, no Jewish symbols in her apartment, just a cut-out menorah among the winter holiday decorations in her classroom. Her mother "Rebecca" (Amy Irving), living in Westchester, mostly just stands by her man, recalling "your Grandpa Morris" warned her when she married him that he played the angles and she has no regrets. It's implied at the end that she'll stand by her mom. (8/18/2009)

    Adam Resurrected (review forthcoming) (While director Paul Schrader draws on techniques he used in Mishima to faithfully adapt, and even clarify, Yoram Kaniuk's novel of post-Holocaust mental breakdowns, the most prominent Jewish woman is even more quizzical on the screen than in the book. Ayelet Zurer's "Jenny Grey" seems to be more of a sex-starved "Nurse Ratchett" than a sabra who only loves "Adam" when he's a crazy victim. The elderly landlady and women patients brandishing their tattoos are portrayed just as in the book, though missing is the delightfully satirical portrait of the inspired businesswoman/philanthropist who uses her late husband's money to set up in the holy desert the psychiatric clinic for survivors.) (1/6/2009)

    Adoration (So, nu: Among the angry talking heads on the computer who argue against the son's monologue about empathy towards the child of a terrorist is a woman brandishing her concentration camp tattoo, played by Bathsheba Garnett and identified in the cast listing as "Holocaust Survivor".) (5/8/2009)

    Adventureland (review forthcoming) (It may be that Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist proved that yet another nostalgic male coming-of-age movie works better outside the Apatow imprimatur when there's a strong female character – who just happens to be Jewish with cool taste in music (the song selections are terrific). Set in the summer of 1987 in Pittsburgh (though based on writer/director Greg Mottola's memories of Long Island, NY, and I grew up near the very similar Palisades Park), his alter ego is played by Jesse Eisenberg, though "James Brennan" isn't specified as Jewish. But the girl is, and this is one of the few films where the Jewish girl, "Em Lewin" (the very appealing Kristen Stewart just off the virginal vampire hit Twilight), attracts and is having sex with the older, married bad boy (Ryan Reynolds), even if she is an NYU student. Her acting out is explained by the strains with her father the lawyer (Josh Pais) and her new stepmom "Francy" (Mary Birdsong), who, oddly, is bald from a nervous breakdown. The script goes to abrasive lengths to target her grief and anger at anything Jewish because it was at temple where her dad, "he's never been serious about his faith" but seeking solace from her mother's painful last illness met the stepmom and her friends who come visit, including "Mrs. Frigo" (Janine Viola) and "Mrs. Ostrow" (Amy Landis). The latter makes faux pas conversation about the house: I love what you did to the place., then realizes that reflects badly on "Em"s mom, as the girl explodes to her father, setting off the stepmom. While the sweet ending seems a bit too fantasy, "Em" and "James"s growing relationship - You were the only good thing that happened to me this summer.-- from friendship to more is very realistically tender and romantic. (4/13/2009)

    After Auschwitz A joint biography of six women survivors - Eva Beckmann, Rena Drexler, Renee Firestone, Erika Jacoby, Lili Majzner, and Linda Sherman—provides details of the post experiences not usually revealed in such reminiscences. Produced with the The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, their outlook and perspective on the post-war years (with terrific contextual archival footage) is more distinctly Californian than similar post-Holocaust portraits. (preview courtesy) (4/15/2018)

    Aftermath (Pokłosie) (So, nu: While all the current and past vengeance is not shown directly on the screen, the violent truth that comes out about what happened in 1941 is as rife with pre-war sexual tensions, between a gentile Polish farmer and the Jewish woman who rebuffed him for a Jewish man, layered on top of anti-Semitism, though the testimonies about the village that inspired the film don’t admit to that kind of interactions.) (updated 11/3/2013)

    Afternoon Delight (Rebecca Soffer’s interview with writer/director Jill Soloway, for Tablet August 19, 2013, usefully provides background to the Jewish aspects of the women characters.) (Review/commentary forthcoming) (8/21/2013)

    Afterward (So, nu: Describing herself, director/on-screen interviewer/narrator: “Ofra Bloch, a New York-based psychoanalyst specializing in trauma, was born in Jerusalem to a Jewish family that emigrated to Palestine in the 1920s”. She sets up a false equivalence as her premise. She interviews the grand/children of German Nazis and a reformed Neo-Nazi, talks about her childhood around Israel’s independence, then interviews Palestinian activists for their views on Israel and its people, some who are intransigent and some willing to cooperate towards peace and/or communicate. Continuing the primacy of Holocaust-haunted Ashkenazim, she is oblivious that she’s from a different generation, especially since she’s been living in the U.S. for so long. She’s doesn’t take into account the new generations of religious Zionists/settlers on the Israeli side of the wall, let alone of Sephardim/Mizrahi Jews, or of the Palestinian politics of Fatah vs. Hamas, and now the rise of Islamists. (preview at 2018 DOC NYC Festival) (10/29/2018)

    Ahead of Time (briefly reviewed at 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (Ruth Gruber's personal archive is also a treasure trove of her fascinating life before WWII, not just being touted as the youngest PhD in the world, but how she parlayed one connection after another to explore the Arctic from first the Soviet Union side, then to Alaska, with her wonderful photos and film footage. For all the piles of books we see she has published, her story is stopped when she married and had offspring in her '40's, as if her life ended then.) (1/25/2010)

    Aida’s Secrets - though confusingly edited, Israeli filmmakers filmmakers Alon and Shaul Schwarz track the intriguing family history of their uncle by marriage Izak Szewelwicz, born in a DP camp and adopted in Israel, and who raised family on a kibbutz. While the irony is that the long-lost siblings are not united by a Jewish mother (Israel denied her application for immigration), the interviews and archival footage of what life was like for survivors for two or so years in the biggest DP camp that replaced Bergen-Belsen, especially with the finding of a photo album that matches up. They were young people trying to make up for the horrors and the years of lost time in their lives, images we don’t usually see of women survivors. (11/28/2017)

    Ajami (also briefly reviewed at 2010 Annual New York Jewish Film of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: All the women are background motivations to their men's actions, including the several Jewish Israelis. One young woman is a party girl dating "the other" who naively thinks she can bridge the divide, even as her boyfriend's Arab friends sneer about her to him in Arabic right in front of her. While the cop's sister tries to keep the family balanced, his mother is, understandably, hysterical with worry for her missing younger son, grasping for the slightest fantastical straws.) (2/3/2010)

    Aliyah (also briefly reviewed at 2013 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: While the primary French Jewish woman is an EX girlfriend, she is an attractive teacher at a Jewish school and is warm about helping the French Jewish hunk reconnect with his Jewish ethnic and religious roots, after some she gets over her surprise, even as Israelis at the embassy are officiously discouraging.) (updated 6/21/2013)

    All About Nina Barcelona-born debut director Eva Vives seems to have made lead character “Nina Geld” (a terrific Mary Louise Winstead) Jewish because she probably thinks from the movies, or as an NYU student, that so many damaged aspiring stand-up comedians are Jewish. In the small role of her New York mother “Debora”, Camryn Manheim makes credible a woman consumed with guilt for not recognizing her husband’s abuse of her daughter and the continuing damage he caused, such that she’s unsure how to help. Kudos to production designer Kelly Fallon for completely creating an apartment environment that says more about her than the mother gets to say. The joke of naming “Nina”s therapist “Dr. Streisand” (as played by Grace Chen) falls flat. (preview and coda at 2018 Tribeca Film Festival) (4/30/2018)

    All Good Things (review forthcoming) (I'm not sure that the audience would perceive the putative Jewish women. The names are changed from the case of the wayward scion of the Durst family, one of the Jewish real estate dynasties in NYC—even into the 1970's the Metropolitan Museum only took these families' money via a separate "Real Estate Board"—with the Dursts here called "the Marks". There's the usual dead mother who was presumably Jewish -- whose suicide that he witnessed is blamed for his unbalance even as Dad finally explains: I thought if she saw you she wouldn't jump.. His good friend is a woman, "Deborah Lehrman" (played by Lily Rabe), comparable in real life to Susan Berman, described in the press notes as "the flamboyant journalist. . .daughter of a notorious Las Vegas gangster", Davey [sic?] Berman, and shown here as his co-conspirator who later shakes him down for money. Despite her "Jewish Mafia princess" sobriquet she was evidently later broke and Berman received two checks from him for $25,000 before she was shot dead in her Hollywood house just after the police were due to question her about his wife's disappearance 18 years earlier, and "Lehrman"s involvement and her murder here are shown as directly instigated by the "Marks" character. But here there's only a hint this long-haired brunette –who doesn't seem to age over time or has a lousy straight wig and bangs--is Jewish, as she calls his "sweet" blonde wife "Catherine McCarthy" a shiksa: Doesn't she know how fucked up you are? She offers to set him up with "a great therapist", then we see him undergo loud scream therapy. (He is fascinated to marry into a ham-eating family, and his dad's threat on the tennis court: She'll never going to be one of us. has multiple meanings.) Even less putative Jewish is the brunette Westchester neighbor who befriends the wife and introduces her to cocaine, "Lauren Fleck", played by Kristen Wiig, or maybe she just talks like a New Yorker.) (11/21/2010)

    Almost Peaceful (Un monde presque paisible) (So, nu: French Jewish women's role in contributing to a return in normality post-war is largely procreative, but having children is seen as a statement against anti-Semitism and the joy that children bring the survivors is palpable.)

    Alone in Berlin Opening in 1940. There is one elderly Jewish woman still hiding in the top floor at 55 Jablonski Street, in this first English-language adaptation of a novelization of a Gestapo file (I haven’t read the book yet to see if the character was in the book). “Frau Rosenthal” (played by Monique Chaumette) is near-senility, and is being protected by the letter carrier “Eva Kluge” (played by Katrin Pollitt), who brings her food (just like the policeman father of a colleague, he claims, brought food from his mother’s grocery store to a neighbor), by the hero wife “Anna Quangel” (Emma Thompson) and “Judge Fromm” (Joachim Bissmeier) on the floors below when her apartment is robbed by the ex-husband of the postal employee. When she protests to her neighbor that she has to stay in her apartment “for when her husband comes home”, the judge sorrowfully tells her that he isn’t. With her pet parakeet distracting the Gestapo when they come to get her and the thief who tried to get her property instead of them, she manages to jump out the hall window – making her own choice. (seen courtesy IFC Films) (2/14/2017)

    American Promise (previewed at 2013 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (So, nu: The attitudes of the Jewish female classmates at Manhattan private school Dalton are implied when one of the then-13-year old African-American boys followed in the school’s diversity experiment from age 6 - 18 mournfully comments that the girls at the many “bar mitzvahs” [sic] he’s invited to won’t dance with him, even with the importuning of the DJs, or chat with him on social media. He and his mother Michèle Stephenson, the film’s co-director, derisively comment on one girl’s invitation as unncecesarily extravagant. While her Ivy League-educated, dark-skinned husband recounts to their son his father’s experience with overt racism, the light-skinned mother vaguely confides about her troubled parents without ever referring to a possible mixed race background as influencing her racial prism. The director/parents’ lack of comparisons presumes racial reasons in dealing with schools where I found similar issues with my kids that was more about gender and being out-of-the-norm, specifically about being gifted or a stutterer.) (updated 10/18/2013)

    Amy (6/29/2015)

    Ana Arabia (previewed at 2014 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: commentary forthcoming on the Jewish woman)

    The Ancestral Sin (Sallah, Po Ze Eretz Yisrael) (Director David Deri interviewed his mother extensively about her experiences living first in Morocco, then reluctant emigration to Israel in the 1950’s, and forced placement in the development town of Yeruham in the Negev Desert, as well as many other women. Of particular note, she and another elderly woman chortled that the other woman was a paid collaborator to help get her off the transport into the bleak settlement that was nowhere near or like the location the Jewish Agency has promised – but they had long ago passed forgiveness to be best friends for decades. What they went through on the ground is contrasted with the “smoking gun” trove of documents he amazingly got de-classified from government and Jewish Agency files, though some are still kept confidential, that show the explicit bias of the Ashkenazi Jews in charge against the “Oriental Jews” (even calling them “Arabs”) from North Africa with racist terms, expectations, and disregard to order them around as they wanted to fit security, military, and master planning objectives, by destroying Arab villages to prevent return and covering the borders. In a powerful scene, the primarily female elderly who went through this watch his footage highlighting the memos and reports, including the retaliatory orders against their own protests, with shock, tears, and anger; they will be demanding next steps in apologies, reparations, or more.) (NY premiere seen at 2018 New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival also screened at 2018 Other Israel Film Festival) (3/13/2018)

    The Angriest Man in Brooklyn (review forthcoming) Though Daniel Taplitz’s script is based on Assi Dayan’s 1997 Israeli film The 92 Minutes of Mr. Baum (Mar Baum), none of the women appear to be Jewish. The men are explicitly Jewish, particularly the Altmann brothers – “Henry”, with many Yiddishisms thrown in (played by Robin Williams) and “Aaron”, with a kippah for no reason (played by Peter Dinklage), but not the mother “Bette” (Melissa Leo) or “Dr. Sharon Gill” from Wisconsin (Mila Kunis), or the son’s dancing girlfriend “Adela” (Sutton Foster). (5/8/2014)

    Anvil! The Story Of Anvil (So, nu: With the Iraqis in Heavy Metal in Baghdad saying the authorities there were suspicious that head-bangers looked to be davening, praying like Orthodox Jews, one wonders if there's a PhD thesis there about heavy metal's connection to Holocaust victims, as opposed to the stereotyped connections with misappropriation of swastikas. But I have to love a movie where the heroine is a Jewish woman – here "Lips"' older sister Rhonda Kudlow. Not only is it her money that saves the day so they can record an album in England, but clearly her and their siblings' love, loyalty and support to invest in him has grounded the musician, regardless of how totally conventional they look compared to him.) (4/10/2009)

    Antarctica (So, nu: In what the director terms a tribute to John Waters and Divine but comes across more like a thwarted transgender character, the gay siblings’ mother is played by drag artist Noam Huberman who performs as Miss Laila Carry. Perhaps that was supposed to make more humorous an extended scene at a hair salon that is full of exaggerated stereotyped exchanges between Jewish mothers trying to match up their gay children in hopes of bringing forth grandchildren.)

    Apples From the Desert (Tapoukhim min ha'midbar) (seen at 2015 Israel Film Center Festival) Based on a short story by Savyon Liebrecht, not a novel as described in the promotion, the plot of a young Orthodox woman (Rebecca Abarnabel played by Reymonde Amsallem), meeting a hunky kibbutznik “Dubi” (I can’t figure out the actor) and running off with him was enhanced by seeing it at the JCC of the Upper West Side, in two ways. First, the Festival director actually thought that by scheduling the screening I attended at 5 pm on a Friday in June it would attract local Orthodox attendees who would still have able to get home by the start of Shabbat, was of course unfulfilled; so the audience was very secular in their lives and antipathy for an Orthodox father, who, of course, rigidly restricts his wife and is arranging a marriage against his daughter’s wishes, with the mother torn between the two of them (and her broaching their divide is quite sweet). (The daughter is introduced as rebellious immediately because she works, in the office of a school. And because she gradually gets involved with a secular dance class.) Second, the Q & A with a co-director (I’ll have to find my notes to figure out which one was able to be in NYC) was very helpful, because he explained that the 87 minute version we viewed was in fact an edited, international edition cut from a TV mini-series, and was based on the play adaptation, written by the novelist. Unfortunately, what was missing was the third from the kibbutzniks’ point of view, showing that they were just as rigid in their determined secularism as the Orthodox family was in their observance. There were hints that even though she stays on the farm, “Rivka” finds a middle road, continuing some religious observance and rituals on the kibbutz, and I wonder if that was also cut, so I don’t feel I can formally review such a truncated version. (10/9/2015)

    Arabani (previewed at 2013 Other Israel Film Festival) (So, nu: Ironically, the Israeli Jewish woman who caused all these problems is never seen; she’s only at the other end of the phone when her kids call her.) (12/4/2013)

    The Armor Of Light (So, nu: Over halfway through the documentary I felt sucker-punched – turns out when Rev. Rob Schenk, the central figure with the tortured soul about gun control, referred to being converted to evangelism in Buffalo, NY he didn’t mean born again – he was Jewish. His mother was a Catholic convert (which is all he says about her), in order to marry his Jewish father who kept a scrapbook on Holocaust news reports.) (previewed at 2015 Tribeca Film Festival) (5/2/2015)

    Arranged (12/14/2007) (emendations coming after 6/14/2008) (So, nu: I do get annoyed at semi-autobiographical indie movies about Orthodox women that posit their choices as being between, here, Ditmas Park and Sodom & Gomorrah. There is a whole world out there from modern-Orthodox to Reformed that could offer them warmth and family etc. etc. within a moral, supportive, Jewish environment.)

    The Arrest (Hama’Atzar) (short film at 2015 Tribeca Film Festival) The reverse futuristic premise of occupation is confusingly ineffective because I actually thought the obviously Orthodox settlers were being legitimately arrested by leftist soldiers, as the mother lies to hide her accused terrorist son. (5/2/2015)

    The Art of Spiegelman (Art Spiegelman, Traits de mémoire) (briefly in Reviewed: New York Jewish Film Festival 2013 of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: commentary forthcoming) (2/19/2013)

    Arthur Miller: Writer (So, nu: my So nu: Director Rebecca Miller, who doesn’t seem to have a sense of her Jewish identity, draws out a new revelation about Miller’s Jewish background in talking to him and his brother and sister (actress Joan Copeland) for this long gestating HBO biographical documentary– the influence of his mother Augusta Barnett, seen in a few old fraying photographs. They describe an arranged marriage between a literary, artistically minded force of nature to a barely literate, ambitious businessman. Though his plays are dominated by father/son relationships, the writer fondly recalled days spent with her when she colluded in his playing hooky, and admired how fast she read novels, and remembered what she’d read, and that she got her husband to go to the theater weekly, bringing home the song sheets so the family could sing them together. But he also remembers how she bitterly blamed her husband for his business’s failure from the Depression that seriously declined their standard of living (from a Central Park-view apartment on 110th St. with a chauffeur down to Brooklyn and selling her jewelry), a feeling that does resonate in his plays, though the wives are ultimately loyal. It is pointed out that only The Price has a Jewish cadence he knew well, though not his mother’s. While most analysts characterize his marriages as to schicksas, he enthusiastically identifies as Jewish and sees his Middle Western Catholic first wife literary publisher, his second wife Marilyn Monroe from an abused childhood and paparazzi-tormented Hollywood bait, and his third wife photographer Inge Morath, a German daughter of a Nazi officer, as rebelliously attracted to him as a Jewish intellectual. (previewed at 2017 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (updated 11/29/2017)

    As I Am: The Life and Times of DJ AM (So, nu: The mother of Adam Goldstein comes across as a New York Jew in an early tight close-up interview, as she twice describes her very complicated relationship with her gay husband and the brief fling with his biological father, about when she told them all the truth, and is portrayed as really clueless when she dumps him into a notorious facility for drug rehab when he was very young. His older sister may be seen as well heard (the audio and visual IDs are erratic, including of all the blonde models he dated so I couldn’t tell if any were Jewish), but it’s quite a ways into the film until an interview is included where he explicitly identifies himself as having been raised Jewish by his by then single mom, including attending Hebrew School, which adds cynicism to his description of a lavish, over-the-top bat mitzvah he DJd as a career highpoint, though his memory that her father was the inventor of the bulletproof vest doesn’t seem to be correct.) (previewed at 2015 Tribeca Film Festival) (5/2/2015)

    Ask the Dust (So, nu: The Jewish woman here just comes across as bizarre rather than enhancing the theme about the toll of accepting one's ethnicity within the California Dream. Or something like that.)

    As Lilith (previewed at 2011 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (Director Eytan Harris's camera, somewhat intrusively, captures a feisty woman at a very painful conjunction of gender, religious plurality and motherhood at its most emotional within Israeli media, politics and law. She has antagonized Orthodox Jews because: 1) her daughter committed suicide, 2) she wants to cremate her remains, 3) she is a free-spirited pagan, kinda wiccan, with her own nature-worshiping rituals. (1/28/2011)

    Assisted Living (So, nu: All the reviewers have identified the lead woman character "Mrs. Pearlman" as being Jewish, though she is played by Maggie Riley. Doubtless this is because of the character's name and that the writer/director is Elliot Greenebaum. However, it was filmed at a Masonic rather than a Jewish facility (in Kentucky) and the religious services and chaplain are clearly Christian, and there are no Yiddishisms or any other Jewish references in the script.)

    The Attack (So, nu: Israeli actress Evgenia Dodina plays “Kim” (in the novel, her last name is “Yehuda”, the doctor’s colleague at the hospital, who is embarrassed by the prejudices he has to face, every day and especially after the incident. There’s a hint of her attraction to him, though he’s a shocked widower, and she loyally stands by him and sympathetically tries to help him at work and at home, despite peer pressures.) (6/25/2013)

    Author: The JT Leroy Story Though I have no confirmation, it appears that Laura Albert, the woman behind the scandalous creation of this persona/pseudonym and writer in this and other voices is at least a putative Jew – born in Brooklyn to a father named Irwin. (8/25/2016)

    Autism In Love (So, nu: The St. Paul family is Jewish, with interviews with Gita when she’s already in hospice, and Stephen’s mother trying to cope with the return of her son as she ages.) (previewed at 2015 Tribeca Film Festival) (4/16/2015)

    Autism: The Musical (review forthcoming) (Missed when it was the talk of Tribeca Film Festival, so I caught it on HBO) (The dynamic centerpiece is Elaine Hall, or "Coach E," the founder of The Miracle Project, mother of Neal, adopted from Russia to connect to her ethnic heritage. Like most of the mothers of the autistic children featured, she becomes more than a bit monomaniacal and single, but unexpectedly finds a man willing to take both of them on, and she remarries. The film spotlights how she draws her son into the Jewish holidays, particularly Hanukkah and Passover, even over the discomfort of her new in-laws. My admiration for our cousin’s strenuous educational efforts with her autistic son many years ago before programs like these were available was reinforced. The deleted scenes available On Demand, and presumably on the DVD, include Shira, another single Jewish mother of an autistic daughter, with more kids and more Jewish observance.) (3/29/2008)

    A Woman, A Part I’ve been following Maggie Siff’s career since her stint on Nip/Tuckas Rachel Ben Natan, as an actress in general, and for playing at least putative Jewish women. She’s a producer and the star of artist’s Elisabeth Subrin writing/directing debut. From the press notes: “Casting Anna [Baskin], the film’s lead…Subrin wanted a very strong, smart Jewish actress who could bring both intensity and intelligence to the difficult role of a woman at a crossroads. ‘I knew I needed an incredibly smart and subtle actor. It’s very challenging to play a complex, shut-down woman in crisis who's also professionally successful and privileged — the 'empathy' card works against her. I saw her character as a metaphor of woman general in a sexist and performative culture, but didn't want her reduced to a mission statement or cliché.’ None of the actresses who Subrin and [producer Scott] Macaulay considered in the early casting process seemed like the right fit for Anna. Then Subrin remembered the department store heiress in the first season of Mad Men played by Maggie Siff, and immediately realized the actress would be perfect. Before they even sent the script to her agent, Subrin by chance signed into a yoga class in Los Angeles while in town for a test shoot, and there, standing next to her at the sign-in desk, was Siff. One yoga class and two coffees later, they were discussing schedule. A year and a half following, the film was made. Says Subrin, ‘Maggie's subtlety and technically very precise and considered work kept the film from becoming histrionic or melodramatic.’”
    Ironically, her character “Anna Baskin” is a TV actress in the kind of pedestrian hit show Siff has not been stuck in,, and she escapes this stultifying contract in L.A. to revisit her artistic roots with her two 1990’s friends from a downtown experimental theater troupe. She discovers that “Isaac” (played by John Ortiz) has written a new play based on their experiences together (including a confusing romantic triangle), with a character specifically like her: because the character is a Jewish woman from Connecticut, and borrowing from other aspects of her personal life. She yells at him in summarizing the character – in a way every stereotyped Jewish woman on TV I describe in my Lilith Watch: Critical Guide To Jewish Women On TV, though I all could catch to remember was “selfish”. Like in all such references, he defends her as “smart”, the only specific word I can recall, as well other familiar positive stereotypes. Maybe I can get the script sometime to be able to quote this unfortunate scene completely. (3/24/2017)

    Aya (seen in Oscar Nominated Short Films 2015 – Live Action) Acclaimed by the promoter as “a first and historic nomination for an Israeli film in this category, written/directed by Mihal Brezis & Oded Binnun, with Tom Shoval, who are expanding it into a feature film, this is a suggestive Brief Encounter between the titular woman (played by Sarah Adler) and “Thomas” (played by one of my favorite Danish actors, Ulrich Thomsen, of Banshee. It uses the Tel Aviv airport to Jerusalem setting and the context of the The Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition more than anything particularly revealing about the central woman who is playing out a childhood fantasy.) (2/22/2015)

    Bachelor Days Are Over (Pourquoi tu pleures?) (Review forthcoming) (previewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (An annoyingly immature, philandering Jewish groom is at the center, though the film is written and directed by Katia Lewkowicz. It’s not clear if the pretty lover (played by Sarah Adler) who distracts him with sex and singing is Jewish, but the Jewish women are substantial, if inscrutable-- his harried sister (played by Emmanuelle Devos, who frequently play a Jewish character in French movies) keeps bailing him out of trouble amidst her own work, child care and home responsibilities, and his mother (played by Nicole Garcia) who, unstereotypically, doesn’t seem very enthused about his upcoming nuptials. That may be because his somewhat mysteriously independent bride-to-be (played by Valérie Donzelli) is an exotic-looking Sephardi Israeli whose relatives descend on them with no English or French, and almost tribal ethnic habits.) (1/21/2012)

    Bag of Marbles (Un sac de billes) (So, nu: The parents have small roles in the film (and the memoir). As a Russian Jew, the mother is portrayed with curly brown hair – and does a feisty defense of her fake papers to the Gestapo that she is really related to the Czar’s family. In the memoir, one of the older brothers relates that he was able to get her out of Drancy (the first time) by cashing in various favors to get that story believed there, too. Evidently, that no longer worked later in the war, though she did survive for a long life with her children, though not her husband who was transported and didn’t return. Unlike most such films, the mother does have a separate identity, as a violinist, that figures in her love story with her husband; Joffo went on to write the story of her earlier life from Russia to Paris as a musician in Anna et son orchestra (1976), which does not appear to be available yet in English as Anna and Her Orchestra, and La Vieille dame de Djerba (1984), also not in English, about meeting an old woman in Tunisia who knew his mother and her family. The other Jewish females seen in the film, seen as they are being rounded up, are the most vulnerable and heart-breaking, elderly and mothers with small children. Not mentioned in the film is that their original plan was to join an older sister in Vichy – but she was terrified that their presence would blow her cover to collaborators who would snitch on her, so they only hid there for one night.
    An interesting aside, Fanny’s Journey (Le voyage de Fanny) based on a very similar autobiographical novel, is a superior film because the danger the fleeing kids face is palpable, was directed by Lola Doillon, the daughter of the director of the first filmed version of this book. (updated 3/26/2018)


    Band Aid - Zoe Lister-Jones frequently plays Jewish women characters, but leaves herself somewhat ambiguous in a film she wrote/directed/produced/co-wrote many of the songs, and starred in – with an all-female crew. The closest “Anna” gets to revealing she is Jewish is when she and her husband “Ben” (Adam Pally) are looking around in their storage garage and find the yarmulkes from their wedding. (She also has a lot of Jewish friends with kids, including a lesbian couple.) But his mother “Shirley” is played by an unusually restrained and finally sympathetic Susie Essman in her most dramatic role, after first being portrayed as an stereotyped domineering mother-of-adult-son, when she gives him advice on coping with marriage after miscarriage. The script also throws in a couple of ironic jokes about the Holocaust, ISIS and 9/11. (12/9/2017)

    The Band’s Visit (Bikur Ha-Tizmoret) (12/7/2007) (emendations coming after 2/7/2008)

    Bang! The Bert Berns Story (Review forthcoming) The brief interviews with his sister (Sylvia Levine) and her daughter were usual Jewish background interviews on someone who was involved in the early rock ‘n’ roll biz centered around the Brill Building, but –surprise- a central figure in this bio-doc directed by his son Brett and based on the biography Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues by Joel Selvin, is his very Jewish wife Ilene Stuart Berns. The music industry veterans fondly recall her as a hot blonde who was a go-go dancer at Morris Levy’s club The Roundtable! Not the usual intro for a gal who was living on Long Island with her parents, and only happened to go into the city on her day off to give her newly divorced sister a night on the town. Let alone about love at first sight though she was about a dozen years younger than him when she warily agreed to come over to his penthouse apartment. She is a marvelous raconteur, and comes across as a tough broad, in telling how she was involved in the business side of his songwriting and finances, while having kids, and being slow to realize how connected to the mob some of his friends were. Her daughter Cassandra adds a couple of touching anecdotes. Interviews with the late fellow Brill Building Jewish songwriter Ellie Greenwich are also included. (previewed at 2016 DOC NYC Festival) (10/25/2016) Barney’s Version (So, nu: In the wonderfully satiric Mordecai Richler novel that is far more reflective on Jewish Montrealers than the film (one has to strain to hear his blond best friend's full name in the movie to know he's Jewish too), all three of his wives are Jewish. The first turns out to be a self-loathing identity denier due to a horrifically restrictive and unsympathetic Orthodox upbringing. The second is a loquacious, shop-a-holic tied to her rich, doting parents, but he is also sympathetic that she balloons into post-divorce obesity because of his cruel rejection. Not only is the lovely third wife Jewish in the book-- not in the film-- but she participates in raising their kids Jewish, and is comfortable with his roots. She is a cultured intellectual radio DJ/interviewer with a sense of humor and tolerance for hockey, who re-marries to a younger, handsome man. Did the scriptwriter and/or director think only a gentile would be credible?) (12/3/2010)
    Jan Lisa Huttner interviewed director Richard Lewis in Chicago on January 19, 2011, who defended the changes: "I didn't want to make the film too parochial. . . I didn't want this idea that Barney was just chasing Jewish girls…I felt like that choice had to do with grounding Miriam, making her a more earthy character…I didn't really want Barney running after, like, “a blonde bombshell. Miriam isn’t 'the monkey woman' Karen Black played in Portnoy’s Complaint. . .[W]e did go out of our way not to make Miriam 'not Jewish'. . . Often I found the greatest 'Jewish American Princesses' that I knew were so bright and so stupid at the same time. And it was wonderful to see that combination, and that kind of emotional immaturity, where that “Daddy's Girl” kicks in. Minnie Driver brought so much hurt and damage to the character of 'The Second Mrs. P.'” (Thanks to Lew Goodman for bringing this citation to my attention.)


    Battle of the Sexes - From the press notes: “Another outspoken character comes from an entirely different world: the hard-nosed PR and tennis maven Gladys Heldman, played by Sarah Silverman, the gutsy businesswoman who made the Virginia Slims Circuit a major media success just as women’s tennis seemed to be in trouble. “Without Gladys there wouldn’t be women’s tennis as it is now,” states King. “Gladys was eccentric, brilliant, creative and knew how to make things happen. When I heard Sarah was going to portray her I thought it was perfect.”… Silverman was instantly attracted to Gladys. “I really didn’t know anything about her,” admits Silverman. “But when I read the script, I loved it and thought wow, she’s so loud and rat-a-tat-tat. I had to try to wrap my head around what her inner life must have been like -- she was so external. I know some people think I’m loud and external, but it was a challenge. She talks so fast and my brain doesn’t move that quickly! She was a very no-nonsense woman and she didn’t suffer fools.”… As [the costume designer] began to research the character of bold Gladys Heldman, [Mary] Zophres highlighted the generation gap she was bridging. “Gladys was a force to be reckoned with but she was a bit older and from the few photos I saw, she wore a girdle, long-line bra and pantyhose. I pitched to [directors Valerie Faris & Jonathan Dayton] that we should emphasize that she was from another generation -- and that Gladys should be in dresses because being a proponent for women’s lib doesn’t mean you have to wear a pantsuit. I put her in vivid graphic prints, because it felt to me that when Gladys walks into a room, she’s an instant disruption.” Sarah Silverman adored the look. “I really just let the wardrobe, the glasses and the hairdo do all the acting,” she quips. “Really, as soon as I had Mary’s amazing clothes on I felt like Gladys.”
    Not mentioned here is how very Jewish Simon Beaufoy’s script portrays Heldman. I didn’t so probably few in the audience knew how key she was as King’s business manager for creating and running the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). She’s in the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, as well as the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The portrayal is a very positive interpretation of a pushy, very well organized Jewish feminist businesswoman.
    (12/1/2017)

    Bee Season

    Before the Revolution (previewed at 2014 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: commentary forthcoming on the Jewish women)

    Beginners (So, nu: Writer/director Mike Mills was inspired by the experiences of both his parents. He says "My mom got kicked off the swim team when she was thirteen for being half Jewish, and she really did internalize some American anti-Semitism and felt some shame about her Jewishness – or at least deep complications. So, my dad had said to me, 'Your mother would disagree with me, but I think that she took off her Jewish badge and I took off my gay badge and we joined the American story.' And when he said that to me, I said, 'I’m writing a movie about this.'” He further explains: "There is sort of villain. . .and to me that is American History. There’s the psychiatrist who says [the father's] gayness is a mental illness, and the way the vice squad is in the film, that’s a real institutional villain. It’s quiet and it’s in the background but it is hugely there. Even the anti-Semitism that’s in the story with the mom who gets kicked off the swim team for being half-Jewish, it’s that history that they’re all up against.” Deviating from the autobiographical elements, it's the son's French actress girlfriend "Anna" (played by Mélanie Laurent) whose mom has that experience, but it's now only in the context of the Holocaust and the facts and dates don't quite add-up, let alone justifying her growing up in a very secularized Jewish family. The discrimination comparisons just seem heavy-handed as the film zips through the push-to-assimilation-history that each generation has lived through, and the Jewish-American context of anti-Semitism is lost in the process.) (7/3/2011.)

    Belle Épine (briefly reviewed at 2011 New Directors/New Films of Film Society of Lincoln Center/MoMA) (So, nu: The bereaved teen is uncomfortable with her cousins' Rosh ha Shanah dinner because her parents were never religious. She has to ask what the Days of Awe are, and that reflection hangs over her rebellious actions the next 10 days. Her aunt Nelly Cohen (played by Marina Tomé) is warmly understanding, though does not object to her husband's strict ragging on their son. While her sister "Sonia Cohen" (played by Anaïs Demoustier) does participate, she can't bear to even be in their parents' apartment, and deserts her younger sister to stay with her boyfriend. Prudence’s mother "Arlette"is played by Valérie Schlumberger, who isn’t an actress, but is Léa Seydoux’s mother. When "Prudence" has sex with a biker, his cross very obviously hangs over her chest. (3/25/2011)

    Being Jewish in France (Comme un Juif en France) (briefly reviewed at 2009 Annual New York Jewish Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (The most interesting women's perspectives are from the new, Sephardic communities --and they are as enthusiastic about coucous as the Muslim immigrants in The Secret of the Grain (La graine et le mulet) scroll down for my capsule review-- who even though clearly more observant are leading schools and community organizations.) (1/18/2009)

    Be/longing (So, nu: Directed by Amit Breuer, this short is background to the Women Wage Peace campaign. While focusing mostly on an Israeli Arab woman in Jaffe, also briefly featured is Mika, the founder of a bi-cultural choir, who examines her liberal biases. The singers, who seem majority Israeli Jewish, close each performance, despite loud protests against them with considerable profanity, with the Hebrew version of “Had Ghadya” by Chava Albertstein, banned from Israel State Radio, that adds verses for peace: “When will the madness end?”) (preview at 2018 Other Israel Film Festival) (10/31/2018)

    Ben-Gurion: Epilogue As to the Jewish women: his mother and wife are just seen in passing in photographs, perhaps because neither was as connected to Palestine/Israel as he was, his mother in Poland, his wife from his exile in New York City who was never happy then being uprooted to the desert kibbutz with their kids. His strained relationship with Golda Meir is also passed over. (5/11/2017)

    Berlin ’36 is an up-close-and-personal look at the emotional toll the notorious Olympics, glorified by Leni Riefenstahl, took on two competitors. Gretel Bergmann, a Jewish champion high jumper (played by blonde, lean, long-legged Karoline Herfurth promoting an unusually confident athletic image of a young Jewish woman), was manipulated on and then off the German team, as the Nazis are seen playing Olympics Committee President Avery Brundage for a willing fool to wink that the team wouldn't discriminate. But another teammate with a much more problematic background, here called Marie Ketteler and very sensitively portrayed by Sebastian Urzendowsky, is even more manipulated (though the film sidesteps transgender issues). Their unexpectedly sympathetic alliance as mutually encouraging outsiders united against their competitors and sports authorities verges on the overly sentimental until the real, elderly Gretel testifies at the end of the film of the truthfulness of its spirit. The facts are in George Roy's 2004 documentary Hitler's Pawn: The Margaret Lambert Story. (seen at 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (1/25/2010)

    Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened (previewed at 2016 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) As director Lonny Price interviews his fellow original cast members in Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince’s collaboration in the 1981 Broadway production of Merrily We Roll Along, several guys drop mention of their Jewishness (let alone what they did with their bar mitzvah money), but even as Abigail Pogrebin talks about being the youngest cast member at 16, and even casually dropping that actor Alan Alda was a friend of her parents, I was thinking – this can’t be the daughter of Ms. and Lilith Magazines co-founder Letty Cottin Pogrebin and sister of writer Robin Pogrebin because she hasn’t said a word about being Jewish. Until she describes her career since leaving this brief but stellar show business experience for a career in broadcast and newspaper journalism was helped by writing the interview collection Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish (a book I use as a reference): “Thank God for the Jews – they buy books!” (my approximate memory) And her latest book appeals to that market, too. (10/8/2016)

    Bethlehem (So, nu: The two Israeli women seen – the Shin Bet/Shabak agent “Maya” (played by Efrat Shnap) who is partner of the central bi-lingual character “Raz” (played by Tsahi Halevy, and his wife “Einat” (played by Michal Shtemler) are very supportive – but they are surprisingly bland in what is otherwise a thrillingly story of complex loyalties.) (3/27/2014)

    Between Fences (Bein gderot/ Entre Les Frontières) (So, nu: Israeli Jewish women turn up towards the end of the film – as peacenik volunteers who follow the African refugees’ directions on how to re-enact the roles of Israeli soldiers at their isolated desert refugee center.) (seen in 2017 First Look Festival at Museum of the Moving Image) (2/4/2017)

    The Big Short (So, nu: While I haven’t yet read Michael Lewis’s nonfiction book to check the facts and interpretations, there’s one explicitly Jewish woman – the mother (played by Shauna Rappold) of “Mark Baum” (played by Steve Carell) – and one putative, his wife “Cynthia” (played by Marisa Tomei). In a flashback, his mother is supportive of his questioning the rabbi about possible inconsistencies in the Torah, while his not particularly supportive wife is constantly nagging him to calm down, and even take meds, to stop worrying and getting angry about everything, particularly the banks. (11/29/2015)

    Big Sonia - a fond portrait by granddaughter Leah Warshawski with co-director Todd Soliday. Her mother (or aunt?) who accompanies Sonia to presentations at schools and other groups of young people, even prisoners, about her experiences in the Holocaust at three concentration camps, says she’s the last survivor in the Kansas City area. That she was deported at age 13, and the film emphasizes through animation what age she was when taken to each extermination camp, including Auchswitz, really hits home to the kids. Though the editing is uneven, the parallel story of her continuing her husband’s tailor shop at a slowly abandoning shopping mall (and then saved to move to a similar officie building) raises this beyond similar documentaries to add a commentary that compares to their 1950’s suburban home movies. (at 2016 DOC NYC Festival) (11/28/2017)

    Big Sister (Ahotcha) (short) (previewed at 2017 Tribeca Film Festival) (6/4/2017)

    Black Book (Zwartboek) (So, nu: Some of the most outrageous situations, especially about the Jewish Mata Hari at the center who may be the sexiest Jewish woman portrayed in cinema, is not the director being his usual violent, extreme self, but he insists are based on true incidents --several supported in the book memoir of Steal A Pencil For Me, and as in – spoiler alert-- this interview. Now if only Verhoeven would adapt the Megillah!)

    Black Bus (briefly reviewed at 2011 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: Interviewees make clear that the increasing restrictions on observant women are not about halacha, but a political result of competition between ever more conservative rabbis. Daringly bringing the cameras on board brings home that these buses look more like apartheid or Jim Crowe than a protective favor for women, as well as how sadly alienated from their old friends and family are those women who leave the community, even while enjoying their freedoms.) !) (3/27/2011)

    Black On White: The Idan Raichel Project (Review forthcoming - as seen at the 2008 NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, but not only is this the one-hour documentary counterpart to Live And Become (Va, Vis Et Deviens), but the Ethiopian Jewish woman’s viewpoint missing from that film is heard loud and clear here!) (2/18/2008)

    Blessed Is The Match: The Life And Death Of Hannah Senesh (1/29/2009) (So, nu: While I do not recommend the film, and I will detail the paper saint superficial stereotypes at some point here, Marilyn Hertz, a member of my synagogue, immediately commented on my review (quoted with permission): "You[r] assessment of this being like a young adult book is correct. I saw the premier[e] last night & was invited to the Q & A with the producer. She wanted this to be shown in schools, and wanted it to be a mother/daughter relationship story. I thought it was quite good & worth seeing.")

    The Blue Room (La chambre bleue) (review forthcoming) In one of the few differences from the source novel by Georges Simenon, writers/co-stars/domestic partners Mathieu Amalric and Stéphanie Cléau changed her main character’s name from “Andrée” to “Esther”, and that she had shared first communion with him, but strongly left the impression that she’s Jewish by retaining that she was a doctor’s daughter and her taunt that he didn’t kiss brunette girls in school, with a blonde wife (though leaving out the dated background that her father had been in a concentration camp during the war). (10/1/2014)

    Blues By The Beach (seen at Cinematek Forest Hills) While most audience members focus on the shock of the terrorist attack in 2003 at an Anglo bar next to the U.S. Embassy, I was fascinated by the beautiful, hip, slash-haired, 23-year-old waitress Dominique Hass, as a symbol of the new kind of young, secular Jews who are attracted to move to Israel. So it was that much more tragic that she was one of the three fatalities from the suicide bomb. (10/9/2016)

    Bobbi Jene For a fly-on-the-wall documentary following an American dancer from living in Israel as a featured performer with the Batsheva Dance Company to her return to the U.S., Israeli women are barely seen at all. There’s a brief dinner with her boyfriend’s parents, so there’s an implicit comparison. Her American mother is a conservative Evangelical who is uncomfortable watching her modern dance performances, even clothed, and is just as uncomfortable that she’s living with a Jewish guy. His Jewish mother is a sophisticated liberal who was in the audience for her nude performance, and comfortably welcomes her to their home. (briefly reviewed at 2017 Tribeca Film Festival) (6/3/2017)

    Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story Per their press release, ”The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has worked for more than a decade to develop major artistic works that faithfully depict Lamarr's extraordinary story, a trans-continental, war-time tale of a glamorous Hollywood actress who was a groundbreaking inventor and helped shape the world we live in but never got her technological due.” Based on Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Richard Rhodes (like the documentary, also supported by Sloan) with newly discovered audio interviews and other material, the detailed biography on Lamarr – neé Hedwig Kiesler – and her Jewish background in Vienna is a revelation, and how her fears of anti-Semitism in the U.S. haunted her, such that she never told her children she was Jewish. The archival images from her Viennese assimilated Jewish family and early work are fascinating and extensive. (previewed at 2017 Tribeca Film Festival - but sorry I couldn’t get into the accompanying panel) (PBS’s American Masters, plus Diane Kruger is producing and developing to star in a fictionalized mini-series, also with Sloane) (updated 11/4/2017)

    Boogie Woogie (Review forthcoming) Would most people just presume that the wives of the two Jewish art collectors are Jewish? (I haven't read writer/director's book of the same name for comparison.) "Bob Maclestone" (played by Stellan Skarsgard) is sneered at for having changed his name from "Macleshtein" or some such, and the best friend of his divorcing wife "Jean" (played by red-haired Gillian Anderson) cautions to grab his collection Or all you will be left with is his grandmama's Shabbat candles. They certainly seem to be inspired by Robert and Ethel Scull. "Alfred Rhinegold" (played by Christopher Lee with a Mittel-European accent) is first seen with a menorah prominently displayed behind him before we even seen his prized Mondrian piece of the title. He is buried in a Jewish cemetery by a rabbi but all we know about his wife "Alfreda" (played by Joanna Lumley) is that she despairs over their finances and is having an affair with the butler. (4/16/2010)

    A Borrowed Identity (Dancing Arabs Aka Second Son) (So, nu: The Jewish Israeli women characters are strong and unstereotyped. More commentary coming) (6/28/2015)

    A Bottle in the Gaza Sea (Une bouteille à la mer) (Review forthcoming) (previewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (While I haven’t yet read the Valérie Zenatti novel it’s based on, the portrait of a liberal, middle class French teen-age girl “Tal” (played by Agathe Bonitzer) adjusting to aliyah in Israel is sweet and seems naively optimistic, and is overly structured to maximize contrasts with her handsome Palestinian pen pal, amidst IDF attacks on Gaza, as she benefits from a nice high school and home internet access, while he is unemployed, can’t afford school, and has to wangle online time with difficulty (though his encouraging mother, played by the esteemed Palestinian actress Hiam Abbas, is a doctor). While the usual Romeo & Juliet aspect is realistically too difficult to overcome, even as both challenge their friends’ stereotypes of the other side, the positioning of France as an oasis of tolerance for both Jews and Muslims is even harder to swallow.) (1/21/2012)

    The Boy Downstairs

    While Zosia Mamet’s “Diana” (above) is a putative Jewish millennial woman in brownstone Brooklyn, and most viewers will presume she’s like her Shoshanna Shapiro in six seasons of Girls, the only explicitly Jewish woman is the overprotective mother of her ex-boyfriend “Ben” (Matthew Shear), as seen in flashbacks of their relationship. (Review forthcoming) (briefly reviewed at 2017 Tribeca Film Festival)

    Boynton Beach Club (But only the men and dead wives are explicitly Jewish, not the widows or daughters, presume some in the audience would assume some are Jewish women.)

