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.

Since December 2019, my analysis of earlier Israeli films is influenced by Prof. Rachel S. Harris’s Warriors, Witches, Whores: Women in Israeli Cinema (Wayne State University Press, 2017)

  • 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. 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 at 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.

    The Obeidi-Alsultany Test proposes five criteria “to evaluate whether a TV or film project presents Muslim characters in dynamic, nuanced, and intersectional stories and contexts.” I should create The Lilith Test for how Jewish women are portrayed in films/TV, like .
    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 for when a film features more than female relationships. (updated 11/15/2020)

    Complete Index to Nora Lee Mandel's Movie Reviews

    My reviews have appeared on: Film-Forward; FF2 Media; Lilith, FilmFestivalTraveler; and, Alliance of Women Film Journalists. 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)

    15 Minutes of Shame (10/7/2021)

    18 To Party (2020) In debut writer/director Jeff Roda’s profane and nostalgic look back at small town 8th graders in 1984 riven by divorce and suicide, let alone changes in rock ‘n’ roll, one of the many topics the group discusses while waiting to get into a club is how one of them can be simultaneously “half-Jewish”, yet considered full-on Jewish because his mother is Jewish, and does observe such traditions as lighting Hanukkah candles. Another boy is convinced that being Jewish a matter of faith, like his mother believe in playing tennis. (I couldn’t keep the kids straight to tell who was saying what.) (10/22/2020)

    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)
    Follow-up: As of late 2019, the traditional ambulance company serving the Orthodox community Hatzolah is challenging the women’s organization’s right to exist, particularly against the founder’s role.

    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)

    200 Meters - Palestinian writer/director Ameen Nayfeh’s debut film creates three-dimensional characters daily faced with how the security wall has put Palestinians in absurd situations when families, like his own for the past 15 years, have been divided by the titular distance. Unlike some integrated films that have faced criticism at film festivals, all the Israelis, including the two female characters, are portrayed by Palestinian-Israelis who are fluent in Hebrew: an overly bureaucratic officer (played by Hanin Tarabeh), who won’t give a procedural break to the central character “Mustafa” (a role created for prominent Palestinian-Israeli actor Ali Suliman, who is suberb here as a dedicated, yet stubborn, family man), and a friendly soldier (played by Rebecca Telhami); in a Q & A, Nayfeh noted that one actress had a Dutch father. With minimal spoilers, she’s friendly because “Anne”, the blonde, pale-skinned female driver of a car with Israeli license plates is ostensibly a feisty German, English-speaking tourist with a video camera (played by German actress Anna Unterberger); the casting plays on both sides’ presumptions of what women in the Middle East look like and what languages they speak, as her Palestinian guide rationalizes her sympathy that she has a convoluted post-1948 family tree with a Lebanese grandfather. As Nayfeh spent his formative years moving between Jordan and Palestine, is a recent graduate of a Jordanian film school, and now lives on the West Bank, where the exteriors were filmed, 200 Meters was selected by Jordan, where the interiors and “checkpoints” were filmed, as its entry for the “International Academy Award.” (streamed at The Wrap International Awards Screenings) (1/20/2021)

    306 Hollywood Devoted grandchildren Elan and Jonathan Bogarín delightfully use style over substance in conducting a year-long archaeological investigation into their grandmother’s house in Newark, NJ, where she never threw out anything since buying the house in 1944. In a model that could encourage any family historian to be creative, they find every visual technique, cataloging, and research aid to make up for the fact that while they spent hours interviewing Annette Ontell over her last decade, from age 83 on, they really didn’t ask her very good questions, with no special revelations, other than some more detail on their uncle David’s mental health issues and her long marriage with Herman, an accountant. (“We were in ‘iron and steel’ – I iron, he steals.”) While they neglected to draw out more family history, other than her experiences growing up in what she calls “a Jewish ghetto” (she may be right assuming that as children of a Venezuelan father they know little about Jews or Yiddish), they did bring out her fashion design career, with the help of their mother Marilyn. They interview the Rockefeller archivist and a textile conservator for ideas and guidance. But they go further, including lip synching audio tape scenes, displaying her dresses on the roof and in a fun dance routine with performers in period make-up and lingerie. They recognize this is all part of their grieving process, and they interview experts in death - - but never think to explore if Jewish rituals or traditions could be helpful in connecting with her. (seen courtesy of El Tigre Productions) (12/20/2018)

    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)

    - the whole mishpucha (from Level 33 Entertainment –courtesy Blue Fox Entertainment)
    This warmly emotional family movie is an international production, directed by Brazilian Fernando Grostein Andrade, whose mixed heritage includes grandparents, he describes, “escaped anti-Semitism in the 19030s”, and written with Lameece Issaq, who is Artistic Director of a theater that showcase Middle-Eastern artists, and Jacob Kader, who previously partnered with her on the play “Food and Fadwa.” Set in a diverse Brooklyn that would usually be a recipe for stereotypes, an Israeli woman “Rebecca” (played by Polish-born Dagmara Dominczyk) has been married for 15 years to a Palestinian man “Amir” (played by Arian Moayed, American actor of Iranian heritage). However, when the film opens, “Rebecca”s sense of her Jewish identity is heightened when she mourns the passing of her mother, and she bestows her mother’s recipes on their son.
    Their son calls himself “Abe” (Noah Schnapp). One side of his family (Mark Margolis plays his immigrant grandfather Benjamin) calls him “Avraham” and the other “Ibrahim” (those grandparents are played by Syrian-American actress Salem Murphy and Armenian-Americn actor Tom Mardirosian). His approaching 13th birthday leads to a crisis of fulfilling both his bar mitzvah and the demands of fasts during Ramadan despite his very atheist father and intellectual Muslim in-laws. But all he wants is to be an Instagram-popular chef whose deliciously lovely creations draw on both traditions, as wisely mentored by Brazilian chef “Chico” (played by popular musician Seu Jorge), and beautiful Brazilian music fills the soundtrack.
    The tensions between the parents are very realistically presented and not smoothly solved at a climactic, multi-ethnic Thanksgiving dinner prepared by their chef-in-training son. Since I saw Abe at the 2019 Other Israel Film Festival, I’m delighted that Blue Fox Entertainment is opening the film in theaters/VOD on April 17, 2020. (updated 3/9/2020)

    Abe and Phil’s Last Poker Game Written and directed by Harvard Med School neurologist Howard L. Weiner, the focus is mostly on the men, particularly elderly “Dr. Abe Mandelbaum” (Martin Landau, in his last role), who moves into Cliffside Manor Nursing Home because he can no longer manage alone with his wife “Molly” (Ann Marie Shea) with dementia, who I’ll assume is a putative Jew. While “Abe” confesses to a long ago affair with a nurse, all we know about “Molly” is that she’s still randy, despite that he can ony fulfill her now with a hand job, and she fixates on her mink jacket. (12/15/2018)

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

    Acts & Intermissions

    Abigail Child’s- 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 (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)

    Adventures of a Mathematician With the support of the Alfred B. Sloan Foundation to make scientists more visible in films for general audiences, writer/director Thor Klein brings a multi-national production attention to the European Jewish mathematicians who were at Los Alamos, and their families, helping to develop the bombs during World War II and coping with the ethical issues during and after. Based on the titular autobiography of Polish Jew Stanislaw Ulam (that I’ve ordered a used copy to read, because gosh $33 on Kindle!), we hear about and the telephone voice of his sister Stefania back in Lvov, with their mother, but don’t learn too much about her, besides her tragic fate. The only Jewish woman on screen is who Ulam (played by auburn-haired Philippe Tlokinski) would marry, Francoise Aron, played authentically by brunette French actress Esther Garrel – so much so that, frankly, I had trouble understanding her English dialogue!
    Francoise’s intelligence and resentment of male academic privilege are established during their courtship. But once they arrive in New Mexico, she unfortunately morphs into a conventional ‘40’s/’50’s housewife, without much of the agency the wives portrayed at the project in the TV series Manhattan over two seasons work out for a more substantive role. (Their daughter Claire Ulam Wiener and family cooperated on the production.) There’s just a brief re-humanizing when she intervenes in his ongoing quarrels about the hydrogen bomb with Edward Teller (Joel Basman) by setting up a tête-à-tête for the two men through his wife Mici (Camille Moutawakil) – and I hadn’t realized before this film that the Tellers were also Jewish. (preview at 2021 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (2/6/2021)