    Broken Wings (Knafayim Shvurot)

    Women's Docs at DOC NYC) (6/3/2014)

    Breaking Home Ties (Review forthcoming) (new print previewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (The National Center for Jewish Film their new restoration of this independently made 1922 silent b & w film as noteworthy for countering anti-Semitic images in films promoted by Henry Ford, but it just seemed like a sentimental melodrama of Russian immigrants fleeing to America like from the Yiddish theater to me, complete with devoted mother.) (1/22/2012)

    Breaking Upwards (Review forthcoming) (4/16/2010)

    Bride Flight (Bruidsvlucht) (So, nu: The film is unusually sensitive about the young woman whose family did not survive the Holocaust (including war-time loss is what she shares with the hunk). While her Jewish fiancé, who seems to have been more of a family friend she used to get on the flight than a romance, wants to be observant as a memorial to their families, she rejects his darkness for the bright colors of fashion design. But, unusually, she stands up for herself and comes to regret her decision to leave her heritage – I was the only one at my screening who realized she was sentimentally cooking latkes and humming a holiday song at Hanukkah—and becomes obsessed with the only remnant of her family's faith, their menorah (even if that symbol is over-used in movies). While it is a bit too genes-will-tell that the older "Esther" (played by Willeke Van Ammelrooy, known from Marleen Gorris's Antonia’s Line in1995) ends up with a Jewish daughter-in-law and grandchild, it is satisfying for her.) (My additional note.)

    Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists (So, nu: It is exceedingly odd that in the extensive inclusion of Irish Catholic Jimmy Breslin’s long second marriage, from 1982, to prominent activist Ronnie Eldridge née Myers, who is also interviewed, there is no mention that she is Jewish, when he openly wrote about that difference as adding to the complications in their blended family. (HBO) (preview at 2018 DOC NYC Festival) (11/7/2018)

    Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds With the many images of Christmas decorations around her mother’s compound, there is not a hint that Carrie identified as Jewish in connection with her father Eddie, even when she cares for him as he’s dying. After mother/daughter death at the end of 2016, the Jewish press covered her as a Jewish woman. (previewed at 2016 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (updated 1/4/2017)

    Brillo Box (3¢ off) (short) (previewed at 2016 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) In my analyses of Jewish Women on TV, I sometimes resort to categorizing characters as “putative Jews”, and so in this personal documentary, too, where I can only infer they are Jewish. Lisanne Skyler’s description of growing up with New York parents Rita and Martin Skyler who had a collecting interest in contemporary abstract art sound a lot like my parents’ milieu. My father’s dental office, now the locale of the offices of Lilith Magazine which I sometimes write for, was down the block from the Art Students League, so his patients included teachers there and other artists. After my mother wouldn’t let him accept Barnett Newman’s wife’s offer of a color painting in lieu of payment for his extensive dental work, they would do so for other patients, including their friend Lora Civkin, not that any reached such fame. Like Skyler’s father, they would go to galleries and sometimes purchase, though not with the investment goals of her father, but more the enjoyment aim of her mother. My mother still displays (most of?) the works, and my sister the art historian librarian has noted the artists in their collection. As I Tweeted - Mazel Tov for making the Short List for Academy Awards Documentary Short – Skyler tweeted back “Thank you!” (updated 7/15/2017)

    Brother’s Shadow (commentary forthcoming from viewing as one of my faves at the Tribeca Film Festival)

    The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography - Nu: In advance, I spent an hour trying to confirm my hunch she was Jewish with facts available online to include this documentary in my preview of the New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center). But it just took moments into the film for her to identify herself as a “nice Jewish girl”, and again and another time as “good Jewish girl”, with her husband named Harvey and her son named Isaac, both of whom she has photographed almost as often as herself. Perhaps that commonality helped her first connect with Allen Ginsberg that led to a lifelong friendship? Much like Dorothea Lange and her photographic contemporaries, she focused on family portraiture in a studio convenient to her family, until the stock of Polariod film finally runs out. (updated 6/30/2017)

    The Bubble (Ha-Buah) (So, nu: Yeah, it’s offensive and completely un-PC to say this, but the brassy Jewish woman here is a stereotype (un-PC term) "fag hag", and it makes no sense that she gets seduced by a breeder geek professing that he wants her to have his children.) (9/16/2007)

    La Buche

    Budrus (also briefly reviewed in Recommended Documentaries at 2010 Tribeca Film Festival) (So, nu: A major reason this documentary is more fair and thorough in presenting all sides than others about Israelis vs. Palestinians is the extensive and frank interview with a woman Israeli soldier who served during the protests and was a particular target for verbal abuse from the protesters. I don't recall any Israeli female peaceniks interviewed, though the unusually prominent role of Palestinian women is highlighted.) (5/7/2010)

    Burt’s Buzz (So, nu: I think I caught correctly that his original last name was “Ingram”, and it may be that the “Shavitz” he later adopted was his Jewish mother’s maiden name, not that he says too much about her, though she is seen in a few family photos. He did use his Jewish identity to get his first professional photography job, working for a Jewish newspaper and photographing the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn.) (6/6/2014)

    Bye Bye Germany (Es war einmal in Deutschland...) (So, nu: While the film focuses on the male Holocaust survivors --as written by Michel Bergmann based on his novels Die Teilacher and Macholikes, not available in English, and director Sam Garbarski—two Jewish women are included. Special Agent “Sara Simon” in the U.S. Army’s CounterIntelligence Corps (played by German actress Antje Traue, who switches well to an American accent for English dialogue) is beautiful; when she falls for the huckster she is investigating for Nazi collaboration “David Bermann” (played by Moritz Bleibtreu)—even though he “is not my type”, she reveals, when her hair is literally down, that she was born in Germany whose doctor father got the family out when he lost his hospital job in 1933: I didn’t want to come back, but the Army needed German-speaking interrogators. So I thought I might put Nazis through the ringer, my modest contribution. Though their hook-up is not altogether convincing, she quickly moves on to her next assignment at Nuremberg. “Frau Sonya” (Tania Garbarski) is the waitress at the restaurant they frequent, and quick with witty ripostes. “David” explains, while ogling her tuchis: Her father was a cook who beguiled Paris. They say she was hidden with her boyfriend’s goy parents, who died. (preview courtesy of Film Movement) (4/15/2018;7/22/2018)

    Café Society (So, nu: In Woody Allen’s most Jewish movie in years, the Jewish women are, in relation to the central character of “Bobby Dorfman” (played by Woody Allen stand-in Jesse Eisenberg): his mother “Rose Dorfman” (played by Jeannie Berlin), who throws in a lot of quizzical Yiddishisms and criticisms of her husband’s and sons’ lack of religious observance; who the press notes describe as his “good-hearted teacher sister Evelyn Dorfman” (brunette Sari Lennick), married to a Communist professor; and blonde “Candy/ShirleyGurfein” (Anna Camp), plus a couple of putative Jewish women, such as his brunette sister-in-law “Karen Stern” (Sheryl Lee). [I am required to hold all reactions and reviews until the week of release July 11, 2016] (6/21/2016)

    The Cakemaker (Der Kuchenmacher) - So, nu: In his debut feature, Israeli-born writer/director in Ofir Raul Graizer was, he says in the press notes, inspired by “a private memory” with “the attempt to put aside definition of nationality, sexuality, and religion”. So I found “Anat” (Sarah Adler) refreshingly realistic: she is a secular widow who only kept kosher at home and at her café because her husband’s Jerusalem family is Orthodox. (In interviews, Graizer says that aspect was inspired by his parents’ relationship). As she gets over her grief, she more and more rebels against their strictures, particularly as they try to control her young son. She is also credible in gradually realizing that the German lover her husband intended to leave her for was a young man, including her action in the ambiguous ending. Also against stereotype is her Orthodox, head-covered, mother-in-law “Hannah” (Sandra Sade) who seems to have either been her son’s confidante about his secret life, or she knew him well enough to figure it out, and warmly welcomes the titular lover “Thomas” (Tim Kalkhof). While early on it seems maybe the husband was bi-sexual, by his mother’s sympathy, she may have finally understood that he only married and had a child at the family’s insistence. (I don’t recall mention of his father, but we can presume he was probably like his martinet brother “Moti”, played by Zohar Strauss.) I read a really nasty review by a gay critic who sneered that this downplays “queer passion” in favor of heterosexual love (though there is an explicit gay love scene), but I saw sensitivity to people caught in-betweens. Graizer posted on Israel’s Oscar-equivalent: “Ophir Awards nominated for: Best Feature, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Script, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Actress (Sarah Adler), Best Soundtrack & Best Artistic Design” (at 2018 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (preview courtesy of Strand Releasing) (updated 7/2/2018)

    Call Her Applebroog (seen at MoMA’s 2016 Documentary Fortnight) (3/31/2016)

    Call Me By Your Name So, nu: I haven’t yet read André Aciman’s novel if the “Perlman” family was originally Jewish, and the women in any gay male love story are ancillary. The film is set in 1983 in northern Italy at the sumptuous villa the Italian mother “Annella”, a translator, inherited. In the press notes, the actress who plays her, Amira Casar, says of the parents: “although they have a love of tradition and the past—they are also resolutely modern. While they are transmitting a strong taste of the classics to Elio in this Garden of Eden, at the same time they are pushing him out to go and experiment and live his life. Most parents tend to put a rein on their kids, and instead they’re saying, ‘Go out there! Live, life is a gift. Live it to the full.’ I think both Annella and her husband are very ahead of their time, extremely tolerant forward thinking, and permissive.” Actually, I saw her as pimping out her 17 year old pianist son “Elio” (Timothée Chalamet) to the gorgeous hunk graduate student “Oliver” (Armie Hammer), summer research assistant to her American husband/Greco-Roman Classics professor (Michael Stuhlbarg). While the object of desire is from a small New England town and used to being (double meaning) different, proudly wears his large Jewish star outside his shirts, “Elio” says his mother always advised that they are “Jews by discretion”, but starts imitating his crush. [I think that’s the line.] She’s also the kind of Jewish mother who has her local housekeeper light the Hanukkah candles and make their latkes. Throughout, it’s not clear if the local girl “Elio” pops his cheery with and unceremoniously dumps when he revels in his new gay identity, “Marzia” (Esther Garrel, of the Garrels of French cinema, whose mother is Brigitte Sy) is Jewish, but she is made up with a mop of brown, curly hair for a strong, visual implication.
    When the student and teacher work together, the professor is constantly trying to seduce the assistant through images of ancient sculptures by erotically describing their artistry, clearly something he has done each year with his male assistants. His closing monologue to his son is considered by the novelist as an enlightened father accepting that his son is gay, but the father is really sadly admitting that he and his middle-aged body were “invisible” to the closeted 20something who somehow finds a scrawny, immature kid’s body (my colleague Laura Blum taught me the word “glabrous” as apt) sexually irresistible, at least in Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s gorgeous cinematography, with no background on any previous gay relationships to explain his preference for such young inexperience. (Supporting my un-PC theory that’s also George Balanchine’s ideal beauty type for ballerinas to emulate.) The father is also clearly saying he regrets not coming out as gay and is telling his son not to deny himself. Director Luca Guadagnino proudly said at the New York Film Festival press conference that he worked on James Ivory’s original script and filming to eliminate the usual young love, including queer romance, cinema clichés – gee, except the usual gay guy infatuated teen’s initiation by an older irresponsibly immature guy who can’t deal with a relationship with a male his own age. The chain-smoking mother even sends her son off with “Oliver” on an obviously romantic weekend with the justification “I think their friendship is good for him” – evidently to keep him away from her husband. While “Oliver” laughs that she is “treating me like a son-in-law” (just as he’s announcing his engagement to a woman he’s been “on and off with for years”), she makes a change in her husband’s annual gay affairs by selecting a “she” to be the “new him” next year. (previewed at 2017 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center)
    TV master showrunner Ryan Murphy, in a New Yorker interview with their TV critic Emiy Nussbaum, 5/8/208, talks nostalgically, like so many gay men seem to, of a love affair he had as a 15-year-old with a man in his ‘20’s and finally admits that after his parents threatened the man and cut off the relationship, at least that pushed the family into group therapy: ‘Although Murphy raged for years about his parents’ response, he now has sympathy for their reaction: ‘I would do the same thing, no matter what the sexual orientation of my child. A fifteen-year-old boy dating somebody who was older? I didn’t really understand it until I had kids.’ His heartbreak also led to something positive. To Murphy’s surprise, the therapist listened to him and took his side: ‘He told my parents that I was precocious and that I was smarter than they were, and that if they didn’t leave me alone I’d end up leaving town and never talking to them again.’” (updated 5/8/2018)


    Camp Girls (reviewed at 2009 Annual New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (The press screener included an essential interview with photographer Gay Block that explained the background to her initial photographic project and this follow-up documentary, recalling both Jean Bach's A Great Day in Harlem that decades later interviewed subjects of Art Kane's classic jazz photo and Michael Apted's 7 Up etc. longitudinal documentation.) (1/18/2009)

    Campfire (Medurat Hashevet)

    Carmel (review forthcoming) (In a stream-of-consciousness rumination to try and understand the differences between his military service and his son's a generation later, Amos Gitai films re-enactments of his family history in Israel, including a dedication to and loving portrait of his late, intellectual mother Efratia, portrayed in her youth by his daughter Keren and when older by Keren Mor, who each read some of her letters to the camera.) (2/10/2010)

    Casino Jack (So, nu: For all the somewhat conflicting references to Abramoff being an observant Jew with a passle of kids, including at least one daughter, his wife, Pamela Alexander, certainly seems to be a shiksa, played as blonde and bland by Kelly Preston. There's a line that she met him at Brandeis, in the College Republicans together, but he reminisces oddly about her "reading Cosmo and mispronouncing the Yiddish words." She warns him not to chase after the Golden Calf, what with their missed mortgage payments.)

    The Catcher Was A Spy - I haven’t yet read the book that was the basis by Nicholas Dawidoff, so from the Press Notes: “Sienna Miller plays Estella Huni, Berg’s long-term love interest in New York City whom he forsook for his espionage career. Says Rudd of Miller: “She is just in every capacity the greatest version (of Estella) that you could possible hope for.” Sienna considers Moe and Estella’s complicated relationship to be the film’s emotional core. “He's very hidden and covert; she's often wanting more than he is able to give so there's tension between them and frustration. But I did get the sense that there was an awful lot of love.”… The filmmakers also received the full cooperation of the Princeton University Library, which houses The Moe Berg Papers, a remarkably extensive collection of correspondence, notes, photographs, and miscellaneous printed materials covering all aspects of his life and work…This unique collection also includes love letters between Berg and his only known long-term romantic interest, Estella Huni, which provided the filmmakers and actress Sienna Miller, who plays her, with great insight into their relationship and into the two as individuals. Miller notes: “There were beautiful letters between the two of them -- she was obviously very witty and bright and stimulated by his intellect, which was vast." Agrees Levine, “There was a real sense from her that he was not much of a communicator, a reserved man who didn't express himself all that often. You could sense from her correspondence how close they were and how well they understood each other." As to her sexily dramatic dresses by costume designer Joan Bergin, Miller is quoted as finding them “elegant but believable” and her to be “an amazing artist and costume designer. She really approaches costume design with a method acting approach. She feels every character really intensely and wanted Estella to have her moment and be honored.”
    While Moe Berg frequently begs off on his identity as being “Jew-ish”, and non-observant (though he does attend synagogue amdist the tension of his overseas mission), and he’s seen as either gay in secret or bi-sexual for appearances, I think those were Shabbat candles she lights for their dinners with red wine, and there appears to be a prayer book on their table, so I’ll consider her a “putative Jewish woman”. She lives alone, supports herself as a piano teacher, and he compliments her classical piano playing. But, as often as he emotes “I love you”, with no response from her, he makes very clear to her “You’re not my wife”, and the closing scroll says she later married a Naval officer. (6/12/2018)


    CBGB So, nu: A highly fictionalized version of the sensible Jewish women behind the downtown club, who apparently controlled how they were presented in exchange for the rights to the story. (10/12/2013)

    Chagall and Malevich So, nu: Bella Rosenfeld (striking debut performance by Kristina Schneidermann) is the most full-bodied character and actor in this beautifully visually evocative Russian magic realism evocation of the source of his art, the village in Vitebsk and the Revolutionary era he nostalgically looked back to in the pieces seen in the recent Jewish Museum exhibition. (Images from over 140 paintings were used in the film.) Loyally waiting for him as he studies in Paris, then defying her conservative parents to marry him (in a lively traditional Jewish wedding), she’s his muse and lover. She’s sensual, intelligent, passionate, supportive -- and it helps that she has a nanny to help with their baby. The Chagalls’ granddaughter artist Meret Meyer-Graber approved her casting, as well as the painting selections and use. The Russian Jewish writer/director Alexander Rabinovich Mitta modeled their relationship on his artist wife Lilya Mayorova. Not quite as believably, she’s also the point of a long-running triangle with an obsessed Red Commissar Naum (Semyon Shkalikov), our “Robespierre”, as she calls him.) [formal review forthcoming]. (6/12/2015)

    Children of the Sun (review forthcoming) (seen at 2008 Israel Film Festival) (In interviews with the founding generation of kibbutzim and their children, there is a focus on the pro’s and con’s for mothers and offspring to communal childraising, with a gamut of reflections. There was no questioning of the continuance of other more conventional gender roles within kibbutz responsibilities. While the children say that they considered those they grew up so intimately with as siblings, it wasn’t made clear that they met dating partners/future spouses within the movement at joint events or high schools with other kibbutzim, my in-laws who I watched the film with added that information from their friends in the movement.) (11/28/2008)

    Children Must Laugh (Mir Kumen On)

    This 1936 (almost all in Yiddish) international fundraiser for the Medem Sanatorium near Warsaw, Poland demonstrates that it was not just the Zionists who dreamed of a “New Jew” – healthy, athletic, creative, agricultural. So did the Communist General Union of Jewish Workers. While a girl is one of the central children followed from Warsaw to a kind of Fresh Air Fund type makeover and the girls are active and talented, the gender-based work and play assignments betray the limits of their idealism – the girls do the domestic tasks, play with the domestic toys, sing prettily for several numbers, and only get to be recording secretary as boys run for the ruling council. The only way to not watch this in tears at their coming fates is knowing that at least some of the graduates were among the Warsaw Ghetto Uprisers seven years later. (Thanks to Serge Bromberg & Lobster Films for the restoration) (seen at 2016 To Save and Project: MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation of Museum of Modern Art) (11/22/2016)

    A Christmas Tale (Un conte de Noël) (review forthcoming) (Arnaud Desplechin has a signature element in each of his films of including a Jewish character, and here “Faunia” (played by Emmanuelle Devos) may be his first Jewish woman since Esther Kahn. While the matriarch of her lover’s family confusingly teases him for being Jewish, maybe because he might be the only son she had circumcised or because it’s a French slang/idiom poorly translated as I also heard it in Love Songs (Les Chansons D’amour), “Faunia” finally makes clear that she’s had enough of Christmas and happily leaves to celebrate a non-holiday with her saner family.) (11/28/2008)

    Chronicle of a Kidnap (Documentary about a wife's against-all-odds efforts to free her soldier husband, recalling A Mighty Heart, even after the war was unsuccesfful. While it is almost too sad to watch (watch through the credits), it is noteworthy seeing how the different women in his life react differently to the very tense, and doomed, situation, the choices they make about how public and political to be, and how that changes the wife as a woman.) (seen at 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (1/25/2010)

    Citizen Jane: Battle For The City Several of the interviewed “mothers” who successfully protested with Jane Jacobs as friends and neighbors against Robert Moses’ automotive plans for the West Village are Jewish, including Carol Greitzer, who went on to be a New York City Councilwoman from 1975–1991. (short review - longer review forthcoming) (previewed at 2016 DOC NYC Festival) (10/31/2016)

    City Of Gold (review forthcoming) When Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold talks about his family and upbringing, childhood photographs are seen of him with his mother – but the edit doesn’t include any mention of her. Are his and his brother’s sarcastic comments about growing up on meals highlighted by Jello desserts reflections on her cooking or striving for American cultural assimilation?

    City of Joel (So, nu: In documenting the tensions over the efforts of the Satmar Hasidic Village of Kiryas Joel, in NY’s Orange County, to expand through annexation into other areas of the town of Monroe, there’s an extensive interview with one woman defending her community and the status of women within it, because the “United Monroe” non-Hasidic group keeps bringing up abuse of women as an issue. The only time she feels more human and less robotic is when she talks about the pressures to have children and says she had to do a lot to achieve that, implying fertility assistance. Director Jesse Sweet is able to hear (secretly) about dissenting views. When one supervised vote is held, 30% vote against their community, but, of course, there’s no way to know how many of those were women. More, he talks to a young woman who lived in the Satmars’ original Brooklyn community – she was kicked out of her home at 17 by her mother for dating, and had to (eventually) re-invent her life as secular. Otherwise, the cameras can only get brief glimpses of girls and women at the fringes of community activities where a few always seem to be watching from the outside. I had to wonder if I have cousins there, or maybe they live in the growing Rockland County ultra-Orthodox enclaves. (preview at 2018 DOC NYC Festival) (10/31/2018)

    City of Joy Eve Ensler is the fundraiser and promoter behind this courageous project to save and renew women brutalized in the wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While she is seen sharing her personal story of rape and abuse to connect with the women, as well her experience around the world, particularly in Bosnia, to help organize such women into community leadership cadres, director Madeleine Gavin’s documentary seems like a commissioned promotion and fundraising tool. (previewed at 2016 DOC NYC Festival) (10/31/2016)

    Closeness (Tesnota) (So, nu: Writer/director Kantemir Balagov opens the film with a statement that this is a true story from 1998 in his home town of Nalchik, North Caucasus, Russia. He provides generalized context in the press notes: “Jews and Kabardians can be as close to each other as they can be apart. Caucasian society is more patriarchal, Jewish society more matriarchal. Jews are more dynamic, more enterprising; the Caucasians are slower, more melancholic in a way. But the propensity to preserve the family, to preserve their roots, is common to both. There were many Jewish people in Kabardino-Balkaria. And during World War 2 and the invasion of the Caucasus by German troops, Jews were often hidden and protected by the Kabardians. They started to learn the Kabardian language and many of them settled after the war, creating a true Jewish community in Nalchik, with a Jewish quarter and a synagogue that is still there today. On the other hand, since Perestroika, there are unfortunately hardly any left: many emigrated to New York and Israel, and some moved to Moscow. . . From the beginning I was adamant that the Jewish characters should be played by Jewish actors, and the Kabardian parts by Kabardians. It was a question of truthfulness. I had a casting director in Saint Petersburg who worked tirelessly. We found Darya Zhovner [who plays the central character Ilana] in Moscow; she had just completed her studies at MKhaT, Moscow Art Theatre. The parents [Olga Dragunova as Adina, and Artem Tsypin as Avi] are theatre actors from Saint Petersburg. The kidnapped brother is a cook, not a professional actor - even though he has appeared in a film by Aleksey German. Jr. Zalim, the Kabardian boyfriend [Zalim], is a professional actor who studied at the famous Shchukin Theatre Institute in Moscow.”
    The daughter powerfully portrays: the resentment of her parents’ preference for the son in the family and to sacrifice everything for him; the temptation of the bad boy from the majority, sensual culture compared to the fixed traditions of the close-knit Jewish families, here the Kabardians who seem to spend a lot of time drinking; and insistence on doing what she wants – an auto mechanic along side her father. Her brother’s and his fiancee’s kidnapping (because the criminals thought any Jew was wealthy?) sets off both personal and ethnic tensions, even as Muslim nationalism was just starting to take a terrorist direction in this region. (preview at 2018 New Directors/New Films of Film Society of Lincoln Center/MoMA (3/14/2018)


    Close To Home (Karov La Bayit (previewed at Tribeca Film Festival with a Q & A by the directors.) (See with its non-fiction counterpart To See If I’m Smiling (Lir’ot Im Ani Mehayechet), viewed at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival at Lincoln Center)

    Cloudy Sunday (Ouzeri Tsitsanis/Ουζερί Τσιτσάνης)

    Manousos Manousakis's 2015 fiction feature, based on a novel by Giorgios Skabardonis that’s not available in English, looks at the experiences of Jews (speaking Ladino), musicians (playing a lot of passionate songs and much lovely music by Vassilis Tsitsanis written during this period, who is here played by Andreas Konstantinou), as referenced in the Greek film’s beautiful poster with a bouzouki above, and resistance/collaboration in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, under the Nazis in 1942.
    The first film showing the decimation of the city’s Sephardic Jewish community from over 50,000 to just over 1,900 survivors (when most Holocaust films only feature Ashkenazi Jews, other than documentaries I’ve seen at the New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival), the extended Beza family is representative. The central story is a Romeo & Juliet one of young Estrea (played by Christina Hilla Fameli), first daring to help the Resistance by typing up transmissions about German military activities in Greece to be sent on to the British, falling in love with the hunky George/Giorgos/Yorgos in the subtitles (played by Haris Fragoulis), the Christian radio operator/carpenter/waiter (in the ouzeria/tavern where Tsitsanis’s band plays with a female singer). Estrea defies her parents’ arrangement to marry David Revah (Abraham Cohen), and cut her off when she confesses her relationship. While their romantic scenes are passionately lovely and sexy, there’s mordant humor when her father announces You’re dead to me! as they’re going to be on the transport to Auschwitz any day. There’s also inadvertent amusement that unlike other European communities, the Jews didn’t stand out for being brunettes with big noses, including the young lovers, so fake identity papers wouldn’t have been as problematic. (A side story about her rebellious, Cassandra-like older brother Alberto, played by Thodoros Antoniadis, is a bit confusing, let alone that Yorgos hides him in yet another brave act on top of being the only surviving member of a compromised, bomb-setting resistance unit.)
    While her mother (in agreement with the accomodationist rabbi) is the most fatally intransigent about leaving their long-time home despite hints of the coming disaster, the scenes in the synagogue as community meeting space show that the women restricted to the balcony are forthright and not at all hesitant, even with head veils, in loudly calling down their disagreements on top of his head. I was disappointed in the daughter’s final, foolish act of filial piety because it would have been more effective to have her be a witness to the treatment the Germans and their anti-Semitic supporters meted out (Yorgos’s father is in passive agreement with them) and to the final round-up, instead of inaccurately showing that the whole city watched them shoved into cattle-cars.
    Depite the initially uneven acting, Cloudy Sunday is quite moving. (seen at 2017 New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival) (A Menemsha Films release)
    (updated 5/3/2017)

    Coco (seen at the 2010 Annual NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival) (Among the quizzical elements in this broad, slapsticky, very weak satire of ridiculous excess around a son's bar mitzvah is the basic premise that the blonde mother is not Jewish – what's Mizrahi vernacular for a shiksa?—so calling into question the son's Jewish identity. However, it is entertaining to see the affectionate mother reject her son's exaggerated obsessions with flamboyance, wealth and assimilation to return to her own modest neighborhood with Moroccan music and foods. His sister is loud and obnoxious though.) (2/10/2010)

    Code: Debugging The Gender Gap (previewed at 2015 Tribeca Film Festival) (So, nu: Though not mentioned in the film, Walter Isaacson notes in passing in The Innovators that two of the original ”Women of ENIAC”, then referred to as “the ENIAC girls”, were Jewish, Marilyn Wescoff (Meltzer) and Ruth Licterman (Teitelbaum), who were recruited to the WW2-era project by Adele Goldstine (and rediscovered by Kathy Kleiman, programmer/lawyer who I’m not sure is Jewish). Their legacy adds history to the several women programmers interviewed in the film who may be Jewish, and if they were so identified would add nuance to the image of Mark Zuckerberg as the the Silicon Valley Jew. Was the Lois Mandel who wrote the prescient “The Computer Girls” article in Cosmopolitan, April 1967, a relative?) (5/1/2015)

    A Coffee In Berlin (Oh Boy) (So, nu: In the satirical film-within-a-film, a haggard Jewish woman is seen having been hidden in an attic by her S.S. officer lover. But he comes in to announce his shock at the news of the Reich’s defeat – and immediately whines about the ironic role reversal that she is free and he now needs to hide, much to her surprise. This silliness is quite a contrast to the old man’s seriously haunted childhood, especially of his father’s eager participation in Kristallnacht (November 1938), and urging him on. In other ironies of German resonance, we also had our tickets checked at that same train station -- the one nearest the former Stasi Secret Police headquarters that’s full of murals touting the Socialist state. At the theater after-party, the pretentious writer/choreographer is furious that he and his friend came late and laughed out loud often. Outside are drunken teenagers, but the former victim can now fiercely protect herself.) (6/15/2014)

    Colette (seen at 2014 at Czech That Film Tour) (Though Arnošt Lustig’s novel Colette: A Girl From Antwerp that the film is based on does not appear to be in English for comparison (or how that was inspired by his own experience in Auschwitz,or his wife’s, poet Vera Weislitzova), so now I’m getting used copies of his other semi-autobiographical fiction to read in English), the film was intended for international audiences, so a couple weeks before production (according to lead actor Jirí Mádl who participated in a Q & A at the Consulate’s screening I attended), it was decided the international cast would speak English, albeit with their native accents. But so far it has only been picked up in Japan, doubtless because of its frankness on what Jews did anything to survive in concentration camps – particularly women, both as prisoners and capos (though I wasn’t completely sure which of the latter were Jews and which might have been Polish or other non-Jewish inmates). Central is pretty Belgian internee “Colette” (played by French actress Clémence Thioly), as she is followed from arrival with her mother and sisters who are quickly taken to the gas chambers, through liberation and a few months later, then a couple of decades later with her daughter. While the framing device is too much of a coincidence, her, and other women’s, explicit experiences, as the sex obsession of a commandante, assignment to a brothel, and servicing a female supervisor, show how survival could depend on transfer to a less physically rigorous assignment, favors for her Czech lover (the narrator), and possible opportunities for escape. I also hadn’t seen before on film what it really meant for women to work in “Canada”, rigorously sorting the goods abandoned from each transport to the crematoria, like my mother’s first cousin, as I understand from my one conversation with her in Israel, with my reluctant brother-in-law translating.
    The limited English press notes describe her: “Colette comes to the concentration camp as a young girl and she affects everybody around by her beauty. It is not just her physical beauty but within her face, her dark eyes, and her alabastre skin one can feel her charisma, inner beauty and nobility. Her eyes show intense lust for life. She bears the same childish naivity and sincerity of Shakespeare´s Juliet. Day by day as the story progresses, she loses her childhood and she becomes a woman, suffering but strong. Her childlike joy and spontaneity appears especially intense during the love scenes with Willie. She is energetic, animal, sensuous, but also vulnerable, suffering.” Director Milan Cieslar also says “With this film I want to close my World War II trilogy”, but I haven’t seen the others for comparison. (6/6/2014)


    Colliding Dreams This NEH-funded documentary on the history of the waves of Zionism adds a couple of nuanced perspectives to the usual discussions (that the original concept was a reaction to the rise of nationalism throughout Europe, and that the rise of religious Zionism with the settler movement was based on pre-rabbinic Biblical interpretation of Judaism). But while there are women academics and peace activists interviewed, including the oldest living attendee of a key Zionist assembly along with Chaim Weizmann, the closest to a gendered analysis is a grandson marveling that his grandmother from a wealthy Eastern European family gave it all up to be an early pioneer happily making gravel on a farm, which hints at her dissatisfaction with the life she would have led at home. (3/15/2016)

    Come Back, Africa (So, nu: Not mentioned in the original film or in the “making of” documentary, is that one of the sympathetic white characters in the film is presumably a Jewish woman. When the black hotel worker is reluctantly fired by the white manager due to what is an obviously false accusation of a sexual attack by a white woman guest, an elderly white woman shakes her head and says about the accuser: She’s meshugana! I doubt that’s an Afrikaans’ word as well as Yiddish.) (1/29/2012)

    The Comedian (2016) It’s going to take me awhile to detail how much this uneven Sony Classics film, set in NYC and Florida, comes thisclose to the offensive line about Jewish women’s stereotypes, of all ages, vs. how many times it proudly goes over. (12/5/2016)

    Comme ton père (review forthcoming from viewing at 2009 NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival) (While of course debut writer/director Marco Carmel suffuses the film with nostalgia for growing up in a Tunisian Jewish family in France and Israel, the lovely Yaël Abécassis as the mother "Mireille" is a three-dimensional woman who is tender and strong, and much in love with her waywardly entrepreneurial husband.) (2/21/2009)

    Le Concert (So, nu: The casting of Mélanie Laurent, a non-stereotypical-looking Jewish actress, helps keep the audience guessing about her character's origins, while the portrayal of her mother as both a gifted musician and a political activist surmounts frequent images of passive victims of anti-Semitism.) (7/27/2010)

    Concussion (review forthcoming from VOD) In an interview in Cultural Weekly, 10/10/2013, Sophia Stein asked the writer/director about her debut film she made in her Montclair, NJ home (right near where I grew up) with her own two kids: “Who do you see as the audience for your film, CONCUSSION?” Stacie Passon: “The pragmatic me who made this movie said — the audience will be women experiencing a mid-life crisis. I would love all of them to be exactly like me, Jewish women who are lesbians. Then I came to understand that CONCUSSION is really about the conversation that we are all are having about marriage now. This story doesn’t take the gender identity out of it, it just reframes it from a different angle.” Even though her characters don’t, Passon was comfortable using Yiddish, even that was unfamiliar to both the interviewer and her producer Rose Troche, in another interview, with Melissa Silverstein’s Women and Hollywood 2/1/2013, to describe the film’s genesis: “Basically, I got binged in the head with a baseball. My son hit me and there was this sort of gush of blood on my temple and I just felt not right after that. There was a ton of blood and I remember just going to the hospital, feeling very hazy, kind of getting up, moving around, feeling hurt, you know? And the kids -- yelling at the kids and being just not a very nice person at that point. And I was very hazy and to make a long story short, I got a little "broigus." I got a little cranky, ornery..”
    But I only caught one direct reference that the central character of “Abby Ableman” (played by Robin Weigert) is Jewish, let alone her long-time wife, successful divorce lawyer “Kate” (played by Julie Fain Lawrence) or her aggressive client/neighbor “Sam Bennet” and her Goldman Sachs husband “Graham” (played by Maggie Siff and Ben Shenkman who frequently play Jewish characters), when she initially says she couldn’t possibly work as a lesbian prostitute because I’m on the board of my synagogue! Maybe I missed even a menorah around the house – which is usually the cinematic shorthand for religious identity – but at the point after she neglects to pick up their kids at school for the first time due to luxuriating in sex, she comes home to – huh?—read in bed Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint. (3/2/2014)


    The Cousin (Ha Ben Dod) (So, nu: In this satire of how peacenik liberals in Israel behave when having to deal with a real life Palestinian working for them, the females are secondary characters. The wife/mother Yael (Osnat Fishman), a TV producer I think, mostly just reacts nervously as the comedy of errors multiply around her husband and the guy he hired to renovate their house. A teenage girl is attacked, but she’s so traumatized she hides behind her dark curly hair and her mother, before she can trust anyone enough to finally point out who really hurt her.) (preview at 2018 Other Israel Film Festival/also shown at 2018 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum)(11/1/2018)

    Crazy Love (6/1/2007) (emendations coming after 11/1/2007) (Oy, he’s gleeful that they met on Rosh ha Shanah.)

    Creating A Character: The Moni Yakim Legacy (So, nu: This is almost a joint-bio-doc with his wife Mina – but a bit more information would have been helpful for the curious. I had to look online to find out that she is also from Israel, presumably then Palestine, though he gives fascinating detail about his family, and we get none about hers until the point in Paris when she met him after finishing “a relationship” with her mentor Marcel Marceau. In addition to the terrific clips from their theater days, the new footage of their working together as mimes on a dark stage, proving they are still exquisite performing partners, was directed by Alma Har’el, also Israeli. (preview at 2018 DOC NYC Festival) (10/29/2018)

    Crime After Crime (first briefly reviewed at 2011 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: The Orthodox Jewish lawyer only talks vaguely about his abused mother, with no family photographs, so one can only presume that she and her partner were Jewish. He's as purposely vague if the man was his father, step-father, or if they were married, or even if it was an observant home, as his is now. It certainly seems to be an unusual lifting of the veil over domestic violence in the Jewish community.) (7/2/2011)

    Cupcakes (So, nu: commentary forthcoming) (3/27/2015)

    The Cut (Notes: While there are no Jews in the film, the visual references of this epic of the Armenian genocide and its aftermath are all taken from Holocaust films, and his survival is much like such miracles reported during the Holocaust, and the nation’s aching indomitability. Though edited out of my review, men with knives are ordered to tie up the weakened Armenian men, but “Mehmet” (Bartu Küçükçağlayan) whispers to “Nazaret” that he’s just a thief who was let out of prison to join the renegades and promises to protect him – leaving “Nazaret” only badly wounded – from the title wound -- and voiceless, weeping over his dying brother. But his benumbed acceptance of his fate is contrasted with the vengeful “Krikor”, played by French-Armenian actor Simon Abkarian, but Charlie Chapln brings out his only smile in the epic. Much like Holocaust survivors, he treasures one faded childhood photograph. Reminiscent of Fred Zinneman’s The Search (1948), he’s relieved to hear that they were sent to an orphanage, and the obsessed “Nazaret” sets off across the Levant to check the scores of children’s homes set up by religious charities to try to cope with the shell-shocked remnant. By 1922, their distinctiveness as twins jogs a headmistress’s memory of them growing there into young women, with only one girl’s limp an identifying mark of their ordeal. Interestingly, it looks like every country it is shown has given the film a different name, and I’d be curious to see them all translated.) (10/9/2015)

    Dancing Alfonso (commentary forthcoming) (seen at 2008 Israel Film Festival) (11/9/2008)

    Dancing in Jaffa (briefly reviewed in 2013 Documentaries at Tribeca Film Festival and at Part 2 Truth & Friction of the 2013 Other Israel Film Festival.) (So, nu: my commentary on the Jewish women.) (So, nu: commentary forthcoming about the Israeli mothers, daughters, and teachers) (6/4/2013)

    A Dangerous Method) (So, nu: In what seems to me to be David Cronenberg’s most Jewish movie – he described himself as relating to Freud as “an old Jew” in the press conference following the preview at 2011 New York Film Festival of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, he puts the rift between Freud and Jung smack in the context of their Jewish vs. Aryan tensions. Sabina Spielrein as the fulcrum between them brings to wider acknowledgment her significance beyond Freud’s crediting her (inaccurately) in a footnote about “the death instinct”. She’s Jung’s patient, whose successful analysis he described in several barely pseudonymous examples (which must have made discussions about masturbation at professional conferences she later attended as a colleague, not shown in the film, more than a bit embarrassing); then she’s Jung’s lover, ego fluffer, and sounding board for his ideas; and then a Freudian theorist on the ego-destruction in sexuality, justifying Cronenberg’s presentation that she was acting out this sado-masochism with Jung even as it strains credulity about her mental health. Ironically, just as Jung’s development of the Elektra complex was parallel to Freud’s central Oedipus Complex, her Siegfried obsession, continuing to be in love with the blond Aryan Jung years later despite the harm to her psychoanalytical credibility with Freud, is intriguingly parallel to the Jewish male fixation on the blonde shiksa. (11/24/2011)

    Dare (positive review forthcoming) (In expanding their short film, director Adam Salky and writer David Brind (who has given various answers about how much of himself is in the character) added a lot of back story to the gay teen boy "Benjamin" (now played by Ashley Springer), including a last name, "Berger", an Is-ro head of curls, a PBS-watching Philly suburban family, and his therapist mother "Ruth" (played very sympathetically by Ana Gasteyer). While there's nothing in the dialogue or in the home that declares her Jewish, I presume most viewers will think she is, what I call "a putative Jewish woman" in my TV commentaries. Though the son rebels against what he perceives as her constant efforts to psychoanalyze him, she is the most maternal figure in the film, the other neglected teen products of divorce instinctively reach out to her, and enjoy an evening of family together-ness that is clearly atypical for them. Her pleasant surprise that he has brought a guy to the house shows she's more comfortable with his heretofore closeted homosexuality than he is. She reassures the conflicted gentile guest hunk (the superb Zach Gilford of Friday Night Lights) that she'll drive him to his doctor's appointment: I'm a mother. It's what I do. (Not an exact quote - I wasn't taking notes and I was more concerned that she was going to turn into a cougar) and encourages him that this doctor is a good choice when she realizes that he's meeting with a therapist colleague "Dr. Serena Mohr" (played by Sandra Bernhard). (11/25/2009)

    Dark Inclusion (Diamant noir) (previewed at 2016 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Film Society of Lincoln Center) While the focus of this unusual tale of familial love and revenge in a Jewish, Flemish-speaking, Antwerp family of diamond cutters and traders is on the fathers/sons/uncle/nephew, the mother and the fiancée are not stereotypes. “Olga Ulmann” (played by Hilde Van Mieghem) warmly welcomes in the prodigal nephew “Pier Ulmann” (played by Niels Schneider) into her home and nuclear family, asking him to keep watch over his epileptic cousin “Gabriel/Gabi” (played by August Diehl), though that unwittingly moves forward schemes. I’ll count “Luisa” (played by Raphaële Godin) as a putative Jewish woman, despite explicit evidence. (I don’t recall seeing her last name and her mother lives in a working class neighborhood in Rome, but she has curly brunette hair.) We first see her working out as a boxer, and she’s friends with minority boxers. She’s also getting her PhD in Chemistry – albeit specializing in studying the properties of gold. Unlike the usual triangles, she fights off “Pier”s advances, even stoned on marijuana, as he advances to rape. (2/25/2016)

    David & Fatima (negative review forthcoming) (There are only two Jewish women in what is one of the most puerile and amateurish Romeo & Juliet-in-Israel movies. [Far superior is Strangers that I saw at Tribeca Film Festival, albeit it has no Jewish women in it.] From the simultaneous birth labor on, the Israeli mother is fairly bland, as she pleads with her husband to back off from confronting his Palestinian counterpart, even when the Arab oddly throws Jewish mother stereotypes at him to insult his manhood. “David”s sister is apparently one of the few women career soldiers in the IDF, due to her stringent right-wing, Arab--phobic views.) (9/28/2008)

    David and Kamal (previewed at 2011 Other Israel Film Festival) (So, nu: “David”s divorced mother is only present through the reactions of his estranged father through unheard phone calls where she just comes across as selfish, what with dumping her son halfway across the world so she could vacation with a new boyfriend. The briefly seen stepmother-girlfriend is sympathetic to both father and son.) (11/21/2011)

    David and Layla (review forthcoming) (The crudely biased and ignorant Jewish mother, as well as the ex-girlfriend, played by Callie Thorne like her sexually aggressive recurring characters on E.R. and Rescue Me, are particularly tasteless and not credible in their wide-eyed acting when compared to the long-suffering Kurdish family of the love of his life.) (2/23/2008)

    David Bromberg: Unsung Treasure (briefly reviewed at 2012 DOC NYC Festival) (So, nu: He’s pretty cryptic about his parents, other than describing his father as an Austrian psychiatrist and his “mother the monster” from Brooklyn. There was a hint about possible Holocaust experiences that was left unasked.) (11/4/2012)

    David Golder (review forthcoming) (seen at MoMA's Julien Duvivier retrospective with new English subtitles) I still hope to get to the Museum of Jewish Heritage's exhibition Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française, and I haven't yet read her book that was the basis for this 1930 film. But I wonder if the rich, horrifically manipulative, money-grasping, status-conscious, spendthrift, superficial Jewish mother and (blonde) daughter of a Merchant of Paris in the film were the templates that established these stereotypes in the movies/TV.) (5/14/2009)

    Death In Love (So, nu: While the older son is made neurotic by the repercussions of his mother's passion for her Nazi captor –and testimony in Forgotten Transports: To Estonia (Zapomenuté transporty: Do Estonska): Women's Friendship recalls that as possible-- and many others, the younger is as tortured as the violin virtuoso she tormented to his death in the camp, as she was complicit in the doctor seeking the physical source of his genius. I'm not the only critic who was reminded in a negative comparison to a similar survivor in Liliana Cavani's The Night Porter.) (7/18/2009)

    Death of a Poetess (Mot HaMeshoreret) (So, nu: Written and directed by Dana Goldberg + Efrat Mishori, this narrative film is almost a two-hander of the intersection of two mothers, with Yasmin, an Arab Israeli nurse who lives in Jaffa (Samira Saraya) and Tel Aviv academic Lenny Sadeh (Evgenia Dodina), who reminds me of Jeanne Moreau wandering around Paris in Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows (1958), but even more mysterious. That her motivations are so unclear, though, adds to the biased tension of the police investigation’s insistence on an explanation. (preview at 2018 Other Israel Film Festival) (10/29/2018)

    The Debt (So, nu: commentary to be added, with comparison to Ha-Hov).)

    Defiance (So, nu: The complexity of romantic relationships is overly simplified for sentimentality and almost too discreet -- Alexa Davalos is Tuvia's tolerant forest wife Lilka, Iben Hjejle is Zus's fellow feisty fighter Bella, and Mia Wasikowska is Asael's sweet crush. There actually was more sex going on amongst these young people who thought they'd die at any moment, according to Nechama Tec's book the film was based on, with willing women who figured they'd bargain for protection. And yet these marriages of crisis lasted for decades after.) (12/31/2008) (For more context see Forgotten Transports to Belarus (Zapomenuté transporty: Do Belarus): Men Who Fought) (review forthcoming)

    Defiant Requiem (previewed at 2012 DocuWeeks) (So, nu: on the Jewish women.) (review forthcoming)

    Deli Man (previewed at 2015 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: my commentary on the Jewish women.) (So, nu: Surprise: among the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation running a traditional kosher deli in North American is at least one woman: Jaqueline Canter of Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles, as well as the wives and daughters of others, and a couple of informative female experts on the history of delis. It’s also sweet that the featured guide, David “Ziggy” Gruber of Houston met his future wife, acupuncturist Mary McCaughey, as she began converting to Judaism.) Kudos to including our local classic deli Ben’s Best! (updated 3/6/2015)

    Demon (So, nu: “Hana” (played by Maria Debska) is mostly a ghostly apparition walking and kissing the groom (Piotr/Peter/Pyton, played by Itay Tiran, besides what the schoolteacher (played by Wlodzimierz Press), and Yiddish translator between “Hana” and the town, remembers of her as the prettiest girl in town, but in love with a Polish boy, whose identity each audience member may guess differently. Many critics cite different interpretations of the facts: most think this is a Holocaust revenge story; I’m quite sure this references the 1968 anti-Semitic putsch in Poland, including for “Piotr”s grandmother, who also may be Jewish. A side note about the Israeli Tiran: while he is more known for such dramatic roles as in Lebanon (2009) than in physical comedies, his possession by Hana demonstrated the same agility as Steve Martin sharing his body with Lily Tomlin’s soul in Carl Reiner’s All of Me (1984). (previewed at 2016 New Directors/New Films of Film Society of Lincoln Center/MoMA)
    An added bonus about The Dybbuk: In By Sidney Lumet, the director says his father Baruch Lumet, a noted Yiddish actor, performed this favorite play many times. So in tribute, Lumet produced it on live TV in one of his first productions, and starred his father. (updated 10/30/2016)


    Defying The Nazis: The Sharps War - Several women interviewed were girls who the Sharps, Righteous Gentiles, saved by getting them out of Prague and Paris just in time. (10/30/2016)

    Denial So, nu: While I do not judge Jewish women characters if they are enacted by Jewish actresses, I hadn’t known that Rachel Weisz is of Jewish heritage. Her active academic is stereotype-free. Two women survivors lobby “Prof. Lipstadt”, particularly the passionate “Vera Reich” (played by Harriet Walter). (9/14/2016)

    Destination Unknown - Produced in cooperation with the USC Shoah Foundation, the English-speaking Holocaust survivor interviewees include several women, who emphasize the importance of bonding with other “girls”, and the bitterness towards those who did not. They are also insightful about how their horrible experiences affected their lives and their families afterwards. (11/28/2017)

    Disengagement (Désengagement) (review forthcoming) (previewed at Israel at 60 at Lincoln Center) (Amos Gitai has to s-t-r-e-t-c-h his tri-partite story-line a lot to try and make the two Jewish women make any sense as he looks at American/European/Israeli attitudes. Juliette Binoche, in possibly her first role as a Jew, is “Ana”, a sensual secularist faced with the reappearance of her hunky Israeli step-brother as she deals with the death of her American ex-pat father, a prominent Zionist and philanthropist in France, who requires in his will that she reunite with the daughter she gave up at birth on a kibbutz, “Dana” (Dana Ivgy), who somehow became Orthodox, now living in a Gaza settlement being removed by the government. The visuals and acting make more beautiful sense than any of the quizzical dialogue.) (6/13/2008)

    Disobedience (previewed at 2018 Tribeca Film Festival) The source novel is by Naomi Alderman who has roots growing up in this neighborhood (and that star/producer Rachel Weisz grew up nearby, and now resides in the NYC art and fast sex club scenes where her character lives in the prologue, though in the book she’s a financial analyst and lover of a married man), are reflected in the sensitivity for dealing with the Ultra-Orthodox. Co-writer Rebecca Lenkiewicz was brought in to assure authenticity. (Especially in comparison to the more conventional A Price Above Rubies (1998). From the opening image there’s a glaring difference: the “Dovid” in the book, a dull nephew not the film’s bright protégé, is described as a stereotypical-looking yeshiva bocher, compared to producer Alessandro Nivola, whose sexy appeal can’t be hidden under Haredi garments, and makes visually clear that any hetereosexual woman would be attracted to him. Unlike The Secrets (Ha-Sodot), this doesn’t bring up that the Torah does not specifically condemn lesbians as it does male homosexuals, but about rebelling against community mores, such that the reunited, reckless lovers (Weisz and Rachel Mcadams) are tattled on by a married couple. The film kind of waffles on whether they are bi-sexual and just happen to be in love with each other, but the ending emphasizes the surprising strengths they find to relate to the men in their families, dead and living. (5/8/2018)

    Disturbing The Peace (So, nu: The press notes on the only Jewish woman participant (of the four Israelis) who gets much screen time, with not near the emotional impact or detail as the Israeli men or the Palestinian woman: “Maia Hascal - Born in Nofit village in northern Israel, Maya is a social worker who volunteered for reserve duty after finishing her mandatory service in the Israeli Defense Forces. Following a traumatic event, as she became increasingly aware of the effects of the Occupation on both the Palestinians and Israeli soldiers needing to enforce it, she realized a different path must be taken. Maia joined Combatants for Peace in an effort to resolve this situation through nonviolence.” Others are glimpsed. (11/13/2016)

    Dogs: The Rise and Fall of an All-Girl Bookie Joint (I only discovered this very indie little 1996 movie in 2010, as I prepared to see director Eve Annenberg's latest film that was also in The New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum. I was surprised to find the relationship quite charming, and very much not stereotypical, between the artsy, rebellious daughter "Leila Wascowicz" (played by Pam Columbus) living in the East Village, and the inconvenient ghost of her single mother (played by Lenore Sommerstein) haunting her thoughts and surprisingly being more supportive than a guilty conscience. Amongst the motley ethnic crew of girlfriends, it is "Leila" who comes up with the brainy idea of using their combined skills to run a quite successful franchised bookie operation to pay their rent and expenses, until their consciences get to them all.) (1/3/2011)

    Dolphin Boy (previewed at 2011 Other Israel Film Festival) (So, nu: In addition to Jewish women interviewed as his colleagues at the Dolphin Reef, the young Israeli Arab man falls in love with a Jewish woman there and their first romance is sweetly and wistfully covered as an unrealistic emblem of his reinvented life that can’t last. (11/26/2011)

    Don’t Blink – Robert Frank Not only does director Laura Israel not clarify that the subject is Jewish, she doesn’t provide such background on his first wife Eleanore Lockspeiser, whose maternal grandparents, according to Wikipedia, were Gregory and Eugenie Weinstein, and her paintings are included in The Jewish Museum’s permanent collection. The bio-doc does include his photographs of their daughter Andrea from birth on, and her death in a plane accident at age 21. (previewed at 2015 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (9/25/2015)

    Dove’s Cry (previewed at 2013 Other Israel Film Festival) (So, nu: even those Israeli Jewish girls and women, both staff and parents, who at first seem welcoming to the Israeli Arab teacher, are revealed to be prejudiced.) (12/8/2013)

    Dressing America: Tales From The Garment Center (briefly reviewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: The interviews with the Jewish women are the least interesting, as they are mostly nostalgic daughters recalling visiting their fathers’ and grandfathers’ businesses. Unfortunately, they are not as good storytellers and their memories are not as insightful or informative. While I understand that the directors probably wanted some young faces in the film, I preferred more from, well, the cat’s pajamas. Ironically, the one woman interviewed from the biz is non-Jewish, similar to how the current view in the HBO series How to Make It in America also features only Jewish male characters.) (Months after seeing this documentary, I discovered my maternal grandfather’s family, and learned that his sister Dorothy was married to noted designer Seymour Jacobson-- but I don’t know if he was mentioned while female relatives are hunting down his vintage outfits.) (updated 10/13/2012)

    Driving Men (briefly reviewed at 2009 Annual New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (Like the video artist/director of Flying: Confessions Of A Free Woman, Susan Mogul is determined to edit her apparently continual self portraits into an autobiography, at least in terms of her relationships to men. There's amusing and touching moments, but her exhibitionism overwhelms all else.) (1/18/2009)

    Eichmann’s End: Love, Betrayal, Death (Eichmanns Ende) (briefly reviewed at 2011 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (1/17/2011)

    Einsatzgruppen: The Death Brigades (Les Commandos De La Mort (briefly reviewed at 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (This is the first I've seen to document with witnesses, rare photographs and footage how amidst the genocide through the Baltics young women were selected out for stripping, ogling and humiliation first, particularly as the volume of mass murders led to increasingly pathological behavior by the soldiers. In one village, a local woman witness later remembered a group of five young women who refused to strip before being led to the death pit, so were instead shot on the spot – one of the few acts of resistance any recalled.) (updated 4/18/2017)
    This French-produced, 180 minute documentary was re-packaged in 2017 for American Heroes Channel in the U.S., and National Geographic Channel in Canada into episodes of the docu-series Nazi Death Squads, with English-language narration.

    Elusive Justice: The Search for Nazi War Criminals (as seen on PBS) (In Argentina, a concentration camp survivor is one of the Mothers of the Plaza who speaks forcefully against how the military learned from the Nazis, in Germany and those who were given sanctuary in the country, though the links are not made as individually explicit about the torture instruction as in other documentaries, such as in My Enemy’s Enemy.) (11/17/2011)

    Emotional Arithmetic (shown on Showtime and released on DVD as Autumn Hearts: A New Beginning) (briefly reviewed at 2009 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (I haven't read Matt Cohen's novel yet for comparison, but there's a very complicated set of circumstances these folks have to work through in eastern Quebec, despite explanations at the end of what Drancy) was: an American Jewish girl (now Susan Sarandon shaking off her "crazy pills") was there with an Irish boy (now Gabriel Byrne) and a Russian man (now Max Von Sydow) who then ends up in a Soviet prison and psychiatric hospital that she all these years later saves him from through her work with Amnesty International? And Christopher Plummer is her much older husband? The cast infuses this quizzical plot with life, but I kept getting distracted by the sight of La Femme Nikita's Roy Dupuis as her son, so much that I even in a weak moment bought a DVD of a Canadian hockey film he was in so I could qualify for free shipping of the novel.) (updated 5/14/2009)

    Empty Nest (El nido vacío) (So, nu: previewed and briefly reviewed at 18th New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (This is unusual for Daniel Burman's work for having such vibrant and independent Jewish women – in contrast to the disgruntled father/husband: the wife/mother "Martha" --a terrifically lively Cecilia Roth-- who enthusiastically moves on from maternal responsibilities to explore her talents and interests, and her only daughter Julia (Inés Efron) who is very comfortable with her decision to have made aliyah with an Israeli husband.) (1/18/2009)

    Endless Poetry (Poesía Sin Fin) (2017) - Not having seen Chilean avant-garde artist Alejandro Jodorowsky's first autobiographical film, that he calls his technique of family therapy “Psychomagic” about his childhood The Dance of Reality (La danza de la realidad) (2013) the northern Chilean mining town of Tocopilla, I didn’t realize both his parents were Jewish, as the only obvious Jewish reference was a poker game with a Hassidic man. In the new film about his adolescence when the family moved to Santiago, Pamela Flores replays his mother (ID’d in Wikipedia as Sara Felicidad Prullansky Arcavi, that she and his father were “Jewish immigrants from Yekaterinoslav (now Dnipro), Elisavetgrad (now Kropyvnytskyi) and other cities of the Russian Empire (now Ukraine)”, as well as his first girlfriend “Varín”. Adan, Jodorowsky's youngest son, plays him as a teen, while his eldest son Brontis reprises as his own rigidly strict grandfather. He says in interviews about his father "You cannot believe how much I suffered," and he was evidently mad at his mother for being too passive about the abuse that rained down. But in this second film, she’s portrayed as a frustrated opera singer, who sings all her dialogue and helps inspire him along his artistic ways. In the film’s epilogue, he regrets that he left them and Chile in such anger that he never said goodbye or saw them again. The earlier film, based on his autobiographical novel, portrays his elder sister Raquel as a bully, but I don’t recall her presence here. (7/24/2017)

    Entourage - In tracking the Jewish women through the TV show’s run - "Ari”s wife and "Ari”s daughter “Sarah” into the fourth season, Season 5, Season 6, Season 7, and the final season, I deemed “Mrs. Ari” and “Ari Gold” the most attractively romantic Jewish couple in television ever. In the fairly lame movie finale with no new character development, they are played by the same actors, the credits still list Perrey Reeves’ character as “Mrs. Ari”, but the press notes identified her as “also known as Melissa Gold”. “Ari” (Jeremy Piven) several times makes jokes about being Jewish, including making a Jewish wedding in his backyard for his gay Asian-American former assistant: My house my God -- this after his wife mocks him for praying when he’s in difficult negotiations because he doesn’t believe in God. While he makes a couple of unnecessarily crude jokes about his wife’s anatomy, including while he pumps away in her during sex, they are still sweetly in love. She still makes him go with her to marriage counseling to deal with his anger issues, though he doesn’t seem to discuss financial issues with her when he’s mulling taking risks, as he did before – or I dozed off and missed that conversation. The oldest daughter is nowhere around, but the now 12-year-old son consistently backs up his mother against his dad. (More commentary to come.) (6/1/2015)

    Entre Nous (Somehow I didn’t get around to seeing Diane Kurys’ inspired-by-her-family’s-story 1983 French film until the end of 2013, but it stays very fresh. First striking is that auburn-haired Isabelle Huppert playing “Lena Weber” a Jewish woman counters American film stereotypes, as she is rounded up fleeing Belgium into occupied France and escapes German transport. But the penultimate time she seems to have any Jewish identity is when she amusingly recounts their years hiding their Jewish identity in Italy to the bored brunette shiksa who will become her lover (“Madeleine Segara” played by Miou-Miou). The last Jewish reference in her life is her mother’s grave in a Jewish cemetery in Belgium where her husband finds out she was using the headstone as an excuse to visit her lover in Paris.) (12/28/2013)

    Every Mother Should Know (Teda Kol Em Ivriya) (briefly reviewed at 2009 New York Jewish Film of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (Only a couple of women are seen, a sister and a wife, who are atypically brought into their men's confidence as they explore their feelings about their military experiences. Both have to resort to written histories to supplement what they can pull out about what happened to them.) (1/18/2009)

    Everything Is Copy (previewed at 2015 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) In this fond tribute to Nora Ephron by her son Jacob Bernstein (son of Carl), he interviews her three sisters, her childhood and professional best friends (male and female) and delves into the marriage of his grandparents, yet never once mentions his family is Jewish. The closest is showing the cover of the best selling book How to Be A Jewish Mother by her first husband Dan Greenburg, though she and the interviewees gush over her final true love Nicholas Pileggi and almost her final public words here are that one of the things she will miss most in life is their Christmas tree. This after he went through her life spent in Jewish neighborhoods on both coasts and going through her experiences that would indicate a putative Jewish woman if she were a character in a TV show or movie, from therapy to being ambitious to write and controlling to direct. If she rejected any Jewish identity, that would have been noteworthy, and if her parents’ alcoholism affected her. He and the interviewees (his brother is not included) also don’t go beneath her clever witticisms to get to the substance of her thoughts, especially what she really thought of women, let alone other Jewish women. (updated 9/27/2015)

    Everything Is Illuminated (So, nu: The Jewish women in the film are mostly plot-movers as keepers of secrets, an extension of what Lewis Mumford anthropologically considered women's "container function." They incidentally save the men in their lives as this is much more about men.) (10/7/2005)

    Every Time We Say Goodbye (Thanks to our Cousin Ray Fernandez for bringing this 1986 film to my attention.) (commentary forthcoming) (10/23/2009)

    Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie (briefly reviewed at 2012 Award-Winning Docs at 2012 Tribeca Film Festival) (So, nu: Jewish feminist lawyer Gloria Allred is the only female former guest on his show interviewed, and she gives insightful commentary on her experiences, then and looking back in terms of her career as a media-savvy litigator and TV commentator.) (5/11/2012)

    The Exception (Kudos to a sexy Jewish heroine!) (previewed at 2017 Tribeca Film Festival) (6/3/2017)

    Experimenter (review forthcoming) After seeing it twice, I’m impressed at the sensitive portrayal of Alexandra “Sasha” Menkin (played by Winona Ryder), who did consult on the film, and briefly appears in the epilogue. She is explicitly Jewish, quickly tells him about her European background, is sexy, and as a wife and mother pursues her education and social work profession – even though she’s put down by an arrogant CUNY grad student for enjoying working with her husband Stanley (portrayed by Peter Sarsgaard) on his social science behavioral research. In Uproxx interview with Chloe Schildhause, posted 10/16/2015, she stressed: “I thought that [Almereyda’s] choices of what to show between them were really unusual and thoughtful and quite beautiful. Because she wasn’t just his wife or housewife.” (previewed at 2015 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (updated 10/20/2015)

    Eyes Wide Open (Einaym Pkuhot) (2/5/2010) (also briefly reviewed at 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: The only woman seen is the wife, played by an actress who calls herself Tinkerbell, who is sweet, understanding and very comfortable with sex while following the rules for sexual contact. How both men glow at the comfortable hearth, home and children around the Shabbat table she has established makes clear why they would not be comfortable in the secular gay community.) (1/25/2010)

    Fading Gigolo (So, nu: In the middle of diverse Williamsburg, Brooklyn, “Murray” (played by Woody Allen) brings the African-American kids of his friend to “the nit lady” to remove their lice. She’s “Avigal” (played by French actress Vanessa Paradis), a Satmar Chassidic widow who had six children with a much older rabbi: I had trouble getting pregnant. “Murray”, an oddball pimp, senses she could use massage therapy by his male prostitute “Fioravante” (writer/director John Turturro) across the bridge in Manhattan. (Even her name was vetted by a Hassidic consultant..) From the production notes, Paradis spent time with a woman who had left the community as a guide: “She’s a very strong, young, beautiful woman, who was 25, but who seems to have the life of someone who’s 105. She helped me to understand all the rules. Also she comes from Israel, and only learned to speak English three years ago, so she still had an accent which I stole a little bit from. I also used my French accent which I pushed a little bit more. . .My head is strapped under the wig and I have tight stockings on. I found that the physical sensation of wearing those clothes gave me an identity. It really did a lot for me.”. .Avigal is religious, but there’s a curiosity in her character. She’s not supposed to read, but she reads. She is lonely and miserable and wants to have a little taste of life, something different. She has something in her that needs to come alive. . .“She’s at a point in her life when she’s completely fading away, and Murray comes along to tell her she doesn’t have to. She trusts him. . . He pays sincere attention to her, what’s in her head and what’s in her heart. . . There’s a line my character says in the movie that goes We’re alive for just a little while. That means live life while you can. When there’s beauty, when there’s a chance that passes in front of you—don’t watch it, grab it! Everybody deserves a little happiness… if not a lot.” Turturro: “Avigal is oppressed by her religion and her society. . . You feel that Avigal and Fioravante could be together, but they are from different worlds. I think he opens her up to experience life and I think she opens him up too.” But she does have another, quite appealing suitor with peyos, “Dovi” (Liev Schreiber), a neighborhood Shomrim patrol officer who since childhood felt inadequate to court her because he didn’t come from a rabbinic family like hers and her late husband. Turturro: “Fioravante knows how to have emotional intimacy with Avigal, but can’t stay; Dovi doesn’t know how to act around her, but very much wants to stay.” “Avigal”s transgressive behavior continues as she comes down from the women’s section of the synagogue and boldly stands up to a bet din to confess (most of) her broaches of modesty, but she works out a future on her terms that is sweetly not cliché. (updated 8/18/2014)

    Falsch (review forthcoming) (seen at Film Society of Lincoln Center's Beyond L’Enfant: The Complete Dardenne Brothers retrospective) (In what I think is the first U.S. showing of this 1987 adaptation of a Belgian play, the complexities of a German Jewish family are revealed through a guilt-ridden émigréé's whole life passing before him in a coulda, woulda, shoulda dying dream, including his mother, aunt/servant, sister and sisters-in-law, all movingly acted. As he recalls their last Shabbat evening together, and their lives before and after, each woman represents very individual and different human emotions and reactions in how their fates were determined by the men they loved.) (5/14/2009)

    Family Affair (seen at DocuWeeks) (So, nu: In this disturbing documentary about the filmmaker's extremely dysfunctional family (the first film picked up by Oprah's new network's Documentary Club), Chico David Colvard provides little background on his abused mother, who he identifies as "German-Jewish". (I scribbled down her name as something like Renate Steingeheger; her daughters call her Renee, and have been in some contact with her over the years, unlike their brother, who seems to have zero sense of his Jewish heritage at all.)
    His horrifically abused sisters discuss how she announced her abandonment of them via "The Letter" where she explained she'd found Jesus Christ with a new husband and therefore the strength to leave them. Her son, afraid she'll again reject him if he gives her advance notice to see him for the first time in 18 years, tracks her down in Wisconsin, where he's surprised that she greets him, as "a wonderful Christmas present". She shows him one photo of herself with a "J" tag from her youth in Bavaria (a Nazi stronghold), and describes her family's poverty, that they had no home. As a redhead, it's possible she was a hidden child, but he doesn't ask in the film what it was like to go through the Holocaust there, though that was surely a factor in her tolerance of abuse.
    She says she fled into a teenage marriage with his African-American soldier father when he was stationed in Germany, who then beat her as “a way of paying back what the white people had done to his people.” (I think I noted correctly that she said her father said she deserved it because of their mixed marriage.) While it is tragically ironic for the pressures on two persecuted groups to come together in an awful synergy, he uses racism as an excuse to his son. She says he also told her that she had no rights as a non-native American citizen while they lived on many Army bases, and therefore couldn't have custody of the kids if she tried to divorce him, and in those days there were no shelters. (The father claims that white soldiers were accused of the same domestic abuse in those days and got off with no jail time – he's probably right.) She explains she left her children when the abuse came to the authorities' attention yet the daughters wouldn't testify against him and welcomed him home, while blaming her. The film is their brother's effort to understand why they did. I did see the director at the IFC Center's Q & A, but didn't get to ask for more clarifications about his mother.) (8/14/2010)


    Famous Nathan (previewed at 2014 Tribeca Film Festival) (So, nu: The women in the family are somewhat secondary to the entrepreneurs and squabbles – except how Grandma Ida keeps interrupting interviews and insisting they stop talking and eat.) (Review and more commentary forthcoming.) (4/23/2014))

    Fanny’s Journey (Le voyage de Fanny) (So, nu: the novelized memoir Le journal de Fanny: Suivi de Les enfants juifs au coeur de la guerre by Fanny Ben-Ami it’s based on is not yet available in English to compare veracity, though the author is seen briefly at the conclusion, living in Israel. In the press notes, writer/director Lola Doillon explains she met with the Ben-Ami in Tel Aviv: “"I needed to immerse myself in her past and her memories of the children's home. Fanny Ben-Ami told me many things, some of which are included in the film and some not. I was also inspired by other secret stories by children that were rescued by different organizations and everyday stories. And I sought the help of archivists and historians in the interests of accuracy. . .I obviously followed the thread of the key historical events which were the framework of this adventure and everything that I changed remains true, inspired by real events that were recounted by other people who lived through that time." Ben-Ami reports: "I wrote to Lola to say that it didn’t happen quite like that. For example, the Resistance and the underground were neither here nor there, though they were nevertheless very important to me. And then, after thinking about it and talking with friends, I realized that a film was not a book and that it was for others, not for me. And that there were aspects of my journey that were important in my eyes but not necessarily for the film. In the end, I think Lola did well and that in her script, the essentials are there and the main points are said." The role of “Madame Forman”, played by Cécile de France, is inspired by Nicole Weil-Salon and Lotte Schwarz, real children’s protectors.
    Other than Anaïs Meiringer who plays 16-year-old German Jewish refugee “Diane”, none of the girls or women cast as Jews “look” Jewish by American standards – in the French cinema convention almost all have shades of auburn hair that’s not particularly curly. (seen at Cinematek Forest Hills) (11/19/2017))


    Felix and Meira (review forthcoming as previewed at 2015 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: The Canadian film manages to avoid most stereotypes of the life and longings of an ultra-Orthodox woman/wife/mother.) (2/26/2015)

    Fateless (Sorstalanság) (So, nu: The glimpses we get of Jewish women are problematical: a highly compromised step-mother, an inconsistently affectionate mother, a teen girl overwrought about the wrong things at the wrong time, but welcoming grandmother replacements.) (2/19/2006))

    Field Diary (Yoman Sadeh) (30th anniversary screening at 2012 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (The female soldiers and settlers who want cheap housing with nice views on the West Bank are among the more clueless, and apolitical, Israelis director Amos Gitai interviewed.) (10/7/2012))

    The Fifth Heaven (Ba-rakia ha-hamishi) (briefly in Reviewed: New York Jewish Film Festival 2013 of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: commentary forthcoming, wth comparisions to the novel the film is based on.) (2/19/2013))

    Fill the Void (Lemale et ha'halal) (previewed at 2012 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (So, nu: The older sister is seen only briefly, but is quite memorably happy and sensual with her husband. I am very surprised how many viewers, including my professional critic colleagues, presume the set-up situation is a religious mandate or cultural tradition of this sect that they don’t understand is fictional anyway. The director has said she did not have Jane Austen in mind at all in writing and making the film, but has given in to others’ comparisons, so I acceded in also try to expand the context. It seems viewers just don’t want to see this Jewish mother as a bully who is interfering and overpowering because her motivation so much comes out of her sympathetic grief. At the NYFF press conference, I asked why the bride's face wasn't covered here (a la bedeken tradition) with its references to Jacob being fooled into marrying first one sister, then the second. She laughed and said she hadn't thought of that, but might use that as an explanation in the future.) (6/11/2013))

    A Film Unfinished (Shtikat Haarchion) (So, nu: One clue the director had that the Jewish rituals were staged was that the mikveh was shown inaccurately, with a line of naked women going in to dunk as if it were a swimming pool and not a space for private, prayerful cleansing. Four of the survivors who watch the footage they had seen as it was made in 1942 are women, who speak movingly about how their mothers helped them through the awful experience, including trying to keep shreds of dignity by wearing decent clothes, even as the propaganda film infers a criticism of well-dressed Jews compared to those in rags. Particularly heartbreaking is one woman tearfully realizing how her youthful strategy for survival – shutting out the dead and dying on the street as she looked for food for her family even as she tripped over them – looked to the camera as indifference. The filmmaker doesn't answer, however, why the diaries' testimony abou the staged filmings was ignored for all these years.) (8/18/2010))

    Finding Bliss (review forthcoming) (5/28/2010))

    First Position (review forthcoming from preview at 2011 DOC NYC Festival) (Amidst the inspiring story of aspiring 14-year-old ballerina Michaela Deprince, who was one of two orphans adopted from war-torn Sierra Leone by an older couple, the camera focuses on a handmade Hanukkah menorah in their living room, leaving the impression that the mother, who also sews her daughter’s tutus, is Jewish. Another aspiring ballerina is the exuberant 11-year-old Israeli Gaya Bommer, whose mother is also her choreographer. Both girls triumph at the regionals and then the finals of the Youth America Grand Prix.) (10/25/2011))

    The First Time I Turned 20 (La Première fois que j'ai eu 20 ans) (Commentary forthcoming from viewing at the 2007 NY Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum)

    Five Years After The War (Cinq ans après la guerre) (short) (Mostly through animation, Tim, the cousin of writer/co-director Samuel Albaric, amusingly relates how he coped with finding his sense of identity as he was living with his free-spirited Jewish mother in France, and had almost no contact with his Muslim Arab father, an Iraqi refugee. His mother made sure he went to religious school with a Jewish friend.) (seen at MoMA’s 2018 Documentary Fortnight) (3/3/2018)

    The Flat (Ha-Dira) (also briefly reviewed in Documentaries at 2012 Tribeca Film Festival) (So, nu: my commentary forthcoming on the dead grandmother who could be in a friendship with Prussian aristocrats who probably looked down on the riff raff Nazis who took over the country from their traditional patriots, his denying mother who many critics think he’s merciless towards, and his apathetic sisters. Key is not just the facts, that are available in archives and histories, but that it was about his own family and that no one talked about it.) (Thanks to Judy Gelman Myers for background on the director.)
    Just as the director describes that his grandparents worked and socialized with other yekkes, the Yiddish sobriquet for German Jews who remained distinctively German I have seen a home very much like hers, of a German Jewish woman on the next block in my Forest Hills neighborhood. I ran a very intellectual used book sale for my synagogue for 15 years, and got a call to pick up books from the house of a 90-something year old doctor who had just passed away. She had left Germany when she lost her hospital privileges in 1933 -- yet her 3 story house was filled, and I mean stuffed, with German language books etc., many, many classics, and not all pre-war by any means. Then when we put them up for sale in a separate section there was lots of really negative reaction that we were selling German books in a synagogue! (updated 11/8/2012)


    The Flood (Mabul) (briefly reviewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: Ronit Elkabetz is mesmerizing as a very complicated Israeli woman – she’s a creative teacher, leading experiential classes; a sexy lover in a strained marriage; a guilt-ridden mother – all while trying to keep it together when the disabled son appears to rock her back to a very difficult time in her life, set in comparison to the unsympathetic, insensitive (albeit working) mothers of her students. Try not to tear up at the bar mitzvah climax!) (1/16/2012)

    Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story (review forthcoming) (previewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (In this ridiculously hagiographic portrait of the hero of the raid on Entebbe Airport in 1976 to rescue hostages, the older brother of politician Benjamin Netanyahu, interviews with the wife he married when they were both too young and then his post-divorce, younger girlfriend are additionally squirm-worthy.) (1/22/2012)

    Footnote (Hearat Shulayim) (So, nu: commentary forthcoming) (3/16/2012)

    For A Good Time, Call… (Sexiest young Jewish women in the movies of this or several years - more commentary forthcoming) (8/22/2012)

    Forbidden Films (Verbotene Filme) (kudos to Film Forum for free showings) (Seeing Felix Moeller’s documentary intrigued me that there were no Jewish women in the clips shown from the two most notorious explicitly anti-Semitic Nazi films, Jew Süss (Jud Süß) and The Eternal Jew (Der Ewige Jude) (as dealt with by the same director in Harlan: In The Shadow Of Jew Süss (Harlan - Im Schatten Von Jud Süss), with my commentary on the Jewish women.). That got me researching more into what Nazi stereotypes were, but I only got as far as learning about the “Judensau” (for "Jewish sow" or female pig) without being able to find specifically Nazi imagery, only medieval church gargoyles, particularly in Bavaria, with claims that elderly Germans say that Nazis were fond of showing to school groups, and an Iranian anti-Zionist propaganda cartoon. I’m also asking my more academic fellow panelists at the 2015 Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival): (l to r: moderator Elliot Ratzman, me (which is why this photo is by Harold Shultz), Noah Isenberg, and Thomas Childers).
    Seeing Hitler’s Madman, (previewed at Imitations of Life: The Films of Douglas Sirk of Film Society of Lincoln Center), directed in some combination by German filmmakers Sirk and the uncredited cinematographer Eugen Schüfftan, and the Jewish-Moravian Edgar Ulmer, released in the U.S. in 1943, made me realize how strikingly similar was Allied propaganda by passionate émigrés (albeit with only a one sentence reference to Nazis suggesting Let’s blame it on the Jews. and the stress that women sent to concentration camps were only political prisoners) to the identical style Nazi film producer Goebbels’ promulgated. Thanks to the film for also introducing me to Edna St. Vincent Millay’s contemporaneous poem The Murder of Lidice and the significance of June 10, 1942. (updated 12/10/2015)
    The Russians Are Coming (Die Russen kommen) includes extended clips from one of the “forbidden” films, Kolberg, directed by Veit Harlan, 1945. (seen at To Save and Project: The 14th MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation of Museum of Modern Art)


    Forgotten Transports: To Estonia (Zapomenuté transporty: Do Estonska): Women's Friendship (briefly reviewed at 2009 Annual New York Jewish Film of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (It's unusual enough to have testimony from women survivors of Nazi labor and concentration camps, so not only is this unique in that all the witnesses are women, even within this series, but they always emphasize distinctly women's experiences, of yearning for their mothers, of those who foolishly fell in love with fellow workers or jailers, of clothes, bodies and survival decisions, and female insights on kindness and cruelties.) (1/18/2009)

    Forgotten Transports: To Latvia (Zapomenuté transporty: Do Latvia): Family Strength (viewed at The Legacy of Shoah Film Festival screening of the Forgotten Transports series with filmmaker Lukas Pribyl) (The factual background about the emotional and physical travails of women in the Riga ghetto of the inadequate film Miriam, as remembered by their menfolk who tried to protect them by surviving in cruel labor camps just outside.) (review forthcoming) (4/16/2010)

    For My Father (Sof Shavua B'tel Aviv) (So, nu: "Keren" (as portrayed by Hili Yalon) is an unusually complicated young woman, which is why she's attracted to a complicated Palestinian. While she left (or was rejected by) her ultra-Orthodox family after having a tragic out-of-wedlock pregnancy (with someone outside the community?), and she resists forceful efforts to make her repent and return, she is fiercely independent but lonely in her secular life and seems to be without friends, despite her bravura. For all her rebellion, she hasn't completely abandoned her upbringing as their night on the beach is suffused with romantic innocence. While it's typical for such stories that her mother secretly keeps in touch and helps her out, most films about the Haredi show the women as too subservient to take such initiative.) (2/9/2010)

    For Your Consideration (commentary forthcoming)

    Four Seasons Lodge (So, nu: I missed the opportunity to see an early version of the film screen at my synagogue with the participants. The women are unusually frank about relationships, from how the cries of a wife with Alzheimer's uneasily stir up shared nightmares, to shrugs that intelligent people married simple people too short months after liberation, so second marriages for couples who met at the lodge were happier. Several critics have interpreted an emotional, close female friendship as lesbian, but it seemed the intense intimacy of being with someone who had been in the same place at the same time such that no outsider could not feel the same for a friendship.) (11/11/2009)

    The Four Sisters: Baluty; The Hippocratic Oath; The Merry Flea; Noah’s Ark (So, nu: Claude Lanzmann continues to issue the full interviews behind his masterpiece Shoah (1985); several were included in Criterion’s box set, others released independently, as these that for the first time give the full story of four women survivors, Pole Paula Biren, Czech Ruth Elias, Pole Ada Lichtman, and Hungarian Hanna Marton as he interviewed and filmed them almost 40 years ago. Each adds a distinctly, and essential, women’s point of view that has usually only been seen in extreme fiction, as each sometimes casually describes how women were treated differently, including in rapes and brothels in concentration camps, as well as the importance of female solidarity, even though Lanzmann does not follow-up too much in his interviews.) (review forthcoming) (preview at 2017 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (10/1/2017)

    Foxtrot (So, nu: the mother “Dafna” (Sarah Adler), the sister (Ilia Grosz), the daughter “Alma” (Shira Haas) and the grandmother (Karin Ugowski) of the dead Israeli soldier are all one-dimensional. This is much more a cynical exploration of male expression, bonding, and trust issues in the Israeli military.) (updated 3/3/2018)

    Frances Ha (Review and more commentary forthcoming - previewed at 2012 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (The key relationship is between 27-year-old female best friends in NYC: the unsettled, unsuccessful, eponymous yet optimistic dancer (star and co-writer Greta Gerwig) and her contrasting, more pessimistic, hugely bespectacled Jewish BFF from Vassar “Sophie” (played by blondish Mickey Sumner), works for Random House, and has a Goldman Sachs boyfriend with a WASPy nickname – and the Tribeca apartment she’s always wanted. About the only time the fast, quirky dialogue mentioned “Sophie”s background was in explaining to surprised acquaintances why she would spend each Christmas with “Frances”s family – because her family didn’t celebrate that holiday. (9/22/2012)

    Free Angela and All Political Prisoners (So, nu: her most fiercely loyal and articulate friends are Jewish women from her school days, including at Brandeis.) (12/21/2014)

    Free Zone (review and commentary forthcoming)

    Friends From France (Les interdits) (previewed at 2014 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: commentary forthcoming on the Jewish women)

    Friends With Money (So, nu: There's an odd implication that heiress Joan Cusack's "Franny" is Jewish, as a girl friend derides the "Shabbat Shalom" school her kids go to, let alone that she wants to donate $2 million dollars there -- was that a reference to my cousin's Shalom Alecheim school? We see her and husband "Matt" (played by Greg German) buy a huge amount of toys for their two kids, but don't see any Christmas tree in their house that the other friends have in theirs. Is it bad that while she's the richest she also seems to be the most well-adjusted of the friends, with the most stable marriage, though others make snide comments that she's not really a stay at home mom because she has full time household help.) (4/13/2006)

    From the Diary of a Wedding Photographer (Myomano Shel Tzlam Hatonot) In the 40-minute short by Israeli writer/director Nadav Lapid (of The Kindergarten Teacher (Haganenet)), the cynical photographer, in framing several attractive young couples against dramatic oceanfront dunes, mostly convinces the brides that they don’t really want to get married to their grooms, and even takes up with one woman, perhaps instead of the mother of his child. One shocked groom “Hila” justifies their marriage in unusually Jewish terms for this ironic filmmaker (per my approximate transcription): 700 servings and the hall, my uncles from America, my grandmother is waiting, your dress and make-up, the rabbi, tradition, our patriarchs. She is “Ofir”: Enough. He: The matriarchs. We are Jews, not animals. She: Enough. And then it gets weirder. (previewed at 2016 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (10/1/2016)

    Fugitive Pieces (emendations coming after 11/2/2008) (So, nu: The predominant Jewish women, both in the film and the original book, are both idealized victims, while the romantic interests are non-Jewish, even though the much younger love-of-his-life is played by the gorgeous Israeli actress who was the model for the sexy Laura in Be’ Tipul, the Israeli original of In Treatment. But at least in the film the younger Jew, “Ben”, stays faithful to the lovely, lullaby-collecting “Naomi” (played by curly-haired auburn Rachelle Lefevre), who gently sings the redolent anti-Nazi anthem “Peat Bog Soldiers”.) (5/2/2008)

    Funny People (review forthcoming) (Judd Apatow gets serious so presumably that's why the central male characters, who here have changed their last names to sound less Jewish despite Jewish references in their stand-up comedy, at last have contact with Jewish women. Adam Sandler's "George Simmons" only meets with his estranged sister "Lisa" (played by Nicol Paone) when he thinks he's dying, and she's almost too bitter at his neglect of family to reconcile -- What did we ever do to you? When he apologizes, she brings her husband and son to visit with him again. George's Mom (played by Eleanor Zee) accompanies his anti-religious father whose approval he craved to the awkward reunion, and he appreciates that she laughs at his joke. A friend sets him up for a blind date via JDate (there's running references that he's unfamiliar with any social networking web sites), but "Rachel" (played by Maggie Siff) is an intellectual who doesn't appreciate his self-hating jokes about Jews. For Seth Rogen's "Ira Wright", born "Wiener" and the product of a mother who after a bitter divorce declared his father the devil, Jewish women are only from his past. Several times he brings up his years as a camper and counselor at a Jewish camp, recalling that the first time he fingered a girl was there: "Sharon Mizrahi", who he gives an exaggerated Israeli pronunciation perhaps to either explain her sexual attraction or her aggression as he complains she reached down and grabbed my penis hard like she was trying to murder it. But I did order Super Jew T-shirts for my extended family, which also benefits a couple of Jewish non-profits.) (8/7/2009)

    Gainsbourg, Je t'Aime... Moi Non Plus (Gainsbourg - Vie héroïque) (review forthcoming) (previewed at 2010 Tribeca Film Festival) (While his Jewish identity is heightened during the Nazi Occupation of Paris, his mother seems much less of an influence and presence than his father.) (5/14/2010)
    Jane B. Par (By) Agnès V. - in this just restored 1987 cinematic portrait of Jane Birkin, she proudly says she wanted to give her lover Serge Gainsbourg “a Jewish daughter with his Slavic eyes” (though I never thought of their daughter actress Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jewish before.) (10/13/2015)


    The Galilee Eskimos (Eskimosim ba Galil) (review forthcoming) (seen at 2008 Israel Film Festival) (An absolutely delightful look at the founding generation of kibbutzim, as in this fictional fable they get abandoned in old age to capitalism and gradually recreate their youthful zeal and idealism (including one woman who remembers all the old uplifting songs). But now the women are more aware of the gender conventions they took for granted then, as they muse that all their children have left them, whether now gay, secular or orthodox.) (11/28/2008)

    The Garden of Eden (previewed at 2013 Other Israel Film Festival) (So, nu: a wide variety of Jewish girls and women in Israel are seen and talked about.) (12/7/2013)