    Advocate (Lea Tsemel, Orehet Din) - So nu: The biographical elements on Israeli attorney Lea Tsemel include interviews with her daughters and female relatives, from her childhood, university protest days where she met her husband. The interview with Arafat’s PLO colleague Hanan Ashraw seems less obligatory than her inclusion in so many such documentaries because she’s so intimately warm about how Tsemel defended her from their student days, and their friendship seems genuine. (preview at 2019 Human Rights Watch Film Festival at Film at Lincoln Center/ IFC Center and at 2019 Other Israel Film Festival - above with ex-Knesset Member Dov Khenin, whose bio-doc Comrade Dov only mentioned Jewish women, like his mother and daughter, in passing, with a glimpse of an opposing female enscarfed religious Zionist MK wanting to rail vs government funding of the The Jerusalem Cinemateque rather than his priority of a minimum wage)
    Israel’s Culture Minister Miri Regev objected, without seeing it, when the documentary won The Howard Gilman Award for the Best Israeli Film at the The Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival. This award always comes with a grant of 150,000 shekels ($42,000) from Mifal Hapayis, the national lottery, is supposed to be spent toward helping the film compete for an Oscar, according to Ha’aretz. But people who the liberal newspaper identified as “right-wing activists, the Yahad organization, and the bereaved families’ group called “Choosing Life” objected to this grant, and the lottery is seeking to rescind it, and possibly withdraw its support of the festival films in the future.
    2 Emmy nominations for directors Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bella Bellaiche including Best Documentary and Outstanding Politics and Government Documentary (updated 1/4/2020/ 7/28/2021)

    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 the Curve Primarily a bio-doc of lesbian magazine Deneuve/Curve publisher/editor Franco (Frank) Stevens, co-directed/written by her wife Jen Rainin (who puts herself on screen too often), her Jewish identity is only visually inferred. Home movie footage shows then Frances participating in a Jewish wedding in 1986, that she now describes sarcastically: “It was an elaborate, amazing day, living the fairy tale, great guy, great with the family. I had no idea I was gay.” Her sister Robin Goldberg explains the family tensions in 1989 as her husband outed her, and then the extreme reaction, amidst home movie footage of the family Passover seder, from her mother Gloria “Nanny” Postal, such that her daughter fled the house with nothing and nowhere to live. In the Q & A, Stevens expands that her mother called her an embarrasement to the family. Surprisingly, Stevens also said that just like being a lesbian and her disability, “just like being Jewish is part of my whole being, who I am.” Because there is zero reference to that in the rest of the film as she goes on to live an authentic life in San Francisco and risked what money she had on founding the magazine in 1990 – leaving the impression that she left the Jewishness behind, including that when she reconciles with her mother the holiday she brings her first girlfriend home to is Thanksgiving. While Latinas and other Women of Color speak extensively of the importance of lesbian publications including their concerns and viewpoints, her own ethnicity is not comparable. Even as her increasing physical disability from a foot injury that developed into complex regional pain syndrome spurs her to contemplate her legacy and what the lesbian community, especially the younger generations, needs going forward. While she comes to the conclusion that her community no longer needs a magazine, so turns to philanthropy instead, I came away convinced of the continuing need for Lilith Magazine including Jewish lesbians in its purview. (streamed at 2021 ReelAbilities Film Festival New York; wider distribution from June 2021) (5/6/2021)

    Ahead of Time (briefly reviewed at 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at 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 Muslim (at 2019 DOC NYC Festival and seen at 2020 Cinematters: Social Justice Film Festival) (1/31/2020)

    American Promise (previewed at 2013 New York Film Festival of Film at 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 at 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)

    #Anne Frank - Parallel Stories (on Netflix) An ongoing angst among Jews is how to keep making the Holocaust relevant to the next generations. Schools the world over depend on The Diary of Anne Frank, to the point of fetishism about one girl, to represent the whole experience. The diary is a taking-off point in this mixed-genre documentary to represent young women of today and within the Nazi maw. To make an old-fashioned diary relevant, a young woman (played by Martina Gatti) texts on screen to Anne in the same way that Anne wrote to “Kitty”, and follows the Frank sisters’ path geographically. Produced in commemoration of what would have been Anne’s 90th birthday, Dame Helen Mirren narrates the bit confusing non-chronological on-screen biography, by tying together Anne’s experiences before, in hiding, and after capture, with the intimate memories of five 90 year old women Holocaust survivors who were at the same places at the same time at the same teen age, including at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany: Arianna Szörenyi, Sarah Lichtsztejn-Montard, Helga Weiss, and sisters Andra and Tatiana Bucci. (One remembers meeting her.) In its determination to reach out to young viewers, the survivors are also proudly interviewed with their children and grandchildren, who discuss their feelings and continuing responsibilities for understanding and educating about what their relative went through. Male historians add additional context and facts. (7/10/2020)

    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)

    Arabic Friday (short) Director Gal Rosenbluth based the characters “Naomi” and “Marwan” on her and her partner Nayef Hammoud, whose autobiographically-inspired short The Day My Father Dies was also shown, who have attempted to cross-communicate by only speaking his native Arabic that day to improve her language facility, resulting in the only day they don’t get along. (seen at 2019 Other Israel Film Festival) (11/17/2019)

    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 at 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 at Lincoln Center) (updated 11/29/2017)

    Asia Debut writer/director Ruthy Pribar maturely sets up a very original mother “Asia” (Alena Yiv) and teen daughter “Vika” (Shira Haas) relationship, especially as Russian immigrants in Israel dependent on each other, and the male/female friends they can frankly make and keep. I appreciate that Pribar was inspired by her family’s personal experience with her sister’s illness. But the film sinks into what comes across as maudlin “movie star disease” pathos, even as it makes a strong point about making decisions. However, with all the Tribeca and nine Israeli Ophir awards to women crew (Best Picture, Actress, Supporting Actress, Cinematographer – first female winner, Editing, Casting, Original Score – first female winner, Art Design, and Makeup Artist) it garnered, I’m way in the minority of viewers. (preview at 2020/replay at 2021 Tribeca Film Festival/ at 2021 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (streaming through Menemsha Films) (5/7/2020; updated 3/10/2021)

    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 Dr. Ruth (previewed at 2019 Tribeca Film Festival) – four generations of Jewish women are seen or discussed in this bio-doc – her beloved, indulgent Orthodox grandmother and her mother in photographs before they disappeared into the Holocaust, Dr. Ruth, and her daughter Miriam.
    In this PBS interview with Dr. Ruth Westheimer on the 4/3/2019 Amanpour and Company, they well summarize the bio-doc, particularly its Jewishness. (4/6/2019 and updated 12/31/2019)

    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)

    At the Heart of Gold (So, nu: Olympic Gold Medalist Aly Raisman became a hero to Jewish women when she came forward to forcefully accuse the team doctor of abuse and the complicit leadership of U.S. gymnastics and U.S. Olympics. I’m not sure what other Jewish women were also victims and spokeswomen.) (preview at 2019 Tribeca Film Festival) (4/7/2019)

    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/Tuck’s 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 at 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)

    Back to the Fatherland - My cousin Hila Golan’s relevant theater work in Berlin, in partnership with Ariel Nil Levy, includes Schweigeminute, as seen in this trailer, which subsequently won first prize at the 2010 Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theater, and discussed in this interview) (preview courtesy First Run Features) (6/28/2019)

    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)

    Barbara Rubin and the Exploding New York Underground (at 2018 DOC NYC Festival)

    (copyright/preview courtesy of Juno Films)
    Concurrent example of how Rubin gets forgotten: In The New York Times obit by Neil Genzlinger of filmmaker Peter Whitebread, 6/21/2019: “[H]e took his camera to a 1965 festival at Royal Albert Hall in London that featured both British and American poets, including Adrian Mitchell, Michael Horovitz and Allen Ginsberg. The resulting film, Wholly Communion, captured what turned out to be a seminal event in the emerging counterculture movement” – Rubin germinated and produced this International Poetry Incarnation. (6/21/2019)

    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 at 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 at 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)

    Belly of the Beast - So, nu: In the Virtual Q & A after the screening at the 2020 Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival, Cohn passionately expressed her motivation for making the film: “As a Jewish woman, the phrase ‘Never again’ is always in back of my mind. I learned about this different genocide through forced sterilizations behind bars and that screamed eugenics to me!” (PBS Independent Lens)
    4 Emmy nominations: for director Erika Akire Cohn and producer Angela Tucker for Best Documentary, Best Direction: Documentary, Outstanding Current Affairs Documentary, and Outstanding Editing: Documentary. (10/27/2020/ 7/28/2021)

    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 at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (1/25/2010)

    Berlin I Love You (available in theaters, On VOD and Digital HD) is part of the “Cities I Love” collective series of short films, which began with Paris, Je T'aime. This installment is more about being in love with people than the city. In “Transitions”, written by David Vernon, Edda Reiser, Claus Clausen & Rebecca Rahn, directed by Josef Rusnak, singer-songwriter Sara (Rafaëlle Cohen, with long brown wavy hair) from Tel Aviv (an M.C. introducing her later thinks she comes from Tenerife), busks in Berlin next to Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire-like angel living statue, presumably German native Daniel (Robert Stadlober) and they begin a whirlwind romance around the city that helps geographically connect the 10 short films, as “The Recurrent Characters” in the lexicon of the series. She looks for where her grandmother Estelle Singer lived. When they find the address, he shows her the Stolperstein plaques in front of the old building with the names of other Singers – Rudi, Shula, Selma – who lived there when they were taken away in the Holocaust. But Sara grins – She survived! She’s 95-years-old. She wanted me to take photographs. He: How in the world can you come here with these bad memories? She: I don’t have these bad memories. (This is the only mention I noticed of Berlin’s past, with no other glimpse of the many memorials around the city.) I was reminded of my Israeli theater and artistic cousins, grandchildren of a Holocaust survivor, who frequently live in Berlin, though the many kinds of music clubs (including a magical dance with and to Max Raabe) are seen more than the artsy hang-outs. As Sara, Cohen gets to perform two songs, including one she wrote. (Preview courtesy of Saban Films) (2/8/2019)
    I must note that in New York Times on 2/19/2019, Amy Qin reports that the film excludes a commissioned short by dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who is quoted: “When I found out, I was very angry. It was frustrating to see Western creators and institutions collaborating with Chinese censorship in such an obvious way.” The Times describes: “The segment portrayed the separation of a family and featured his 5-year-old son, Ai Lao, who lived in Germany. ‘It’s sweet and has some sadness,’ Mr. Ai said about his segment, which he directed in 2015. ‘Not politically sensitive at all.’”

    Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened (previewed at 2016 New York Film Festival of Film at 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)

    [courtesy of New York Film Festival, 2019]
    The Booksellers (So, nu: Fran Lebowitz is a frequent and witty commenter, as a customer. She remembers the proprietors of “Book Row” as being old Jewish men. But several of the notable sellers are women, with presumably Jewish names, including: from legendary dealers of the past Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine B. Stern, at a time when only men could be recognized in the profession, and the above sisters Adina Cohen, Naomi Hample and Judith Lowry of Argosy Book Store.) (seen at 2019 New York Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center) (10/17/2019)

    Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: In one of the codas to his political satire, co-writer/director Cohen makes sure to provide closure to his titular fake alter-ego’s support of Kazakh’s alleged anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. He dresses up as the kind of exaggerated Jew still seen in European culture and visits a synagogue where he is warmly greeted by two women, including a Holocaust survivor who assures him that it really happened – and gives him a hug and kiss. Though I thought it was a sweet moment among the raucous jokes, posted on IMDB as “trivia” was this follow-up information: “The film's creators were sued for fraud after including an interview with Holocaust survivor Judith Dim Evans. Evans died before the film's release, but her heirs brought the lawsuit alleging that she did not consent to the commercial use of her likeness in the film. Sacha Baron Cohen, who dedicated the film to her memory, claimed that he broke character to reveal to Evans that the piece was a bid to reduce her concern about the anti-Semitic comments that Borat makes. The lawsuit was dismissed on October 26.” (streamed on Amazon) (12/29/2020)

    Born To Be (So, nu: Among the participants in Mt. Sinai’s new Center Transgender Medicine and Surgery, are a couple who met on Birthright Israel, where they had a very positive experience. The documentary follows as one partner completes physical transition to a male, with a very supportive Jewish female partner.) (brief review at FF2 Media) (preview at 2019 New York Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center) (updated 10/28/2019)

    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 at 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 Bread - In Beth Hawk’s enjoyable and culinarily informative portrait of Dr. Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, the first Palestinian Muslim Arab to win Israel’s Master Chef television competition and the A-sham Festival she founded in Haifa to bring together Jewish and Arab chefs to collaborate and connect through diverse food of “The Levant” (identified clearly through animated maps), it was surprising that not one chef in the competition was a Jewish woman. One did make amusing comments, Efrat Enzel, though not specified in the documentary, her Facebook page identifies her as “Culinary journalist and editor; Television presenter and hostess; Culinary consultant”, so she’s apparently well-known in Israel. Recipes will be posted. (seen at 2019 Other Israel Film Festival/ at 2021 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (11/17/2019)

    Breaking Home Ties (Review forthcoming) (new print previewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at 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 at Lincoln Center) (updated 1/4/2017)

    Brillo Box (3¢ off) (short) (previewed at 2016 New York Film Festival of Film at 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 at 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)

    Border of Pain (at 2019 Other Israel Film Festival) – A refreshing antidote to such documentaries as Heart Of Jenin that tout Israel’s superior medical facilities and services over those available to the Palestinians as as a paternalistic, universalistic gift to be granted, or even of the sad and well-meaning Muhi- Temporary that focuses on one patient’s exceptionalism. Rather, the Jewish female nurses and staffs who work with volunteers of various organizations to arrange, transport, and treat Palestinians from Gaza in Israeli hospitals just cheerfully and efficiently consider them regular patients, albeit ones who have to stay for months because their permits do not allow them out and sometimes require a translator. Is it just generosity when a nurse offers the family member of a Russian patient one of the volunteer-prepared take-out meals that are supposed to be for the Palestinians? (12/8/2019)

    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

    Buddy: Director Heddy Honigmann, Peru-born/Dutch citizen, is always identified in interviews and biographies as “the child of Holocaust survivors”. (Many articles seem to inaccurately say the family reached Peru by 1938.) Asked why she dedicated this documentary profiling the deep relationship between service dogs and their human partners to her grandmother Stefanie, she talked movingly about how her father went back after the war to try to find his mother. She identified his family as from “Austria”, but that may not be the modern boundaries, because she said her grandmother went into hiding “near the Caspian Sea” where her father found her. (Honigmann’s mother is identified in articles as coming from “Poland”, with my similar caveats.) Bringing her to the family’s refuge in Peru, Honigmann remembered her grandmother as being a solitary person, presumably affected by her war experiences, preferring to be accompanied by her dogs and the long walks they took together, even when they had to become shorter walks as she aged. She joked how the dogs would even follow her to the bathroom and wait for her to come out, then sit by her bed as her grandmother spent the rest of her days reading huge piles of crime novels and playing cards. Her love for her grandmother was entwined with love for her dogs. While Honigmann says her grandmother who, she says, taught her to "love and trust dogs", she commented on the irony of her over-protective father giving her a German shepherd which were so identified with Nazi cruelty her father experienced in a concentration camp. One of the subjects of the Dutch film is 86-year-old Edith, who was blinded by the explosion of a German grenade during World War 2. Honigmann’s discussion of her family revealed why so many of her films hint at issues around death. (seen at MoMA’s 2019 Documentary Fortnight - her attendance was facilitated by the wonderful museum I loved visiting in Amsterdam The Eye – Netherlands Film Institute) (3/1/2019)

    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)

    Bully. Coward. Victim: The Roy Cohn Story (brief review at FF2 Media) (seen at 2019 Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival and shown at 2019 New York Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center) (So, nu: commentary forthcoming on the treatment of Cohn’s mother and Ethel Rosenberg, director Ivy Meeropol’s grandmother, in compare/contrast to Where’s My Roy Cohn?. (updated 10/28/2019)

    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)