    Garden State (So, nu: It's notable for yet another Dead Jewish Mother who is once again the only Jewish woman present, in her guilt-inducing absence, in the life of a male lead character very specifically identified as Jewish, here "Andrew Largeman" as a once a year Jew at Yom Kippur. It is her funeral that starts the film's trajectory. Ironically, his explicitly non-Jewish romantic interest, whose family leaves their Christmas tree up year-round and is unfamiliar with Jewish religious practices, is played by Natalie Portman, the Israeli-born actress who is one of the most prominent, and attractive, young Jewish actresses in films today. (8/8/2004)

    Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable An interesting case study in Jewish male artist as proud to be a Male Chauvinist Pig, this street photographer known for his predilection for aiming his camera at women’s tits. (Included are interviews with women art critics who forcefully made this case, then and now.) Sasha Waters Freyer insists in her statement: “In looking at Winogrand in all his multidimensional human complexity, I take aim at the “bad dad” and “bad husband” tropes in artist biography, seeking to undermine these as sources of triumph or artistic necessity. Winogrand was an artist whose rise and fall – from the 1950s to the mid-1980s – in acclaim mirrors not only that of American power and credibility in the second half of the 20th century, but also a vision of American masculinity whose limitations, toxicity and inheritance we still struggle, culturally, to comprehend. The film ultimately invites a deeper consideration of Winogrand not only as a “man of his time,” in the words of MoMA Photography curator Susan Kismaric, but also as a man struggling to define himself simultaneously as an artist and a parent.” She sees her “film that, I hope, explores and explodes the cliché of the undomesticated, self destructive genius – one who is fundamentally unsuited to family life. This cliché is not exclusively the domain of male artists however, it tends to break along gender lines as a source of pride for men (think Faulkner or Picasso), and a source of pity or confusion where women artists are concerned (from Virginia Woolf to Cindy Sherman). His first wife.” Notice she does not see this analysis in a Jewish context (though he seems very much like Norman Mailer at this same time), though that is obvious in his background, with clues scattered throughout. His first wife Adrienne Lubeau, is interviewed extensively; married young, she may come from his same Bronx Jewish background – and is bitterly nasty about his possessive “Jewish mother”, giving examples of their closeness. However, among the many, excellent interview videos from several TV and other sources, he once wistfully mentions his (ultimately three, also to Judy Teller, no background provided, seen briefly, and Eileen Adele Hale) marriages were unsuccessful because he was looking for a woman as intelligent as his mother, who he greatly admired. There is an emphasis on how he tried to include his children while he was working, particularly his two daughters, including finding shots of them (and their shadows) in photographs, such as taking them to the zoo, and carrying a child on his shoulders while photographing. (preview courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment and Film Forum) (PBS’s American Masters) (9/26/2018)

    General Magic at 2018 Tribeca Film Festival So, nu: Joanna Hoffman, past and present, is fully present in this documentary, when she was kind of mysterious in another documentary Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine (My additional notes) and very fictionalized in Steve Jobs (My additional notes). Co-director Sarah Kerruish filmed Hoffman, along with the rest of “The Magicians” back in 1992, which may be how she got Hoffman to participate here. Now she can be identified beyond her usual descriptor as head of marketing for the Apple Macintosh, and into her current philanthropic involvements. (4/15/2018)

    Generation War (Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter) (So, nu: More disappointing than how the German Jewish friend’s mother is pretty much a non-entity, is that the woman stuffed into a cattle car with him on the way to Auschwitz turns out not to be Jewish, but is a Polish Communist patriot, who would not have been rounded up like that with Jews. But she is the one who is knowledgeable about the doom that awaits them, organizes the escape and protects him to hide his identity with the partisans as long as possible – until he reveals himself by freeing other Jewish men and women against orders. The skillful woman Jewish doctor “Lilja” (played by Christiane Paul) who the German nurse exposed for round-up, turned into a bitter, vengeful uniformed soldier after an unexplained escape to join with the Soviet forces, allowing the nurse to work to save her life tending their troops as they head to Berlin.)
    A 1/27/2014 panel discussion at NYU’s Deutsches Haus got hijacked by Polish nationalists (including elderly political prisoner survivors), most of whom hadn’t seen the film, furious that Poles, particularly the National Army and some partisans, were depicted as virulent anti-Semites, listing all those listed as Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem. But they were all older Poles, those who grew up under the 45 years when the Community Party line blamed everything on the Germans, even as they used anti-Semitism as a rallying tool. Though one younger woman said the Polish TV audience mocked the lack of facility with the Polish language by the actress portraying the Communist partisan – evidently not that her character was inexplicably arrested with Jews. (updated 1/28/2014)


    Generation Wealth (Amazon Studios release) Director/photographer/photojournalist Lauren Greenfield literally dances around identifying as Jewish in this career retrospective of her life and the themes in her work – near the end we glimpse her wedding video where her husband (and co-producer) Frank Evers wore a kippah. She similarly does so in looking back on how she portrayed wealth in the past, and now in follow-up, including her classmates from an elite private school in southern California, but I did not pick up clues if any outside her family were of Jewish ancestry. (Their names are not repeated in the press notes for me to double-check my reaction.) From her past work there’s a brief image of a tasteless bar mitzvah where the parents hired Vegas-style showgirls to entertain the kids. But at no point are American or other Jews particularly pointed out or specifically identifiable for excess or ruing their expenses or lifestyle, let alone the members of her own successful family. Her academic psychologist mother Patricia Marks Greenfield is open about the demographic cohort of her life, but mostly responds to her daughter’s questions like a therapist more than a mother. This may be the first time I’m relieved that Jewish (or even putative Jewish) women aren’t identified! (6/20/2018)

    Genius So, nu: For this adaptation of A. Scott Berg biography’s Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, which I haven’t yet read, Nicole Kidman says she lobbied to play the role of, as described in the press notes, Mrs. “Aline Bernstein, one of the most renowned theatrical costume designers of her day”, but I think she miscast herself, including that her age seems wrong. The film centers on the intense personal relationship between Perkins (played by Colin Firth) and Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law), whose books I’ve neglected to read all these years. Wolfe here calls his considerably older lover “Mrs. Bernstein” my little Jewess.
    The press notes include these reflections on her: Law:“ Wolfe had copious lovers, but Aline was his love, his muse, and his champion.” Kidman: “They were addicted to one another at a certain point. She was a formidable woman – an incredibly strong career woman who was ahead of her time - which is fascinating because she was in this obsessive, dependent love affair with Thomas Wolfe.” Biographer Berg: “Aline was desperate and she was passionate. When Aline loved, she loved 200%. She was anxious to hold onto that, and she was threatened by Wolfe’s relationship with Perkins.” The film is very clear about her success in the theater, and Wolfe’s disinterest (and discomfort) with her artistic, intellectual (not mentioned but probably Jewish) circle, and her frustration with his attitude and lack of support, compared to how she was his mentor and muse before Perkins takes over, and her (surprisingly) hysterical and considerably unstable reaction to being replaced in his life, including threatening suicide and murder in Perkins’ office, and is not seen at Wolfe’s funeral. Mrs. Bernstein is seen as parallel to how Mrs. Perkins’ background as an actress and playwright is similarly denigrated by her husband.
    We never hear her maiden name of Frankau (per Wikipedia), and we only find out about her personal background in her confession to Mrs. Perkins (Laura Linney) that she abandoned her weathy stockbroker husband and their two children for Wolfe and, well, she can’t go home again. Wikipedia says Wolfe based his character “Esther Jack” on her in that book, Of Time and the River that Perkins edited, and The Web and the Rock (which, huh, isn’t available on Kindle). As there’s some question about how the “Esther Jack” love story was edited through these novels, I’ve also identified posthumously discovered and published stories, now sitting on my shelf, which deal more with “Esther Jack”s Jewish background, that are based on Aline’s memories, and are used by literary historians as examples of stereotypical attitudes towards Jewish women in the late 1920’s, in The Good Child’s River and The Party at Jack. (I also now have her own versions of her life, in her autobiography An Actor’s Daughter and her novelization of their grand affair The Journey Down, to someday clarify how she saw their relationship.) (updated 6/27/2016)


    The German Doctor (Wakolda) (Useful supplements: Director Talk interview and Tablet Magazine visit to Bariloche.) (So, nu: The only clue that “Nora Eldoc” (played by Elena Roger) is Jewish, let alone working for the Mossad, whether as an agent or as an informant, is when she whispers her findings about the school’s connections in Hebrew on the telephone. She is inspired by a real woman who was killed near the German-Argentinian town under mysterious circumstances and whose body was reportedly reviewed by Mossad agents.) (5/2/2014)

    Germans & Jews (So, nu: Though there are no specifically gendered analysis proffered, the Jewish interviewees include many women, though not among the Israeli artists, like my cousin in theater in Berlin. Supplements to this very edited review:
    Missing here is that the main Jewish pre-war neighborhood “Mitte”, the city center full of Jewish-owned department stores, textile companies, and banks, was located in what became the East German side. The current exhibition at The Leo Baeck Institute-New York Stolen Heart: The Theft of Jewish Property in Berlin’s History City Center, 1933-1945 documents the pre-war community and the lack of reparations from the GDR afterwards
    Though the Germans interviewed here grew up not knowing any Jews personally, they don’t express feeling the lack of Jewish cultural or intellectual presence reported by Eastern Europeans in Nurith Aviv’s short film Loss. The raft of recent films about crusading anti-Nazi prosecutor Fritz Brauer well show the post-war silence that persisted until, first, in 1953 he rehabilitated the Hitler assassination plotters by winning a slander suit against calling them traitors, through his instigation of the Verdict On Auschwitz: The Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial 1963-1965.
    While Dörte Franke’s Stumbling Stone (Stolperstein) (2009) details more on one briefly shown grassroots Holocaust awareness project, I had visited the frank Topography of Terror Documentation Center, built on the rubble of the Gestapo headquarters, without realizing it was not a government effort.
    I briefly reviewed the wonderful portrait of Holocaust survivors in Germany Oma & Bella.
    Not really explored here is how the Russian émigré/Jewish German community has grown distinctive roots, which can be seen in Dominik Graf’s 2010 noir mini-series In the Face of Crime (Im Angesicht des Verbrechens) (released in the U.S. on DVD through MhZ). (6/10/2016)


    Gett: The Trial Of Viviane Amsalem (previewed at 2015 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: Particularly pointed is the comparison between the women and male witnesses – from a secular neighbor who explodes against the judges that in the next election their jobs would be eliminated to a browbeaten wife who gathers her courage to confess what she’s witnessed about the divorcing couple even as her husband stays in the courtroom to intimidate her.) (2/13/2015)

    Gevald! (briefly reviewed at 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: The anti-Zionist refuses to allow his wife and children to be seen in the documentary, not that this modesty helped his career. But the wife of the Knesset member is a charming political spouse and hostess; if she were Ashkenazi she could be called a balabusta. She genially tours the filmmakers through their apartment and the photographs of their many children and grandchildren. Open about their personal lives, she recounts their love at first arranged sight with delight.) (1/25/2010)

    The Girl on the Train (La Fille du RER) (review forthcoming) (previewed at 2009 Rendez-Vous with French Film at Film Society of Lincoln Center) (Ronit Elkabetz has an atypical role (let alone in French) as the daughter of a prominent Jewish lawyer who has spoken out against anti-Semitic violence. While she gives the viewpoint of the harm that a false accusation can make on the community, as a wife with a troubled marriage and a rebellious teenage son, she is not a one-note activist, but sympathetic to the very human pressures that can lead a girl to make a mistake.) (3/9/2009)

    Girl With Black Balloons (previewed at 2011 DOC NYC Festival) The little biographical background that Dutch filmmaker Corinne van der Borch is able to elicit from artist cum tragic hoarder Bettina, somehow living and dedicating herself to working in the Chelsea Hotel since the 1960s, is that her last name is Grossman and she rebelled against what she only describes as “a quite Orthodox family”. Even dreaming about her, the director then describes her as a “Jewish girl”, as if that adds to the mystery of her life we only glimpse: portraits of her as a beautiful young woman in European locales, no regrets over an abortion, and trauma from a fire in a Brooklyn apartment that destroyed any other evidence of her past and may explain some of her behavior. (Though she’s surrounded by stacks of boxes, she’s not agoraphobic as she enjoys watching the ships along the Hudson River and scooting around outside looking like a bag lady on wheels.) A young, Nordic-looking, long-haired neighbor seems to use her as his muse and may also be making a competing film about her, but does clean out her apartment, as promised, to set up the “museum” to see all her work in continuous context together that she claims she’d always wanted for her beautiful sculptures, photographs, word drawings, and amazingly much more, seen individually in a lovely concluding montage. She directs the director and mentally improves enough to pass a sanity test that forestalls guardianship and eviction, but soon sinks back into sad paranoia about what he’s done. Ironically, when she suffers a fracture from a fall, and has to go into rehab, it’s a Jewish facility in Brooklyn that takes her in, though she snorts at the Shabbat restrictions. After watching the film, it was almost as unsettling that a young colleague at the screening thought she was only in her late ‘60’s, not her actual ‘80’s. (10/22/2011)

    Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts (review forthcoming) (previewed at DocuWeek) (Was it because director Scott Hicks is Australian or was it in order to stress, over and over, Philip’s pan-religious spirituality that he avoided identifying his Baltimore family in any way as Jewish, particularly his older sister Sheppie who is extensively interviewed, even as she recalls the influence of their mother in encouraging a bright child? Certainly, most viewers seeing her very Jewish sounding married name and hearing her manner of speaking will perceive her as Jewish.) (8/16/2008)

    Gloria: In Her Own Words (HBO documentary) (While Ms. Steinem makes a point of identifying her colleague Flo Kennedy as African-American, which is obvious from the old photographs and footage, she speaks movingly, both in the new interview and in footage of her funeral eulogy, of Bella Abzug as a mentor and substitute mother – but never as Jewish. On the other hand, she also doesn’t identity Betty Friedan as Jewish in detailing their disagreements.) (8/27/2011)

    Go for Zucker! (Alles auf Zucker!)

    Goodbye Momo (A Dios Momo) (4/20/2007) (emendations coming after 10/20/2007) (So, nu: Refreshingly not stereotyped that the best friend’s Jewish mother is so warm to the Afro-Uruguayan boy, and that both families are struggling with poverty.)

    Goon (review forthcoming) (How does it come to be that a Canadian romantic comedy about hockey opens up outside a synagogue? The script by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg changes their inspiration of the real Doug Smith (inspired by his memoir Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey Into a Minor Hockey League, written with Adam Frattasio) into “Doug Glatt” (played by Seann William Scott). Baruchel explained in the press notes that his father had played hockey in his youth on the Bethel Wings, an all-Jewish hockey team: “All of my knowledge or interest in hockey comes from my father. I was raised in a household where the Montreal Canadians were effectively our religion: Jewish on Dad’s side, Catholic on Mum’s, all Habs fans. And Dad’s favorite players were always the tough ones, the enforcers - or the goons for lack of a better term. . .I coupled that with this real hockey player named Mike Bajurny who’s not Jewish, but played on the Laval Chiefs which is part of the North American Hockey League. Both Bajurny's father and his grandfather are doctors, his brother’s a filmmaker and he’s the guy who gets paid to fight and skate for a living.”, who was profiled in his brother’s documentary Le Chiefs. In the opening, the “Glatt” parents try to fix their son up with a nice young woman at the synagogue, but it’s more his mother (played by Ellen David) who is stereotypically upset that he’s choosing a violent career in hockey, unlike his brother the doctor, though “Doug” teases her by outing the brother as gay.) (11/25/2012)

    Le Grand Rôle is an amusing updated French Jewish take on O. Henry's "The Last Leaf." Based on a book by Daniel Goldenberg that doesn't appear to be available in English, it gently pokes fun at just about everything it touches, including actors, theaters, directors, and religious, ethnic and generational divisions within the Jewish community.
    It sets as a satirical premise the notion that Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice is the problem and opportunity for Jewish actors that Othello is for black actors, with references as well to Ronald Colman in A Double Life and the Al Pacino adaptation that must have been in production at the same time as this film.
    In an amusing satire of Steven Spielberg exploring his Jewish identity through Schindler's List, Peter Coyote plays a big Hollywood director who comes to Paris to direct a Yiddish version of Merchant (scenes with him are mostly in English), setting off more than a frisson of hope and anxiety among a close group of unemployed Jewish actor friends as they position themselves for the role, including amusing efforts to gain credibility with the director in and out of the humiliating auditions, such as politicking at temple services most don't otherwise attend and searching out elderly relatives for Yiddish lessons. Their comfort with each other amidst their diversity is also unusual in films with Jewish characters, as they range from married with children, to divorced, to a womanizer, one is observant, another passionately Sephardic who insists that an authentic production of Merchant should be in Ladino (the Judeo-Iberic language of Jews who fled Spain).
    But the humor is centered by one of the most unusual sights ever in films - an attractive, young Jewish, married couple's stable, loving relationship. Their devotion puts the actors' egos into poignant perspective as the marriage is tested by the ultimate challenge, showing that even the most self-centered seeming people can have a heart in the face of personal tragedy. Stéphane Freiss as the husband can move from funny to sad sack to poignant on a dime. Bérénice Bejo as his wife creates a real, intelligent woman to care about; I was particularly impressed that she found the only copy in Paris of the play in Yiddish.
    The English subtitles are inadequate and it is particularly frustrating as none of the pop songs on the soundtrack are translated as they seem to have some significance in commenting on the story, particularly at the end. (5/30/2005)


    Grace Paley: Collected Shorts (briefly reviewed at 2011 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu commentary on the Jewish women forthcoming.) The Great New Wonderful (I'm not sure if some of what we see Olympia Dukakis's "Judie" doing is fantasy or not.) (7/10/2006)

    Guilt Trip (review forthcoming because I didn’t want to bother seeing it in a theater)

    The Hangover (review forthcoming) (There is nothing to particularly identify as Jewish the nasty, controlling, cold, can only be described as rhymes-with-rich "Melissa" (played by comedienne Rachael Harris as a brunette rather than her usual blonde). But then there's nothing particularly Jewish about her dentist boyfriend "Dr. Stu Price" (played by Ed Helms) until he shows his guy friends the engagement ring he's planning to give her and announces that it's the only thing his grandmother saved from the Holocaust. He keeps calling it "his Holocaust ring" throughout the movie, leading the groom's not-playing-with-a-full-deck future-brother-in-law "Alan" (Zach Galifianakis) to ponder: I didn't know they gave out diamond rings at the Holocaust. Consequently, I’m betting that the majority of movie viewers will then presume "Melissa" is Jewish. On her only plus side, while "Stu" goes on about her negative habits, such as an abhorrence of physical contact with semen, she did sleep with a bartender on a cruise so she's not completely frigid. While this bachelor party bromance comedy isn't completely misogynistic (there's a stripper with a heart of gold and the other two guys return to their wives declaring their love), its most venomous ire is aimed at the one woman most will identify as Jewish, and audiences will doubtless cheer when "Stu" disrupts the wedding reception with his liberation.) (6/2/2009)

    Hannah Arendt (So, nu: Other than a couple of faculty wives who barely get any lines or personality, Hannah is very much the alpha-woman here, though with little sense of Jewish identity of any kind. But rare on screen is the portrayal of her close, supportive, mature, long-running friendship with Mary McCarthy is unusual (who helps American audiences by getting the German intellectuals to speak English around her). She almost gets to show a potential maternal side in how warmly she treats her Israeli friend’s sabra daughter. A colleague reported to me that the secretary Lotte Köhler (played by Julia Jentsch) is actually a composite of a couple of women, though it wasn’t clear if she, too, was Jewish. Reviewing this bio pic gave me the opportunity to read her controversial book, and I was fascinated. Ironically, the historian who most effectively counterered her facts was another Jewish woman, Lucy Dawidowicz with her devastating The War Against the Jews, published in 1975). A non-Jewish colleague told me her impression from the film was that Arendt was being objective; when I told her I thought she was, instead, being German, and that the whole film was a German perspective, she didn’t quite get what I meant. (updated 7/12/2013)

    Hanna’s Journey (Hanna’s Reise) (previewed at 2014 Kino!) (So, nu: Though based on Munich and Tel Aviv-based author Theresa Bauerlein’s novel Das War Der Gute Teil Des Tages (That was the good part of the day!) (not yet available in English), the Jewish woman character “Gertraud Nussbaum” (played by Leah Koenig), the main hard-driving business student “Hanna Eggert” (played by Karoline Schuch) assigned Holocaust survivor, is not in the novel, which may explain how undeveloped her character is. More than her more cynical women friend survivors at the old age home, she seems she’s an experienced Holocaust educator, particularly with young Germans, including going back to her mother “Uta” (played by Suzanne von Borsody) who since has been running an NGO to foster German/Israeli interactions. I was struck by the authenticity of Israelis’, particularly artists and young people, fascinatin with Berlin, and similar interactions I’ve seen in documentaries. While the romance is a bit much, heck, Doron Ami as social worker “Itay” is a pretty irresistible hunk.) (review forthcoming) (6/16/2014)

    Happiness (commentary forthcoming)

    Happy Endings (So, nu: Lisa Kudrow's character "Mamie" is nee "Miriam" and says she's Jewish when she's explaining at her job as a patient representative at an abortion clinic that she's pro-choice, but she lies about other things in the same sentence, so who knows? Writer/director Donald Roos comically covers some of the same issues around religious views of abortion and families that Todd Solondz handles dramatically in Palindromes) (7/25/2005)

    Harlan: In The Shadow Of Jew Süss (Harlan - Im Schatten Von Jud Süss) (So, nu: The granddaughter who is the daughter of Harlan's tragic daughter whose marriage to an older Holocaust survivor and conversion to Judaism didn't assuage her inherited guilt is the most bitter about his work. Jessica Jacoby also did a Q & A with a showing at Film Forum. She's the only one interviewed who is convinced that a motivation to make such a powerfully anti-Semitic film is related to resentments towards his first wife, a Jew.) (3/7/2010)

    Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (So, nu: In this entertaining and informative joint biographical portrait of married couple storyboard artist Harold Michelson and film researcher Lillian Michelson, Harold is remembered as Jewish, and Lillian remembers how his snobby Jewish mother and aunt disliked her as a penniless orphan in Florida, even meeting with her in person to forcefully try to dissuade her from marrying him. So they eloped. Consequently, there’s no sense that Harold maintained his Jewish identity or passed that on to their three children. (at 2015 DOC NYC Festival) (11/28/2017)

    Harrison’s Flowers (Review forthcoming, but as the story of the Newsweek photojournalist’s wife is a fictional overlay to show the horrors of the ethnic cleansing war in the former Yugoslavia, I’m not sure why plucky, devoted “Sarah Lloyd” in NJ, played by Andie MacDowall, is Jewish, as she refuses to sit shiva for her beloved husband who was reported killed on the job so she goes off to look for him, except that the director/adapter Elie Chouraqui is Jewish. I’ll have to read the original French book by Isabel Ellsen, if it’s available in English, to see if the lead character is Jewish there too.) (10/12/2007)

    Hava Nagila (The Movie) (Also briefly in Reviewed: New York Jewish Film Festival 2013 of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (My additional notes.)

    Heart of Auschwitz (Le coeur d'Auschwitz) (review forthcoming) (seen at MoMA's 2012 Canadian Front, and reportedly rights issues will keep it from being shown elsewhere in the U.S.) (So, nu: Not only does this story exemplify the power of women’s friendships to help endure the Holocaust, but the documentarian gives back to the survivors as much as he takes in information by providing a tremendous catharsis, as well as a reunion, for them – quite a step from their daughters relating that all they had communicated about their experiences previously had been screams in the night.) (3/21/2012)

    The Hebrew Lesson (Ha’Ulpan) (Review forthcoming - seen at the 2008 NY Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (It wasn’t clear to me that the woman in the class from Lima, Peru is Jewish, but the film deals insightfully with issues of being Jewish vs. being Israeli for women.) (12/28/2007)

    Heir to An Execution (First shown on HBO in 2004, director and on-screen interviewer Ivy Meeropol takes a very personal look at her grandparents Ethel and Julius Rosenberg through the perspective of her family and their close friends. Those closest to them remember a very Jewish, non-Orthodox, wedding and that they were very Jewishly identified. There’s lots of photos when Ethel tried to show she was a housewife and mother, and the oldest friends remember her beautiful voice and dreams of being an opera singer – and her pain in sacrificing her children. Though they also remember a witch of her mother, Tessie, it’s still shocking to find out they had many siblings and all had rejected them and refused to take in their sons – and refused to talk to the director. One cousin, whose grandfather was her grandfather’s brother, cries in apology and blames his mother, who visited them in Sing Sing and rejected Ethel’s personal appeal to adopt her sons. There’s a clip of Julius’s mother, with a thick accent, asking for and getting temporary custody, because the Catholic judge was impressed how Jewish she was. Ivy finds their graves and places stones on their plain gravestones.) (3/26/2015)

    Herb & Dorothy/Herb & Dorothy 50x50 (The first movie mentions in passing that Dorothy Vogel comes from a Jewish family, but the only contextual reference in the sequel is that Herb’s funeral is at a Jewish cemetery. But her career as a public librarian and commitment to wide access to cultural literacy resonates Jewish values.) (10/4/2013)

    Herskovits At the Heart of Blackness parses how Jewish anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits became the leading expert on African culture. But while probably for the first time in a documentary, the academics proffer the context of their own racial/ethnic identity and biases (sometimes in overly cutesy animations and annoying recreations) in evaluating his legacy, only one Jewish woman expert is heard from. His daughter Jean Herskovits not only personally reminisces about her father (the footage from his anthropological field work in the 1930's is fascinating), but is professionally proud that she introduced African history to the curriculum at a public university and recounts her experiences teaching his work to black students. (Seen at 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (1/23/2010)

    Hey, Hey It’s Esther Blueburger (review forthcoming) (5/22/2010)

    A History of Israeli Cinema (Raphaël Nadjari's useful primer includes many women academics in "Part I: 1933-1978", especially in parsing the macho images. "Part II: 1978-2005" deals more with the images of women and includes Gila Almagor's significance first as an actress, then as the writer of, and playing her mother, in The Summer of Aviya and an interview with actress Ronit Elkabetz about her writing and directing.) (Seen at 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (1/25/2010)

    Hitler’s Hollywood: German Cinema In The Age Of Propaganda: 1933 - 1945 Director Rüdiger Suchsland describes this 100 minute film clip essay as his follow-up to From Caligari to Hitler: German Cinema in the Age of the Masses (2014), in what will be a trilogy on the history of German films. But it more serves as an expansion on Felix Moeller’s Forbidden Films (Verbotene Filme) (2014). Both are about the UFA films made under the supervision of Goebbels’ propaganda unit, though, though only about 40 films are on a “verboten” screening list. While much of this documentary seems to repeat the images and subjects from those films, this exploration of all these period films now kept by the Murnau Foundation for educational uses only, goes beyond revealing the familiar seriously vicious Nazi stereotypes of Jewish men. Suchsland’s narration, voiced by Udo Kier in Kino Lorber’s English language version, explains: “Anti-Semitic incitement also took the form of burlesque comedies and historical dramas” for the clip from the only Nazi musical comedy on this theme, which included enduring stereotypes of Jewish women, Hans Heinz Zerlett’s Robert and Bertram (1939). [See the still at the top of this page.]
    Based on the 1856 play by Gustav Räder and set in 1839, Suchsland’s selection features the hefty, bourgeois, brunette and curly-coiffed “Frau Ipelmeyer” (portrayed by Inge van der Straaten) entering for a costume party, stuffed into an overly-bejeweled gown, and twirling for an expected compliment: Nu?. (David Stewart Hull in Film in the Third Reich: A Study of the German Cinema, 1933-1945 (Touchstone, 1973) describes her as “grotesque”, though, ironically, she reminded me of the very gentile dowager Margaret Dumont playing the Jewish Marx Brothers’ foil in evergreen Hollywood comedies; Suchsland glaringly ignores such aesthetic, stylistic, or thematic comparisons to British and American movies during this same time period.) The shyster “Robert” (Rudi Godden) responds: From the front you look like Catherine the Great. And from behind, as fit as Napoleon. Frau: Don’t mention Napoleon. He was anti-Semitic. “Robert”: That’s why he went broke in Moscow. (Suchsland doesn’t explicate how that joke fits next to such propaganda historical dramas he includes that were heavily anti-Napoleon, i.e. anti-France, such as Veit Harlan’s Kolberg (1945), as Napoleon emancipated the Jews of France and the countries he conquered.)
    I found references to two other fiction films in this Nazi genre of anti-Semitic light entertainment not excerpted in either documentary that included Jewish women characters: Viktor de Kowa’s Wibbel the Tailor (Schneider Wibbel) (1939) and Heinz Helbig’s Linen from Ireland (Leinen aus Irland) (1939). Both documentaries excerpted the same inflammatory Elders of Zion-like scene from Erich Waschneck’s notorious The Rothschilds (1940), but so far I can only wonder if anti-Semitic images of Rothschild wives or daughters were also portrayed.
    While Suchsland very usefully includes brief comments by such incisive observers of the Nazis’ use of propaganda as Hannah Arendt, Susan Sontag, and, especially, Siegfried Kracauer in From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film and Theory of Film, he does not provide the current context Moeller does about the continuing potential impact of these films. The notion that The Third Reich was itself a cinematic self-delusion is intriguing, but mostly he keeps repeating the obvious point that cinema of the past feeds the ongoing national cultural unconscious, including for gender too. (4/8/2018) (preview courtesy of Film Forum, where the US theatrical premiere run begins April 11th.)


    Hit So Hard: The Life and Near-Death Story of Drummer Patty Schemel (briefly reviewed at 2011 New Directors/New Films of Film Society of Lincoln Center/MoMA) (So, nu: One of the most insightful interviewees is Jewish lesbian singer/songwriter Phranc, including her insights on how grunge rock adopted and popularized lesbians' look. Schemel admiringly cites her as a particular influence.) (3/25/2011)

    Holy Air In this delightful satire of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in Jerusalem from the point of view of Christian Arab writer/director/star Shady Srour, the only Jewish women are the two on the three-person termination committee that the central Christian Arab couple have to go when they are afraid of having their baby due to both political conditions externally and her 50% risk of normal birth. The women, one an extreme feminist and the other a religious traditionalist, get into such a heated argument in disagreeing whether to approve the couple’s request that they storm out without making a decision. (previewed at 2017 Tribeca Film Festival) (3/31/2017)

    Holy Rollers (review forthcoming)

    House of Z In the press notes, director Sandy Chronopoulos describes a prepatory interview she did for the documentary about fashion designer Zac Posen (who I knew nothing about and whose Jewish background is only mentioned in passing in the beginning): Zac’s sister Alexandra Posen “stopped me and said, ‘Don't forget that Zac's story involves his family. We are part of the journey as well.’…At the end of what I thought was my final interview with Zac, I asked him about the distancing of his family from the company. As you will see, it was a very uncomfortable moment for Zac. He was conflicted. And it's now one of the most poignant and honest moments in the film. Even his silence is revealing.” It was striking not only how supportive his family had been since he was a teenager in encouraging his talent, but how his mother Susan Posen, as his business manager, and his sister, as his production manager, were crucial to his rise. Then he dumped them when the business soured, and the second half of the documentary wasn’t interesting to me at all without them. And I couldn’t find a still from the film with either woman. (briefly reviewed at 2017 Tribeca Film Festival) (6/4/2017)

    Howard - While it seemed pretty obvious to me that the family of the late lyricist/librettist Howard Ashman was Jewish, his sister Sarah Ashman Gillespie never refers to that in her wonderful memories of being his kid sister in a Baltimore County rowhouse, where he put on stories and plays for her by decorating their quotidian toys, as seen in re-constructed visuals. Until she tells of a significant seder at his Manhattan apartment when she stresses that he allowed a vert unusual interruption to take a phone call – from then Disney animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg confirming Little Mermaid was a go. She also refers to being surprised that he acted “like a nice Jewish man” when Howard finally told him about his illness – “How is your mother dealing with it?” (preview at 2018 Tribeca Film Festival) (4/5/2018)

    How to Re-establish a Vodka Empire (briefly in Reviewed: New York Jewish Film Festival 2013 of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: commentary forthcoming) (2/19/2013)

    The Human Resources Manager (Shlichuto Shel Hamemune Al Mashabei Enosh) (also briefly reviewed at 2011 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (My additional note.) (So, nu: For a change, the adaptation is far warmer to Israeli Jewish women than the original book. The rich Owner is here The Owner's Widow and she is imperious, but a fair manager who is definitely in charge. While there is less amusing detail about the secretary as empowerng mother to her boss as much as her infant, the much less nasty and more potentially affectionate Wife here is still in a trial separation, not divorce, for a marriage that will benefit from the Manager's experiences on this trip. Even the Daughter is less an obligation and more an enjoyable companion to hear his tale. The worker's lodging, though, is here with nuns rather than with the subservient brood of Hassidic sisters.) (3/5/2011)

    The Human Turbine (Ha Turbina ha Enosheet) (previewed at 2011 Other Israel Film Festival) (More than the Israeli Jewish men who offer specific technical skills to help the Israeli Arab villagers, the well-meaning Jewish women do seem like condescending Lady Bountifuls who interpret the villagers’ desperate gratitude for political interventions, with such bureaucracies as hospitals and the police, plus funds, as genuine friendship. But at least the women are breaching a divide.) (11/26/2011)

    The Iconoclast - Among the tales Dutch art smuggler/fraudster turned snitch Michel van Rijn tells is that his mother was famous in the Dutch Resistance during World War 2, and remained bitter that the Dutch didn’t do more to save the Jews, adding to her depression for losing so many friends. But I couldn’t catch or find her maiden name to check this “fact”. He does credit her for first introducing him to art connoisseurship, and his sense of Jewish identity extends, he claims, to helping the Mossad. (previewed at 2017 DOC NYC Festival) (11/1/2017)

    Ida (previewed at 2014 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: more commentary forthcoming, but “Wanda Gruz” (played by the terrific Agata Kulesza) and “Sister Anna -Ida Lebenstein” (played by Agata Trzebuchowska) are Polish Jewish women maybe never seen on screen before, as impacted by local jealousies let loose by the Holocaust, in the Resistance, amnesia of both Communism and the Catholic Church, who make difficult choices specific to the Polish Jewish experience.) (updated 5/3/2014)

    I Don’t Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman While in these interviews with Marianne Lambert about her oeuvre, Akerman insists she would not let her work be segregated into either women’s or Jewish film festival, her Jewishness comes through in the life-long impact of her parents’ experiences during the Holocaust, fleeing Poland only to be rounded-up in Belgium into concentration camps, that literally marked her as a wandering Jew, restlessly living from Brussels, to Paris, to New York City, to Israel. (previewed at Film Forum) (3/15/2016)

    I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life And Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal (Included are brief interviews with his wife and daughter, as well as a tribute to his sacrificing mother.) (emendations coming after 12/23/2007)

    In A World. . . (So, nu: commentary forthcoming, but the father changing his last name from “Solomon” to “Sotto” reminded me of a cousin who changed the family’s name from “Lefkowitz” to “Lefferts” – but here the daughter “Carol” (played by writer/director/producer Lake Bell) and her sister “Danielle” (played by Michaele Watkins) kept their Jewish name.) (8/1/2013)

    Incessant Visions: Letters From An Architect (briefly reviewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: This is almost a joint biography of Eric Mendelsohn, who I had never heard of before in my history of architecture studies/travels, and his wife Louise. She is seen briefly at the end in a TV interview, which makes clear how odd it is that the readings from her memoir, which, despite the title, is another basis of the film, are oddly done inauthentically without her heavy German accent. Their female descendants are seen at the end, where the Mendelsohns settled in San Francisco, with a shed full of their documents, without saying that that their papers are now archived at the Getty Library in California.) (1/21/2012)

    In Darkness (W Ciemnosci) (So, nu: The complex women show just how difficult it was to take quick chances to escape the Holocaust based not just on physical violence (there’s background scenes of naked women being shot into ditches just outside the city) to pre-existing emotional predilections, including personal jealousies and fears, and motherhood, including a birth in the sewers. The script conflates two women, making a resented refugee a pregnant lover instead of a wife, but a hysterical wife did choose above ground penalties, with her daughter, over being along side a husband she didn’t trust, even once she was in a concentration camp, and a nervous sister couldn’t bring herself to go down into the stinky unknown. Factually, for love of the sister he pushed down the hole, “the Corsair” really did sneak above ground to try a daring rescue of the one left behind – yes, dear reader, they later married. While the sewer worker’s search for lost children through the sewers is fictional, the emotional heart of his realization that saving “my Jews” is his redemption, while his wife helps with their laundry and convinces him that Jesus was also a Jew, is through his relationship with the girl and her younger brother, movingly visualized when he lifts her up to daylight (hence the title of her memoir), and, finally, leads her and the other ghostly remnants, to a miraculous liberation that only witnesses would later believe. The film is dedicated to Marek Edelman, a leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Thanks to my sister the Library Dean for getting me one of only 2 circulating copies in NYC of the out-of-print source book, at NYU’s Bobst Library, as there was a long waiting list at NYPL. Until I read Krystyna Chiger’s memoir The Girl in the Green Sweater: A Life in Holocaust's Shadow, the other basis, where she describes refusing an adoption because her brother couldn’t go, I didn’t realize that it was, relatively, easier to place Jewish girls with gentile families than circumcised boys.) (2/12/2012)

    Indignation (review forthcoming after I read Philip Roth’s novel) Kudos to Linda Emond’s portrayal of “Esther Messner” as one of the most sensitive portrayals of a 1950’s Jewish mother I’ve seen in film, including her slight Yiddish inflection, especially considering the source author and that the central character is her son “Marcus” (played by Logan Lerman) (7/7/2016)

    Inglourious Basterds (review forthcoming) (There's probably hundreds of interviews with motormouth director Quentin Tarantino about his revisionist image of Jewish women. Here's quotes from one with Ella Taylor, who implies she is Jewish, in the 8/18/2009 Village Voice: Taylor says critics will "have a hard time calling him a hater of women on the basis of the movie's vengeful Jewish protagonist, Shosanna Dreyfus (played by French-Jewish actress Mélanie Laurent)." QT: "My original conception of Shosanna was of a real badass, a Joan of Arc of the Jews, killing Nazis, sniping them off roofs, pulling Molotov cocktails. Then I thought, no, that's too much like the Bride. [from Kill Bill, Volume 1 and Kill Bill, Volume 2] So I made her more realistic, more of a survivor, and then a situation happens that she can take advantage of. Then comes my favorite sequence, a Romeo and Juliet shootout at a movie premiere." He decided not to put background on "Shoshanna" and her survival through cinema onto the DVD. On Charlie Rose 8/21/09 he explained that he saw her more like Jackie Brown in how she kept herself together with poise. (updated 2/15/2010) (My commentary forthcoming.)

    In Heaven, Underground The Weissensee Jewish Cemetery (Im Himmel, unter der Erde - Der jüdische Friedhof Weißensee) (review forthcoming) (A woman’s very detailed memories and photographic documentation of her wealthy family and their key decision to leave it all to flee to Switzerland in time opens the documentary and puts the history of the Berlin Jewish community in context. Her surprise and shock to discover that her family crypt survived all these years parallels the viewer’s. Particularly touching is the emotional reactions of those who discover the graves of their grandmothers with the instant recall of cooking and love that erupts.) (12/2/2011)

    Inheritance (previewed at 2013 Other Israel Film Festival) (So, nu: “Moshe”’s blonde wife – I can’t ID her name or the actress playing her – at first seems like a stereotype of a libertine Israeli compared to the chastity of Arab women, but her adultery with the Palestinian politician, who I think is “Ahmad” but I can’t ID the actor, is a genuine love affair they both want to acknowledge to their spouses, that has even more meaning for him because he was manipulated into his marriage, brutally resents his wife, and sees the Israeli woman as representing freedom.) (12/4/2013)

    In Her Shoes

    In Search of the Bene Israel (briefly reviewed at 2009 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (In addition to glimpses and remembrances of director Sadia Shepard's Jewish Indian grandmother, some time is spent with a bride before her wedding and emigration to Israel, and her future mother-in-law who is thrilled that her émigré son trusted her to find a local bride for him. While it is delightful to see their customs, little is really revealed about these women as individuals.) (1/18/2009)

    Inside Hana’s Suitcase (New Hampshire Jewish Film Buzz on p. 15 – N/A) (So, nu: In an ironic addendum, the Auschwitz Museum admits that the suitcase that inspired Japanese children to emotionally connect the Holocaust with their history was a reconstruction of the original burned in a neo-Nazi-set arson. But that cast-off found meaning in a new setting. Unlike this film, another Canadian director has refused to make available his touching documentary The Heart of Auschwitz, which similarly tracks a girl’s object at the Montreal Holocaust Memorial, to Jewish film festivals because he feels it shouldn’t be “ghettoized”. (7/3/2012)

    In Between (Bar Bahar) (So, nu: For a gloriously feminist film set mostly in Tel Aviv about a trio of Israeli-Palestinian women, Israeli-Jewish women are barely seen. A sales clerk in a dress boutique rudely glares at two of the shopping women when she overhears them speaking Arabic to each other. It’s possible that there’s a couple of non-Arab women among the diverse-looking, dancing/imbibing partiers in their apartment. (seen in 2017 Film Movement 15th Anniversary Celebration at Museum of the Moving Image) (6/9/2017)

    In Jackson Heights (previewed at 2015 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (So, nu: An emotional elderly woman gives the keynote eulogy at the Yom ha Shoah observance.) (11/4/2015)

    Inside Llewyn Davis (previewed at 2013 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (So, nu: In addition that the counselors at Camp Regis in the Adirondacs my sister and I went to with Bonnie Raitt in 1959 and 1960 were the types who were hanging around Washington Square digging these musicians and introducing us campers to their songs, “Lillian Gorfein” (as portrayed by Robin Bartlett) reminded me a lot of the creative, lefty earth mother kindergarten teacher I apprenticed with at the Ethical Culture Society in Teaneck for 10th grade Sunday School. Kudos to production designer Jess Gonchor for her Upper West Side apartment, including artisanal menorahs. With this release, a member of my history reading group) recalled how she introduced the Coens’ parents when they were all Yale grad students, and they invited her to their wedding in the Coen family Riverside Drive apartment that sounds like it could have inspired this one. But when her son met one of the Coens and relayed the family connection he didn’t believe him – a very Coen-ish story line. I correct that Nancy Blake is portraying a version of Jean Ritchie performing a Maybelle Carter song. But Dave Van Ronk’s ex-wife objects to the way the folk scene is portrayed.) (updated 12/19/2013)

    Inside Man (So, nu: It's part of the cleverness of the plot that it's the Jewish grandmother who seems to defy the bank robbers in a story that's rife with Jewish references.)