    Calendar Girl - As delightful and informative as this documentary is, not identifying Ruth Finley, creator and editor of Fashion Calendar for some 70 years, as born Ruth Faith Finberg not only misses an important element of her focus on family in raising three sons (of Jewish husbands) as a single mother and her Jewish last boyfriend who was a big macha at Bloomingdales. Female designers mentioned in passing that she championed included Pauline Trigère and Anne Klein, without identifying them as Jewish either. More than the nostalgic Dressing America: Tales From The Garment Center, it is glaring and annoying that fashion historian Natalie Nudell, the co-writer and producer, left this gap of the Jewish angle on the High Fashion shmata trade. (preview at 2020 DOC NYC Festival) (11/9/2020)

    Call Your Mother (forthcoming – includes comics Judy Gold and Rachel Feinstein, and the mother of Judah Friedlander) (preview at 2020 Tribeca Film Festival) (5/7/2020)

    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 at 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 at 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)

    Call Your Mother (So, nu: my commentary on the Jewish women) 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)

    Can You Ever Forgive Me? - How could I watch a film based on a real woman writer (and letter forger) living on the Upper West Side named Lee Israel and not realize she was Jewish? Gee, I didn’t see any clues whatsoever, but somehow Jude Dry writing in Indiewire, 11/16/2018, about the gay characters, could identify her specifically as “a Jewish lesbian”. Maybe he read her memoir that specifies? (11/17/2018)

    The Cantor’s Last Cantata (short) – The cantor is a female, Suzanne Bernstein, retiring from a merged reformed synagogue in Brooklyn, and she presides over an integrated chorus of men and women, old and young, who enthuse about her in sweet interviews. Director Harvey Wang, a member of the congregation, fondly documents the rehearsals and final performance of her retirement celebration, that revives her 1986 production of Brooklyn Baseball Cantata (music by George Kleinsinger, words by Michael Stratton, written in 1937, most famously recorded in 1948 by Robert Merrill, as heard in the opening montage of the borough and its baseball sights, and put in context by a Brooklyn Dodgers fan historian). The lively cast includes the cantor’s daughter, who takes on the soprano role she had performed decades earlier. (preview at 2021 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (1/31/2021)

    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)

    Chasing Portraits - Subtitled A Great-Granddaughter’s Quest for Her Lost Art Legacy, Elizabeth Rynecki’s documentary is more about her feelings as the child/grandchild of Holocaust survivors and her great-grandfather artist Moshe Rynecki who insisted on sharing the fate of the Jewish community he had painted for decades into the Warsaw Ghetto than hiding with his family, who survived. She is first obsessed with tracking down more of his work than the 120 paintings her great-grandmother Perla had amazingly tracked down in Poland right after the war (out of his estimated 800 piece oeuvre) or at least their photographs and provenance, art that surrounded Elizabeth as she grew up. Her 2016 book, written as the documentary was developing, has much more background detail.
    But an on-screen consultation with Carla Shapreau, Lecturer, Art & Cultural Property Law, U.C. Berkeley, School of Law, convinces her that rather than “legal justice” offered through Holocaust reclamation claims (as was the case in Portrait of Wally and Woman in Gold), she would probably feel more emotionally satisfied with “historical justice”. With that attitude, she can visit collectors and museums that own Moshe’s fulsome not kitschy, lived not nostalgic, and increasingly popular vignettes of inter-war Jewish life in Judeo-philic circles in Poland, document the artwork (from Canada to Poland to Israel), be assured they are cared for and well-maintained, and empathetically connect with the owners, while always hoping more art could still yet surface from descendants of those who found, bought, or were given them. (My old family friend/NYU professor emeritus Daniel Walkowitz in The Remembered and Forgotten Jewish World: Jewish Heritage in Europe and the United States, (2018) Rutgers University Press, raises similar issues, also with POLIN Curator Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, about history and artifacts.) “Portraits” as a word takes on multi-layered meanings.
    The audience viscerally shares her whirligig of emotions during her search; she’s especially sensitive in not pushing her father on difficult memories. A reunion with a woman cousin who also has art gifted to her family branch is very moving. Others, like me, who don’t have physical reminders as a heritage, can relate through family genealogy to find living relatives, like the outreach I do with my paternal family, who my father had fondly grown up with, but had lost contact. (at 2019 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (preview courtesy of First Run Features) (4/18/2019)

    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)
    This film is planned to be included in Kino Lorber’s future box set The Jewish Soul: Classics of Yiddish Cinema, that will up to 10 films, including other restorations by Lobster Films. (5/31/2019)

    Christ Stopped At Eboli (Cristo si è fermato a Eboli) (Parts 1 – 4) (1979)
    “Interview with director Francesco Rosi (between the editing and the mix: Rome, December 20, 1978, Interviews taped in French by Michel Ciment and published in Positif number 215) Q: There are few women in your films. The sister of Carlo [Levi], [Luisa Levi] played by Lea Massari, has a lot of presence. A: It’s a presence of a rational woman who incarnates, in the film, a sort of rational consciousness; a brother who started in a society which represents rationality and who is beginning to be touched by a society of the irrational.”
    Interview by Gian Luigi Rondi in Il Tempo, April 15, 1979: “The scene in which Levi talks to his sister, who came from Turin to see him. What he tells her are the essentials of what he has understood about the problems of the South [Italy], which, in the book, appear in chapters set apart from the story, in the form, precisely, of analytic meditation. In this dialogue, which is a real confrontation, we’ve summed up the arguments which appear throughout the book and we’ve given them dramatic clothing, so that they would become an integral part of the story… I haven’t made a film about Levi, but about an autobiographical book by Levi. I’ve been told that Volontè’s Levi doesn’t resemble the real Carlo Levi. I don’t mind in the least. The film is the book seen by me, and in the film, all in all, I am Carlo Levi.”
    The director’s interpretation may explain why the film adaptation never mentions that the Levis’ of Turin in Northern Italy are Jewish – and even their surname doesn’t give any inkling to anyone in the South that they are not Christian/Catholic. (Nor does a concluding scroll mention that even after he was released from another arrest for anti-Fascist activities due to Mussolini’s downfall, he wrote the memoir while he was in hiding from the Nazis in Florence.) His sister is a practicing doctor, and immediately upon seeing the terrible health situation in the area, especially preventable malaria, as she strolls around the village with her brother, she starts helping the peasants and making plans to send medical supplies. They were very distantly related to Primo Levi; the younger latter called Carlo “my illustrious namesake” in anti-Fascist activities. In the memoir itself, the villagers just presume Carlo is Catholic, but a new priest comes into town and seems to know his background because he gets determined to get him converted and baptized. (preview of uncut restoration with new subtitles at Film Forum) (4/9/2019; 9/16/2019)

    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 at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (1/25/2010)

    Circus of Books So, nu: As her daughter, director Rachel Mason makes much of her gay porn bookstore owning mom Karen’s religious Jewish background. She keeps referring to her synagogue as “Conservative”, but seems to mean politically, not in terms of affiliation or observance. Clearly, her own Jewish education didn’t stick. As they lived near the West Hollywood store, it’s also surprising Mrs. Mason wouldn’t have availed herself of another synagogue, especially once she gets active in PFLAG. The general audience, however, just enjoys the incongruity of Karen saying about her husband and business partner during the Reagan administration’s legal attacks on pornography: “There was a real possibility one of us was going to have to go to jail. And I thought it was going to have to be Barry, because I was very involved in planning our son’s bar mitzvah.” (preview at 2019 Tribeca Film Festival) (5/27/2019)

    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. (review) (previewed at 2016 DOC NYC Festival) (10/31/2016)