    In The Land Of Pomegranates (So, nu: Of the Israeli participants in the German dialogue program, one is a young a woman, red-haired Ayana from Galilee, granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor who studies Jewish scripture in Jerusalem’s at Hebrew University. As she struggles to understand the Palestinians’ viewpoint, she uses their attitudes to the Holocaust as a point of comparison, and is taken aback at how they also see themselves as similar victims, but of today. But she also thinks any empathy she intently look for is a momentary bubble. She is very annoyed that they don’t separate individual Israelis from the decisions of the government, when she tries to explain she has no such control. Cut from my review were descriptions of the Israelis who are interviewed in detail about their personal experiences with terrorism. Nira is the wife of a man injured in a suicide bomb attack on a Tel Aviv bus, whose continual PTSD breaks up their family, even after she gets him into therapy and then suggests they move up to the Galilee to be in a more serene environment. Ofra, the other mother, moved with her four children to a house near the security wall by the Gaza border, who since 1980 chose to live in a moshav there. She muses ironically that she thought her location was going to be safe for her children, but instead there were many breaches, with bombs and attacks through tunnels, and plaintively asks “Where do I go?” Putative Israeli Jewish women are also seen as nurses (not doctors) helping the Palestinian parents from Gaza who are followed accepting the medical charity of the Save A Child’s Heart organization in an Israeli, Hebrew-speaking only hospital for an operation to save her son’s life, the kind of cross-the-border, high-tech (somewhat patronizing) assistance covered in Leon Geller and Marcus Vetter’s Heart Of Jenin (2008) and last year in Rina Castelnuovo-Hollander and Tamir Elterman’s Muhi - Generally Temporary. (updated 1/12/2018)

    Intimate Stranger (review forthcoming) (Unusual look at a 20th century Jewish family from Alexandria, Egypt to Brooklyn to Japan, and back. Though it’s a portrait of a grandfather, the perspectives on his daughter and wife are quite insightful and poignant.) (9/6/2012)

    Ira & Abby (So, nu: While it’s not 100% clear that the nebbish’s Mother (played by Judith Light) is Jewish, his patient ex is, and she’s portrayed much less stereotyped than usual in such romantic triangles.) (9/16/2007)

    Iraq ‘N’ Roll (briefly reviewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: Rocker Dudu Tassa interviews his mother extensively about her father and uncle, and how her dreams of being a singer were quashed by their disillusion with Israel. So it is very moving when her son invites her up on stage for the first time in her life. I haven’t gotten a hold of the album, as an import, yet to hear if he recorded her as well.) (1/21/2012)

    Irena Sendler: In The Name of Their Mothers (While I also haven’t yet reviewed the Hallmark Hall of Fame version of her story, The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler starring Anna Paquin, I was struck in the documentary by the nonagenarian Righteous Gentile’s frank admission that she could only save blond Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto, both in terms of getting Poles to take them in and hiding them from the Nazis. She related the one time she gave in to a desperate mother by taking in a brown-haired girl—with a not small nose-- who “looked Jewish”, and had to wrap her in bandages to conceal her identity. I couldn’t help but think my red-headed siblings or my sandy-haired children could have been saved in such circumstances– but not me. There but for fortune. . .Albeit, until I read Krystyna Chiger’s memoir The Girl in the Green Sweater: A Life in Holocaust's Shadow (one of the basis for In Darkness (W Ciemnosci)) where she describes refusing such an adoption because her brother couldn’t go, I didn’t realize that it was, relatively, easier to place Jewish girls with gentile families than circumcised boys.) (updated 2/29/2012)

    Iris (previewed at 2014 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (So, nu: There is not a single mention or implication that Iris Apfel is Jewish, and I didn’t spot any Judaica among her amazing collections, though with her thick New York accent, entrepreneurship, and sharp shopping and negotiation skills all audiences will assume she is Jewish, and these aspects of her all come together in a positive and stylish outfit. In the Ladies Room afterwards, we were commenting that we expected Joan Rivers to cross paths with her, and there are similarities in their lives and their documentaries.) (10/12/2014)

    Ismael's Ghosts (Les fantômes d'Ismaël) (Commentary forthcoming about “Carlotta Bloom” (played by Marion Cotillard), the daughter of the mentor (Lázló Szabó) of central character “Ismaël Vuillard” (played by Mathieu Amalric), and his disappeared then re-appeared wife, as non-Jewish director Arnaud Desplechin almost always includes a Jew in his films) (at 2017 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (3/2/2018)

    Israel: A Home Movie (Kakh Ra'nu) (So, nu: While memories of women soldiers are notably missing, the vociferous commentary by the women, who are seen in Palestine from the beginning, adds more than the images of post-wars’ family reunions, romantic jaunts, weddings, and babies.) (7/13/2013)

    Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? (briefly reviewed at 2013 DOC NYC Round-up Part 1: Bio Docs) Other Israel Film Festival) (So, nu: Chomsky talks at length about the influence of his mother and wife.) (1/13/2014)

    Is That You? This is a typical road movie of the find-yourself kind popular with young folks at indie film festivals and the nostalgic sentimentality popular with old folks at Jewish film festivals. Israeli director Dani Menkin, story by Dani Menkin & Rod Bar, script by Eshkol Nevo & Menkin, largely depends on the shambolic appeal of central actor Alon Aboutboul as “Ronnie” as a projectionist who loses his job in Israel and sets out to find the young love of his life “Rachel Golan” after his brother the car dealer in the U.S. claims to have seen her – by her upcoming 60th birthday. (I presume the flashbacks to their youthful hippie-ish days were on a Tel Aviv beach.) Not only is the geography unclear throughout (filmed around Syracuse, NY) and the opportunities for diverse cross-cultural mis/understandings mostly squandered, other than a Tex Mex country music fan, (none of which would matter to an Israeli audience, though most of the film is in English), the Jewish connections of all the women he meets are very confusing, starting with his sister-in-law “Melanie” (Rita Worlock). Her Israeli husband Yakov/Jacob (Rani Bleier) complains about the busty Israeli their non-Hebrew-speaking son “Michael” (Patrick Michael Kelly) fell in love with while on a Birthright trip, who has lingerie photos of her all over his room and goes on about her body. (These naïve jokes, including about his claim to want to join the elite Golani Brigade, are presumably aimed at the Israeli audience.) The clearest conversation on a sense of identity is with the student documentarian “Myla” (Naruna De-Macedo Kaplan). She gives him a ride in her big (borrowed) SUV and insists on stopping to visit her Eastern-European-accented grandmother on the way, who clearly seems Jewish (Amy Dourghty). “Ronnie” asks the young filmmaker: I didn’t know you were Jewish. “Myla”: Don’t worry - she is, I’m not. By the time “Ronnie” improbably finds the woman everyone along the way admires, “Rachel” (Suzanne Sadler) in her native Canada (!), she does not seem at all like a woman who at any time lived in Israel.
    As expected with Menkin’s background as a noted documentarian himself (Dolphin Boy), the best parts of the film are the presumably? real “interviews” around the theme The Road Not Taken, asking older people if they have regrets. While the grandmother insists: My generation has no regrets., many others do, and many of the older women come across as Jewish; one listed participant is Muriel Shapiro. Of the several women living where “Rachel” use to as he tracks her down is a lesbian couple, possibly one who is Jewish, whose testimony is presumably scripted. (8/19/2016)


    It Always Rains On Sunday (3/7/2008) (emendations coming after 9/7/2008) (So, nu: East Side/East End: Eastern European Jews in London and New York, 1870-1920 by the late history professor Selma Berrol of my history reading group confirms how much Bethnal Green is like the Lower East Side. But I haven’t seen another old British movie with two feisty Jewish women, the gangster’s social worker sister working with a priest at the local community center, and the wife of the jazzman who lets him know in no uncertain terms what she thinks of his cheating with shikses, even if they are secondary characters.)

    Itzhak - Itzhak Perlman’s wife Toby is a co-star. From clips of an earlier documentary, it’s clear that many of her reports on their lives together, since teen friendship at music school where she also studied violin such that she can knowledgeably evaluate his performances, are standard comments she is used to providing to interviewers, including about being baseball fans (was she also a Mets fan?) and their agreement on their degree of Jewish observance, such as keeping kosher and observing Sabbath dinner, with their children and grandchildren. (One young girl, he proudly notes, plays the flute). There are only hints about his mother Shoshana, who was clearly an overwhelming influence. Not only did she supervise his daily practice in Israel, when he studied with Rivka Goldgart, who he does not describe fondly, but his mother brought him at age 13 to New York when neither knew English, living together in one room for years as he studied at Juilliard under the one woman who could see his talent beyond his polio handicap. As he is about to talk more about his mother, his wife, as usual, interrupts with sympathy for what her mother-in-law’s generation faced, from difficult circumstances in Poland originally and then emigrating to Israel, and on to the NYC, that she had to always be emotionally restrained. (seen at 2017 DOC NYC Festival) (PBS’s American Masters) (11/17/2017)

    Jaffa (briefly reviewed at 2009 Other Israel Film Festival in New York) (That both families are working class is unusual enough in films about star-crossed lovers, albeit the Jewish family is the Arab family's employer. But Ronit Elkabetz is once again unafraid to portray an unsympathetic mother, one who would rather think her daughter is seduced and abandoned than engaged to an Arab. Dana Ivgy heartbreakingly conveys the complex emotions of a teenager under intense pressures – of love, family, and loyalty. I don't recall another film showing the difficulties inter-faith couples face in Israel of even trying to legally wed, as laborious arrangements need to be made to go to Cyprus, let alone the social opprobrium.) (11/14/2009)

    The Jazz Baroness (Baroness Pannonica “Nica” Rothschild de Konigswarter startlingly reinvented herself from an heiress of one of the most famous Jewish families in European history, and mother of five, to become the cool cat patron of be-bop in 1950's New York. While a couple of her more conventional, elderly cohort female relatives are interviewed for comparison, in such large baronial rooms that their echoing words are hard to hear, the director, her grandniece Hannah Rothschild, annoyingly and moodily hogs the screen about her search to connect as a family rogue. Helen Mirren gets to speak too few of Nica's jaunty words. The same photos and footage of her with Thelonius Monk are repeated, yet the trove of her letters and more in her friend Mary Lou Williams' Collection at Rutgers is only glimpsed. (I missed the premiere on HBO, catching it at 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (1/23/2010)

    J. Edgar (review forthcoming) (It was very noticeable that when Hoover recalls the good old days of deporting real Bolsheviks, he flashes back to Emma Goldman (played by Jessica Hecht). But Dustin Lance Black’s script carefully never has him refer to her as Jewish, let alone derogatorily in that context. The reason seems to be because late in life he’s seen favorably compared to Richard Nixon’s pettiness and biases.) (11/19/2011)

    Jellyfish (Meduzot) (So, nu: Despite the Lady Bountiful Mom, there are no stereotypes of Israeli let alone Jewish women here, as each passes something of themselves to the other.) (4/4/2008) (previewed at the New Directors/New Films Series at Lincoln Center/MoMA)

    Jeruzalem (commentary forthcoming) Joan Rivers- A Piece of Work (review forthcoming)

    Joann Sfar Draws From Memory (briefly reviewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: He talks a lot about how his mother and grandmother inspired the women in his The Rabbi’s Cat and Klezmer series – and they are very beautiful, bold, clever, and sexy, without being the ridiculous superwomen of most graphic novels. In an Afterword in the edition I got of Klezmer of Part 1, he goes more into his feelings and attitudes about Jews and being Jewish, while at the end of the film he casually considers what it means for his children that his wife isn’t Jewish.) (1/21/2012)

    Joy - Melissa Rivers portrays in a beautiful tribute her mother’s innovative use of early QVC to sell her jewelry on TV. Anyone else would have turned her into a caricature. With, of course, perfect nasal New York accent and body language, she lovingly shows the affectionate nature of her mother’s fashion suggestions to the titular character and the script emphasizes her mother’s phenomenal success (not mentioning that it was a time when she couldn’t get other jobs.) (12/1/2015)

    Le Juif de Lascaux - In a very creative biography, fimmaker/critic Louis Skorecki, who was born in the Vichy Gurs internment camp in 1943, imagines finally talking to his parents about his Jewish heritage (and glaring lack of relatives) that they always avoided; he says returning French Jews were embarrassed to pass on their Jewish identity. While remembering foods such as borscht and cakes, he particularly imagines asking his “Polish Jewish” mother (portrayed by at least two caustic women), as a child, teen, and young man, about the foods she made and the Yiddish terms she used to describe these redolent foods. He treats stuffed chicken neck skin (“helzel”) like a sausage version of Proust’s madeleine, as tasting it brings back memories of her kitchen, here theatrically represented outdoors like a food truck, reducing him to childish demands. (My mother talks about a similar memory of my grandmother, similarly from what is now Ukraine: “Not the neck itself - that would just end up in the soup. But she’d take off the skin of that neck, and stuff it with a very tasty combination - so sort of stuffed kishka, but much better.” Mocking his lack of background, he comically refers to himself as “The First Jew” (hence the metaphorical reference to the caves of Lascaux, like those Werner Herzog plumbed in Cave of Forgotten Dreams). Resisting an admonishment from his remembered father to study Torah, he instead imagines several amusingly diverse couples as Adam and Eve -- and one woman in the garden is the Biblically accurate portrayal of Adam’s first wife: I love you Lilith, but you annoy me. Unfortunately, in a long post-Snowzilla marathon day of viewing selections from FID Film Festival Marseille, I dozed to miss the conclusion of how his relationship with his dismissive mother was resolved, compared to his father’s constant belittling and criticism, let alone I forgot to pick up the explanatory hand-out. (seen in First Look at Museum of the Moving Image) (1/26/2016)

    Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait (So, nu: (previewed at 2017 Tribeca Film Festival) Schnabel’s parents are remembered as Brooklyn Jews by an old school friend and his very New York Jewish-sounding aunt, but once his story leaves Brownsville, Texas, none of the other women in his life seem to acknowledge that.) (5/5/2017)

    Junction ‘48 While the lead Palestinian rapper considers it revolutionary to appropriate Bronx hip hop attitude, swagger, and everything else, the Jewish Israeli women in this feature, as written by Oren Moverman and Tamer Nafar based on Nafar’s experience, are condescending (a TV show host insists on calling him “Israeli Arab” not Palestinian because he lives in Lod) or sluts. (previewed at 2016 Tribeca Film Festival) (3/25/2016)

    Kadosh

    Kaddim Wind: Moroccan Chronicles (Ruah Kaddim – Chronika Marokait) (Review forthcoming) (seen at Israel at 60 at Lincoln Center) (A documentary that blows away every preconception about Israel’s welcoming in of Diaspora Jews with a frank look at the treatment of Mizrahi Jews from Morocco, and North Africa in general, and provides incisive insight on Israeli politics and racism. Unfortunately, the focus is only on the experiences of six male leaders, with women barely heard from or seen briefly. When they are included in group discussions, they are passionate and articulate about discrimination and the necessity for change.) (6/15/2008)

    Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (So, nu: the diversity of selected animators also extends to including the (secular) Jewish woman animator Nina Paley, whose work I have followed since seeing the North American premiere of her Sita Sings the Blues at 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, and whose video gave the title to This Is Your Land in Human Rights Watch Film Fest 2015. Her “Children” section builds on the resonant Hebrew phrase “L'dor va'dor” (“From generation to generaton”) that is sung at Shabbat services, as well as ancient Middle Eastern religious symbols, including the hamsa with the winking eye, she’s been researching for her next feature-length piece Seder-Masochism, which will be something of an animated Haggadah/Exodus.) (8/10/2015)

    Keep Quiet While it was international news when Csanád Szegedi, a youthful leader of the rabidly right-wing, anti-Semitic Jobbik Party in Hungary was outed as Jewish, there was no focus on his mother and grandmother, a survivor of Auschwitz. In this documentary, he finally confronts them about the secret they kept from him, even hiding her tattoo for all these decades. What comes through is the degree of fear that they constantly lived in, convinced that it could happen again and they both wanted to protect him, even saying nothing as he espoused an exaggerated take on his (possibly late) father’s views. (Evidently, Hungarian, and probably European, culture can’t nuance religion and ethnicity, as the U.S. may uniquely do.) It is a vivid example of all the women survivors who never told anyone what they went through. As his grandmother anticipated, he doesn’t believe her when she calmly, for the first time in 70 years, tells of her and her relatives’ round-up, deaths, and imprisonment, he only after her death can tour Auschwitz with a grandmother-replacement survivor, Eva 'Bobby' Neumann who only started telling people her experiences 10 years ago, right from the station arrival through to the crematoria where she worked – and that finally gets through to him, or anyone watching I would think, to stop minimizing the Holocaust. (Though he didn’t yet understand why the two women were sent to Auschwitz “about the same time” – not full understanding the chronology of the Final Solution for Jews from Budapest – but he also had never bothered to understand the memorial of empty shoes on the bank of the Danube until he goes with his rabbi mentor.) While it’s touching that he restores his great-grandmother’s gravestone in the Jewish cemetery, he does not replace the Hebrew lettering. Journalist Anne Applebaum provides contextual narration of life in Hungary from Fascism to Communism to democracy. (previewed at 2016 Tribeca Film Festival) (3/25/2016)

    Keep The Change (So, nu: - Writer/director Rachel Israel worked on this unique rom com with members of The Adaptations Group at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Manhattan, quite a bit of the film is set there, and many of the women characters are Jewish. I was disappointed this delightful film didn’t win Tribeca Film Festival’s Nora Ephron Award last year, especially as her work was clearly a model. While it’s three-dimensionally appealing that “Sarah”s grandmother is an oblivious alcoholic and her mother somehow out of the picture, “David”s rich mother is the glaringly weakest part of the film as an annoying stereotype, bordering on offensive, especially as his mother doesn’t get the moment of enlightenment that his father does. Certainly “David”s plan to have his girlfriend stay with his aunt in Boca Raton while they are in Florida is unrealistic, but so is her insisting on bringing him along on a retired person’s schedule. I was kinder in overlooking this wrong note than I usually am in reviews and ratings because the rest of the Jewish women, and the film, are so strong. (previewed at 2017 Tribeca Film Festival) (updated 3/22/2018)

    Keeping Up With The Steins (commentary forthcoming)

    Kill Your Darlings (So, nu: Yet another portrayal of young “Allen Ginsberg” that is more fascinated by his being gay than Jewish. The gentile characters around him in his freshman year at Columbia keep identifiying him as Jewish only by his name– plus the mop of dark curls stuck on the head of Daniel Radcliffe, like the gray wig stuck on Jennifer Jason Leigh (who I was surprised to learn on Wikipedia is Jewish, and here fleetingly uses her father’s native Bronx accent) as his mentally ill mother “Naomi”. His father’s girlfriend “Edith Cohen” (played by Leslie Meisel) convincingly looks Jewish – and young “Allen” furiously blames her for why his father institutionalized his mother, while the script by writer/director John Krokidas and Austin Bunn emphasizes the guilt trip his mother lays on him for not taking care of her to keep her home. I am disappointed that it seems that gay script writers continue to ignore the Jewish context of a woman who inspired the great poem Kaddish, even as “Allen”s infatuation with “Lucien Carr” (played by Dane DeHaan) seems as much the fascination with the beautiful blonde shiksa, as in the heterosexual work of post-war American Jewish writers Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, etc., as he beds a look-alike pick-up at a gay bar, though “Jack Kerouac” is represented less in that mode than usual by Jack Huston. (8/21/2013)

    Killing Kasztner: The Jew Who Dealt With Nazis (So, nu: my commentary forthcoming on the Jewish women) (10/23/2009)

    The Kindergarten Teacher (Haganenet) (So, nu: While the Israeli context heightens the tensions with Ashkenazi vs Sephardim, working class vs. nouveau riche, the intense focus stays on an insightful woman/wife/mother Nira (played by Sarit Larry of the mesmerizing eyes) who is overwhelmed by her conviction that she has discovered a poetry prodigy whose gift needs to be nurtured instead of stultified by popular culture. She’s so convinced of his exceptional gift that she proudly plans to reveal his authorship at the public poetry performance where she had originally agreed to read his poems she’d been fronting. She is excited to reveal his talent publicly, but the public, as is so often true with the arts, isn’t ready. The reaction is overwhelming and disastrous for her, and the film becomes more about her extreme obsession over a child who is not always passive. Her high school age daughter is barely seen, but in her shome, her son parties hard with his army buddies to celebrate his promotion to officer, a career choice her engineer husband disparages as “for morons or the poor”. But he also thinks a kid interested in poetry “needs help”. She tries to inspire him first with nature -- the sun, an ant, water, the rain, and then the ocean, then argues to his uncle the writer: “Being a poet in our world is opposing the nature of the world.” The nanny is dark-skinned, but I couldn’t pick up the subtleties if she’s an Ethiopian Jew or a non-Jewish African.) (previewed at 2015 New Directors/New Films of Film Society of Lincoln Center/MoMA) (review forthcoming) (3/18/2015)

    The Kind Words (Ha'milim ha'tovot) (preview for the 2016 Israel Film Center Festival courtesy Strand Releasing) Within a comic family story are surprisingly fresh representations of Jewish women, as Israelis and as exiles from Arab countries: the Algerian-born mother in Jerusalem “Yona Baruch” (Levana Finkelstein); her middle child, 35-year-old, fertility-struggling (like Biblical women) daughter Dorona Cohen (Rotem Zisman-Cohen); her drama queen sister in Paris Rosa (Florence Boche); and even her Orthodox daughter-in-law Razilya from Brooklyn and her husband’s new sexy younger wife, singer Osnat (Magi Azarzar). (Review forthcoming) (6/24/2016)

    King Cohen While director Steve Mitchell thoroughly looks at Larry Cohen’s career, there’s very little on his personal life, including zilch about his sense of Jewish identity. There’s one briefly seen photo of his mother and his bitter comment that he could spend his childhood days at the local movie theater because no one missed him amidst the chaos at home, though that seemed more directed at his father and siblings. (Only from Wikipedia did I learn that his sister was the renowned publicist Ronni Chasen.) Wife #1 (Janelle Webb m. 1964–1987, actress, producer and mother), and Wife #2 (Cynthia Costas, actress and artist) give very supportive interviews, but one can’t tell anything else about them or his children, other then a few still photographs of them younger. (preview at 2017 DOC NYC Festival) (7/13/2018)

    Kisses To The Children (Filia eis ta pedia/Φιλιά εις τα παιδιά) (seen at American Sephardi Federation) (So, nu: (Three of the five moving storytellers of their hidden child experiences in Greece during the Holocaust are women -- Rosina Asser-Pardo, Eftyhia Nachman-Nachmia, and Shelly Kounio-Cohen, who re-live their childhood memories and re-visit the locales for the first time, including reading from a journal one kept at the time, which is now in the collection of the Jewish Museum in Greece, whose 2003 exhibition “Hidden Children in Occupied Greece” inspired director Vassilis Loules. At the screening, the Greek Consul General spoke tearfully that one was his mother, who had never told her children about these years of her life.) (6/21/2013)

    Kissing Jessica Stein

    The Klezmatics: On Holy Ground (briefly reviewed at 2011 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: forthcoming, my commentary on the women who have come and gone in the group.)

    Koch (So, nu: While there’s only bare mention of his mother, his sister warmly humanizes impressions of him, including hosting family holiday gatherings at her home.) (2/1/2013)

    Kol Nidre (restored) (briefly in Reviewed: New York Jewish Film Festival 2013 of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: commentary forthcoming) (2/19/2013)

    Kredens (briefly reviewed at 2009 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (While notable for its perspectives about the expulsions of Jews from Poland in 1968, this does seem like a student filmmaker flaying his mother and her memories, even if she had the good sense not to appear on camera and only be heard on the phone pleading with her Danish son over and over to give up trying to trace their roots through a piece of furniture.) (1/18/2009)

    Kululush (commentary forthcoming from viewing at the 2007 NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival)

    Labyrinth Of Lies (Im Labyrinth Des Schweigens) (So, nu: for a film that’s about about obtaining German justice for Nazi crimes against the Jews, it’s a bit disappointing that the only Jewish women are undifferentiated as they are brought in to the prosecutor’s office to give testimony, with the music rising over their voices and the focus on the young German lawyers’ shocked faces.) (10/29/2015)

    Labyrinths of Memory (Laberintos de la memoria) (review forthcoming as viewed at the 17h Annual NY Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (Guita Schyfter labors a bit to find parallels for her Everything Is Illuminated-like search for her Eastern European Jewish roots from Costa Rica and Mexico and that of a Mexican adoptee raised in Cuba, but she pulls it off, from very much a woman’s POV.) (1/24/2008)

    The Lady in Number 6 (seen with Oscar Nominated Shorts) Inspired by Caroline Stoessinger’s book A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World's Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor, too bad her exceptional life story is told so conventionally in this documentary) that’s basically in the style of a TV news magazine feature. An interesting side note is that even as she outlived her son, she is accompanied in friendship by two other women survivors who share her experiences, one a cellist who played in the macabre Auschwitz women’s orchestra (portrayed in Playing for Time), the other an artist, though it wasn’t clear where/when she met them.) (2/17/2014)

    Landline Coming from the same team and star as Obvious Child, I’m giving it some leeway, but it was disappointing. This Upper West Side family in 1994 (the film is dripping with nostalgia) has an Italian mother “Pat” (played by Edie Falco) and a Jewish father frustrated playwright turned ad copywriter “Alan Jacobs”. Their daughters, who are the center of the film, certainly “look” Jewish with masses of dark, curly hair and are very verbal: the always wonderful Jenny Slate as 30-something graphic designer “Dana”, engaged to no-profession-specified nice guy “Ben” (played by Jay Duplass), and turning 17 “Ali” (played by charismatic newcomer Abby Quinn). The Jewish references are mostly playing off episodes of Seinfeld, such as a make-out session at a Holocaust-themed movie with college infatuation now adulterious lover “Nate” (Finn Wittrock), that “Dana” regrets because her fiancé “really like Nazi movies”. (More details forthcoming) (6/23/2017)

    Landscape After Battle (Krajobraz po bitwie) (Review forthcoming) (In preparation for reviewing Katyn, I discovered this 1970 Andrzej Wajda film after its 2003 DVD release, which only made it to NYC screens 8 years after it debuted at Cannes. So I was very surprised to see one of the most vibrant Jewish women characters in a European film. The director comments on the DVD extra that she was the liveliest actress at auditions, even as her co-star laughingly notes how non-Jewish Stanislawa Celinska's blonde "Nina" looks. Set in 1945 at the minute the war ends, "Nina" explodes on the screen with youthful exuberance, and wants to get on with her life. Led into a temporary Displaced Persons camp, after being in hiding and enduring 28 near-misses from the Gestapo, she realizes she no longer has to pretend to be someone she isn't when handsome, intellectual Daniel Olbrychski's "Tadeusz", just released as a political prisoner from Auschwitz, gives her a communal wafer at a liberating mass. She leads him out of the camp and into lovely romance and joyous sexual initiation in a beautiful field. She knows she will never feel free back in Poland and wants him to leave with her for Paris. But while she as a Jew sees no future in Poland, he can't separate his Polish nationalism from his country.) (2/21/2009)

    The Last Chance (Die Letzte Chance Made in Switzerland in 1945 to burnish the Swiss image of helping during the Holocaust, the many multi-national refugees thrillingly fleeing Italy in 1943 to get to the Swiss border include several explicit Jewish females (a girl “Chanele” (Berthe Sakhnowsky sole IMDb credit) whose elderly uncle is “Hillel Sokolowski”; the middle-aged “Frau Wittels” (played by Therese Giehse, a Jewish actress who fled from German to Switzerland) who impresses the British and American soldiers by trying to keep her husband from being herded onto a cattle car when the Germans invade) and I’m not sure if the Dutch, French (“Mme. Monnier” played by Germaine Tournier), or others (including the woman whose bourgeois fur coat becomes practical in the Alps) are Jewish or are fleeing Nazis for political reasons. (seen at 2016 To Save and Project: MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation of Museum of Modern Art) (11/20/2016)

    The Last Laugh (So, nu: Though there’s no specific focus on what could be gendered differences in dealing with jokes about Nazis and the Holocaust, including missing an opportunity to answer Mel Brooks’ surprise that Anne Frank is now fodder, there is a generous inclusion of Jewish women comics, including clips of and debates about Joan Rivers and clips and extended interviews with Sarah Silverman, and one brief clip of Amy Schumer pushing another boundary. (The descriptions of the interviewees don’t quite match their clips, such as “Judy Gold: Jewish--‐American lesbian comedian who is a self-proclaimed obsessive on the subject of the Holocaust.”) Also included are clips of women cabaret singers in the Holocaust, but does not make clear that this was only in the show concentration camp of Theresienstadt, and only lasted as long as needed for Nazi propaganda, including notoriously fooling the Red Cross. But is it just editing that only at the end does Renee Firestone, the Holocaust survivor who throughout denied there was any humor in the camps -- and dismisses most of the exampled jokes as “not funny”, finally admits there was a woman in her barracks who mimed and brought them a smile.) However, she is seen as more at peace with life than another (humorless) survivor Elly Gross at their reunion improbably set in the Las Vegas Venetian Hotel who reminded me of an interchange I had with an elderly neighbor with a thick Eastern European accent: When I was loaning him my copy of Adam Resurrected (Adam ben kelev) by Yoram Kaniuk for our synagogue’s Hebrew-in-Translation Literature Reading Group, I warned him it can be difficult to deal with the satirical presentation of Holocaust survivors who can’t cope afterwards, he shrugged: “My sister couldn’t either.” (Review forthcoming) (previewed at 2016 Tribeca Film Festival) (updated 4/12/2016)

    The Last Sentence (Dom Över Död Man) (So, nu: The beautiful-looking black-and-white blends in both the reality of the rise of the Nazis in newsreels and the ghostly apparitions the anti-Nazi editor consults, as each of his women die. The publisher’s Jewish wife Maja Forssman is a formidable businesswoman and mistress. While she is sensitive to the rising explicit anti-Semitism in the high society around her, she even chooses to deal with her fatal cancer under her own control. Ironically, his journalist daughter acceded to censorship at his former newspaper: At least they still publish me.) (more commentary forthcoming) (6/23/2014)

    The Last Mimzy (Review forthcoming– but it was a bit odd that the palm-reading, mandala–interpreting, Nepal-visiting fiancée of the science teacher is named “Naomi Schwartz”, played by Kathryn Hahn. The film, credited to four writers, retained only some bare plot concepts from mid-20th century original short story Mimsy Were the Borogoves by “Lewis Padgett”, the pseudonym for science-fiction authors and spouses Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore, which had zero Jewish characters.)

    Late Marriage (Hatuna Meuheret)

    Lea and Darija (briefly reviewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: While I don’t know how much of the “based on a true story” is factual, it’s unusual for a film to make the Jewish/Aryan stereotype differences of the Holocaust era so vividly visual, yet so touching. In one telling scene, the banned Jewish singing-and-dancing child star “Lea” sneaks into the now forbidden to her theater in a blonde wig in order to watch her bruntette friend perform her role with the company she used to lead – but her fans recognize her in the balcony, grab the wig off and chase her out. While I was pleasantly surprised that the child entertainers were not annoying like pageant competitors are, the Jewish mother is portrayed as warmly supportive of encouraging her talented daughter to happily participate in the family’s creative traditions, the Aryan mother contrasts as ambitiously pushy. Perhaps it was clearer to the original Croatian audience if the blonde mother, who apparently uses Nazi connections to get her daughter an audition with a noted German film studio, fled the country from anti-collaborator wrath or Communism, or both.) (1/21/2012)

    Leap of Faith (After the wives of directors Stephen Z. Friedman and Antony Benjamin went through Orthodox conversion to Judaism, the only kind recognized in Israel and the only American Jewish option seen on screen, they made the first documentary about the process. (While a recent Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey found that "half of American adults have changed religious affiliation at least once in their lives", it excluded any affiliation that constituted less than 4% of the population so Jews were automatically out.) Women are in all the four units followed. Two from Christian Evangelical backgrounds, an elderly couple who look Amish in their Ultra-Orthodox garb after their dalliance with Messianic Judaism, and parents with young and teen children in the heart of the new burned-over-district, as it were, of Colorado who submit to uprooting requirements and suspicion from their new neighbors. A single mother is so distraught about her life and finances that it seems what she's really seeking is some kind of stability in her life, and is not treated well by the rabbis, particularly about her military service, so no wonder she flees. The young black woman from Trinidad and her male Brooklyn friend are very carefully circumspect on camera to avoid any implication that she is converting just to marry him so as not to scotch the deal with the judgmental rabbis (if he hadn't wed her by the closing of the credits after all she went through for him. . .And I don't know if any of the rabbis interviewed or supervising these converts are involved in this scandal.) The intimate women's perspective that is sometimes missing here was provided at the festival in Miri Shapiro's lovely British short Kallah.) (seen at 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (1/25/2010)

    Leaves of Grass (So, nu: Tim Blake Nelson noted in an interview about the Jews in the film: "I’m a Tulsa Jew and have a religious upbringing. . .It’s what I grew up around. . .Even my wife and two of my children are in it as actors." (as the family of Jewish orthodontist Ken Feinman, played by Josh Pais). He has proudly noted the influence on him of his mother, Ruth Kaiser Nelson, an active member of the city's Jewish community, so that could be why family-oriented "Rabbi Zimmerman" (played by the ubiquitous Maggie Siff) is a quietly noble advisor for the pot-growing, revenge-seeking brother, warning him that without rules of civilization we are all animals breaking the world, so one has to repair it. The film goes out of its way to find ways for the twin brothers to bump into Jews wherever they go, from New England to Oklahoma, starting with the classics professor aggressively sexually harassed by a poetry-writing, breast-baring "Anne Greenstein" (played by Lucy Devito), who then accuses him of inappropriate behavior. I can't read my notes for exact quotes.) (9/17/2010)

    Left Luggage

    Lemon In what may be the worst, failed satirical comedy of the year, the family of co-writer and star Brett Gelman is described as “outrageous” in the press notes, but they are very specifically Jewish. His wife/director Janicza Bravo is also a co-writer, and they were inspired by their own families. Gelman plays underemployed actor “Isaac Lachman”. Shiri Appleby is his sister “Ruthie”, pregnant and constantly on the phone planning events – but I wasn’t sure if that was for herself or a job as a party planner. His parents are “Esther” (Rhea Perlman) and “Howard” (Fred Melamed) – and they all join in a post-dinner singing of “A Million Matzoh balls” by Dean Friedman. They are all unrelievedly obnoxious! No one at my press screening even chuckled at any of it; one colleague shrugged with an explanation: “Maybe it was L.A. humor?” [More details forthcoming.] (6/23/2017)

    Lemon Tree (previewed during but not part of the 2009 NY Jewish Film Festival at Film Society of Lincoln Center -- because it was critical of Israeli policies?) (So, nu: The moving story would have seemed less didactic, though, if the Jewish wife of the Israeli Defense Minister was played by an actress who could more hold the screen with the magnetic Hiam Abbass. But an actress like Ronit Elkabetz would have been less credible to having gotten into such a dependent marriage as Rona Lipaz-Michael making her film debut as "Mira Navon", who hesitatingly tries to figure out how to reach out to her Palestinian neighbor, and in her own way manages to assert some independence within an untenable situation for both of them. There are a couple of other problematical Israeli women – an intrepid TV reporter, a sexy army assistant who flaunts her affair with the husband, and a daughter studying politics in Washington, D.C.) (updated 4/20/2009)

    Let’s Dance! (briefly in Reviewed: New York Jewish Film Festival 2013 of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: my commentary on the Jewish women.) (updated 2/19/2013)

    Let’s Dance! (Faut que ça danse!) (Review forthcoming - seen at the 2008 Rendez-Vous with French Film at Film Society of Lincoln Center) (Noémie Lvovsky’s very creative, and yes funny, view of an adult daughter dealing with a tap dancing dad who as a Holocaust survivor figures he’s immortal, which keeps her from dealing with her feelings about life and death as well. While her crazy mother doesn’t appear to be Jewish, the daughter is very conscious of her family and communal responsibilities, and her husband seems to be Jewish.) (2/23/2008)

    Letters From Baghdad: The True Story of Gertrude Bell and Iraq e While directors Sabine Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum have worked on Jewish-related documentaries in the past, they avoid most Jewish issues in looking at Bell’s travels and career through the Ottoman Empire and Mesopotamia, including Jerusalem – particularly in mentioning her views on the Balfour Declaration. Letters read by Tilda Swinton do mention in passing putative Jewish women she knew, such as visiting the Dead Sea with a Nina Rosen in 1900. By 1917 the Jews she was meeting as an official liaison to the British government seemed to have been men. After the war, working for the Oriental Secretary in Baghdad, she made an effort to reach out to both Muslim and Jewish women for private, women’s-only tea parties, including showing them movies. In 1921, she knew of prominent Jewish families in Baghdad. (at 2016 DOC NYC Festival) (12/17/2017)

    Letters Home (previewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (In just a nine minute short, director Melissa Hacker provides a unique perspective on the fall of the Third Reich. I’ve seen and heard many (true and fictionalized) accounts, including from a cousin, of Jewish GI’s coming across Europe and discovering the extent of the Holocaust and what happened to their own families. But this is the first time I’ve seen, beautifully filmed as postcards, and heard it through the eyes of a Jewish woman, the director’s great-aunt Freda who traveled through Germany and Austria in 1945 in service with the Women’s Army Corps, and finds the remnants of their family. (1/22/2012)

    Letter to a Father (Carta a un padre) (previewed at 2015 Art of the Real of Film Society of Lincoln Center (So, nu: my commentary forthcoming) (3/27/2015)

    Liberty Heights

    Life During Wartime (commentary forthcoming from preview and press conference at 47th New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center)

    Life In Stills (briefly in Reviewed: New York Jewish Film Festival 2013 of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: my commentary forthcoming) (2/19/2013) Life? Or Theatre? (briefly in Reviewed: New York Jewish Film Festival 2013 of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: my commentary forthcoming) (2/19/2013)

    Listen Up Philip (In this verbose satire of Jewish male novelists’ self-involved kvetching, Jonathan Pryce plays a version of Philip Roth called “Ike Zimmerman”. So presumably, his bitter daughter “Melanie” (played by Krysten Ritter) is Jewish, though all she tells about her mother is their resentment over his frequent affairs, so in return he calls her bitch and finally makes her unwelcome at his upstate country home, fleeing in tears. She flirts with his protégé “Philip Lewis Friedman (played by Jason Schwartzman), but he, of course, prefers his shiksa girlfriends, though I wasn’t 100% sure about his first ex, as I missed the first few minutes. Though there’s lots of close-up silent shots of her enraged mouth yelling at him while the cynically weary narrator takes over, the daughter gets her revenge along side the closing credits – after the covers of all his books is the cover of her expose memoir.) (previewed at 2014 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (11/5/2014)

    Little Men Too bad a stereotyped portrayal of a putative Jewish woman mars an otherwise lovely slice-of-life film. Though director Ira Sachs was inspired to write the script based on the experiences of his writing partner Mauricio Zacharias’s family in Brazil, this is very much a New York movie. The opening scenes seem to establish a Jewish family on the Upper West Side, when the surprised “Jacob “Jake” Jardine” (the extraordinarily expressive young Theo Taplitz) gets a phone call, the caller with a thick New York Jewish accent says he was an old friend of his grandfather “Max”, had heard he died, and asked where the service would be. With the grandfather’s son, “Jake”s dad, “Brian”, an actor in nonprofit theater, is played by Greg Kinnear, and his mother “Kathy” a psychotherapist played by Jennifer Ehle, any other hints of putative Jewish identity seemed missing – until the dad’s sister “Audrey” (played by Talia Balsam) started pressing her brother over money issues, for a wincible stereotype, despite her appearance: You got the house – what did I get? [as I remember her plaint] The press notes try to sugar coat her single-mindedness: “Brian’s sister Audrey is depending on the rental income for the store, which is worth far more than what Leonor is paying.”, that’s the Chilean immigrant dressmaker, played by Paulina García. “Kathy” tries to present her related perspective to “Paulina”: You think we’re rich – but I work hard! [My recall of her statement.] “Paulina”s strikes out against the more easygoing brother: Your father always said your sister inherited his brains. He hated going to your place because everything there was bought by your wife. You weren’t even man enough to support your family. [That’s based on my memory of her bitter diatribe.] “Brian” pleads that “Audrey” also has a family to support and needs the income. Though “Brian” weakly protested to his wife that the sister hired a lawyer to draw up a commercial lease commensurate with a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood, even the dressmaker’s family friend has to admit it is all legal and reasonable to ask for three times the rent or a penalty if she’s not out in a week. But with “Leonor” stressing her friendship with “Max”, such that she was more family to him than his children ever were, “Audrey” is definitely the rapacious villain of the piece, evicting the dressmaker and breaking up a beautiful friendship between “Jake” and her son “Antonio” (played winningly by Michael Barbieri). (previewed for BAMcinemaFest 2016) (6/3/2016)

    The Little Traitor (Seen at 2008 Israel Film Festival) (So, nu: my commentary forthcoming) (11/9/2009)

    Live And Become (Va, Vis Et Deviens) (Warning: white on white subtitles!) (So, nu: The most diverse, beautiful and non-stereotypical set of Jewish women characters that I’ve ever seen in one film! The Ethiopian Jewish mother, the Israeli adoptive mother, the sister and the teen-age and adult girlfriend, all with strong, independent personalities, points of view and passion.) (2/1/2008)

    Lives Well Lived - Of the 40 Californians aged 75 to 100 interviewed who are providing anodyne pearls of wisdom, I could only identify Marion Wolff, age 84, of San Luis Obispo, CA, as Jewish, because she detailed her experiences on the first Kindertransport, from Vienna, now a grandmother and Holocaust educator. (preview courtesy Shadow Distribution (4/15/2018)

    Looking for Zion (So, nu: Director Tamara Erde is the on-screen protagonist throughout the documentary, in tracking the locales’s of her grandfather’s archival photographs from 1930’s Palestine. The primary other Israeli Jewish woman heard/seen is her mother – and their bickering, fraught relationship as her mother refuses to talk about her parents. (more commentary forthcoming) (preview at 2018 Other Israel Film Festival) (10/26/2018)

    Loss (Vaters Land) (short) (An interview with Hannah Arendt begins the documentary.) (12/8/2010)

    Lost Embrace (El Abrazo partido)

    Lost Love Diaries (Yomanei Haahava Haavudim) (preview at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (A moving and involving documentary that illustrates many strains of women’s Holocaust survival and how memories surface decades after. A daughter helps a mother re-trace her pre-war life as a carefree adolescent in Holland with a beloved boyfriend she was making plans with for their future, but in fleeing the Nazis they separated and hid wherever they could, planning to meet at war’s end. Only his diary appears -- mysteriously sent to her on her wedding day just before her departure to Palestine, and as a widow 65 years later, finally able to deal with her survivors’ guilt, she tries to find what happened to him, and who sent it to her. The complicated, quixotic, emotionally draining, suspenseful research they undertake, the people they meet and manage to convince them to help, who will admit to what during the war, how they find photographs and documentation to support her memories, and the kibitzing between mother and daughter, are very much womens’ stories that should be re-made into a feature film.) (1/22/2012)

    Louder Than A Bomb (previewed at 2010 DocuWeeks) (So, nu: One of the four teens followed through the Chicago poetry slam competition is a Jewish guy, Adam Gottlieb, with proud, loving, supportive parents, who the reviewers all identify as suburban, though they do live in the city of Chicago. While he only specifies his father as Jewish, his wonderful poem "Maxwell Street" cites his grandmother as a role model for living with tolerance and peace in the ever-changing city. We took a similar tour with our machatunim of her father's natal neighborhood.) (8/5/2010/5/18/2011)

    Love & Mercy (So, nu: In the 1980’s, Brian Wilson suddenly announces to Melinda Ledbetter that he wants matzoh ball soup, that his first wife was Jewish and he first tasted it at her parents’ house, but they could get some at Canter’s (as seen in Deli Man). In the 1960’s sections, there’s no other indication that his first wife Marilyn (played by Erin Darkeis) is Jewish, other than that she’s brunette. He also tells Melinda he has two daughters who live with their mother, but back in the 1960’s we only hear Marilyn tell him she’s pregnant once. While the brief couple of scenes we see with them together are affectionate and supportive amidst pool parties and LSD trips, he later tells Melinda that they were married much too young.) (6/5/2015)

    Love and Other Catastrophes

    Love Comes Lately (So, nu: The Jewish women are strong individuals in this film, certainly the most refreshing American Jewish women on screen in this decade. Rhea Perlman, known more for playing an Italian-American waitress in TV’s Cheers, is in a dramatic role but still delightfully crusty in her jealousy and legitimate suspicions. Inspired by Singer’s complicated relationship with his second wife Alma, she gives her old lover a guilty reminder to carry around about how organized and helpful she is to him. Barbara Hershey is both sensual and intellectually convincing while explaining why he is no longer the subject of her thesis (particularly compared to her various lovers in Israel, where she decided to focus on modern Israeli literature instead). Tovah Feldshuh and Caroline Aaron, the latter playing a character not in the stories, portray the warmest, cliché-free Miami Jewish widows on film.). (6/15/2008)

    Love During Wartime (briefly reviewed at 2011 Tribeca Film Festival) (So, nu: While the Jewish mother and the German government are equally upset about finding her archived Nazi birth certificate that hid her Jewish identity then, the Jewish family falls into the common Israeli habit of giving Osama a paternalistic Hebraic nickname, "Assi", that he quickly sheds in Germany, despite anti-Muslim discrimination.) (4/22/2011)

    Love, Gilda (preview at 2018 Tribeca Film Festival) (11/10/2018)

    The Love Letter (Michtav Ahava Lam ‘em Sheli) (short) (preview at 2018 Tribeca Film Festival) As a student director, Atara Frisch picked an unstereotyped image of an Israeli Jewish woman for her central character in Gili Beit Halachmi as “Noa”, with long red curly hair. (Though that’s how French movies portray Jewish women.) “Noa” is also not the usual brown-nose martinet of Israeli women military bosses, but genuinely trying to shape up the new recruits. While her sergeant “Sapir” (Shir Abramov) is more surprised at the lesbian implication of the titular note, “Sapir” is also more wily to check the soldier’s Facebook page for relationship status to prove to her perhaps more naïve commander she’s being played, pushing “Noa” into a challenging confrontation that may fluster the commander more than the coolly smug soldier. (5/17/2018)

    Low Life (Les Amants de Low Life) (previewed at 2012 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Film Society of Lincoln Center) (commentary and review forthcoming) (2/29/2012)

    A Magical Substance Flows into Me

    Palestinian artist Jumana Manna tracked down contemporary exemplars of the “Oriental Music” recorded in 1937 by at the German-Jewish Hebrew University ethnomusicologist Robert Lachmann for the Palestine Broadcasting Service, filmed in their homes and usually in their kitchens, so any women seen are invariably cooking. Featuring musicians from the Moroccan, Kurdish, and Yemenite Jewish, communities, as well as the Samaritans, urban and rural Palestinians, Bedouins, and Coptic Christians, none of the coverage I’ve seen have focused on the Jews. While many reviews include Manna’s above still of singer Neta Elkayam, without identifying her – I posted on Facebook to confirm her accompanist there as Amit Hai Cohen and she responded: “Hello Nora, send Hello to Jumana, her film is a magic! and yes, its Amit playing the banjo.” (By saving all the musical credits of the past and present to the end of the hour-long documentary (the version at the Berlinale was evidently 10 minutes longer, so I wonder what was cut), the director made it that much more difficult for reviewers to note the performers’ past and present’s names). The beautiful and richly-voiced Elkayam is the only female performer in the film and the only one who learned her musical tradition from her grandmother. She speaks passionately about her Jewish grandmother from the Maghreb who felt more comfortable speaking in the Arabic dialect Darija than Hebrew, isolating herself into her house that became Morocco for her granddaughter, even welcoming in passing-by Arabs. (previewed at 2016 Art of the Real of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (updated 3/27/2016)

    Mahler on the Couch (Mahler auf der Couch) (briefly reviewed at 2011 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: via the English subtitles, there's only a brief reference that all the principals are Jewish, when Mahler's affronted sister Justine testifies to the camera about Alma's family's uncultured use of Yiddish. But she's really annoyed that Alma has rescued management of his business affairs so that he can concentrate on composing in peace. (Alma's mother similarly defends her.) Alma's frustration that she does this, and much more in assistance very well, while fending off his soprano ex-lover and devotedly raising their two daughters, at the expense of her own musical career rises above didactic feminist clichés, like Alma weeping: He wants a wife, not a colleague. Her passionate embodiment by Barbara Romaner, an actress known previously more for her theater work, makes this one of the loveliest, and most credible, portrayals of a romance between an older, successful mentor and a young, beautiful protégé I've seen on film, bolstered by the montage of her tutelage and competing courtships by other talented men, based on her actual diaries and their love letters, and her very sensual affair with Walter Gropius that foreshadows her future relationships with other leading Viennese artists. Instrument by instrument, in 49 pieces, the 1st, , adagio, movement of his 10th symphony that he wrote amidst their strife (as well as the adagietto from the 5th he gave her when they fell in love), plus her own compositions, are matched to her feelings, that Freud's probing is imagined to have made Mahler finally understand. Several of us left the screening singing Tom Lehrer's tribute, "Alma". (1/27/2011)

    Maid in Manhattan

    Making Trouble (Review forthcoming, as seen at the 2008 NY Jewish Film Festival at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (Produced by the Jewish Women’s Archive, a feminist answer to Broadway Danny Rose, let alone Woody Allen and his ilk, as Jackie Hoffman and other Jewish women comediennes sit around Katz’s to kibbitz, interspersed with expert interviews for archival and biographical looks at Molly Picon, Sophie Tucker, Fanny Brice, Joan Rivers, Gilda Radnor and Wendy Wasserstein.) (1/24/2008)

    Margaret (commentary and review forthcoming) (1/6/2012)

    Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did for Love (briefly reviewed at 2013 DOC NYC Round-up Part 1: Bio Docs) (Why is every interviewee so surprised that a Jewish mother would be OK with a son wanting to write for Broadway, or think that it was unusual for Jews to write Broadway musicals or the Great American Songbook?) (1/16/2014)

    Mary Lou (Tamid oto chalom) ( (briefly reviewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: Perhaps because the writer is female, the usual gay story stereotypes of mother-obsession, narcissism, a best girl friend --to avoid a certain non-PC term-- and drag queens, let alone closeted bullies, are softened by genuinely appealing characters. Because the music-obsessed, Monroe-esque mother is seen through the son’s eyes as he creates fantasy memories, she seems sympathetic as a show business wannabe rather than irresponsible, even as the truth about why she left him is quite touching. I was a bit surprised that just as the BFF conveniently turns 18, she falls in love with her –cringe--30-year-old, widowed boss. While the son channels Mom in the performance piece he creates about her, the drag queens are fun entertainers who are not women-mockers and have real, sometimes sad, lives when they take off their wigs. The boss even brings his young daughter to their show to demonstrate its wholesomeness.) (1/15/2012)

    The Matchmaker (Paam Hayiti) (So, nu: commentary forthcoming) (8/22/2012)

    A Matter of Size (Sipur Gadol) (briefly reviewed at Part 1 Recommendations of 2009 Tribeca Film Festival) (While the dieting coach is a controlling bitch, the other Jewish-Israeli women have refreshing elements. While the mother is Sephardic and observant enough to host Shabbat dinner, her cutting comments perfectly capture the mixed messages an overweight child gets about food, that it's both about love and criticism. And she too gets a romance. The plump girlfriend is a bit too understanding, but she's no pushover for anyone in her life.) (5/17/2009)

    Max Minsky and Me (Max Minsky und ich) (briefly reviewed at 2009 Annual New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (I haven't yet read Prince William, Maximilian Minsky, and Me that it is adapted from, but now I'm also curious about the other novels by transplanted Queens native Holly-Jane Rahlens (Becky Bernstein Goes Berlin, Mazel Tov in Las Vegas). She explained the female characters in the press notes: "I made my protagonist's mother a Jewish-American as myself, and though I'm not much of a practicing Jew, I know a bunch of American women in Berlin who are. They became for me Nelly's mother, Lucy Bloom-Edelmeister. . . [I]t struck me that there were few books about Jewish children in today's Germany. . . Using Nelly's bat mitzvah as a vehicle, Jewish culture could be conveyed in a simple and realistic fashion to a young audience that knew little about it. . .As in all 'fairy tales' you need a 'fair godmother', so I created Risa Ginsberg, a wise and reverent Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust, and her wacky friends Frau Goldfarb and Frau Levy. . .Risa. . originally a 75-year-old friend of the family, became a somewhat younger great aunt." Played by Monica Bleibtreu, she is explained in the film as having been a hidden child, while Nelly's grandmother escaped with their parents. The earthy elderly women are wonderfully supportive friends for Nelly, of her dreams and reconciling her heritage with her intellect. "Nelly" herself is one of the liveliest and believable portrayals of a Jewish girl I've seen in film, where she's also seen dealing with mean girls, dull Hebrew School, and unglossed family problems, as her beleaguered mom is sympathetic in her insistence on her daughter's American-style bat mitzvah. The author continues: "It's a world in which we can put our faith in the laws of science, yet still embrace our religious roots,. It's a world in which a city like Berlin with a dark past can become a haven of light." Director Anna Justice also related to the Jewish women through her paternal grandmother. ) (1/18/2009)

    Max Raabe in Israel (briefly in Reviewed: New York Jewish Film Festival 2013 of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: commentary forthcoming) (2/19/2013)

    Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - I haven’t yet read the novel to see how author Jesse Andrews changed his portrayal of leukemia-struck high schooler “Rachel Kushner” (played by blondish Olivia Cooke) and her still-bitter-over-her-philandering-ex-husband, worry-wart, single mother “Denise” (played by comedienne Molly Shannon). Other than several mentions that she’s Jewish, mostly for a, well, deadpan punch line, there was nothing I could see around their Pittsburgh house or in their conversations or activities that reflected their heritage, until a brief glimpse of her funeral. (11/29/2015)

    Meet the Fockers and Little Fockers (In this otherwise unfunny sit com movie series, the relaxed interplay between Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand is the prime reason to watch. It's at least creditable that she plays a Jewish woman who is a younger, hippie version of the sprightly sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer than the usual image of the uptight Jewish mother, who has a successful self-help TV show with the catch phrase of "Sexpress Yourself", in a Miami Beach nod to Madonna, is admired by her daughter-in-law and gets hit on by her son's best friend. Otherwise, her Jewish bona fides are mostly established by dropping a couple of Yiddish words here and there, along with a couple of Jewish star decorations around her grandchildren's Christmas tree. But I can't read a word of my notes to quote specifics.) (updated 1/4/2011)

    Megiddo (So, nu: Director Itzik Lerner explained that his documentary about Israel’s high-security jail for male political prisoners convicted of terrorism was originally shown on Israeli TV in three parts (one that focused on the minors), so the editing into one 90-minute feature may have lost useful details. Israeli women are seen as guards whose role primarily seems to be dealing with the women and families at visiting hours. While the rush of the wives (in traditional Muslim modest style, even two in complete chador) with children is a powerful rush of emotion with the prisoners, and for the audience to suddenly see them as family men, when their families leave, the men are riven to accuse the guards of extreme insensitivity to their wives. Angrily, they say their wives were forced to immodestly raise their skirts for a thorough search. A supervisor tries to find out if this happened to all the wives, and tries to explain that only those who set off a beep on the screening machine would have been searched more than others. Evidently after an investigation, amidst tensions in the prison over contraband cell phones, the women are asked in front of the other guards what happened. With either a different explanation or from a different situation, the woman explains she “had a feeling” about the women – and found illegal SIM cards being smuggled in their bras. The supervisor proudly gives her a commendation certificate. (seen at 2018 Other Israel Film Festival) (11/5/2018)

    Memoir of War (La douleur) (So, nu: There’s only one Jewish woman in the film. Just when Marguerite Duras (Mélanie Thierry) can no longer cope with waiting for her Communist husband Robert Antelme to return from a German labor camp (his experience of Buchenwald/Dachau society detailed in L'Espèce humaine (The Human Race)), her older friend Madame Katz (Shulamit Adar) shows up from Vichy France to remind her of a promise to stay at her apartment, and to symbolize that the Jews as the target of genocide had it even worse than the political prisoners. Even as the mother starts hearing that her crippled deported daughter would have been murdered immediately at an extermination facility, she keeps washing and ironing her daughter’s clothes in hopes that the horrible stories could be wrong.) (at 2018 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Film Society of Lincoln Center) (7/26/2018)

    The Memory Thief (emendations coming after 11/9/2008) (So, nu: The Jewish woman med student “Mira” (played by Rachel Miner) is refreshingly stereotype-free, professional and level-headed, charming and family-oriented as she sympathetically deals with the cuckoo in their nest.)

    Memories of the Eichmann Trial (seen at To Save and Project: The 12th MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation of Museum of Modern Art (So, nu: In addition to the fascinating perspectives of such Israeli women interviewed as one who testified at the trial and daughters of survivors, a unique interview is the wife of the brave photographer Henryk Ross who documented the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto, and is not usually included in tributes to the photography unit. He frequently cites that she made his actions possible, and, as they both lapse from Hebrew back into their native Polish when the memories get emotional, director David Perlov gradually focuses more on her as she details, while chain-smoking, how she dressed him to be able to hide the camera, cautioned him when it would be too risky at what times both for him and the workers who were covering for him, figured out how to wrap up the film canisters and bury them for post-war retrieval, and then, chillingly, that she realized when Eichmann came there were larger round-ups, and details first the men, then women, then children she knew taken away.

    Menashe/So nu: In this fictional portrait of a Hasidic widower father in Brooklyn (played by Menashe Lustig) who just wants to be a bit individualistic within the community, there are glimpses of women who are either complete conformists (who are appalled by his slight unconventionality) or rebels. While Lustig himself is Skver, there are discussions that different rabbis have different directives to their flock. Women (I couldn’t identify actresses by particular roles) are overheard discussing pro or con the ones who prohibit women from driving, or going to college, or will kick the children out of yeshiva for having a single parent or parent whose behavior is disapproved. All insist on marriage no later than the early ‘20’s – he laments being forced into an arranged marriage with the 18-year-old Israeli “Leah” who suffered from infertility and IVF (who paid for that?) for only one child, then suffered from a tumor, cared by her brother and sister-in-law through failing treatments. One potential bride for the titular character is described as having an eight-year-old and three-year-old twins but was finally able to get a divorce because her husband beat her. A young, very pregnant wife sits miserably with his neighbor “Mrs. Shimanovich” (played by Rose Gershkovich) helping to bake, who shrugs about her brood of eight: With a large family comes large tsouris., and gives him recipes he’s too incompetent to make. The film opens with a young, overwhelmed mother trying to control her kids at the supermarket she shops at three times a week – the camera pans from a baby to a toddler to four more climbing all around the shelves. (previewed at 2017 New Directors/New Films of Film Society of Lincoln Center/MoMA) ." (updated 7/28/2017)

    Mendy: A Question of Faith (DVD review – scroll down) (emendations coming after September 13, 2007) (The useful DVD commentary includes the director’s thoughts about the only Jewish woman character, “Mendy”s sister.)

    Merchant of Venice

    The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected) - So nu? While none of the male characters are explicitly Jewish, as so well portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Judd Hirsch, every audience member will presume they are, including their highly stylized NY Jew dialogue in decibel, emotion, and one-up-man-ship. But none of the women seem like even what I call “putative Jews”, whether the sister “Jean” as played as the humorless straight man by Elizabeth Marvel, the 18-year-old daughter “Eliza” played sensually by Grace Van Patten, let alone any of the patriarch’s decidedly goyish-seeming current and ex-wives, played by Candice Bergen as “Julia” and Emma Thompson as “Maureen” – so notice a pattern? The males in the family are played by actors who the audience will identify as Jews, but none of the females are. The possible ironic exception, both as actress and character, is Rebecca Miller, daughter of Arthur Miller, playing Hirsch’s curly-haired brunette daughter “Loretta Shapiro”. (previewed at 2017 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (updated 9/28/2017)

    Midnight in Paris: Is the portrayal of Gertrude Stein the most positive portrayal of a Jewish woman in a Woody Allen film? The Woody-stand in character respects her opinion as an editor and facilitator, even for romantic advice. However, Holland Cotter, in "Modern Is Modern Is ...", The New York Times, 6/2/2011, notes: "For better and for worse the pop-star Stein — the one played by Kathy Bates in the new Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris — is the one people have an easy time loving: the funny, feisty, bohemian mover and shaker who looks like a butch Buddha and is good for a quotation or two. But if we accept that Stein as our hero, what do lose? We lose Stein the great writer. And we lose the truth about the history of which she was a part." (6/6/2011)

    Mighty Fine (commentary forthcoming)

    Miral (commentary forthcoming) (4/3/2010)

    Miriam (6/8/2007)

    Mixed Feelings (In Guy Davidi’s documentary, at least half of acting teacher Amir Orian’s students in an about to be demolished old Tel Aviv Bauhaus-style building in a gentrifying area, including for a bare-bones production of Sartre’s No Exit, are women – and during the Gaza War they challenge his liberal attitudes by getting just as emotionally caught up in the country’s fervor as the men, including one whose husband had been called up from the reserves.) (seen at 2017 SR Socially Relevant Film Festival) (3/18/2017)

    Momma’s Man (Review forthcoming, as seen at the 2008 New Directors/New Films Series at Lincoln Center/MoMA) (Is writer/director Azazel Jacobs intending for the titular refuge to be The Jewish Mother by casting his mother Flo with his filmmaker father Ken Jacobs as the father? Is this yet another Philip Roth-ian rant on constantly being offered food and infantilization? But, to refer to yet another Jewish filmmaker with mother issues, wouldn’t a Jewish Mother press an obviously severely depressed adult son into therapy? Besides that she takes atypically little interest in her granddaughter, his defense will be that there wasn’t any Judaica in the apartment or Yiddishkeit spoken. I’ll take the odds that the majority of critics and viewers will assume the artsy, intellectual New Yorker is Jewish.) (3/15/2008)

    Moon in the 12th House (Yareach BeBayit 12) (Review forthcoming) As a debut, female director, Dorit Hakim presents two atypical Israeli Jewish sisters, played with real sororial chemistry: “Lenny” (Yaara Pelzig) devoted to their ill father at their house in a rural area while seducing their 16-year-old skateboarding neighbor, and “Mira” (Yuval Scharf) a party girl on the club scene with a drug-dealing boyfriend. (previewed at 2017 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum)

    Moonlight Mile (review forthcoming) (I caught up with this film on DVD as background for reviewing The Greatest, and was surprised that the grieving family here was ostensibly Jewish – though the only reference is to a rabbi officiating at the funeral. Jojo Floss (played by Susan Sarandon) instructs that the only reference to God in her daughter's service can be as "Yahweh", and apparently it is because she's Jewish that she deals with grief through humor.) (4/3/2010)

    Mortgage (Mashkanta) (Review forthcoming, as seen at the 2008 NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, an hour-long, delightful, very Israeli but stereotype-free take on O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi) (2/18/2008)

    Mothers of Bedford (review forthcoming) The specifics of the featured prison parenting programs were vague, but the benefit of allowing babies born in prison to stay with their mothers for 18 months was clear – and that the young woman participating while serving two years in the maximum security facility was Jewish. She was a drug addict who had resorted to robbery to feed her habit. Unlike the other prisoners featured, she has two parents, who seem nervously supportive, and the very heavyset Queens mother showed off a closet full of bargain-hunted, pink outfits in waiting for the arrival of her granddaughter and plans for Hanukkah gifts. While Melissa works very hard to get and stay healthy while in prison, once home it is striking how she and her mother become morbidly obese over several years after her release. Even as the daughter seems to be successfully working part-time and reenrolled in college, her wistful expression of never being able to talk to her mother hints at suppressions that are driving both to overeat.) (previewed at 2011 DOC NYC Festival) (11/9/2011)

    Mountain (Ha'har): the Haredi woman (“Zvia” played by Shani Klein), and the whole film is a headscratcher, let alone for all the awards its garnered. Review forthcoming) (previewed at 2016 New Directors/New Films of Film Society of Lincoln Center/MoMA) (3/10/2016) (3/10/2016)

    Mr. Bernstein: Directed by Francine Zuckerman, this charming and touching short is produced and co-written by Deb Filler, based on her memory of her 1974 encounter with “Lenny” (very miscast here) in New Zealand, with a message and challah from her survivor father. (previewed at 2017 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum)

    Mr. Rakowski (briefly reviewed at 2009 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (The Mrs. is only seem in a few photographs in this documentary, but this dead Jewish mother has a palpable presence, as the son and estranged father each show their devotion to her in startlingly different ways, the son in sobs, the father in loyalty.) (1/18/2009)

    Muhi - Generally Temporary and additional review Nu - Over the boy’s seven years stuck in medical and political limbo at Sheeba Medical Center - Tel HaShomer Hospital in Ramat Gan, Israel, east of Tel Aviv, (and its children’s hospital), a consistent caretaker and primary maternal figure for the Palestinian boy Muhi (who his Gaza family calls by his given name Muhammad) has been volunteer Tamar Baneth, who showers him with love, kisses, and attention when his mother and grandmother can’t get through checkpoints to visit him. Even his devoted grandfather completely trusts him with her when he has to leave. At least as seen on screen, she hasn’t seemed to make an effort to learn Arabic to help him be bi-lingual, even as his mother weeps that she can’t communicate with him because she doesn’t understand what he’s saying in Hebrew. (previewed at 2017 Human Rights Watch Film Festival at Film Society of Lincoln Center and IFC Center) (updated 7/30/2017)

    Munich

    Murder of a Hatmaker (Assassinat d'une modiste) (review forthcoming as viewed at the 2008 NY Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (Catherine Bernstein’s step by step biography of her great-aunt through her career as a high fashion milliner to the Final Solution is not just meticulous research – you can’t help but gasp at what she finds-- especially into the complicity of the French government, but a vivid portrait of a spirited Jewish woman entrepreneur up against first difficult and then impossible odds. Plus I was a bit freaked out when amongst the government documents shown on camera are the names of the dozen people arrested with her and a female “Mandel” is on the list. This is a useful contextual complement to Irène Némirovsky’s posthumously published novel Suite Française and Philippe Grimbert’s novelistic memoir Memory that is the basis for the feature film A Secret (Un Secret).) (1/9/2008)

    The Muses of Isaac Bashevis Singer (review forthcoming as previewed at 2015 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: What a terrific parade of interviews with the Jewish women translators around the world from the Yiddish of the randy Nobel laureate. The biggest surprise is how few of them know Yiddish, yet how closely they worked with him.) (2/26/2015)

    My Australia (Moja Australia) (Review forthcoming) (previewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (There has been a spate of documentaries (at this fest alone were Torn and The Moon is Jewish) and features about Eastern European men, particularly Poles, discovering that their mothers were Jewish, who either hid it to save their children during the Holocaust or to protect them from continuing anti-Semitism. They then have to ironically reconcile with the negative attitudes towards Jews they had assimilated into. But this film, inspired by the filmmaker, Ami Drozd, experience, is unusually sympathetic to the mother “Halina” (played by Aleksandra Poplawska). Misleading at least the younger son that they will be going to Australia, she manages to make aliyah to flee the rising difficulties for Jews in mid-1960’s Poland, then has to struggle with the language, culture, and finances in Israel, to the point where she has to give up her very resentful sons to have them raised in a kibbutz away from her, even as she tries to have a romantic life as well (though that might be for potential financial security as well), leaving them to deal with their lack of Jewish education, let alone circumcision. She also has an uneasy, unexplained encounter with an older man she recognizes as a leader in the ghetto, which brings up some upsetting memory of her Holocaust childhood.) (1/21/2012)

    My Father And The Man In Black (So, nu: For all the director’s angst about his father, his mother remains a cipher, particularly about how much she knew, but I just presume she’s Jewish.) (9/19/2013)

    The Man Who Stole Banksy (So, nu: For a film that focuses on the graffitti protest art on the security wall between Israel and the West Bank, there’s very little reference to Jews. But the first person who initially guides the film crew to a checkpoint is a Jewish woman friend who made aliyah many years earlier, Jaffa gallerist Monique Har-El. The camera focuses on her ring with a prominent Jewish star.) (preview at 2018 Tribeca Film Festival) (5/2/2018)

    My Father Evgeni (briefly reviewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: I appreciated seeing a film I had missed at the 2011 DOC NYC Festival, but it took awhile to reveal, in passing, that the filmmaker’s mother only confessed to him she was Jewish once the Soviet Union opened up a bit, which I then presumed was how he was able to emigrate early to New York.) (1/21/2012)

    My Father My Lord (Hofshat Kaits) (emendations coming after 11/16/2008) (So, nu: The role of the mother is a bit problematical until the end. She gently nags the husband throughout to have a talk with the son – but about what – some kind of illness? Some other kind of problem? Another pregnancy? Her very moving rebellion and grief-stricken anger would make the climax more organic if we knew more about her. As it is, she is very atypically isolated from other women in her community, which is one thing that Haredic women usually stress as an advantage to their lifestyle, the intimate sharing of children and daily chores with other women. While the director comes from a family of 20, his best friend was an only child and he drew on his memories of his friend and his mother for her portrayal.) (5/16/2008)

    My Führer: The Truly Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler (Mein Führer - Die Wirklich Wahrste Wahrheit Über Adolf Hitler) (So, nu: my commentary forthcoming) (10/21/2009)

    My Golden Days (Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse) (review forthcoming) (This is Arnaud Desplechin prequel of his 1996 My Sex Life... Or How I Got Into An Argument (Comment je me suis disputé... ma vie sexuelle), that I saw in a scratchy print at at 2006 retrospective of his work before I was so closely monitoring Jewish women characters in films, “Esther”, was played as an adult by Emmanuelle Devos, who is frequently cast as a Jewess. Here she is strikingly played as a teenager by Lou Roy-Lecollinet. If she is Jewish (and the director frequently includes Jewish female characters), and it’s not explicit, the auburn haired, sensuous-mouthed actress would be, by far, the sexiest Jewish girl ever seen in cinema. (previewed at 2015 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (10/2/2015)

    My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes (So, nu: my commentary forthcoming) (3/27/2015)

    My So-Called Enemy (briefly reviewed at 2011 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu commentary forthcoming on the Jewish women.)

    My Mexican Shiva (Morirse está en Hebreo) (commentary forthcoming as previewed at 2007 NY Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum)

    My Week With Marilyn (review forthcoming) (The press notes explain the Jewish woman character: “When Miller returns to the United States following a misunderstanding with his new bride, Monroe is left without any real friends apart from her acting coach and Method advocate Paula Strasberg, played by Zoë Wanamaker. ‘Paula was married to Lee Strasberg, who was the leading light of the Method school in New York,’ says Wanamaker. ‘She worked with Marilyn and I don’t think Olivier liked her being around that much. And I don’t think Arthur Miller liked her in the end, either. I didn‟t want her to be a monster, though. I wanted to try and give some warmth and reality to her, a genuine concern and love.’ Strasberg acts with her client‟s best interests at heart.” But one of the odd notes in an otherwise excellent production is that all the Americans around this “Marilyn” are played by Brits, whose accents only hit the mark erratically. So it was a bit startling when “Strasberg” in comforting her nervous client breaks out in a Yiddishism, calling her “bubbelah”, she hasn’t even had a New York accent, let alone any Yiddish inflection, or any other use of Yiddish or Jewish reference, yet implying that one of her roles is as a substitute Jewish mother.) (11/2/2011)

    My Wife is an Actress (Ma femme est une actrice)

    Naila and the Uprising - recounts the untold leadership role of women in The 1st Intifada of the late 1980’s. Produced under the auspices of Just Vision - “Comprised of an award-winning team of Palestinian, Israeli, North and South American journalists, human rights advocates and filmmakers, Just Vision documents and disseminates the stories of Palestinians and Israelis working to end the occupation and build a future of freedom, dignity and equality for everyone in the region.” When Naila was first imprisoned, the husband of his titular wife had reached out for help to the most prominent Israeli Jewish woman interviewed, from the press notes: “Roni Ben Efrat – Jerusalem - As a journalist and activist during the First Intifada, Roni Ben Efrat reported on human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. She was one of the founding members of the Israeli human rights group, Women in Black, in 1987. She wrote for a Hebrew biweekly, Derech- Hanitzatz, which was shut down under administrative law during the uprising. Roni spent 9 months in jail for her involvement with the publication.” This documentary will be included in Women War & Peace 2 on PBS in 2018. (preview at 2017 DOC NYC Festival) (brief review at 2018 Human Rights Watch Film Festival at Film Society of Lincoln Center and IFC Center) (updated 7/3/2018)

    The Names of Love (Le nom des gens) Director Michel Leclerc declares Woody Allen as his prime stylistic influence, but at least not in his portrayal of a Jewish woman as he uses a romantic comedy to deal with French issues of discrimination past and present. Instead, "Annette Martin neé Cohen" (played by Michèle Moretti) is a dyed-blonde denier of her family history as a rescued child from the French government round-ups of Jews that led directly to Auschwitz. Grateful for adoption from an orphanage into a mainstream French family and an avid adopter of technologies of the future that invariably fail, she has been so silent and in denial about her past (including avoiding TV documentaries and movies about the Holocaust), that her son vaguely imagines his grandparents "David and Sarah Cohen" to have been Greek. When he finally tries to confront her about her Jewish past, she pretty much drops dead. (7/2/2011)

    Nan Goldin - I Remember Your Face (previewed at 2014 Kino!) (So, nu: While she only mentions Jewishness of her family once, her memories of her older sister are quite moving. She’s an unusual image for a Jewish woman artist – flirting with younger men who want the career boost of being her assistants, trying to seduce gay men and women, looking back at how the sexual and substance ingestion freedom of her 1980’s lifestyle led to so many deaths, her drug addictions, and how her long artist residencies in Germany nourished her photography and exhibition styles.) (review forthcoming) (6/16/2014)

    Nana Unusually, director Serena Dykman documents how the Holocaust impacts three generations of women in her family: her Polish-born, Auschwitz-survivor grandmother Maryla Michalowski-Dyamant, her Brussels-born mother Alice, and her own re-tracing their steps, by reading her grandmother’s memoir (not available yet in English), frequently to the camera, and interviewing her friends and colleagues through her decades of Holocaust education. (Now 25, Dykman was 11 when her “Nana” died.) Dykman’s long blonde tresses are like her grandmother’s blonde hair – a characteristic that won her favorable attention from a SS officer on her first arrival, one of many lucky chances that helped keep her out of the gas chamber and alive. Dykman well edits together the many, many interviews her grandmother did for archives, journalists, TV, and radio, for an amazingly detailed description of her experiences from the German invasion through post-war years, that emphasizes the importance of female friendships for her survival, plus of her decades of outreach efforts with students of all ages. (preview courtesy of First Run Features) 4/13/2018)

    Naomi (Hitpartzut X) (previewed at 2011 Other Israel Film Festival) (So, nu: To an American viewer it’s not clear if the flame-haired titular adulterous wife (played by Melanie Peres) is an Israeli Jew or not, in the novel she had been the mother’s housecleaner, while in the film it seems presumed she’s a former student, like the student who fixates on him in the book. But the key is how the portrayal of the mother twists around every cinematic stereotype that doubtless would probably slip into cliché in an American version. “Ketty” roughly admits to having been a lousy wife and parent, and is so cynical about her son’s foolish infatuation to have married late in life a younger, cheating wife that she doesn’t bat an eye to help him cover up her murder, let alone to do so by disturbing the grave of another Jewish woman, his former kindergarten teacher. Faithful to the novel, despite dropping the astronomical metaphor of an X-ray burst, about a dying neutron star destroying a quieter paired star, which could apply as much to the marriage as the mother/son bond, she goes even further to take on a Jewish mother’s guilt with shockingly unscrupulous redemption beyond the grave that manages to spookily go beyond caricature. (11/26/2011)

    A Nazi Legacy: What Our Fathers Did (previewed at 2015 Tribeca Film Festival) (So, nu: Jewish women are palpably absent from these memories – other than their furs in the Krakow ghetto and in pre-war graves, reflecting the grandfather’s silence about his past.) (4/29/2015)

    Necktie Youth (After barely sitting through this dystopian view of over-privileged black and white youth drinking and drugging, and sometimes depressively killing themselves, in the expensive northern suburbs of Johannesburg, South Africa, what the writer/director Sibs Shongwe-La Mer describes as “the wealthiest square mile of the African continent”, I was surprised at his identification in the press notes of two young long-haired white women who end up languidly lounging in a cuddly, fireside threesome with black “Jabz” (played by Bonko Khoza) as “the home (and the arms) of beautiful bikini-clad Jewish twins Tali [played by Giovanna Winetzki] and Rafi” [played by Ricci-Lee Kalish] – when there is zero indication from them or in their as-expensive-as-any-other-house that they’re Jewish -- unless that flashed by when I dozed off, so that I wasn’t even aware they had names, though, in fairness, the print I previewed at 2015 Tribeca Film Festival didn’t have subtitles that were added later, so maybe I missed something? (4/10/2015)

    Next To Her (At Li Layla) (review forthcoming) (seen at 2015 Israel Film Center Festival) (Liron Ben-Shlush not only co-stars as “Rachel/Chellie”, but she co-wrote the script inspired by her personal experiences with her mentally challenged sister. Dana Ivgy as her sister “Gabby”, goes well beyond just a Hollywood Rain Man, with even her eyes. The frankness is not just in the sexuality of both sisters and their partners, but in showing the harried life of a caregiver, and everyone in their circle, from teachers, classmates to neighbors. You feel the exhaustion and frustration!) (10/9/2015)

    Next Year in Jerusalem (A good concept of following way over 80 year old nursing home residents in preparation and on a trip to Israel is filmed with only the most superfluous insights and almost no background on the women beyond their current obvious frailties serves mostly to be just be a promotion for the sponsoring Jewish Home for the Elderly in Fairfield County, CT, now known as Jewish Senior Services, like a senior citizen version of the young-oriented Birthright Israel that my son participated in, though it turns out that most of the Jewish participants had been to Israel before, and seems of more significance to the non-Jews with them. Director/cameraman David Gaynes’s failure to learn much about them is glaring with the woman who has a thick French accent who emotionally, but only obliquely, reveals on the visit to Yad Vashem that she lived in Belgium during the war.) (5/15/2014)

    New York, I Love You
    Even though the elderly couple in Brighton Beach seemed startlingly like my grandparents as they would go along practically the same streets to the boardwalk from a very similar apartment building, I hesitated to presume that "Mitzie" and "Abe" in Joshua Marston's vignette were necessarily Jewish until I read his comments in the press notes: "[A] memory of my own grandparents contributed to the creation of this piece. . .At 82, Cloris Leachman . . . was completely committed to creating a character, which meant spending time with a Jewish family in Brooklyn, working on an accent, developing a hair style. She truly formed her on-screen character."
    Though at first seeming too much like Renée Zellweger in A Price Above Rubies, Natalie Portman beautifully went with the surprising twist in Mira Nair's cross-cultural Diamond District-to-Hasidic-wedding vignette. Portman was quoted in the press notes: “Although I’m Jewish, I am not very religious, so this was a whole new world for me to investigate. . .It was very intriguing to me how Orthodox Jews have created their own cultural bubble inside the city and I admire that kind of self-stewardship. But I think the piece also reflects the unexpected paths that cross in the city. For example, my great- grandfather was a Ukrainian-Jewish immigrant living in Brooklyn at the turn-of-the-century and yet, he spoke Mandarin because he did door-to-door sales in Chinatown. [My grandfather had a similar experience, going to elementary school in Chinatown.] New York is astonishing in that way, and this story captures that special quality of connection.” Co-star Irrfan Khan, playing a Jain diamond cutter, also commented: “When my character sees this Hasidic bride’s shaved head for the first time, he sees an innocent diamond. He is taken most of all with her vulnerability.” (updated 10/14/2009)


    Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (review forthcoming) (I haven’t yet read the book it was based on by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan) Newsweek’s David Ansen in “Love Me, Love My Mix Tape”, 10/6/2008, described the titular young woman as : “smart, brunette and Jewish, with impeccable taste in indie rock bands. As the critic Ruby Rich whispered to me during the screening: ‘At last a movie that makes being Jewish sexy!’”; Stuart Klawans kvells even more about her as a new Jewish icon. The blonde Mean Girl taunts “Norah Silverberg” (played more than winningly by Kat Dennings née the Jewishly exposed Katherine Litwack) with the stereotype of Jewish women’s frigidity - Word on the street is you can’t have an orgasm, but “Norah” finds that “Nick O’Leary” shares more than her musical values: I don’t drink alcohol. Are you straight-edged like I am? and helps her decide to accept her admission into Brown U., While she confusingly goes to Sacred Heart High School in Englewood, NJ, which doesn’t seem quite as Christian as the school of the Jewish girl in Saved!, she is comfortable in her Jewish identity, including celebrating Hanukkah over Christmas, and she expresses it in this very sweet, climactic (literally) exchange: “Norah”: There's this part of Judaism that I like. Tikkun Olam. It says that the world is broken into pieces and everyone has to find it “Nick”: Maybe we don't have to find it. Maybe we are the pieces. “Norah”: Nick? I'm coming in... (metaphorically and literally) Too bad that her sometime-boyfriend “Tal” (played by Jay Baruchel, who frequently portrays Jewish geeks, playing on his father’s heritage) has such pushy Jewish, swaggering pseudo-Israeli identity markers, from referring to the Jewish camp they attended together and his self-designed CD with a big Star of David embossed over the words “Irony and Zionism”. He is even more obnoxious when it’s revealed that he’s dating her because she’s “Ira Silverberg’s daughter”, a music biz honcho, a connection that breezily gets her into all the cool venues. Even worse, he condescendingly sees her in the most un-sexy put-down in teen culture: You’re going to be an amazing mother someday. (10/24/2008)

    Nicky’s Family (review forthcoming) (Another film about the Kindertransport, this one aimed at young people, with a lot of women participants telling their experiences, several who have already testified in other films. I am sympathetic as an elderly member of our synagogue was a grateful child saved on such a train, but the effort to aim at children by encouraging any kind of “pay it forward” charitable efforts, such as sending toys to poor kids in Cambodia and an uncomfortable little kid donating her hair to Locks of Love, as being the equivalent of saving Jewish children is insulting and demeaning to altruism. Wouldn’t at least anti-bully efforts, say, or against prejudice be more relevant?) (updated 8/15/2013)

    Nina’s Home (La Maison de Nina) (commentary forthcoming as viewed at the 2007 NY Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum, but I’m ashamed to say that I read the start time wrong so came in late.)

    Nina's Tragedies (Ha-Asonot Shel Nina)

    Noah (review forthcoming) (For all the Christian brouhaha as if the Book of Genesis is theirs and not of Jewish origin, Darren Aronofsky’s (with co-writer Ari Handel) moral cli-fi interpretation gives unusual, and textually justifiable, central emphasis to the women’s roles in this apocalypse, as Pentateuchal matriarchs par excellence who will do anything to have and protect their children, Noah’s wife, given the scholar’s appellation of “Naameh” (played by Jennifer Connelly) and her adopted/daughter-in-law “Il-La” (played by Emma Watson). He explained in the press notes: “What we did was to start with the actual text of Genesis, then expand that into a family drama.” (6/6/2014)

    Nobody’s Business (review forthcoming) (While mostly focusing on the filmmaker’s father, his blonde mother is frank about how her foreign, Sephardic background made her seem exotic to her future husband, and how she married to get away from her strict Egyptian-born father, but how the cultural differences doomed the marriage, with her interest in performing. “I waited 17 years, but I just had to get out of that marriage.” She discusses what in their personalities she thinks she gave to him and his sister: “To smile readily is not a Berliner trait.” His sister talks about looking out for her parents, and her brother, while the father bitterly blames the wife for the divorce and that he has no one now to care for him. The father, the 10th of 11 surviving children, has very fond memories of his loving mother.) (9/6/2012)

    No Home Movie (review forthcoming, but ignore negative commentary by 1) the young; 2) those with male sensibilities; 3) most gentiles) No go Skype your mother! (Well, show her a few times how to do online video chats.) (previewed at 2015 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (9/26/2015)

    No Man’s Land (Terra de Ninguém) (review forthcoming) (seen at MoMA’s 2013 Documentary Fortnight) (Towards the end of Paulo de Figueiredo’s calm, detailed, if finally questionable, recall directly to the camera of Salomé Lamas about the Portuguese military and mercenary assignments he carried out in Africa, Europe, and Central and South America, including assassinations, he smilingly recalls his happy childhood in colonial Angola—with his German-Jewish mother, in a technically bigamist marriage as his father’s first marriage had been in a Catholic Church in Portugal.) (2/24/2013)

    No Place On Earth (So, nu: The women’s perspectives on the Holocaust, as children and the credit given the matriarch, are especially moving in this documentary.) Also reviewed on page 14 of New Hampshire Jewish Film Buzz) (updated 1/3/2014)

    Norman Lear: Just Another Version Of You (review forthcoming) Directors Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing made a fond episode of PBS’s American Masters, with the usual encomiums and visual flare. While he speaks movingly of his first childhood exposure to anti-Semitism in catching on the radio a speech by Father Coughlin, there is only passing mention of Jewish women in his life. Oddly lacking much overlap with the family research revealed earlier in 2016 on PBS’s Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., where he spoke emotionally about the “Bubbe” who raised him, his mother is seen in a few photographs and mentioned in passing (recording the audio version of his recent autobiography) as warning his father against his shadey business partners and dismissing his plaint of a lack of childhood memories of her because he was farmed out to uncles and his grandparents when she couldn’t afford to care for him. She’s also briefly seen shocked at his twin babies in his very late years. (With his 3rd wife Lyn, with no implication if she’s Jewish.) More time is spent on who Wikipedia says was actually his second wife Frances, including an old interview with her where she clarifies how she was similar to the titular character of one of his groundbreaking sitcoms Maude, specifically citing that both are Jewish. Her prominent activism in the women’s rights movement, including working for the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment, is implied as a precursor for his own liberal campaigns. One of his older daughters shares a few memories, particularly of her mother, and her increasing absences from the family, which her father tearfully attributes to manic depression that wasn’t diagnosed until she was in her ‘50’s. As to any other Jewish women heard, Lena Dunham (creator of Girls) is excited to meet him and present him with an award. (6/29/2016)

    Norman: The Moderate Rise And Tragic Fall Of A New York Fixer Nu: Writer/director Joseph Cedar fills our his very Jewish, as well as very New York and Israeli, story with secondary women – though they are mostly on the sidelines, and with little screen time, until one brings down “Norman”. The politician’s curly-haired gatekeeper/assistant “Hanna” (Neta Riskin) and his wife “Naomi Eshel” (played by Tali Sharon) find “Norman”s constant phone calls annoying and try to block him – until they want help get his son into Harvard (which he does, amidst the closing montage of favors completed). The wives of the rich just glowered at him until the AIPAC-like conference when charity fundraisers turn obsequious. But most significant for the “tragic fall” of the plot is pretty and smart “Alex Green” as an attorney in the Israeli Embassy (Consul?) who first tries to ignore him, then flatters him to keep charting out his back-room political deals, then back in New York boxes him in to threaten his and the prime minister’s career (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg in what I think is her first putative Jewish role, which I thought of as a tribute to her father Serge, as seen in Gainsbourg, Je t'Aime... Moi Non Plus (Gainsbourg - Vie héroïque). (5/12/2017)

    No Strings Attached (my commentary forthcoming)
    Carina Chocano did not describe the lead character as Jewish in her piece “’Tough, Cold, Terse, Taciturn and Prone to Not Saying Goodbye When They Hang Up the Phone’”, in The New York Times Magazine, 7/1/2011, but. . .: “’Strong female character’” is one of those shorthand memes that has leached into the cultural groundwater and spawned all kinds of cinematic clichés: alpha professionals whose laserlike focus on career advancement has turned them into grim, celibate automatons . . . It has resulted in characters like Natalie Portman’s in No Strings Attached. . .”
    Vs. the almost identical Friends With Benefits: While Natalie Portman’s “Emma”, in the first, is given an explicitly Jewish scene with her family, Mila Kunis’ “Jamie” is much more ambiguous, with a hippie mother (played by Patricia Clarkson) who vaguely recalls various lovers as her possible birth father as “olive-skinned”. She bluffs her way into a models’ photo shoot by listing how photoshopable she is, including: My nose will look more Christian. Probably more a New York reference than Jewish, her L.A. boyfriend muses that his family will think she’s a carny because of her fast talking. But in a Q and A in New York Magazine’s Vulture with Bennett Marcus, 7/19/2011, two of the writers, David Newman and Keith Merryman, in talking about being inspired by their “straight, single girlfriends and what they were going through”, explain how she began more Jewish: “Newman: We had started with characters. We had a woman with a fear of abandonment [which doesn’t come through, as she seems more gay guy than credible woman] and a man with a fear of committment. . .We also had this theory about Jewish romantic comedies and Christian romantic comedies; in Christian romantic comedies, all the barriers are external, like you make a bet that in ten days you can fall in love. We wanted to do a Jewish romantic comedy, where the barriers were internal, and so Friends With Benefits, when we thought of it, was a big enough premise to make a movie, but small enough where they could still be real humans. . . Q: That's interesting. But then you didn't cast Jews. Newman: Oh, you know, we tried. (Laughs) (Ed note: Actually, Mila Kunis counts herself among the chosen people.)” (updated 7/24/2011)


    Notre Musique

    November (So, nu: It's a bit odd that writer Benjamin Brand wrote the lead character to be "Sophie Jacobs" as there's barely anything Jewish about her. Perhaps she's only Jewish in order to have an annoying Jewish mother, who first comes across as selfish and aggressive, until mellowing into maternal care.) (7/30/2005)

    Nowhere in Africa (Nirgendwo in Afrika) (So, nu: sort of Mom as Queen Esther -- the WWII equivalent of a Valley Girl grows up emotionally in Africa, with a very frank look at her conflicted marriage, while her daughter grows up chronologically) (updated 7/24/2011)

    Numbered (reviewed briefly in Reviewed: New York Jewish Film Festival 2013 of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: commentary forthcoming.) (2/9/2013)

    Obvious Child (previewed at 2014 New Directors/New Films of Film Society of Lincoln Center/MoMA) (So, nu: commentary forthcoming on the very non-stereotypical Jewish mother and daughter, but first I have to see the 2009 short film by the same writer/director and some of the cast for comparison.) (3/21/2014)

    Off and Running (also briefly reviewed at Part 1 Recommendations of 2009 Tribeca Film Festival) (51/29/2009) (So, nu: Though the director said in Q & A after a screening that she was interested in the mothers, one American-born, the other Israeli, as fellow lesbians, she met them when their adopted, multi-racial children attended the Hannah Senesh Community Day School in Brooklyn where she taught. It is not clear by the end of the documentary if the kids have rejected their sense of Jewish identity when they drew closer to their birth identities, or if they were pushed away by the sense of unwelcoming they felt from the Jewish community, though the whole family is shown marking various Jewish holidays, including Hanukkah and Rosh ha Shanah. Notably, the lighter-skinned brother reacts very differently. The daughter, who did not bring any Jewish friends with her to several fest screenings, reported that the mothers were very uncomfortable at the premiere Q & A and left the city during the rest of the fest.) (5/17/2009) (To be broadcast on PBS's POV in 2010.)