    City Dreamers (Rêveuses de villes)- I was surprised to find through post-screening research that at least three of the four doyennes of Canadian – and world—architecture, in their ‘90s are Jewish: Phyllis Lambert, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, Denise Scott Brown. (I couldn’t find detailed enough biographical info on the 4th, Blanche Lemco Van Ginkel, to rule her out.) I already knew about Phyllis Bronfman Lambert, but there are only hints in Joseph Hillel’s documentary. Mentioned in passing is that she was raised in Montreal’s Westmount neighborhood, same as Leonard Cohen, that was known as an upper class Jewish enclave. With her very distinctive, almost punk, look, she admits that the French she speaks in interviews with the director she learned in Paris, where she stayed on after her 1954 divorce. An archival interviewee laughs that she married quickly in 1949 in order to discard her “Bronfman” family name – the very prominent and wealthy Jewish family in philanthropy and the business of running Seagram’s. Which is how she got her first major success in 1957, supervising the design of its corporate headquarters in Manhattan. And her first sole credit – the Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts in Montreal that her family wanted as a tribute to her mother. But the director also doesn’t make clear that she founded, with her share of the family distillery fortune, the Canadian Centre for Architecture.
    Not mentioned is that the legendary architect and architectural theorist Denise Scott Brown was born Denise Lakofski, very influenced by her Jewish family who came to what is now Zambia from Lithuania and Latvia, part of the tendency to only see her through the perspective of her 2nd marriage in 1967, to Robert Venturi. I will be submitting her for inclusion in the Jewish Women’s Archive’s Encyclopedia.
    While Cornelia Hahn Oberlander’s early years in Berlin are told in relation to her widowed mother getting her children out from war-torn Nazi Germany – which is a misdirection because Cornelia was 18 when they left for England in 1938 and came to New York in 1939. Not mentioned is that she’s Jewish; she and her late husband were active in the Vancouver Jewish community, as members of Or Shalom, a reconstructionist synagogue (according to my cousins, who are friendly with their family). Also not mentioned was her projects in Israel. I also will be submitting her for inclusion in the Jewish Women’s Archive’s Encyclopedia. (U.S. Premiere at 2019 ADFF NY/ seen streaming at 2020 Architecture & Design Film Festival) (4/20/2020)

    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 at 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 Conductor (preview at 2021 Tribeca Film Festival) (6/23/2021)

    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 at 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)

    The Crossing (Flukten over grensens)- Plucky and resourceful ten-year-old blonde Norwegian “Gerda” (played by Anna Sofie Skarholt) obsessed with The Three Musketeers is the primary focus of this lovely and thrilling children-centered, and viewing-appropriate, story of fleeing Nazis across the border to Sweden, directed by Johanne Helgeland and based on co-writer Maja Lunde’s novel not yet in English. But the younger brunette Jewish “Sarah” (played by Bianca Ghilardi-Hellsten) is just smaller, has as much gumption, in the Swedish “Pippi Longstocking” tradition, and enjoys her protector living out an adventure tale, particularly when “Gerda” honors her as a “trainee” in the delightful imagining of the classic tale. Though warned not to trust anyone, “Sarah” is fooled by an old lady offering gingerbread who seems straight out of Hansel and Gretel, in a scene that could be the scariest for children. (preview at 2021 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (streaming through Menemsha Films) (1/30/2021)

    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 at 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) 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. (previewed at 2016 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Film at Lincoln Center) (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)

    Dear Santa In a documentary covering Santa’s dedicated “elves” working across the country with the USPS “Operation Santa” that’s very much in the spirit of Miracle on 34th Street, the credits include one family with a menorah – that could be editor Jennifer Steinman Sternin, or possibly director Dana Nachman. Too bad there wasn’t a coda about the program going all-online during the Pandemic. (preview at 2020 DOC NYC Film Festival) (11/22/2020)

    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 Death Of My Two Fathers (preview at 2021 Tribeca Film Festival) (6/23/2021)

    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 at 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 at 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)

    Dimona Twist- Michal Aviad provides a fresh, insightful look at the immigrant development towns of the 1950’s- 1960’s by frank and fulsome interviews with seven articulate and sophisticated women from various Francophone countries in North Africa, as well as Poland. Between family photos are marvelous archival footage and photographs, some of whose propaganda value are cynically contradicted by these essential witnesses. (at 2017 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum)

    The Disappeared (Hane’elam) (So, nu: The women participants I’ve identified and their careers Noa Aharoni (writer/director), Dr. Dalia Gilboa (chief psychologist at the Health Ministry), Shahar Gonen, Nataly Attiya-Schimmel (lead actress), Anat Schumacher (editor), Liora Schwarz, Inbal Shafir-Leitner (script supervisor)) (seen at 2019 First Look Festival at Museum of the Moving Image) (1/31/2019)

    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 [and in Leaving Home, Coming Home: A Portrait Of Robert Frank] - Not only does director Laura Israel not clarify that the subject is Jewish, she doesn’t provide such background [nor does Gerald Fox] 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-docs do 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 at Lincoln Center) (9/25/2015; update 1/1/2020)

    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; I’ve heard that female relatives are hunting down his vintage outfits.
    Years later I learned that this documentary was part of two larger research efforts: the Gotham Center for NYC History’s Garment Industry History Initiative and Urban Fabric exhibition curated by Andrew S. Dolkart. (updated 10/13/2012 and 2/8/2021)

    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)

    Echo (Hed) - The frailty of Israeli masculinity comes through a husband (Yoram Toledano) who can’t cope with a psychologist wife and mother (Yael Abecassis) who is so shook by a patient’s suicide that she can barely continue professionally, until she finds solace in an affair. (at 2019 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum)

    Eichmann’s End: Love, Betrayal, Death (Eichmanns Ende) (briefly reviewed at 2011 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at 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 at 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 at 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)

    Etgar Keret: Based On A True Story (review forthcoming) In the humorous joint interview with his wife writer/actress Shira Geffen on how they met, mentioned in passing is their collaboration on Jellyfish (Meduzot) (previewed at New Directors/New Films 2008 at Film at Lincoln Center/MoMA - my commentary on the Jewish woman)) (at 2019 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (1/11/2019)

    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 at 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 at 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 at 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)

    The Faithful: The King, The Pope, The Princess - While filmmaker Annie Berman somewhat understands how she shares the fandom of images of Elvia Presley and Princess Diana, she never explains her fascination for Pope John Paul over 20 years, particularly for making an annual Easter pilgrimage to the The Vatican: “my family no longer expects me home for Passover”. Yet even as she compares these fascinations with her affection for her Aunt Nora, she finally muses why did she never get on a plane and visit her in Iceland? Instead we see repeating footage of the aunt dancing the hora with the family at a very Jewish Berman family wedding. (streamed at 2021 Camden International Film Festival) (9/29/2021)

    Falsch (review forthcoming) (seen at Film at 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)

    Family in Transition Though done too much like an in-your-face reality show, this couple in coastal Nahariya, surrounded by somewhat religious families, is evidently somewhat notorious in Israeli media – after four children (including three daughters), the father has decided to live as a woman and the mother has decided to continue their relationship together. There is absolutely no discussion about what it means to be a Jewish, let alone Israeli, woman (maybe because director Ofir Trainin is male, though the transitioning partner briefly reveals growing up in an abusive family, and getting wounded during army service as somehow leading to the realization of female identity. The wife stays incredibly loyal through estrogen-injection moodiness, surgery in Thailand, recuperation, and a renewal of vows as two women. Their own mothers do provide some needed insight during the wedding reception, including that they have been together since they are 15. But maybe it’s because they both look so much alike that I had trouble telling who was which, though the original wife eventually has something akin to a nervous breakdown and decides she needs another woman in her life for her own sense of identity (as well as distinguishing blue streaks in her hair). Needless to say, the traditional rabbinical court has a great deal of problems dealing with this unconventional family to grant a divorce, until the transitioned spouse agrees to be legally recognized again as male, to her great humiliation. The youngest daughter says their bickering until the divorce was worse than the transitioning, despite the bullying and mocking she got from classmates. Somehow, the two all-female couples now share happily share custody. At some point either in their notoriety or filming, both parents went very public – the trans woman on the talk/lecture circuit under the title “Blessed to be a woman", the bio-mom publishing two memoirs and a children’s guide to transgenders. (at 2018 DOC NYC Festival/ preview courtesy Abramorama/Go2Films) (12/22/2018)

    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))

    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))

    #FemalePleasure - So, nu:
    © X Verleih
    The Jewish representative in this cross-cultural survey of how religion represses women’s bodies and sexuality, repeating what Eve Ensler, has been saying since The Vagina Monologues and many others since at least the 1960’s, is Deborah Feldman, repeating what she revealed in her memoir Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, which I downloaded some time ago but haven’t read yet, and her 2014 follow-up Exodus. She is shown about her new life in Berlin and her visual collaboration challenging Jewish gender stereotypes with a gay ex-Hasid photographer, including beautiful, yet modest, poses naked in a tallit on a shore at sunset, like above. However, with the documentary’s emphasis on the physical body, she doesn’t mention the ban on men hearing women’s voices, let alone women reading from the Torah, which is a recurring issue during Rosh Hodesh where Women of the Wall in Jerusalem are harangued monthly by the ultra-Orthodox even violently, and notably including women, as happens in all the profiled societies, but is unexamined. Her memoirs are the fictionalized basis for the Netflix series Unorthodox. (11/26/2019; 4/14/2020))

    Felix and Meira (review forthcoming as previewed at 2015 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at 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)

    Fiddler: A Miracle Of Miracles - A convincing theme of this informative and emotional documentary is that the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof is a “female empowerment piece”, pointing out that young women’s rebellion against arranged marriage has been a theatrical theme since before Shakespeare. (The names of the various experts weren’t repeated often enough to always know who is speaking.) Another expert notes that the show was written while Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique was on the best-seller list. My colleague (and editor) Jan Lisa Huttner, author of Tevye's Daughters: No Laughing Matter: The Women behind the Story of Fiddler on the Roof, makes a strong case for the feminist aspect in the portrayal of the individual daughters, calling them “the raw product of Yenta’s business”. (Thanks for her corrections to these comments!) She also points out that Sholom Aleichem was very negative about matchmakers in other stories as well; Nathan Englander, among others, point out matchmakers even assisted a trafficking ring bringing women to Argentina, for prostitution. A recent “daughter” calls the end of “Matchmaker” a “battlecry…We’re going to change things! And they do!”. Gurinder Chadha, director of Bend It Like Bendham (2001), speaks to the universality of the issue.
    Alisa Solomon, who was also a consultant on the documentary, points out the sexual importance of Golda’s role, Tevye’s wife, that is demonstrated by seeing “Do You Love Me?” performed around the world, including in Japanese, a song written because of how the original cast actress Maria Karnilova comically delivered her line Do I what?. Other experts describe the song as the most romantic in the show, more than the daughters’. Several actresses who have played these roles, in the past, Jessica Hecht is particularly thoughtful, and in the current Yiddish production, give their analyses.
    While several experts interpret Hodel’s song “Far From the Home I Love”, sung by the daughter who leaves home to follow to Siberia her life choice of a revolutionary, as more about their community’s future than about her. Solomon calls Chava an “apostate” for choosing a non-Jewish Russian. Danny Burstein, who has played Tevye frequently, thinks Tevye felt he had a “special relationship” with her, so is particularly hurt by her choice. An actress who recently portrayed Chava sees her as more of a dreamy romantic who doesn’t realize the finality of what she’s doing: “She closed a door she didn’t know locked from the other side.”
    I particularly appreciated Fran Lebowitz’s comments: “Its nostalgia for something that never really happened! I think nostalgia is very poisonous in a culture. Never do Jews say ‘Oh I wish I could be back in the Old Country. They hated the Old Country…People my age, Jews who don’t know what the Old Country was. Which country was it?…The Jews came here because they were being killed!” While director Max Lewkowicz claims this as the first in-depth documentary film that chronicles the life and themes of this musical, the creators/original participants have given similar interviews in PBS documentaries on producer Harold Prince, director/choreographer Jerome Robbins, and on the Jewish influence on Broadway theater. (preview courtesy Roadside Attractions & Samuel Goldwyn Films) (revised 9/4/2019)

    Field Diary (Yoman Sadeh) (30th anniversary screening at 2012 New York Film Festival of Film at 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 at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: commentary forthcoming, wth comparisions to the novel the film is based on.) (2/19/2013))

    Fig Tree (Etz Teena) The lead character Mina, based on the director Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian’s life, is alienated from her mother who has settled in Israel. But it is her strong-willed grandmother who has Jewish identity, and is said by the community’s elders to be the daughter of an eminent rabbi from whom she was for some unclear reason estranged. She works hard at getting her family out of Ethiopia and reunite them with her daughter, by any means necessary. The conflicts about emigration are admirable for not having been portrayed in a film before, that I’ve seen, but other than the usual Romeo & Juliet teen romance thing going on, are very confusing. (at 2019 NY Jewish Film Festival of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum / (also shown at 2019 Israel Film Center Festival) (updated 6/7/2019))

    Fill the Void (Lemale et ha'halal) (previewed at 2012 New York Film Festival of Film at 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))

    Film About A Father Who

    Director Lynne Sachs kindly made a point to thank me for posting on Twitter/FaceBook a photo of her (left) sharing the experimental shorts program “Salute to Barbara Hammer” with her husband Mark Street – the first time they’d presented films together at the Museum of Modern Art in a very long time. (In between them is director Akosua Adoma Owusu.) I was particularly interested in seeing her feature about her family at the same film festival, because I’d been presuming that she and her director brother Ira are Jewish, though in her fascinating, 35-years-in-the-making portrait of her bohemian, much-partnered father Ira Sr. that possible heritage isn’t mentioned.
    Yet the domineering (and dominating) image of his wealthy Memphis mother Rose Sachs (known by her nine grandchildren as “Maw Maw”) and their fraught connection until she died at 103 years old, seemed so reminiscent of the presumed Jewish matriarch/son dynamic. In Lynne’s family footage (from 8 mm, 16 mm, VHS, Super 8, MiniDV, to Digital), Rose, with a Southern drawl, so strongly disapproves of her son’s “other women”, even calling him “handicapped”, first during his marriage and then, when Lynne was ten, post-divorce serial partnerships, that he hid subsequent children from her – and the director – for years in order to secure his inheritance. (He is known around Park City, Idaho, since the 1980’s as, according to local coverage, “the eccentric millionaire”.) In personal correspondence, Lynne confirmed: “My father's mother Mawmaw and her second husband converted to Catholicism in the 1950s, but my father never did. While there is not much said about this kind of post Holocaust kind of assimilation, it did happen. We were however raised as Jews, so your hunch was correct.”
    Her granddaughter’s intimate film reveals a first abusive marriage to older salesman Harry Richmond, who actually fathered Ira, but she left him when their son was about 13, then left her son with relatives in NJ. I found a newspaper obituary of this Jewish grandmother, as if reflecting another life. Born in 1912 to Ida and Abraham Gold in rural Tennessee, then orphaned, Rose moved with various of her nine siblings to several states, working store sales jobs, until she married Mortimer Sachs in NYC. From 1945, they bought and together managed the tony Via Mizner shopping arcade in Palm Beach, Florida, adding additional property to their portfolio, and living off-season in Monte Carlo, until his death at 83. Ever stylish, as seen in Lynn’s documentation, she was known until her death as a fashion doyenne and philanthropist. (shown at MoMA’s 2020 Documentary Fortnight)
    In “My Body, Your Body, Our Bodies: Somatic Cinema at Home and in the World: Films by Lynne Sachs”, she included in her lecture/retrospective an excerpt from her Biography of Lilith (1997), where she showed her detailed familiarity with the Jewish legend in relation to motherhood and children. (streamed at 2020 Ann Arbor Film Festival) (3/4/2020 and 3/25/2020))

    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))

    The Final Hour - Rather than a traditional documentary on the history and current status of Judeo-Espanol, now popularly known as Ladino (my sabra brother-in-law’s native language, as spoken by his Turkish family), the producers recruited attractive, curly-haired Turkish film student Deniz Bensusan to talk to three generations of her family in Istanbul, then go on a beautiful-looking, informative four year journey to track backwards over 500 years to determine why she doesn’t speak it. With no funding, but wanting to capture the elderly generation that still speaks Ladino, the production filmed from Thessaloniki and Auschwitz, to Portugal and Spain, where a grandmother in Córdoba tries to fix her up with her grandson. After the screening, Bensusan reported she is still single. While she interviewed experts along the way (including women, such as archivists, academics, and Renan Koen the composer of the beautiful score who also performs), academics in the audience did amplify some details about the written language. A member of my congregation persistently asks me for films that include Ladino dialogue to show a group at the Sephardic Jewish Center, so I finally have a recommendation for her. (seen at 2020 New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival) (2/27/2020)

    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)

    Flawless (Haneshef): This Jerusalem high school is so much like American ones – with Mean Girls, a prom, jocks, physical and cyberbullying, English slang, and social media dominance that I’m not sure there’s anything particularly Jewish or Israeli about the body insecurity, plastic surgery envy, as well as racial (one girl is of Ethiopian heritage, played by Netsanet Mekonen), gender (one is trans, played by by trans Stav Strashko), and class distinctions, except maybe to be surgically scammed in Ukraine (as manipulated convincingly by experienced actress Assi Levy), but with the pat solutions of most teen movies. (preview at 2019 Tribeca Film Festival) updated 5/25/2019)