    O Jerusalem (So, nu: I felt awful that I nearly broke out laughing when one girlfriend – I can’t tell apart any of them, let alone the Jewish from the non-Jewish ones -- goes on about being raped by SS officers in the camps, sorry but it's that kind of melodrama that each character is a Job combination of so many individuals that they are unbelievable stick figures, even if these separate incidents did happen as vividly described in the non-fiction book. Just not to these people. If one more person cried and dropped to their knees that a loved one had just been killed in battle. . .) (10/17/2007)

    Oma and Bella (previewed at 2012 DOC NYC Festival) (briefly in Reviewed: New York Jewish Film Festival 2013 of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: my review and commentary forthcoming. The director/granddaughter filmed while a student at the School of Visual Arts, during a summer that was the hottest in Berlin until the following summer when I visited the city, so the heat limited their concentration and her questions. I had wanted to see this documentary when it was showing there then, but without English subtitles. The perspectives of these two women survivors, originally from Lithuania and Poland, about liberation by the Russians and D.P. odyssey before ending up having to learn and live with the language of their captors is unique. At the screening, I bought a copy of their cookbook. While Oscilloscope Laboratories has picked up the film, oddly only for distribugtion at festivals and various on demand formats.) (11/17/2012)

    Once I Entered a Garden (Nichnasti pa'am lagan) (seen at MoMA’s 2013 Documentary Fortnight) (Mizrahi director Avi Mograbi and his friend/Arabic teacher Ali El Azhar just mention in passing that the latter’s ex-wife is a Jewish Israeli, who is not seen in the film. His feisty young daughter Yasmine is proud that she’s the best one in her Arabic class at school, but reports getting taunted by her classmates when they find out her father is an Israeli Arab. Mograbi shows photos from his grandparents and great-grandparents’ origins in Damscus and Beirut, and, in interspersed fictional letters voiced-over in French by Israeli Arab actress Hiam Abbass, imagines the lonely, difficult, and finally exiled life of a Jewish lover left behind when the family moved to Tel Aviv in the 1930’s.) (2/25/2013)

    One Day You’ll Understand (Plus Tard, Tu Comprendras) (So, nu: This is screen legend Jeanne Moreau’s 2nd film for Gitai, though I’m not sure if the earlier, lawyer role was a Jewish one. It was a touching that her “Rivka” confesses her Jewish identity to her young grandchildren, and ironic that she carefully gives them long-hidden souvenirs that they can’t comprehend their significance at the same time her son is madly searching for such evidence. But her son recognizes that she should have a Jewish funeral, even if he is very awkward at following the rabbi’s instructions to his Catholic family. The scene in the archives is virtually taken in look and sound from Catherine Bernstein’s Murder of a Hatmaker (Assassinat d'une modiste).) (emendations coming after 4/31/2008) (10/31/2008)

    One Night With The King (commentary forthcoming but fairly ridiculous re-telling of the Megillah as a love story)

    One of Us (So, nu: In the mangled edit of my review, that the Hasidic community’s claim of needing to replace their six million killed goes unchallenged – not all the Jewish victims of the Holocaust were Hasidic by any means. Other documentaries, including on TV, have only emphasized the ecstatic, unquestioning spirituality of Hasidism and always conclude with an obediently happy wedding. For any of the three people profiled, the only even implied alternative religious observance is the mother’s attendance at an egalitarian Jewish renewal service with a very supportive Footsteps counselor, and no other Jewish observance is even raised with the judge to help qualify as “status quo” for her children. Her experience is not unique; the wife of a baal teshuva second cousin once removed of mine went through the same pattern, losing up through a state’s highest court and then took extreme action with their four children in order to leave Hasidism and what she also claimed was abuse. (previewed for 2017 Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival) (10/22/2017)
    In January 2018, the mother publicly came out as gay. She later told journalists that the filmmakers were aware of her lesbian identification, and that distributor Netflix who requested that information be deleted from the documentary.


    One Week and a Day (Shavua ve Yom) Debut Israeli director Asaph Polonsky is ostensibly focusing on a middle-aged couple the Spivaks on the day after they finished sitting shiva for their adult son, who died in a hospice of an unspecified illness, but it’s more about the at loose ends husband “Eyal” (Shai Aviv), than the more practical wife “Vicky” (Evgenia Dodina). The husband has various run ins with his neighbor’s wife, with whom he’s had a strained relationship, and neglects to follow-up on his wife’s instructions regarding details with the hospice and cemetery, and is more moved by a stranger’s eulogy for his sister in the adjoining grave than anything his wife has said. The wife wants to go back to her teaching job already, but she was still being replaced by a young man, who isn’t following her curriculum. A student she is tutoring is spooked about shiva, but does come. (seen courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories) (12/1/2017)

    Only Human (Seres queridos) (So, nu: Norma Aleandro is so marvelous as the beleaguered mother of adult children each with their own mishagas that I'll forgive the usual older woman jokes about sexual frustration, and anyway they are funny.) (7/12/2006)

    Operator Lior Zalmanson’s short re-plays themes done with more sturm und drang in recent features, particularly Good Kill and Eye in the Sky, to treat the life and death decisions of a single-mother civilian drone pilot contractor for the military (played by Noa Biron) as just doing her job. As usual, her teen son is shown doing similar attacks on his computer games, I think I missed another ironic plot point, even watching it twice. (seen at 2016 Tribeca Film Festival) (5/2/2016)

    The Optimists (So, nu: The unrelievedly idealistic leadership and staff at Kibbutz Ketura in the southern Israel desert include evidently American women who seem like determined sales people/fundraisers. (details forthcoming) (preview at 2018 Other Israel Film Festival) (10/26/2018)

    Ordinary Miracles: The Photo League’s New York (So, nu: I haven’t yet catalogued all the Jewish women members of the Photo League in general, or who are featured in this documentary.) (6/23/2012)

    Or (My Treasure) (Review forthcoming) (seen at Israel at 60 at Lincoln Center) The first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion is reputed to have said: “We will know we have become a normal country when Jewish thieves and Jewish prostitutes conduct their business in Hebrew." Or it’s variously attributed that Chaim Nachman Bialik, the poet of the Hebrew renaissance, wrote, in various translation claims, something like ''We will be a normal state when we have the first Hebrew [-speaking? Sometimes translated as Jewish] prostitute, the first Hebrew thief and the first Hebrew policeman guarding the first Hebrew jail.'' I can’t verify the accuracy or original source of any version of either statement. But this moving study of co-dependence between a desperate mother and daughter is a frank portrait of the result. Another fearless, stunning performance by Ronit Elkabetz, matched by the very poignant up and comer Dana Ivgy. I look forward to the future work of director Keren Yedaya and co-writer Sari Ezouz since this 2004 heart-wrencher. (updated 6/20/2008)

    OSS 117 – Lost in Rio (Rio ne répond plus) (previewed at 2010 Rendez-Vous with French Film at Film Society of Lincoln Center) (Another in the ongoing French series of James Bond spoofs, this 1967-set one is even more in the Austin Powers vein. Louise Monot looks very much like Jill St. John as the sexy, red-headed Mossad agent "Lt. Col. Dolorès Koulechov" who challenges OSS's stereotypes about Jews and about women on their joint Nazi-hunting mission. She isn't won over by 117's old-school charms until the end. Director/co-writer Michel Hazanavicius described the actress and character: "She had to bring the right amount of seriouisness, and yet leave enough room for comedy; she stands as a counterbalance to OSS's stupidity, yet at the same time, she cannot be seen to be systematically casting judgment in order for the audience to maintain its sympathy for the couple. I think she perfectly succeeded in attaining that equilibrium, between, seductress, woman of action and whiteface clown." In the bit awkwardly-translated press notes, the actress described the character: "The main stake was not to make Dolores too harsh and too serious for the simple reason she is a Mossad agent. That would have made her unpleasant. . .The style, the make-up, the hair color and also the long orange nails helped me build Dorores' character. . .But Dolores with her masculine side and her strong personality, does not quite resemble the girls from that time. That does not prevent her from being sexy. . .Dolores is the very voice of modernity. She speaks the truth. She is the only one who has a bit of distance from all the insanity, and I like all of my lines. . . In the beginning, I would often start with too high-pitched of a voice and Michel would ask me to make it deeper. A deep voice is more imposing and sexier at the same time." As an aside here, the Nazi version of Shylock's speech from Merchant of Venice was a real giggle.) (2/20/2010)

    The Other Son (Le Fils De L’autre) (Nu: At the screening I attended, a Very Left Wing Colleague loudly complained that she found the casting not credible, that the switched kids "didn't look Jewish", or did the Israeli family for that matter. When I tried to politely point out that perhaps her frame of reference is NYC Ashkenazi Jews and not the Middle Eastern diversity that is the Israeli population, she got furious at me. Particularly with the red-haired French Jewish mother –looking like my siblings--and her swarthy sabra husband, I thought the casting subtly got across the sibling heritage of Ishmael/Isaac, even as everybody is just too gosh-darned nice.) (10/28/2012)

    The Other Woman : (So, nu : Author Ayelet Waldman is known for writing about Jewish women and mothers (though I admit I have to catch up with her "Mommy-Track" mystery series), but through Don Roos' adaptation of her Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, there is a jarring transformation – the sympathetic Jewish characters become just New Yorkers and the bitter shiksa becomes Jewish! In the book, which the author credits Natalie Portman's executive producing partner Abby Wolf-Weis for championing, the prestigious nursery school at the center of the story is at the 92nd St YM-YWHA, and the central woman constantly justifies her adulterous love for the husband as beshert, the destined love of her life. The husband's Sephardic Syrian family is richly described in their looks and his mother's sympathy and cuisine, and contrasted with the Ashkenazic dishes the younger woman grew up cooking. When the young son (and it's odd that most critics don't realize he's in nursery school) reports the first wife's callous interpretation of Jewish law pertaining to dead infants, her ignorant rigidity, that a newborn isn't really a person, is attributed to her not being Jewish (and the second wife tartly rejoins to the boy he's technically not even Jewish). But the same interchange is turned around in the film – that claim is the only reference to any cultural or religious aspect of Judaism, or even Jewishness, so the shrew is therefore presumed to be Jewish, and therefore knowledgeable. This image reinforces intermarriage stereotypes in the movies-- that a handsome, successful Jewish man would reject his older, frigid Jewish wife for the younger, beautiful, sexy non-Jew – when the book actually presented the opposite case! (2/4/2011)

    Other Israel Film Festival in 2008 in New York (So, nu : Jewish women are only glimpsed in two of the documentaries I screened that focus on Israeli Arabs. They seem to be friendly and encouraging co-participants in the Miss Israel contest in Lady Kul el Arab (shown on PBS's Wide Angle as Contestant No. 2). But a Jewish woman is less benign in Heart of Jenin (Das Herz von Jenin), where the Orthodox mother of the little girl saved by an organ donation from a Palestinian boy killed by Israeli troops is restricted in expressing her gratitude to the father by the strict gender restrictions of both their cultures, though her husband and the Israeli-resident uncle aggravate an already awkward situation that she isn’t allowed to help ameliorate. (emendations coming after 5/7/2009))

    Other Israel Film Festival in 2009 in New York (So, nu : commentary forthcoming on the Jewish women in the documentaries The Invisible, SAZ–The Palestinian Rapper for Change and Voices from El Sayed.) (11/12/2009)

    Our City Dreams Though her ethnic identity is never referenced, among the five women artists featured is Nancy Spero. (2/4/2009)

    Our Disappeared (Nuestros desaparecidos) (briefly reviewed at 2009 Annual New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (It's a mother who makes the link between the Argentine military dictatorship and the Nazis when she remembers that when a torturer cruelly brought her child home for a last visit he playfully asked her to play a Wagner record for him.) (See more background from its PBS broadcast.) (1/18/2009)

    Out In The Dark (Alata) (Dhalam) (So, nu: The lawyer’s mother “Rina Schaefer” (played by Cheli Goldenberg) complains that her son is throwing his sexual orientation “in her face” by bringing his boyfriend over for Shabbat dinner, even as she claims to her son that she’s accepted him as he is. The Palestinian psych grad student has to insist on empathy from the Israeli female social workers/psychologists for a Palestinian patient who is struggling with the stress of an imprisoned husband, among other difficulties.) (10/11/2013)

    The Outrageous Sophie Tucker (previewed through 2014 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: There’s surprisingly few references to her Jewish identity – her observant parents (her mother is seen in photographs), singing in their restaurant, reaching out to Jewish vaudeville performers, her popular recording of “Yiddishe Momme”, and then her support of Israel and Brandeis. If I remember correctly from her brief bio in Making Trouble, which instead emphasized her ribald humor, the movie theaters where she started singing entr’acte were Yiddish. Also included are her close personal friendships with non-Jewish women, including a Chinese doctor (which seems like the Eleanor Roosevelt in the Cook biographies). While virtually all histories of the Jewish influence on male singers and songwriters of the American Popular Songbook invariably point to a father who was a cantor and the bluesy minor keys of prayer services, I could find tantalizing evidence that her influences might have been crossing paths with great Southern women blues belters on vaudeville tours that extended into the Midwest – that I hope can be researched in the future.) (7/25/2015)

    Over Your Cities The Grass Will Grow (So, nu: German artist Anselm Kiefer’s fascination with Judaic symbols, particularly female ones, isn’t explained, though he does check usage of Hebrew terms with an Israeli assistant. (Nowhere is it said in this documentary that in earlier work he’s played on images of Nazis and the Holocaust as haunting his country’s landscape.) His references to shekhinah and the mythic destructive power of Lilith as a source for this work, let alone the Biblical allusion in the title, are so elusive that many reviewers cite them inaccurately. Maybe if his labels had been translated in the subtitles that would be clearer. The concrete towers cast from shipping containers reminded me of Paolo Soleri’s unfinished “Arcosanti” city in the Arizona desert, that I had intended to work on in Summer 1971 – until I started dating my husband instead.) (8/10/2011)

    Palindromes (So, nu: While the first name of the central 13-year-old conveniently represents the title, writer/director Todd Solondz in his production notes only identifies "Aviva Victor" as coming from a "secular liberal" family, but they are clearly Jewish as well as pro-abortion and materialistic, as in his film Welcome to the Dollhouse whose "Dawn Wiener" has a morbid return here, to contrast them with a Pentecostal, and equally hypocritical, anti-abortion family.)

    Paper Dolls

    Papirosen (briefly reviewed in Reviewed: New York Jewish Film Festival 2013 of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: commentary forthcoming)

    Parental Guidance (review forthcoming from watching the DVD I got cheap on sale because I didn’t bother seeing it in a theater)

    Partly Private (briefly reviewed at Part 3 Family Ties Around The World of 2009 Tribeca Film Festival) (How superficial to not check what was actually said in Sex and the City about non and circumcised members when interviewing women fans of the show, let alone not including any health stats. But the director clearly got more and more rigidly (ha ha) anti-circumcision by the end of the film, like her father, as she seemed to think giving in to her husband's preference to follow tradition would make her less of a feminist. See it for comparison of the same issues, but with a gay man's perspective in Quest for the Missing Piece) (5/17/2009)

    Passion & Power: The Technology of Orgasm (2007)

    Panel on 2/22/2017 at MoMA: historian Rachel Maines, sexologist Betty Dodson, co-directors Wendy Slick and Emiko Omori
    In this documentary history of the vibrator, based on Rachel Maines’s The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” Vibrators and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction (Johns Hopkins U Press, 1999), the second wave women’s movement is conspicuously identified with clips of Jewish women at demonstrations: Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinem, as well as including extensive interviews with Eve’s Garden founder Dell Zetlin Williams. Too bad the panelists were so out of touch with current movies and TV which frequently feature vibrators, and I didn’t pick-up any references to lesbians. (seen in the Emiko Omori Retrospective at MoMA’s 2017 Documentary Fortnight) (2/23/2017)

    Paternal Rites The curator’s description at MoMA’s 2018 Documentary Fortnight was provocatively misleading: “The first-person essay film examines the aftereffects of physical and sexual abuse in a contemporary Jewish-American family, with the filmmaker’s queer and transgender identity at its core”, though the film’s website synopsis includes that specification. The ethnicity is barely mentioned in a fade-out biographical introduction by Marilyn the mother of filmmaker/film professor at U of MD/Baltimore Jules Rosskam, as she’s faintly heard in passing describing herself as “Midwest Jewish girl”. The father Skip may be Jewish, but there’s no such reference by him or anyone else. There is nothing else Jewish indicated in their lives, through vacation audio diaries, suburban home movies, photographs, or the filmmaker’s hectoring interviews. With the film dominated by therapists, including the mother, the filmmaker’s experimental animated take on personal sessions, and then endless parsing of parental relationships with Alex the partner, I asked in the Q & A why not provide social context for the mother’s childraising attitudes, such as for not letting the child in their room when not sleeping through the night. (I could also have added the lack of empathy for her not understanding the abuse her children suffered from her husband’s father, or her husband’s alcoholism). The filmmaker explained that in going through many edits, including ones with that material, it was decided the film was “really about me” and it was sufficient to narrate that the parents expected a Leave It To Beaver kind of life. (3/3/2018)

    Pawn Sacrifice (commentary on the two Jewish women – Bobby Fischer’s mother Regina, played by Robin Weigert, and his sister Joan, played by Lily Rabe-- and review forthcoming) (8/19/2015)

    The Peacemaker - Over the several years that the titular Padraig O’Malley is seen presiding over The Forum for Cities in Transition, the Israeli Jewish representatives of West Jerusalem hoping to work positively with (male) Palestinian representatives of East Jerusalem seem to always include women. While one woman insists on saying she represents both East and West Jerusalem, Tal Kligman is more experienced in this methodology to de-escalate problems with the Palestinians, and calls this forum “as a support group where you’re not unique – Horrors Anonymous”. While O’Malley reports on one successful effort to get Arabic language name on streets to help for mail delivery, the any (male) Palestinian representative brings up issues O’Malley warns is out-ofpbound as “politics”. (2/1/2018)

    Peep World (commentary forthcoming) (4/3/2010)

    Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (So, nu: Though missing the context of what New York’s Jewish Museum marvelously documented in a 2005 exhibition “The Power of Conversation: Jewish Women and Their Salons”, the emphasis on her as a (secularized) Jewish art collector, gallerist, and patron from London to NYC to Venice, professionally, and personally as a lover of artists is refreshing (including her coterie of other daughters of Jewish NY elite who strove for acceptance, including through elocution lesions). Even just the risks she took in Paris saving Louvre-scorned (let alone her uncle Solomon’s mistress/curator-scorned) modern art as the Germans bore down on the studios would make a terrific bio-pic.) (previewed at 2015 Tribeca Film Festival) (5/2/2015)

    The Peretzniks (In extensive interviews alumni who as orphans or children of survivors stayed in Poland after the war and found intellectual, cultural, emotional, and social shelter in the I. L. Peretz School in Lodz, who now reunion as far as Canada, New York and Ashkelon, Israel (seen in the accompanying short film Happy Jews). There are many women and much joshing about childhood romances, but no sense of any different experiences for women.) (seen at 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (1/25/2010)

    La Petite Jerusalem (Little Jerusalem)

    Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune (So, nu: Somehow I hadn't known that his father was Jewish, though a neighbor says he knew because he went to school with an Ochs' cousin, but his mother is only ID'd as typically Scottish. Phil's sisters are on screen less than his brother who was also his manager, but their very personal insights into his psychology are quite revealing. Too bad no mention is made of Sonny Ochs' Song Nights that have helped so much to keep his songs remembered.) (1/7/2011)

    Phnom Penh Lullaby (The Israeli wanderer who landed in Cambodia in this portrait is consumed with guilt for his mother, seen in a few photos, who was left destitute by his father’s death. Even though one reason he left was to not be a burden to her, he still has to ask her to send him money as he hits rock bottom in scraping together a life on the streets in a problematic replacement family.) (seen at 2011 DocuWeeks) (8/31/2011)

    Phoenix (So, nu: The central woman, from the novel, 1st British adaptation and this German version, admits frankness about women’s concentration camp survival I’ve only otherwise seen in the Czech film Colette, as well as her slow PTSD recovery. (In the book and earlier film, her malaise is viscerally shown by her indifference to a child accidentally falling off her train back to Paris while the other passengers are in turmoil.) The husband sneers like the amoral Harry Lime in The Third Man (I haven’t seen the new restoration yet), especially when he wants to gash her arm as an excuse to disguise a lack of tattoo, which she manages to hide from him with excuses. In the novel and first adaptation, one way she takes more control of her resurrection is to tell the husband she’s already gotten fake numbers on her arm to make him think she’s really playing along with this role. Instead, in this version, the unveiling of her tattoo to the husband (to a symbolically redolent Kurt Weill song from One Touch of Venus) has tremendous emotional power. She comes out into the sunlight to her last hiding place and neighborhood where she’s recognize as a ghost risen from the dead – much as other survivors describe, and found so uncomfortable they rarely stayed in their hometowns. Symbolically returning by train, she gradually – and compellingly-- turns a reunion with friends into a comeback.
    Instead of the non-Jewish step-daughter of the novel/daughter in the British version who somehow successfully fled to Vichy-controlled France with no sense of Jewish identity, the new Jewish woman character of “Lene” seems to be an obsessed pre-war fan who fell in love with the singer from afar and wants her all to herself with a renewed sense of Jewishness in sunny Palestine. But the rejection, on top of her assignment from some Jewish agency to find and help survivors that instead turns up mostly death, overwhelms her.)
    Thanks to Dr. Gary Rombough for letting me know what facts in the movie concurred with a comment about my review – and what didn’t. Interesting that in my head I first perceived her as being blonde to please her non-Jewish lover, rather than the dark brown she dyed. (updated 9/3/2015)


    Phyllis and Harold (So, nu: With key differences, there are so many parallels on the screen with my own family: My mother and Phyllis went to Brooklyn College about the same time. My father was at dental school about the same time as Harold, and also spent his military service as a lieutenant down south during WWII. My parents travelled quite a bit around the world, for his dental conferences. My in-law's Long Island house looked identical to their's in a neighboring town, with a sibling's family in the Rockaways. The director re-discovered her Jewish identity around age 40, me around age 30, albeit not through a celebrity Kabbalist. That her family story is on screen and not mine may have something to do with the filmmaker being married to Andre Gregory, as in My Dinner With Andre. But that connection makes it even more surprising how oblivious she seems to the insights of Kushner's Caroline, Or Change on her relationship with her childhood caregiver.) (2/20/2010)

    The Pin (previewed at The Anne Frank Center USA) (So, nu: Review/commentary forthcoming, but kudos to Canadian writer/director Naomi Jaye for casting auburn-haired Milda Gecaite as an gutsy, non-victimized Eastern-European Jewish woman hiding out.) (10/23/2013)

    Pineapple Express (review forthcoming) (While a signature focus of the Judd Apatow funny factory is usually a Jewish nebbish as hero, Jewish women are rarely seen, so it’s at least a positive that “Faye Belogus” (played by Connie Sawyer) is the beloved “Bubbe” of the sweet dumb pot dealer “Saul Silver” (James Franco). The purpose of his entrepreneurship is to support her living in a nice retirement residence that is specifically not a nursing home, as she is lively enough to win at cards and rescue him in the clinch.) (8/18/2008)

    A Place Of Her Own (previewed at 2011 Other Israel Film Festival) (So, nu: This confusing but still revealing portrait of Jerusalem’s underworld of runaway, druggie teenagers is like a nonfiction version of David Grossman’s Someone to Run With (Mishehu la-ruts ito). I hadn’t known that Orthodox Jews control social services in Israel as much as they do the educational bureaucracy, and was more shocked by those Jewish women’s manipulative efforts against the troubled “Reit” than that she ended up endangered in a Palestinian neighborhood. The Orthodox social worker wants to set her on the straight (and very narrow) through an arranged marriage, possibly in the U.S. Her first baby is immediately taken away to a family of zealots in a settlement community in what seems a political move to increase the Jewish population there, and that mother is not above any deception to keep the young woman from exercising her maternal rights, including false promises to take her in, too, with strict behavioral conditions she can’t possibly meet, such that after years of pressing a law suit to get him back, she gives in to the pressure and signs him over. The ultimate irony is that her two younger children end up being cared for by the childless first wife of her Palestinian husband. (11/26/2011)

    Policeman (Ha-shoter) (previewed at 2011 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (review forthcoming)
    While most reviewers emphasize writer/director’s Nadav Lapid’s caustic view of Israeli preening, bonding alpha males, the portrait of women, during a time of street demonstrations against inequalities in what started as a socialist state, also caricature the image of the founding pioneer women. The title character’s wife “Nili” (Meital Barda) mostly lies supine and increasingly naked, about to burst with a baby girl, on the couch on doctor’s orders, sexily danced to and massaged by her hunky husband “Yaron” (Yiftach Klein) like the stereotype of an ancient Middle Eastern servant (even as he complains to his comrades that the doctor says he can’t fuck her now). While he warns her that it will be bad luck if she tells anyone she is due to give birth any day, he blabbers it to everyone, like a gossipy girl. When she heavily struggles to get up the stairs to his mother’s apartment, he manfully carries her as if he’s a sedan chair with only a slight panting. At his mother’s birthday party, he insists she be lifted in a chair so her menfolk can ritually show off they intend for her to have a long life. A cute teenage waitress with flowing curly hair flirts with him over double entendres about his gun.
    Red-haired, freckled 20-something ”Shira” (Yaara Pelzig) is first seen in shocked, helpless frustration as a gang of punk, Mohawked kids rampage over her car. (A contemporary version of Kristallnacht?) But next she’s in her parents’ expensive, ocean view Tel Aviv apartment intensely writing the manifesto for a violent revolutionary act by her would-be The Baader Meinhof Complex, though her rhetoric is really all about impressing the hunky leader “Nathanael” (Michael Aloni), such that she ignores another young guy in the group who pines to impress her. She’s also willing to experiment at a lesbian bar, but gets just as much of a thrill by having a gun in her purse in the night club, even as the security guard shrugs at it (in another commentary on acceptance of violence in Israeli society). Incognito in a tight black cocktail dress at a wedding, she brandishes her gun to intiate the kidnapping of rich guys to bring attention to their protests against capitalism, and she’s the one blathering solidarity on the megaphone to the policemen before they charge in, but she hides her face from the photographers. She confronts the bride “Hila” (played by Shaul Mizrahi, and I think a point is being made that the bride’s family appears to be darker-skinned a Mizrahi for additional ethnic conflict), sneering about how she perceives her stereotyped life to be. At the climax, it’s only her death that rattles the title guy – because this terrorist isn’t Arab. (1/6/2013)


    Portrait of Wally (previewed at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival) (So, nu: Commentary on the Jewish women forthcoming) (5/11/2012)

    The Post (So, nu: Though Kay Graham was raised in her mother’s Protestant religion with no sense of Jewish identity from her father Eugene Meyer, Washington, D.C. society perceived her as Jewish. The film makes a point to spotlight the involvement in the Pentagon Papers editing effort by Meg Greenfield, who Graham first mentored, then became a close friend.) (1/18/2018)

    Pray The Devil Back To Hell (previewed at DocuWeek) (The leader of Liberia’s peace activists says she searched the Bible for how to stop their civil war and was inspired to organize Christian women through the story of Esther, which also brought in the Muslim women to join with them, not only an unusual Jewish reference for Africans, but also an unusual citation of the Megillah.) (8/12/2008)

    Prime

    A Price Above Rubies (commentary forthcoming – Oy, I only finally watched this on DVD 7/10/2009 as background research on Boaz Yakin's latest film. It took me hours because I kept falling asleep!)

    The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers (So, nu: in this dreadful documentary of Yehuda Avner talking through an illustrated version of his memoir about working in the Israeli diplomantic and government service for decades, Golda Meir, uncredibly voiced by Sandra Bullock, gets the superficial hagiographic treatment they all do, from her youthful biography, including divorce resulting from her Zionist commitment, through her casually talking to Sukkot-celebrating soldiers in the desert, to the criticisms after the Yom Kippur War (a highlight is Christoph Waltz voicing Begin’s public excoriation of her), with lots of glory for negotiating the emigration of Soviet Jews to Israel. The only other woman Avner seems to notice, besides his wife, is how lovely Leah Rubin was when he first met her as the Ambassador’s wife in Washington D.C.) (10/18/2013)

    Prince of Egypt

    Protector (briefly reviewed at 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival, of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum, and in New Hampshire Jewish Film Buzz, at page 21 – N/A) (So, nu: Even as others opting for collaboration or facing far more hardships sneer at the rising emotional toll on the marriage of the gentile collaborator and his hidden Jewish wife, the power of the media and images are particularly suggestive when the slinky, sexy wife sneeks out of their apartment to let an enamored young projectionist take furtive, erotic photos of her outside posing defiantly next to restrictive signs against Jews. Her attitude towards her Jewish identity is symbolized throughout by putting on and off a blonde wig.) (updated 12/9/2011)

    The Promise (Part 1 previewed at 2011 Other Israel Film Festival) (a 4-part TV mini-seriesstreaming in the U.S. as of Fall 2012 on Hulu) (So, nu -, in the first episode, the Jewish women were used to negatively leverage the two generations of young Brit protagonists. In the present time, the central young woman decides to accompany her best friend “Eliza Meyer” (played by Perdita Weeks) who is returning to Israel from years at boarding school to fulfill her military service. “Eliza” barely soothes her trepidation by going on a name-brand shopping spree at a mall by day and clubbing at night. The wealthy parents (her liberal mother “Leah Meyer” is played by Smadar Wolfman) live in pool-side luxury in a private Caesarea development, overlooking the Mediterranean. Back in Haifa in 1945, the grandfather dates “Clara Rosenbaum” (played by Katharina Schüttler) because they are both are assigned to spy on each other’s activities. She meets him at an official hospitality center where she was taught English in order to generate support among British soldiers for the Jewish homeland cause. In helping him see her father sympathetically for his underground political activities, she apologizes to him if the Jews seem ungrateful since the soldier helped liberate the concentration camps – where her mother took up with another man, which didn’t quite make sense in the family history, let alone cheapen their experiences.)
    Parts 2 – 4 commentary forthcoming (while I didn’t know the fest was screening the rest of the series as well, to some controversy within the Jewish community, it streamed in the U.S. as of Fall 2012 on Hulu) (updated 1/4/2013)


    P.S. Jerusalem (previewed at 2015 DOC NYC Festival) (reviewed at Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2016 at Film Society of Lincoln Center and at IFC Center) (So, nu: Director Danae Elon is barely glimpsed, and the only other Jewish women seen on screen briefly are her mother and the Israeli Jewish teachers in her sons’ bi-lingual/bi-cultural school. But the whole, wrenching documentary is a sensitive exploration of a leftist, sabra daughter/wife/mother’s feelings about the Jerusalem of her childhood vs. the present situation, including during the Gaza War, after she dragged her two New York-born and French-Algerian-Jewish husband there, and gave birth to a third son.) (updated 1/4/2017)

    Putzel (I only found out about this Upper West Side- set 2012 film when it played on Channel 13’s indie showcase and only watched some scenes so far, but I was surprised that Melanie Lynskey was the shkisa temptress, and the Jewish women were kvetchy old ladies.) (10/21/2014)

    The Queen Has No Crown (previewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (This documentary by gay filmmaker Tomer Heymann comes very close to fulfilling stereotypes of misogyny, let alone only equating hetereosexuality with domesticity. When he obsessively turned his camera on his own family over several years, he focuses relentlessly on his mother, badgering her to admit she’s bothered by his homosexuality, even as she warmly welcomes his young lover and their friends to her dinner and seder table. As more of her sons, with her grandchildren, leave Israel for job and educational opportunities in North America, the closest he gets her to say is that she should have had daughters. Even though the hammered theme is family, in relationships and in procreation, he never interviews his sisters-in-law, and is taken aback when his oldest niece matures into puberty. (1/21/2012)

    The Rabbi’s Cat (Le chat du rabbin) (briefly reviewed at 2012 New Directors/New Films of Film Society of Lincoln Center/MoMA) (So, nu: One of the charms of Sfar’s graphic novels in this series and in his adaptation is how sexy and independent the Algerian-Jewish Rabbi’s Daughter is.) (3/24/2012)

    Rabies (Kalevet) (briefly reviewed at 2011 Tribeca Film Festival) (So, nu - maybe because it's satirizing a foreign – U.S./Asian—genre and plays on those paradigms, several of the women characters are not usually seen in Israeli films released in the U.S., including incestuous siblings and spoiled rich girls in short tennis outfits. The amorous forest ranger does amusingly play on the sexy uniformed soldier stereotype.) (More commentary forthcoming) (5/5/2011)

    Rabin, The Last Day (So, nu - That the documentary is intended as a contextual corrective, is set by being introduced by a TV interviewer portrayed by Yael Abecassis, recently seen in A Borrowed Identity (Dancing Arabs Aka Second Son), turning from an interview with Shimon Peres, who was Rabin’s Foreign Minister, to the camera. Gitai symbolizes that he got authorization from Justice Shamgar to use parts of the hearing transcripts not made public in the final 1996 report by having his version of the panel and witnesses meet within the national archives. Testimony here is from a photographer, Rabin’s personal security agents, bodyguard, and driver, police officers and officials, and hospital doctors. There is additional testimony from an Orthodox woman that I found a bit confusing as she clarifies that the assassin’s students – I think—were not “girls”, but “young women”, and therefore credible about being alarmed by his extremist views. It is also noteworthy that only a woman is willing (and concerned) to come forth about the notorious “din rodef” ruling.) (previewed at 2016 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum)

    Rachel (10/10/2010) (also briefly reviewed at Part 1 Recommendations of 2009 Tribeca Film Festival) (So, nu - The only Jewish woman seen in the documentary is a spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces who is made to look like a bureaucratic tool.) (5/17/2009)

    La Rafle (The Round Up) (So, nu - commentary coming soon on the mothers and girls) (Thanks to Judy Gelman Myers for background on the fireman.)

    The Rashevski Tango (So, nu: my commentary on the Jewish women forthcoming.)

    So, nu: RBG - Wonderful bio-doc of the most influential Jewish woman in the country! Oddly, directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen do not include explicit mention that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is Jewish! The closest are her reference to the anti-Semitism her father faced in the Old Country and her warm, voluble, recent Harvard Law School graduate granddaughter Clara Spera explaining why they all call her “Bubbe”: It’s Yiddish for grandmother. (My mother would object that the name of their mutual James Madison High School alma mater was not named.) Other putative/Jewish women interviewed include: her daughter Jane Ginsburg, two old school friends, NPR’s legal expert Nina Totenberg, authors/bloggers/Tumbler creators Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik of Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (2015), and Gloria Steinem.
    Only the son of the late Justice Antonin Scalia identifies her as Jewish to emphasize their contrasts in their friendship, my colleague Jan Lisa Huttner pointed out to me. To Josefin Dolsten for JTA (4/30/2018), co-director Betsy West explained that Judaism “seems to be an undercurrent in her life, [but it’s] something that we didn’t deal with overtly”. Elsewhere they have said they didn’t want to press her, though she has many times spoken to Jewish organizations, award acceptances, and written for Jewish publications about her feelings towards her Jewish identity – including being turned off of religious observance by not being ablet to do kaddish for her mother. (updated 7/9/2018)


    The Reader (So, nu: Lena Olin plays the only Jewish woman characters seen in a film about the reverberations of the Holocaust – first she's the aging survivor who testifies against the prison guards. Then she plays the woman's daughter years later, in an oddly luxurious Manhattan apartment, refusing to accept a token contribution of contrition – is the implication that she got handsome royalties from the memoir she wrote about her mother's experiences in the concentration camp that seemed to have spurred the trial? At least her scenes are not the usual noble victim providing either anger or forgiveness to the oppressor.) (12/10/2008)

    Redemption, a Downtown Docs/HBO production nominated for the 2013 Best Short Documentary, features “Susan”, a senior citizen can and bottle redeemer on the streets of New York, who is frequently questioned by competing “canners” why a Jewish woman would be doing this. Very articulate (she’s also accompanying directors Jon Alpert & Matt O'Neill with press promotion), as well as aggressive about enforcing informal rules of the streets, she cheerfully explains she used to work for IBM, garnering a marketing achievement award, but Social Security just isn’t enough to live on anymore. (2/14/2013)

    Red Leaves (review forthcoming) (previewed in 2015 New York African Film Festival at Film Society of Lincoln Center) (A unique portrait of multi-generations of an immigrant Ethiopian-Israeli family. After the funeral of the matriarch, the King Lear-like grandfather visits each of his sons, and their relationship with the women in their lives is a source of friction. The credits weren’t in English so I’m not sure which roles Shula Mola and Hanna Haiela play. But one daughter-in-law resents that he just shows up at their crowded apartment and her overheard complaint to a friend on the phone causes a big fight when he accuses her of putting a curse on him. Worse, he’s furious that she lets her teenage daughter go out on Shabbat night with a non-Ethiopian even as she insists she’s in love with him. He pretty much calls his granddaughter a whore: You prefer that lowlife to your family? Don’t come back to this house! I’m done with you! When the brother teases her she wants to be a model, another sister teases that his girlfriend has deep black skin compared to their brown skin. At the other son’s prosperous house, the daughter-in-law, with dyed blonde curls, is welcoming and caring – but she shrugs that her husband is out all hours and blows up when the father sees that he’s having an affair with a woman at his work.) (5/31/2015)

    Red Shirley (briefly reviewed at 2011 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: Though I asked for some casual remembrances, how I wish I had interviewed our elderly leftist relatives at the PHAIR Family Circle meetings more in-depth like Lou Reed interviewed his colorful cousin! I’ve since learned that the Mandel/Brody Family had a woman Communist activist, too, but expelled for years until a late reconciliation that I now continue with her descendants as a tribute to my father. We so forget when we see these little old ladies and men what firebrands they were. A (non-Jewish male) colleague was at the public screening, and here's his account of the Q & A with Lou Reed.)
    In his widow’s autobiographical essay Heart of a Dog, she references the embrace of a Jewish grandmother amidst memories of her very Midwestern family, which she presumably experienced through his family) (She also references 9/11.) (previewed at 2015 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (updated 10/23/2015)


    Red Trees - A visual and literary memory essay centered around the experiences of the filmmaker’s scientist father Alfred Willer, who was married to a gentile woman and was one of the only 12 Jewish families to survie the Holocaust living in Prague, there’s little mention of Jewish women. First was his grandmother Teresa, who moved in with them in 1941 and deported in 1942 to the Terezín concentration camp (a visit is included in the documentary) where she died of typhus; one loving photograph of her with her grandson is included. (I think the film is dedicated to her.) The director is seen visiting a Holocaust memorial in Prague that lists all the residents killed during the Holocaust; the director reports: “Seeing my great-great-grandmother's [sic] name there was heart-breaking”. His memories include his childhood playmate/girlfriend Lisa, who their families thought were “adorable” together, seen in two photographs, who was sent to England on a Kindertransport, and, despite his research, “She’s lost to me forever.” (previewed courtesy of Cohen Media Group) (9/8/2017)

    Refrain (Rengaine) (briefly reviewed at 2013 New Directors/New Films of Film Society of Lincoln Center/MoMA) (Unlike the stereotyped opinions the groom’s Christian family holds, and the inevitable cabbies as inter-community connectors, the eldest Muslim brother is genuinely in love with a very non-stereotyped blonde, sexy Jewish woman, who is up front about her ethnic identity and her love for him. Their romantic chemistry makes up for the additional coincidental complexity she provides to the roundelay.) (3/26/2013)

    A Refusenik’s Mother (Ima Shel Shimri) (briefly reviewed at 2009 Annual New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (One of the most sensitive documentaries I've seen about a mother of an adult son, let alone a Jew and an Israeli woman.) (1/18/2009)

    Regarding Susan Sontag (briefly reviewed at 2014 Tribeca Film Festival) (My additional note about her 9/11 controversy.) (So, nu: There’s quite a bit of reflection on her conflicted views on her Jewish heritage from her younger sister Judith Sontag Cohen, including her Rosenblatt birth name, and her relationship with Eva Kollisch, a German Jewish refugee, who adds the Jewish angle to her many lesbian affairs.) (More commentary forthcoming) (updated 8/4/2014)

    Religulous (review forthcoming) (Maybe more regular viewers/attenders of Bill Maher's shows knew his mother is Jewish. While he doesn't really get her to explain in this documentary why she let her husband raise their kids as Catholic, and just as suddenly stop, it's clear that his cynical tone and intonations come from her.) (12/17/2008)

    Remembrance (Die verlorene Zeit) (review forthcoming) (previewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (There are no shortage of amazing stories of surviving the Holocaust through luck or love, and this touching German film tells of one that is both, as written by Pamela Katz, directed by Anna Justice, and the (bit overly) romantic cinematography of Sebastian Edschmid. The first part is a thriller, as a Polish political prisoner plots to help his pregnant Jewish lover “Hanna Silberstein” (played by Alice Dwyer) daringly escape a concentration camp in 1944 (possibly Auschwitz, if his food and other support kept her alive so long). As they with great difficulty make it back to his hometown, his mother and sister-in-law are as anti-Semitic as they are afraid of, first, the Nazis, then the Russians who are after Polish partisans like him and his brother. There would be some irony if the real “Hannah” cited them for Yad Vashem anyway, as the resentful family lies about the couple’s (difficult) survival to each of them, and she embarks on a harrowing journey across wintry Europe as a refugee. In the second part, intercut as flashbacks with the first, she is in 1976 the married, sophisticated “Hannah Levine” (played by Dagmar Menzel), with a well-to-do New York intellectual husband and grown daughter “Rebecca” (played by Shantel Van Santen). She has never told her new, Jewish family about her Holocaust experiences and is thrown into a post-traumatic stress reaction when she gets a clue that her lover is still alive – and becomes consumed with tracking him down. The film certainly wants love across time to trump Jewish identity. (1/22/2012)

    Renée (briefly reviewed at 2011 Tribeca Film Festival) (4/22/2011) (My additional note.) (So, nu: My strict standards to considering a fictional character in a feature film, or a real person in a documentary, as Jewish is either an explicit or implicit ethnic or religious reference, particularly with New Yorkers who could be assumed by out-of-towners as Jewish. So I was surprised to see Kirk Honeycutt's comment in "A faulty documentary on transsexual tennis star" from Hollywood Reporter, 6/21/2011, from a viewing at the Los Angeles Film Festival, that seems to refer to information in Richards' two autobiographies, so I wasn't aware of: "There are other gaps. No mention is made of Richards' Jewishness, which apparently made him feel like an outsider in the WASPY Ivy League schools he attended." Which makes the perception of Renée as a Jewish woman even more complicated. But none of Richards' extensively interviewed female relatives or long-time friends are identified as Jewish either.)