    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)

    Flory’s Flame: The Story of Flory Jagoda (2015) Directors Ellen Friedland and Curt Fissel smoothly integrate the historical biography of the preeminent promulgator of Ladino traditional songs, who added more to the culture (such as the now classic “Ocho Kandelikas/Eight Candles” for Hanukkah), from Yugoslavia through the Holocaust, to American suburbia raising children, then returning home and around the world, with a 90th birthday concert celebration at the Library of Congress accompanied by family and protégés who continue her nonna’s music. How her accordion, talent, resilience, love, and determination first saved her during the Holocaust and then the folk revival inspired her in her ‘50’s to pursue this mission is not only astonishing and moving, but the clearly identified and subtitled songs are a joy to hear. (streamed 2/2021 through in memoriam through Museum of American Jewish History) (2/14/2021)

    Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story (previewed at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at 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 at 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) (2007): Women's Friendship (briefly reviewed at 2009 Annual New York Jewish Film of Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (In filmmaker Lukáš Přibyl’s suberb work, it's unusual enough to have detailed 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) (2007): Family Strength - seen at The Legacy of Shoah Film Festival screening of the Forgotten Transports series with filmmaker Lukáš Přibyl. (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/revised 2/2/2020)
    The additional documentaries in Lukáš Přibyl’s superb quartet of films, among the best Holocaust documentaries ever made, are: Forgotten Transports to Poland (Zapomenuté transporty do Polska) (2010), referring to Eastern Poland, and Forgotten Transports To Belarus (Zapomenuté transporty: Do Belarus): Men Who Fought (2008). In the Q &A following his own produced screening in Manhattan, he explained his process in his ten years of research. He found and closely interviewed each of the 250 Czech survivors (as I recall), but put no fact on screen unless he could independently confirm the detail. That includes the names of the guards and other Nazi staff. From the information the German-speaking or understanding survivors relayed about the individual Nazis, such as accent and physical description, he searched archives to confirm such a person served at that facility then. Then he searched down the families to confirm their ancestor’s service, even those with the most common names. He also persistently asked the German families for photographic or other identifying evidence. The families were concerned about accusations of war crimes or other public association with what their ancestor did, but with assurance of anonymity and privacy, it turned out that just about all the families had the proverbial “suitcase in the attic” full of such material, that adds both chills and authenticity to the films, and to the validity of the womens’ memories, which were apparently never used for follow-up criminal cases or such. (2/2/2020)

    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: Claude Lanzmann continued 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 distinctly, and essential, women’s points 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 at Lincoln Center) (10/1/2017; on DVD 5/15/2019)

    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 at 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 Trip To Egypt
    - photo courtesy of Tarek Mounib
    Surprisingly, there’s a Jewish woman in this genial documentary, directed by Ingrid Serban, that could have just been a lame reality TV show. Tarek Mounib, a Canadian Muslim now living in Switzerland, whose parents are Egyptian immigrants, wanted to offer the titular benefit to Americans who express hesitations about Islam. He recruits across the country in 2017, including at a Trump rally in Kentucky, but has more success when they ask on a Sirius XM talk radio show for interested applicants to send in a video tape. In the tape from school teacher Ellen Decker (above) from Fawngrove, PA (who later moved to Maryland), she confesses that while she used to be liberal: “When 9/11 happened, I lost it. I’m so racist now I can’t stand myself. I even voted for Trump…The only reason I would do this is to make my son Michael living in Saudi Arabia very happy that I was at least exploring the option of accepting Muslims as people, I suppose he would say.” When Mounib matches up she and her husband Terry for 10 days with Ahmed Hassan, a cinematographer and revolutionary seen in The Square (Al Midan), she worries “Does he know I’m Jewish?” She not only really gets into touristing around the Cairo Museum and the pyramids, she also warms to meeting a variety of Muslim families, including a mother in a full burkha, who she bonds with over their goals of teaching children to be good. Mrs. Decker hugs her: “I’m so happy to have a new friend like you. Am I your first Jewish friend? Are we so nice?” She more has to resist the evangelicals among the seven fellow Americans on the trip who are bent on converting souls for Jesus Christ, until they admit to her that others are also children of God: “I didn’t mean to make you cry.” While it’s never explained what the son was doing in the Middle East that his parents barely see him at home once a year, Michael, while reuniting with his parents on their trip, noted it’s wonderful to see her break out of her fears about safety and terrorism, that had made her argue with him about his travels, while his father was a bit xenophobic: “But now he says people are nice, and it’s nice to see the change happening.” Which was the project’s goal. Even if the celebrity-promoted follow-ups “#PledgeToListen Day of Unity” are more schmaltzy. (preview courtesy Kindness Films) (5/29/2019)

    Free Zone (review and commentary forthcoming)

    Friedkin Uncut - Unlike in so many conversations with film directors, photographers, critics, etc. I’ve seen in bio-docs, debut director Francesco Zippel lets octogenarian William (Billy) Friedkin talk about his origins. Maybe he liked the irony of Friedkin’s Jewish background vis a vis the Catholic setting of The Exorcist Friedkin identifiese his parents as Jewish immigrants who came from Ukraine in steerage “who quickly assimilated”. He describes growing up poor and happy on the north side of Chicago. “I loved my mother and father. If my mother was Catholic she would be a saint. I never heard her say a bad or negative word about anybody. She was very loving and protective of me.” They insisted he go to Hebrew School, but didn’t absorb much, and only knows some Yiddish slang. He now prefers reading the New Testament. Juno Temple later expresses her gratitude for his casting her in Killer Joe (2011) as her first big dramatic role, and admires that his female characters are so complex. Friedkin makes says nothing if his mother influenced his films at all. (preview courtesy of Ambi Distribution) (8/6/2019)

    Friends From France (Les interdits) (previewed at 2014 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at 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 at 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 at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (So, nu: As written and directed by the so impressive Ronit Elkabetz, with her brother, 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) With her death in 2016, this culmination of her trilogy, stands as her masterpiece.

    Gevald! (briefly reviewed at 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at 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 at 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)

    Give Me Liberty If I hadn’t seen that many Jewish film festivals are scheduling Kirill Mikhanovsky’s everything-that-can-go-wrong in the day of a medical transport driver in Milwaukee, I would not have presumed that all the Russian immigrants portrayed reflected his memories of being a Soviet Jewish émigré there with his family. One of the amusing elements in the chaotic story of the van driver Vic (played by the charming first-timer Chris Galust, discovered in a Brooklyn bakery while appropriately enough buying a cake to celebrate his Russian grandfather’s emigration to the U.S.) is how he ends up helping friends of his grandfather (Arkady Basin), a group of elderly Russians, including an accordion player, to take them to a cemetery for the funeral of their friend Lilya. While I did spot a menorah in her apartment when they can get in afterwards, it was not a Jewish cemetery, nor did they attempt a Jewish service. I only saw that one woman (I will guess she was the player with the presumably Jewish name Rimma Lifschitz) drops in Yiddish terms – like asking Vic to do a mitzvah and to be a mensch. The group has a continuing argument about what songs to sing at the gravesite. One woman insists that Lilya wanted to honor the time when Belurassians, Russians, and Jews all got along, so she wanted each ofs their songs represented. But the one woman keeps insisting only Yiddish songs would be appropriate. Besides singing “Go Down Moses” in alliance with Paul Robeson’s support for freedom, they do sing several others, on and off the van, that I couldn’t document. In the credits, I caught a chorale name that included “Freylikh” and “Wisconsin” that may have been the casting or sheet music source, but my searches for more information turned up nothing. (7/19/2019)

    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)