    Reporting on The Times: The New York Times and The Holocaust (short film) (short film) (briefly reviewed in Shout Out for Quiet Documentaries at Tribeca ‘13 at Tribeca Film Festival) (So, nu: Though NYU college student director Emily Harrold isn’t Jewish as she looked to the past to understand contemporary attitudes to genocides around the world, she identified all the right experts to talk to about this controversial issue, especially Hasia Diner and Laurel Leff, whose book inspired her film, and including the perspective of a woman survivor.) (5/6/2013)

    Restoration (Boker tov adon Fidelman) (briefly reviewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: Though the men are the central focus in father/son triangles and the Jewish women are types who add to the tensions, they don’t come across as stereotypes: the Russian, I think, prostitutes with hearts of gold, and the pregnant theater costumer daughter-in-law “Hava” (played by the sweetly appealing Sarah Adler) who blossoms sensually under the attentions of a young lover and his quest for a piano. (1/21/2012)

    Rita Mahtoubian is Not a Terrorist (short film at 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, written & directed by Roja Gashtili and Julia Lerman) The neighbor Feinstein family, including the mother (played by Kelie McIver) and daughter (played by Sydney Meyer) is portrayed quite warmly in hosting the titular, shy Iranian-American for Rosh Hashanah dinner. (5/2/2015)

    Rock in the Red Zone (While the documentary is as much a first-person account by American director Laura Bialis of her relationship to Israel and the primarily Mizrahi rock musicians of Sederot, she only includes one woman musician, pop singer Hagit Yaso, of Ethiopian heritage, who, after being in the local children’s chorus with her sisters, went on to win Israel’s equivalent of American Idol. (seen at 2018 New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival because I missed the NY premiere at 2015 Other Israel Film Festival) (3/13/2018)

    Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish (also briefly reviewed at 2011 New York Jewish Film Festival reviewed at 2011 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: Director Eve Annenberg marvelously plays levels of roles: as a lapsed Hasid who can barely speak Yiddish any more, an E.R. nurse so saddened by dealing with so many drug O.D.s from such kids that she helps such teenage rebel outcasts, a struggling English lit scholar and teacher of Shakespeare to these kids, and even The Nurse in the play-within-a-movie. While she spends more time with the roguish guys and we learn far less about the esperiences of young women “leavers" from the Hasidic community, she does not presume, as so many films about Orthodox Jews do, that a non-Jewish woman is the seductive reason to leave or the solution to find chosen love and happiness. Melissa Weisz in the dual role of “Faigy” playing “Juliet” is quite captivating and risks more personally as an actress. The press notes included in her biography: “Melissa’s last roommate killed herself in 2010 unable to adjust to ‘American’ life and unwilling to go back to the ‘Community’. Melissa has only been 'out' for two years.” The contrasts between the two Brooklyns has gotten more heightened with the influx of hipsters into what they call ‘Billyburg.) (3/27/2011; updated 7/10/2011)

    Room 514 (Heder 514) (previewed at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival (So, nu: my commentary forthcoming on the most intriguing Israeli women soldier I recall ever seeing on screen.) (4/30/2012)

    Rosenstrasse (The emphasis on the nobility of intermarriage is a bit disconcerting.)

    The Ruins Of Lifta (So, nu: There was really no reason to involve the elderly woman survivor in this project, or at least so extensively. Rather than focusing on the pain of losing her family in the Holocaust, maybe there’s an irony that there are no graves for her family, while the Lifta ex-residents can see their family graves but can’t get to them, and this film spends a lot of time at graves. Then why the heck bring her to Lifta? Daphna Golan, a Jewish co-founder of the Coalition to Save Lifta and a peace activist, is earnest about helping with the court case. The interviews with his aunt and cousin about the uncle’s possible complicity in forcing out Palestinians are unilluminating. (9/23/2016)

    Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (briefly reviewed in Recommended Documentaries: There's No Business Like the Celebrity Business at 2010 Tribeca Film Festival) (So, nu: Geddy Lee's mother, a Holocaust survivor, is interviewed, and she is as proud that he fulfilled the full obligation of saying kaddish for his father in his youth as all his subsequent success. But the profound sadness from his family spurred him to seek a contrast through rock 'n' roll. My bad that I didn't notice the documentary also included "Red Sector A" from Grace Under Pressure with its lyric: "I hear the sound of gunfire at the prison gate/Are the liberators here?/Do I hope or do I fear?/For my father and my brother, it’s too late/But I must help my mother stand up straight".) (5/14/2010) But either I missed, or the doc didn’t mention, other politics associated with the band: Per this quote in “Rand Paul’s Mixed Inheritance” by Sam Tanenhaus and Jim Rutenberg, The New York Times, 1/26/2014, “And he followed the rock band Rush, some of whose lyrics had libertarian themes.” Though that is probably why that’s the only band a libertarian cousin of ours is a fan of, that was debunked in this Daily Kos piece by biolife, 6/22/2012 “Rush (the Band) on Rush, Politics, and Michael Moore”.

    Sacred In this survey of religious Initiation, Practice, and Passage experiences around the world by over 40 filmmakers, Jews are primarily represented by men, and Hassidic or Orthodox men particularly, such as the pilgrimage to Rabbi Nachman’s grave in the Ukraine. Jewish women are spotted nervously observing the brit of their sons, and then one Israeli woman is briefly interviewed probably a West Bank settler (I think by an Israeli woman director), musing about the decision to have a child despite the uncertainty in that area and in her country, when what she wants is peace. (previewed at 2016 DOC NYC Festival) (10/31/2016)

    Salt Of This Sea (Milh Hadha Al-Bahr) (also briefly reviewed in Part 3 Family Ties Around The World at 2009 Tribeca Film Festival) ( So, nu: The only Jewish-Israeli woman the central Palestinian-American woman obsessed with her grandfather's house in Jaffa encounters is the current owner, who turns out to be used to seeing curious returnees in the neighborhood and is a left-wing peacenik. But even her patience runs out when her visitor refuses to accept 60 years of history and insists that the property should be returned, making her look like a hypocrite.) (5/17/2009) (My additional note.)

    Sarah’s Key (Elle S'appelait Sarah) ( So, nu: Blonde “Sarah” is a reminder that the few Jewish children saved by sympathetic police and hidden throughout rural Europe during the Holocaust tended to be towheaded, here finally pitied by farmer Jules Dufaure (Niels Arestrup) and his wife. The film flashes back from the present to show the haunted, bitter “Sarah” growing into a beautiful woman (Charlotte Poutrel), who continues to hide her identity, and her feelings of guilt. Even more intransigent about the non-Jewish American woman journalist’s search than her husband (the novel more explores his very French patrician family’s culpability of living with the knowledge of “Sarah”) is the man she hunts down who she believes is “Sarah”s son “William Rainsferd” (Aidan Quinn). Her efforts to convince him of his Jewish heritage and to understand “Sarah”s life help her face the changes in her own life. His situation could seem too fictionalized if there weren’t similar stories in my own family that I’ve discovered doing living family tree research.) (My additional notes.) (updated 8/20/2011)

    Saved!

    Save the Date (commentary forthcoming of IFC Film)

    Saviors In The Night (Unter Bauern) (New Hampshire Jewish Film Buzz on p. 16 – N/A) (also briefly reviewed at 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (For all the considerable courage the Righteous Gentiles showed, this does support that folks were more likely to hide Aryan-looking Jews; here the wife (played by Veronica Ferres) is beautiful and blonde and her daughter adorably auburn. How she recklessly used her appearance to brazenly seek an Aryan ID is a suspenseful scene, and based on fact (though her memoir is not yet available in English) – and then how difficult it was to convince the American liberators that the shell of a man who had been hidden in isolation on another farm was her husband.) (Thanks to Judy Gelman Myers for background on the director.) (updated 10/12/2012)

    A Secret (Un Secret) (previewed at 2008 Annual NY Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: Significant for raising the issue of Jewish women who can “pass”, in American vernacular, as gentiles because as a blonde, played by sexy Cécile De France, and a redhead, played by pretty Ludivine Sagnier, they don’t look stereotypically Jewish, particularly fraught in occupied, 1940’s France. A (fictional) Jewish lesbian masseuse neighbor is thrown in too, played by pretty Julie Depardieu.) (1/10/2008)

    The Secrets (Ha-Sodot) (review forthcoming) (Intriguingly --just barely-- avoids clichés about Orthodox women and feminists to create appealing, individualized, thinking women characters, genuinely seeking spiritual, intellectual and sensual fulfillment as they struggle against rigid proscriptions, such as when the sage “Naomi” argues literal interpretation of scripture to her advantage as not applying to women lying with women. Also portrayed sympathetically is the headmistress of the women’s classes at the Safed seminary who dreams of the day a woman rabbi will be recognized.) (11/28/2008)

    Seeing Allred - This mostly chronological bio-doc, directed by Roberta Grossman and Sophie Sartain, only indirectly brings up feminist attorney Gloria Allred’s Jewish background. After a montage of her media highlights, particularly recently in representing the women who accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault, Allred brings the crew to her home town: “I grew up in Philadelphia segregated by religion – this was the Catholic neighborhood; I lived in the Jewish neighbood.” Folks who haven’t read her memoir wouldn’t know she grew up in a family scraping for money, that her father managed to save to put her through University of Pennsylvania. Or that not only was she raped by an affable doctor date when she was on vacation in Mexico, but her resulting illegal pre-Roe v. Wade abortion nearly killed her, with a nurse chiding: “That will teach you.” Her daughter, now also a women’s rights attorney, is interviewed frequently and identified as Lisa Bloom, without saying that was her mother’s birth last name, though there is a discussion about Gloria keeping her second husband’s last name due to career recognizability, despite a difficult marriage and bitter divorce. I was struck that the epithets against her in the TV clips for being pushy and loud are the usual criticisms aimed at Jewish women generally. Other Jewish feminists are also interviewed about Allred, including Gloria Steinem and Laurie Levenson, professor at her alma mater Loyola Law School, plus her public high school best friend Fern. Following Allred through the 2017 Womens March and just up to #MetToo movement that makes this documentary particularly relevant to her long-time specialty in women’s employment and labor issues, as the film shows she has bringing cases on these issues for decades, she sums up her life: “I went from victim to survivor to fighter for change…My work is my life, it’s my identity, not just what I do, it’s my life. I’m fighting in justice. It’s not a sacrifice. It’s a commitment that I made many, many years ago.” (Seen on Netflix) (2/9/2018)

    Sembène! (So, nu: Not only does the co-director leave out the surviving male Jewish French Communists he interviewed for the biography, but he leaves out the key Jewish women in the Senegalese filmmaker’s transition from dock worker and union leader to writer: particularly Odette Arouh, to whom he was as close as “a sister”, dedicated to her his first novel Black Docker, and made her the godmother of his Marseilles-born son Alain; Ginette Constantin, whose house he used to hang out in the Jewish neighborhood ; Ros Schwartz, his first translator into English; Janine Libermann, whose parents died in deportation, and her husband Michel. Together, they all demonstrated in support of Ethel & Julius Rosenberg, and were active in organizations against anti-Semitism, racism, and colonialism.) (11/6/2015)

    A Serious Man (posted on 2/5/2010) (So, nu: The Coens' attitude towards Jewish women is less negative than Woody Allen's, among his cinematic portrayals they knock in a film that they both emphasized “It’s about Jews." Though they both emphasize in interviews that see Jewishness as an ethnicity, not as religion, the influence of their mother was cited in an interview with the AP's David Germain (posted under various headlines and dates in October 2009), per Joel Coen: "Our mother was a very observant Jew, and we knew the academic world from our parents. . .The New York Times ,"Biblical Adversity in a ’60s Suburb" by Franz Lidz, 9/27/2009, drew out that "Their mother, Rena, came from an Orthodox family and kept a kosher house. . . in their childhood in St. Louis Park, a heavily Jewish enclave that borders south Minneapolis. . . 'She toed the line in terms of party dogma,' said Joel. 'My father, Ed, just went along for the ride.'" In the film it is wives who are religious, first in the folk culture of the shtetl (the wife is played by Yelena Shmulenson) and then in the American suburbs, where Judith Gopnik (played by Sari Lennick) insists on following the rules for Jewish divorce. In the press notes, Ethan Coen says:“Everybody in the Gopnik family has an agenda. . .[The daughter] Sarah [played by Jessica McManus] wants to get a nose job. The wife and mother, Judith, wants to run off with another man, Sy Ableman, whom she sees as ‘a serious man,’ unlike her husband.”
    The Sarah character is the younger brothers' revenge on their older sister, Debbie. “'Debbie spent her entire adolescence washing her hair in the bathroom,' Ethan recalled" to the The Times. The actresses added their view of their characters in the press notes: McManus perceived Sarah as a bit of a bully: “Sarah wants what she wants, her way, and now. That’s admirable – to a certain degree. Playing her, it was fun to yell at people and not get any backlash." Lennick:“She’s a parent who has food on the table promptly every evening. But her relationship with Sy offers Judith something that she’s not getting with her husband Larry. To Judith, Sy is ‘a serious man,’ engaged and very engaging – while she feels that Larry is not serious about the right things; physics, mostly.” The costume designer Mary Zophres explained that "Judith Gopnik’s look was fashioned after the Jewish Cultural Foundation [sic- I think she meant the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest] photographs . . .we were going to dye [her hair] brown to match the other Gopniks’. . .Her hair was cut and styled to match a specific photo that we had found from 1967. . .Then we put on the clothes. Low shoes. Skirts at the most unflattering length ever, right in the middle of the calf. Plaid blouses. It was quite a ‘before and after’ transformation. . .The women were all costumed in the darker ends of our palette – black, chocolate brown, or deep deep green. . .All of the women in the movie wore the appropriate undergarments. Blouses had darts in them then, so if you didn’t wear the right bra, the shirt didn’t fit the right way.”
    I would feel more positive about their view of Jewish women if the woman who Ethan Coen describes in the press notes as "the sexy, mysterious Mrs. Samsky" (played by Amy Landecker) was clearly ID'd as Jewish, but the neighborhood isn't all Jewish. Apparently childless with an ever-traveling husband and the only neighbor oblivious to the son's upcoming bar mitzvah, she brings hippie culture to the up tight neighborhood with sun bathing nude, smoking pot and seducing her neighbors into the pleasures of free love.
    In the press notes, Ethan explained their context for these women as “the whole incongruity of Jews in the Midwest. We wanted to cast real Jews as opposed to the Hollywood ethnic type. They are Jews on the plains – that’s we wanted to get across. It is a subculture, and a feeling, that is different from Jewish communities in New York or Los Angeles. . . Occasionally people would ask, ‘You’re not making fun of the Jews, are you?’ We are not, but some will take anything that isn’t flattering as an indication that we think the whole community or ethnicity is flawed.” Joel added, “People can get a little uptight when you’re being specific with a subject matter. From our point of view, A Serious Man is a very affectionate look at the community and is a movie that will show aspects of Judaism which are not usually seen.”
    Amusingly, a Jewish woman character, Rabbi Marshak's secretary (played by Claudia Wilkens), is seen very briefly in the movie, but she achieved longer-lasting impact through the trailer that was cut by Mark Woollen. In the press notes, casting director Rachel Tenner explained how she found the woman who coughs in the office––she was a grandmother volunteering at the local JCC talent show. (2/10/2010)


    The Sessions (The sex therapist is “Cheryl Cohen-Greene” (played by blonde Helen Hunt), in a strained marriage with stay-at-home husband “Josh” (played by Adam Arkin), and she identifies religion as a prime cause for her disabled patient’s sexual fears . In the script by Ben Lewin, “Mark” (played by John Hawkes) asks about her religion: I grew up in Salem, brought up Catholic, like you, but the church didn’t appreciate my attitude towards sex. . .Yes, I liked it. They like to think they threw me out, but I threw them out. So for years I didn’t believe in anything, and now I’m converting to Judaism. . .My husband asked me to do it before his grandmother dies. The idea is, if it makes her happy and him happy, then it will do the same for me. Our son is neutral on the subject, but theoretically, if it looks like it makes me happy, it’ll make him happy too. That’s the way my husband’s family talks, and thinks. The fact that I’m happy already, doesn’t seem to be relevant. When she can’t sleep at night, thinking about her patient, she excuses: I’ve been thinking about the whole conversation thing. Her sloth of a husband doesn’t believe her. After she has finished her sessions, she goes to the mikveh, whose manager is played by Rhea Perlman, who asks if it’s her first time: Yes, I’m converting., but she lies about her profession: I don’t think you’d understand. But the Mikvah Lady is not dumb: I see you’re very comfortable being naked. “Cheryl”: That has never been one of my problems. The lady explains her context: Sometimes new brides come with their mothers. Do I have to take this off? Can I please leave this on? They’ve never been naked before. No, honey, it all has to come off. “Cheryl”: And it does? Mikvah Lady: And it does. They stand on the edge of that pool without anything to cling to but themselves. Nothing to hide behind. This is your body. This is the body that God crafted for you. She gives instructions: Immerse completely. Go completely under the water, without touching the walls or anything. as “Cheryl” dunks, and she is quite moved by the experience. This is one of the most positive portrayals I’ve seen in a film of the mikvah experience, and makes her grudging conversion seem more positive. In Mark O’Brian’s original essay, “On Seeing A Sex Therapist” (in the May 1990 issue, #174, of The Sun, there is no mention of the brown-haired “Cheryl”s back story, so I presume this female spirituality was added to balance the patient’s series of somewhat titillating confessions to a priest. (11/29/2012)

    The Settlers (Ha'mitnakhalim) Commentary on the Jewish women: Director Shimon Dotan was inspired to make this film about radicalized Israeli Jews in parallel to having interviewed radicalized Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons for Hot House (2007). The press notes spotlight two Jewish women who are prominently interviewed by Dotan in the documentary about the legal and illegal settlers on the West Bank:
    ”SARAH NACHSHON: Nachshon played a seminal role in establishing the Jewish settlement in Hebron proper. Her son, Avraham Yedidiah, was the first child to be circumcised in the Cave of the Patriarch. When the child died of SIDS five months later, she insisted that he be buried in the old Jewish cemetery in the city. When her request was denied, she carried the corpse there on foot, while Israeli troops looked on aghast. Finally, Defense Minister Shimon Peres gave the order allowing her to bury her child there.”
    ”DANIELLA WEISS: One of the first Jewish settlers in Samaria, Weiss assumed a leadership role in the formal settler movement, even serving as mayor of the West Bank town of Kedumim. She later broke with the movement over its willingness to compromise with the government over settlement activity and helped found Nahala, which supports a more active settlement approach, including the seizure of land for outposts. She is known as the ‘Grandmother of the Hilltop Youth’.”
    The one Jewish woman “expert” interviewed is: “TALIA SASSON: A former Deputy State Attorney, a report she published revealed how the government was acting illegally by diverting state funds to support settlements, including illegal outposts in the West Bank. Having left her government position, she is active in the peace movement.”
    He also interviews an apolitical hippie who enjoys feeling free off the grid with seemingly no awareness of the conflict with the Palestinians around her, who doesn’t sound much different than the Messianic Christian from Tennessee who has evidently just read the Old Testament (and reminded me of the fundamentalists in Davis, Heilbroner & Sacchi’s Waiting For Armageddon (2009) who cheerfully looked forward to when the Rapture will wipe out all the Jews in the Holy Land.) At the other extreme, a young religious woman is also seen spitting on and hitting a Palestinian woman in a market, as I recall, in Hebron. While so many of the demonstrations and celebrations feature so many men, grinning young women with head scarves are always seen on the fringes holding babies. (previewed at 2016 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (9/22/2016; 3/4/2017)


    The Seven Days (Shiva) (review forthcoming from a tired, late night viewing at the 2009 NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival) (Part 2 of a trilogy of family films co-written and directed by Ronit Elkabetz with her brother, as well as dominating the screen with Yael, the film is more visually striking than revealing in its dialogue. But the images of the shrouded women from grave to bomb shelters to bedrooms, living room and kitchen as Moroccan matriarch and siblings confined during mourning are presented as powerfully as Martha Graham portrays the Greek myths on a proscenium stage.) (2/21/2009)

    Seven Minutes in Heaven (Sheva Dakot Be’gan Eden) (briefly reviewed at Part 3: Family Ties Around the World of 2009 Tribeca Film Festival and briefly reviewed in New Hampshire Jewish Film Buzz, at page 21 – N/A) (Until the last few minutes that take a surprisingly conventional turn, "Galia" is a complicated romantic figure, as she's guiltily torn between two gorgeous guys in her past and present.) (5/17/2009)

    Sex and the City (review forthcoming) (While the opening “previously on” the last season of the TV series opening montage makes a point of saying that “Charlotte” converted to Judaism for love, that seems to have led to her losing her brains, as Kristin Davis primarily plays her mincing around with wide-eyes. The only other Jewish reference is when she beams that their baby girl is named Rose, for Harry’s bubbe. (6/12/2008)

    Sexy Baby (briefly reviewed in Award-Winning Docs at 2012 Tribeca Film Festival) (So, nu: commentary on the Jewish mother and girls forthcoming) (5/9/2012)

    Shadows From My Past (commentary/review forthcoming on the powerful story, unevenly made documentary Gita Weinrauch Kaufman built around revisiting the sites behind her family’s trove of letters as the last Jews out of Vienna and their lives in America) (seen at 2013 Art of the Real of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (updated 1/22/2014)

    Shem (commentary forthcoming)

    Shoah: The Unseen Interviews (an hour’s compilation from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum) (previewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) continues the release of more of Claude Lanzmann’s complete interviews, such as the ones I briefly reviewed at 2011 Film Comments Selects of Film Society of Lincoln Center. Feminist historians had criticized Shoah (1985) for not including more women’s stories, as epic as it was, and this full testimony by Ruth Elias, compared to the very few minutes she was allotted, is an explicit and vivid description not only of the round-ups and Auschwitz experiences, but specifically of the crimes against humanity by Dr. Mengele, that justifies every accusation of extreme evil made against him in factual (such as in Robert Jay Lifton: Nazi Doctors) or fictionalized accounts. Hers is very much a woman’s perspective on extreme brutality and how women helped each other through the horror.) (1/22/2012)

    Shiva (short previewed in New Online Work (N.O.W.) Showcase at 2017 Tribeca Film Festival) In this improvisation, the male mourners are buffoons bordering on offensive in their ignorance and mocking about Judaism and Jewish customs, as co-directed by Jeff Seal, Chris Roberti, and Chris Manley, while co-star/director Shaina Feinberg, along with her older women relatives and her friends, are humanistic and making sure everyone is OK and eating. (4/21/2017)

    Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness (briefly reviewed at 2011 New York Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: forthcoming, my commentary on the Jewish women.)

    Simon and the Oaks (Simon och ekarna) (review forthcoming) (While the book it’s based on, by Marianne Fredriksson, is full of even more Jewish stereotypes, positive and negative, the two Jewish women in wartime and post-war Sweden are portrayed as driven to irreparable mental illness by Germans’ actions during the Holocaust, which causes them to abuse the Jewish men in their lives.) (10/22/2012)

    S#x/Six Acts (Shesh peamim) (briefly reviewed in Youth in Rebellion at Tribeca 2013 at Tribeca Film Festival) (So, nu: my commentary forthcoming on the Israeli teen girls and their mothers.) (6/5/2013)

    Six Million And One (Shisha million ve'ehad) (So, nu: my commentary forthcoming on the mother, a Holocaust survivor, and the elder sister who felt she bore the brunt.) (10/26/2012)

    Sixty Six (review forthcoming) (Of all the clichés in this British coming-of-age via bar mitzvah film, the Jewish mothers are not, starting with the unconventional casting of Helena Bonham Carter as “Esther Rubens” and Catherine Tate as her sister-in-law “Lila” (even if their Yiddish phrases don’t exactly roll off their tongues). Their lousy, over-boiled cooking is just like my Grandma Shirley’s. Dressed perfectly in garish period (1966) polyester, they are supportive of their idiosyncratic husbands, while distracted by financial pressures to dilute sibling rivalries, they are loving towards their sons.) (8/9/2008)

    Skills Like This (review forthcoming) (Writer/star Spencer Berger surrounds his Isro-haired "Max Solomon" with a supportive family, encouraging and loyal regardless of his comic artistic, romantic or even criminal ventures, including his grandmother and his mother (played by Marian Rothschild), who calmly offers him whitefish for lunch even as they hold vigil around his grandfather's hospital bed and queries his new girlfriend on her astrological sign.) (3/28/2009)

    Sleeping Beauty (for the Biblical allusions) Slums of Beverly Hills

    Something New (So, nu: A Jewish friend of the black/white interracial couple introduces them and keeps them in contact as we follow the friend and her mother through engagement, shower and wedding. A line from that initial blind date has been widely quoted when the woman explains to the white guy that she'd rather date black men: "It's not a prejudice. It's a preference." He replies "Yes, you prefer to be prejudiced." The official Production Notes awkwardly describe debut director Sanaa Hamri as the daughter of a "Russian-Jewish American" mother, but she's usually identified through her father's heritage, as he was a prominent Muslim-North African artist, and she grew up in Morocco.)

    Son of Saul (Saul Fia) (My edited capsule “Best of 2015” review) (Very impressive how scripters László Nemes and Clara Royer incorporated women in the immediacy of Auschwitz survival. At the NYFF press conference, the director appreciated participating in the Jerusalem Film Festival story development to get input from experts in developing the story. Admidst the male society of the Sonderkommando, a door suddenly opens up to the lights of “Kanada” where Jewish women prisoners had to sort through the belongings of the dead (and where my mother’s first cousin survived). Not only is a woman a crucial ally in the attempted sabotage rebellion, but she’s just about the only prisoner who is allowed a full name “Ella Fried” (played by Juli Jakab) who takes a great risk in sneaking “Saul” explosive powder, when other women conspire to distract their Nazi guard. She is based on a real woman Ella Gartner, one of four hung for their participation in the rebellion. (previewed at 2015 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (updated 12/20/2015)

    Spielberg - So nu: I have issues wth how the Jewish women and their Jewish context are presented, such that I would subtitle this documentary: “A Gentile’s Guide to His Life and Films”. In a mostly chronological presentation over 147 minutes (pared down from over 30 hours of interviews the director Susan Wagner Lacy, my intern supervisor back at the National Endowment for the Arts in 1975, conducted with him plus with family, colleagues, and stars), Spielberg immediately cites the significance of his exuberant mother Leah Posner Adler and his three sisters in encouraging and participating in his creative efforts, especially his early “scary” movies, delightfully included. All are warmly interviewed, but Nancy Spielberg is never identified as a film producer in her own right, of documentaries including Above and Beyond, nor that his sister Anne is a writer and producer, including an Oscar-nomination for co-writing Big. (Thanks to Jack Gattanella for reminding of the latter.) In the Q & A after the premiere at the 2017 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center, Lacy explained she had to delicately handle his “brief” – four-years-long and a son -- first marriage to actress Amy Irving, and his after “love at first sight” and her conversion to Judaism just before their wedding second wife Kate Capshaw, who is very private and declined to be interviewed, with the few, sweet family photos “clawed from her hands”. With Lacy’s heavy emphasis on the recurring theme in his films of the seeking of a father/son relationship due to his parents’ divorce and his father’s agreement to take the blame for the marriage wreck though his mother and sisters admit that what happened was his unhappy mother fell joyously in love with his father’s best friend who they called “Uncle” and his father left their lives for over a decade. There has since been a happy ending reunification, but maternal or sibling cinematic themes or expressions are not explored.
    Only when Lacy gets to Schindler’s List does she finally plunge into Steven’s, and his whole family’s, Jewish identity, and segregates their Jewishness completely within the context of this film. Suddenly, all their talk of growing up “feeling different” in the Phoenix suburbs (images that are so resonant in so many of his movies) is repeated but now with the sisters’ complete sentences “because we were Jewish”, as Steven describes growing up observant, with photos at least through his bar mitzvah, and a grandfather who called him by his Hebrew name Schmuel. That he was bullied -- because he was Jewish. Now is inserted his mother recounting anti-Semitic incidents they faced in the neighborhood. Now Sidney Shainberg’s mentorship of his young protégé can be seen with a basis for how they made a connection on the Universal lot. Now his wistful talk of “never fitting in” is seen as because he was Jewish—even more glaring, yet unsaid, as seen in his marvelous home movies with his crew of young peer directors as to why he felt such joy at finally fitting in with a group, even as the only Jew (which I had never noticed before about this Hollywood-shaking generation). Tony Kushner, a frequent collaborator as his screenwriter, ruminates on their work together on Munich as something like “our great Jewish American film director taking on the issues of the Middle East” – but this documentary does not see him like that. Not only did Lacy regret that she had to cut a telling anecdote about Spielberg conducting a seder with the German actors during the filming of Schindler’s List (doubtless to be on an extra on the DVD version), and that the HBO premiere had to be delayed for a year in order to schedule time for him to participate in the promotion. Doubtless there are many academic essays about “Jewish themes in other Spielberg films”, but the singularly glaring myopia keeps this from being anything close to a definitive bio-doc. (Thanks to Steve Kopian for the ticket.) (updated 12/3/2017)


    Standing Silent (review forthcoming) (It is noteworthy that two of the Orthodox victims to courageously come forward about rabbinical sexual abuse are women – one who speaks all covered with a voice disguise, and another, openly despite her mother’s objections, who has made aliyah, married with children, and is active in victims’ advocacy organizations. Rabbi Yosef Blau, Yeshiva University spiritual advisor, noted in the Q & A following the screening I attended that he sees in his work on this issue, the therapists are usually female. So it is that much more significant that Rabbi Abraham Twerski, M.D. notes in the film that the Biblical condemnation of gossip -lashon hara, which is frequently wielded condescendingly against women, is immediately followed by the requirement to not stand by silently when someone is being harmed, hence the title.) (previewed at 2011 DOC NYC Festival) (11/11/2011)

    Starter for 10 (review forthcoming) (The character of “Rebecca Epstein”, played by Rebecca Hall in the film, is a completely faithful adaptation from the novel A Question of Attraction by David Nicholls, who also wrote the screenplay. “Rebecca” has the usual Jewish movie attributes of brainy lefty political activist brunette, but her finally requited pining for the conflicted, repentant working-class hero as he gets his comeuppance is charming.)

    Starting Over Again

    While many women who grew up in Egypt and became refugees around the world, from the U.S. to Israel, relate their memories, commissioned director Ruggero Gabbai does not include any uniquely female experiences.
    After the showing, educator Vivianne Levy (left) and writer Lucette Lagnado, author of memoirs The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit and The Arrogant Years: One Girl's Search for Her Lost Youth, from Cairo to Brooklyn who said she could write 800 more pages about Jewish life in Egypt, were challenged that their rosy memories of “the Golden Age” conveniently left out the anti-Semitism in the country since an alliance with Hitler and the differences for those Jews who were not bourgeoisie. They countered that the majority of the Jews were of at least middle class, and that anti-Semites were a small minority who were castigated by the supportive majority, pointing out that the Muslim Brotherhood at that time were even outlawed and imprisoned. (seen at 2018 New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival) (3/13/2018)


    State 194 (So, nu: While the Jewish women peace activists aren’t profiled as closely as the men, they are seen as leaders in demonstrations and in negotiations with determined and sometimes quite nasty male and female settlers.)

    Steal A Pencil For Me (emendations coming after 5/9/2008)

    Stefan Zweig: Farewell To Europe (Vor Der Morgenröte - Stefan Zweig In Amerika) (We are only left at the end with his suicide note, and not his younger wife’s voice or reasons.) (at 2017 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum)

    Stella (briefly reviewed at 2009 Rendez-Vous With French Cinema of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (The titular new, working class girl in school is befriended by a redheaded Jewish girl "Gladys" (played by Mélissa Rodriguez), whose parents are political exiles from Argentina. She and her warm extended family play a key role in opening up "Stella"s world to books, reading, intellectual discussions, and parental attention to school and love.)

    Steve Jobs (So, nu: The Joanna Hoffman here, as played by Kate Winslet with an occasional trace of mastering Hoffman's “unique” accent (she is reported to have grown up in Poland, with her Jewish father, and in Armenia, her mother’s native country, before moving to the U.S. as a teen), when she sarcastically retorts I’m not from the shtetl., and Jobs (as played by Michael Fassbender) teases her as either a “Yenta” or “Yentl”, or some such until I ever see the script. Several times he mocks her as “too European”. As written by Aaron Sorkin, she acts like his idealized Jewish mother, constantly nagging him to take parental responsibility for his out-of-wedlock daughter, and in general to be more of a mensch, without using that term. The real person objects to the line referring to her as his “work wife”. But very little is revealed about her life or how it changed over the years covered in the film (when in real life she married co-worker Alain Rossmann, who I don’t know yet if he’s Jewish but he has has a European background (French), and they have two kids). As I recall, her role as marketing chief and long-time friend/colleague was barely covered in Alex Gibney’s documentary Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine (with my additional notes), and only a few times noted as a close friend in Walter Isaacson’s biography, which was the inspiration for the script, then supplemented by extensive interviews with the principals including her – so little is known about her, or even available about her online, my colleagues were surprised to learn Winslet is portraying one real person, not a fictional composite. (previewed at 2015 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) (updated 10/24/2015)

    Stitching History From The Holocaust - documentary about the Milwaukee Art Museum exhibition that created a tribute to Czech artistic dressmaker Hedwig Strnad as a memorial to the creative talents lost in the Holocaust – an unusual focus on the work of a Jewish woman, as well as the sad epistolary evidence they tried to get a U.S. visa years before deportation to Thierenstadt. (11/16/2014)

    Stop (briefly reviewed at 2012 New York Film Festival of the Film Society of Lincoln Center) (commentary forthcoming) (10/14/2012)

    Stories We Tell (So, nu: When Polley interviews Harry Gulkin, the producer of, what here seems the ironically titled, Jewish-Canadian classic Lies My Father Told Me, as her mother’s friend, his Jewishness is a colorful and emotional counterpart to all the staid WASPs in her family. When she meets her biological sister, there’s a startling moment of genetic connection with identical smiles, especially when they welcome her and her own daughter to their first seder.) (preview at 2013 New Directors/New Films of Film Society of Lincoln Center/MoMA) (5/16/2013)

    Stranger of the Dunes (short) (So, nu: Dir. Tamar Baruch was able to cast, as the longing memory of the Eritrean refugee played by Michael Tesfahans, the mesmerizing and beautiful singer Ester Rada, of the Beta Israel community of Ethiopian Jews in Israel. In sort of reenacting something of his own cross-Sahara walk to Israel, he also cooperated on the music to reflect his heritage. (seen at 2018 Other Israel Film Festival) (11/6/2018)

    Suite Française (2016) (Not released in theaters, seen on DVD) (Directed and co-written by Paul Dibb) Based on “Dolce”, the second section of the novel by Irène Némirovsky, the Jews in the small town of Bussy (inspired by Issy-l’Eveque, in the Burgundy region of France) are only seen incidentally, in particular when “Lucille Angellier” (played by Michelle Williams) sees a bewildered Jewish woman taken away by the Gestapo. But this incident makes clear that she knows what is going on, even as she falls in love with a German officer. In an interview with The Daily Mail, Dibb explained that this character, a refugee, is not in the novel, but was added as a tribute to Némirovsky, who was similarly rounded-up: “We wanted to have a reference to what happened to Irene, but in a subtle way.” (referenced in my review of The Exception) (6/23/2017)

    Suited (HBO documentary previewed at Human Rights Watch Film Fest 2016 at Film Society of Lincoln Center and of IFC Center) At least one of the trans-men coming for custom suit fittings in Brooklyn is explicitly Jewish. As described in the press notes: “Aidan Star Jones is a transgender teenage boy whose Bar Mitzvah is approaching. His grandmother contacts Bindle & Keep after their family is unable to find him a suit that fits his needs in their hometown of Tucson, Arizona.” But that makes this sound like some conventional family. The grandmother, Mimi Lester, seems like a free spirt, and when the father Bob “Papa” Jones comes to see the final fitting, he looks like an old hippie. The much tattooed Aidan explains (my approximate transcription): “A year and a half ago I realized I’m trans. My sisters are accepting. Mom is. But dad doesn’t accept me because he thinks I’m not old enough to know who I am. My grandmother’s wife is the cantor at my temple. When I came out to her, she explained to the rabbi that I wanted a bar mitzvah. I don’t want to become a woman. My grandma Mimi always worries and is protective.” Grandma Mimi, tearfully: “I’m afraid of him being hurt. He takes more hurts. He suffers pain from homophobic kids in class. It’s hard to watch that, that he’ll feel hurt.” While most of the clients shown are trans-men, another Jew is not, as described in the press notes: “Dr. Jillian T. Weiss is an attorney and professor in New York who focuses on transgender issues in the workplace. She is a transgender woman who approaches Bindle & Keep for suits that will make her look and feel her best as she argues an important discrimination case in federal court.” She describes why she became a lawyer (my approximate transcription): “My mother insisted! I wanted to be a rabbi! She said ‘What kind of job is rabbi for a nice Jewish boy?’ But I loved law school! I fell in love with it. I did corporate litigation, married, and had a son. I thought I was a sick freak and hoped it would go away. I learned more, read books and realized that’s me! It was frightening and shocking. The turning point was when I thought maybe it was better if I wasn’t here. I scared myself. I told myself: ‘You need to address this. In 1998, I transitioned male to female. The day after. I felt let out of prison, breathing free air. It was amazing!” When she explains to the tailors that she needs a respectably conservative suit to argue a trans-gender discrimination case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit (covering Georgia, Florida and Alabama), the tailor is impressed: “We need to make the best suit we’ve ever made!” Weiss won her case for her client. (updated 8/4/2016)

    Summer of Blood (previewed at 2014 Tribeca Film Festival) (So, nu: The Jewish woman co-worker “Penelope” (played by Dakota Goldhor) is primarily there for the Turkish writer/director/star/editor Onur Tukel to play off the irony. She does get a speech about her high IQ, SAT scores, and Ivy League college education that has landed her in a boring marketing job in Brooklyn, and she does resist any of his obnoxious romantic gestures until he’s turned into a vampire.) (4/1/2014)

    Sunshine

    Super Girl (So, nu (While of course purists will argue that Naomi Kutin and her mother (a convert from an unusual background that could be explored more in contrast to her daughter’s) aren’t strictly following Orthodox Jewish practice in how she participates in powerlifting competitions on Shabbat, or participating in this sport at all for challenging gender norms. But their suburban New Jersey yeshiva and synagogue seem OK with it, and the family works very hard at integrating their observance with their daughter’s empowerment and mother’s sensitive involvement.) (previewed at 2016 DOC NYC Festival) Supermensch: The Legend Of Shep Gordon (So, nu: In the film, he is reluctant to talk about growing up because of his mother: Mom pushed. She was a tough Jewish lady. . .Mom made sure I was bar mitzvahed., though his sister has nothing negative to say about her. (While I can’t read more of my notes to be sure I’m quoting him preceisely, he broke off that part of the interview.) He must have felt guilty about talking negatively about her, because in his subsequent interview with Sheila Roberts, 6/3/2014, he was more indirect: “I was lucky with my parents, for my mom and my dad particularly, much more than my mom, who was very compassionate and loving to everyone.” (6/11/2014)

    Surfwise (emendations coming after 11/8/2008) (So, nu: The patriarch credits “a Jewish girl named Ellen taught me to eat pussy” in Israel, awakening him to the realization that his two marriages failed due to lousy sex. Which provides a new twist on Deuteronomy 26:5 we recite at the seder: "My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; but there he became a great, mighty and populous nation." Only his daughter Navah retains a Jewish identity and is passing it on to her children.)

    The Sweetest Sound (review forthcoming) (In Alan Berliner’s continued drawing on his family for documentary essays, his mother comments how she would have preferred a more Sephardic version of his name, and he interviewed his sister Lynn, and their parents, about her name and her selection of her daughters’ somewhat unconventional names, Jade and Starr.) (9/7/2012)

    Take This Waltz (previewed at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival) (So, nu: the women playing gentile “Margot” (played by Michelle Williams)’s husband“Lou Rubin” (Seth Rogen)’s sister “Geraldine” (played by Sarah Silverman) and mother “Harriet” (played by Diane D'Aquila) are never explicitly identified as Jewish, just that it’s a close-knit, intellectual, loud-mouth family with no Christmas tree who look like the Toronto version of Upper West Siders – and both Rogen and Silverman are more known for comedy with a Jewish shtick than for dramatic acting. Writer/director Sarah Polley tiptoes around stereotypes by making the frank sister an alcoholic who tells it like it is when she’s drunk. In the press notes, Polley describes her character: “That state of ‘needing, wanting and ‘won’t survive unless you have it’ is something that an addict is very familiar with, and they understand what a trap it can be, what an illusion. The rest of us struggle to understand this in increments. As a result, Geraldine recognizes in Margot the qualities of needing a drug, except in Margot’s case love and filling emptiness are more organic to her life. Geraldine tried in vain to fill the emptiness as well, she just does it with something else.” (4/22/2012)

    Taking Woodstock -- Imelda Staunton's "Sonia Teichberg" is a brusque, tight-fisted, guilt-inducing battle-ax of an unaffectionate mother, but she is a formidable manager of a failing Catskills motel, finding ever more ways to squeeze money out of a hippie invasion. Her daughter has fled from her to Manhattan and marriage. When her son "Elliot" justifies to his sister why he's going back to help her despite no words of thanks: She loves me more than you., his sister retorts: That must be a great consolation to you. In addition to "Sonia"s tendency to watch only bad news on TV, including about wars in Viet Nam and the Middle East, the most insight we get into her grim outlook is her autobiographal tirade to the bank manager in what is clearly a frequently repeated, and presumably embroidered (and hilariously re-told) tale: We didn't come here begging. . .I'm an old woman. I suffered. I walked here from Russia. She rants about Russia, the Tsar, pogroms and everything now leading to: Persecution!. . . There goes the gas! When her hapless son asks his father to have her "lay off the Nazi stuff", Dad shrugs: You think I can tell Mom what to do? and later defends his love for her. Her toughness comes in handy when she chases off gangsters with a broom – but she also chases off the nudist theater troupe members that way. While it is a very funny scene when she gets "groovy" on "special brownies" and dances around the yard, it is inexplicable when her son and husband find her asleep amongst her cache of cash: It's my savings for 20 years. Don't come around you two! She comes close to an apologetic explanation: Elli, I was scared. I've got to fix your father his lunch. Viewers are left to vaguely presume that her thick immigrant accent indicates she is a PTSD-suffering Holocaust survivor, but that's not what she says, and her incantations against evil spirits are just delightfully typical Yiddishms. I kept expecting the Woodstock experience to change their relationship by him coming out to her, but that is avoided. Maybe Elliot Tiber's memoir (written with Tom Monte) that was the basis for the film has more insight. Antonia_I posted on the IMDb forum with info on his sisters from the book: "Goldie was twelve years Elliot's senior (plus, in the book, Rachelle was nine years senior, Renee was four years his junior)". There's passing implications amongst the townspeople's anti-Semitic rumblings that Max Yasgur and therefore his amenable, cookie-proffering wife "Miriam" (played by Pippa Pearthree) are Jewish. (1/2/2010)

    A Tale of Love and Darkness - Best Woman-Directed Foreign-Language Film 2016 (So, nu: In Portman, the sabra, as Amos Oz’s mother, the portrait of “Fania” is a very unusual, frankly sympathetic look at a woman with survivor guilt just before/during/after Israel’s independence in Jerusalem, where it was filmed, who uses her gifts of a vivid memory through storytelling as a fraught heritage to bestow on her son. So many other films of this period and place either show the Noble Pioneers or the PTSD-haunted survivors, and few show the divisions of Zionist opinion among those who constituted the different Waves of Aliyah. Her mother-in-law is a perfectionist European whose standards she can never meet, while her two sisters, who disapprove of her cheating husband, have completely adapted to secular Tel Aviv. The emphasis on women thankfully slices out much of the memoir’s heavy repetition of discussions of literary and Zionist theory.) (previewed at 2016 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film So