    The Glorias - Julie Taymor tracks Gloria Steinem at four different points in her life, with four actresses, but her childhood vaguely implies that her mother was Jewish. Though the film is based on Steinem’s memoir My Life on the Road, she says she doesn’t’ need to talk about her mother, instead she “wrote a long essay about her called ‘Ruth’s Song: Because She Could Not Sing It.’ I mourned her unlived life.” When her mother Ruth (played by Enid Graham) has some kind of breakdown, she has nightmares that German soldiers are coming to get her; the memoir refers to her mother’s “fear of a threatening” universe, and that she grew up in a hostile world, but it was her beloved father (played by Timothy Hutton) who was Jewish. Steinem recently learned that his mother Pauline Perlmutter Steinem was an active suffragist and Jewish women’s leader in Toledo, OH. The friendship and alliance between Steinem and Bella Abzug is wonderfully portrayed by Julianne Moore and Bette Midler, respectively. In the script by Taymor and Sarah Ruhl, Abzug proudly proclaims herself Jewish and loud. (Amazon) (12/30/2020)

    Glorious (Comme T’Y Es Belle!) (2006)

    Thanks to the 2019 New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival for introducing me to the French director Lisa Azuelos, with this look back to her debut directorial feature! She’s just released her 6th film in France - - so now I have five more to catch up, including one just opened. This film has very much a period Sex and the City vibe, though the women are older with children and/or husbands, and all the women are within an extended Sephardi French family, specifically from Morocco, so they share Arabic languge, customs, and food with their Muslim nannies and household help. In the Q &A, Azuelos regretted that she would not be able to portray such closeness in a film set today. She described her background as her first 12 years with her French Catholic mother, then moved in with her Sephardi Moroccan father. She noted that each of her films has an autobiographical element of what state in life she is going through; with this film, she was in the midst of getting a divorce.
    Azuelos cast women who mostly did not fit American stereotypes of Jewish women, if I got all the characters and actresses correctly. Blonde Isa (Michèle Laroque) is an unhappily married mother of two school age kids entrepreneurially developing a face cream (or some such), and separates from her crass Jewish husband for a non-Jewish father of friends of her daughter. Léa (Aure Atika) is wealthy, divorced, scatter-brained, dressing too young for their age, and regrets her cool relationship with her pre-teen daughter. Alice (Valérie Benguigui, Azuelos’ best friend who died in 2013, which made it bittersweet for the director to re-watch this for the first time in years.) Nina (Géraldine Nakache) runs a large salon where they hang out, and allows for amusing interactions with clients, goes ahead with a civil union with her nanny in order to keep her legally in the country, even as she ditches one-night stands for a satisfying affair with a hunky Jewish British tax attorney (played by Andrew Lincoln). I’m missing the single friend who has the hots for one of the women’s brother, Simon., who the older women, cooking relatives are constantly insisting date Jewish men, including an aunt of Azuelos, who died earlier this year, though she was again glad to see her so vibrant in the film. (3/19/2019)

    Go for Zucker! (Alles auf Zucker!)

    Golda - With the emphasis in Sagi Bornstein, Udi Nir, and Shani Rozanes’s 2019 documentary on why Golda Meir’s legacy reputation in Israel is so sour, it is very frank about her Ashkenazi prejudices against Arabs and Mizrahi Jews from Arab countries. I don’t recall seeing even in other docs on this issue a Pesach hunger strike by young Mizrahis that forced a meeting with her and revealed her biases to them. A professor of gender studies and former Foreign Ministry/Knesset member Colette Avital point out how she used her unattractive, grandmotherly image, and she did not encourage other women in government. Her former spokesman notes she hid from the public what she was dealing with I private: her cancer treatment – even as she continued to smoke - -and her sister’s illness and death, that coincided with the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. (previewed at 2019 DOC NYC Festival) (10/25/2019)

    The Golem (2019 - Available on all streaming platforms) Cheers to The Paz Brothers, and writer Ariel Cohen, for a feminist take on the traditional tale! So many mystical-oriented TV shows and movies are based on New Testament apocalypses (for example, CW’s long-running Supernatural and other mythologies) not only is it is a real pleasure to see one coming out of Kabbalah and gematria, that its brother directors Doron Paz & Yoav Paz (Jeruzalem) call “Jewish Horror” – but it’s also feminist. In this English-language film, the first voice-over heard is a woman’s: the healer Perla (Brynie Furstenberg), then it’s auburn-haired Hanna (Hani Furstenberg) who wants to study Kabbalah, at first with the assistance of her husband Benjamin (Ishay Golan), who sneaks her the tomes from his father the rabbi. The couple is still grieving the accidental death of their young son seven years before. But she’s the one who wants to take the studies further to produce a Golem when the Christians blame the shtetl for the plague and threaten revenge; the Golem she creates is (Stephen King-like) in the shape of a boy, like their son, and she reacts to him as if he is her son, which is a new angle towards a Golem, as well that its creation releases her sexually, too. This image then makes it more powerful that the Golem reacts to her emotions (including jealousy of her neighbor’s flirtation with Benjamin), as he gets more out of control in interpreting protection of her specifically more than the community defense against raging gentiles as she thought she intended, while the blood and body count rise. (Preview courtesy of Epic Pictures)
    For comparison, in 2007, I saw Golem (1920) Paul Wegener’s German expressionist silent film performed live with Tom Nazziola's musical score by The BQE Project, which sticks closer to the original legend of The Golem of Prague. (updated 2/9/2019)

    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 the Israelis, particularly artists and young people, fascinated 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.) (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)

    Harley (commentary forthcoming) (preview at 2020/replay at 2021 Tribeca Film Festival)

    Harmonia (2016) Writer/Director Ori Sivan contemporization of the Rosh ha Shanah Torah portions on Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, and how their complicated relationships play into the next generation of Ismail and Isaac (the silented, though the Akedah is glossed over), transposed to a classical music orchestra in Jerusalem, and then to the mutual liberation of rock ‘n’ roll, helped by Yaniv Fridel’s culturally integrated score. Having seen so many schmaltzy TV movies inspired by the first generation’s story, I was surprised how effective this works with Abraham (Alon Aboutboul) as a charismatic conductor, Sarah (Tali Sharon) as a harpist, and Hagar (Yana Yossef) a horn player, though I didn’t realize she was Arab until she meets with her oud master father (played by Ali Suliman). (seen courtesy of Film Movement) (10/25/2019)

    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 at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (My additional notes.)

    Heading Home:The Tale Of Team Israel I didn’t expect the documentary about Israel’s team’s improbable rise in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, directed by Jeremy Newberger, Daniel A. Miller and Seth Kramer, to have significant Jewish female presence, but it does. The Assistant General Manager Margo Sugarman is interviewed throughout. She noted when the team went to Korea: “I’m the unofficial team mother. For some of the players, it’s nice to have an older female presence around.” She notes that the players got particularly emotional when they went to Israel after qualifying; there, more players are moved to talk about their Jewish grandmothers – those they knew and those they had heard died in the Holocaust. Their emotions in Israel got more heightened when three female soldiers were killed in a terrorist attack. Their fans, from Brooklyn to Israel, were not just boys, but plenty of girls, too; many were Jewish day school students. I’ll confess that I still wear my Ike Davis Mets shirt to CitiField games because I decided I’ll only buy shirts of Jewish players since Shawn Green and there haven’t been a lot of Mets picks, so I appreciated learning more about his background with a Southern Baptist father and “hippiesh” Jewish mother (see in a young photo playing guitar); he shrugs that they predictably divorced. He recalls, I presume, a childhood experience: “I was doing a family tree. On Dad’s side I have five - seven generations. On my mother’s side I have three people, and then it was over. I asked: ‘What is this?’ She said: ‘That’s what happened during the Holocaust - most of the family didn’t make it.” I don’t think any of the men, whatever their Jewish background, were married to Jewish women. They did plant the flag for baseball in Israel. (preview courtesy Menemsha Films) (8/15/2019)

    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)

    Heimat Is A Space In Time (Heimat Ist Ein Raum Aus Zeit) (So, nu: In this almost four-hour, “slow cinema” look at 20th century German history through his family, Thomas Heise dispassionately reads letters between his grandfather Wilhelm and Edith Hirschhorn, the Jewish woman who will become his wife. Her letters include talk of her studies in Vienna to be a sculptor, as well as student debates about Judaism. (In interviews, the filmmaker says she always cooked Viennese-style.) Edith’s parents, Max Hirschhorn and Elsa Kraus, also write to Wilhelm, and the first emotional heart of the documentary are the family’s increasingly depressing letters in the early 1940’s describing in unusual detail how they are more and more restricted - while a Nazi archival list of the thousands of Viennese Jews deported goes by for over 20 minutes on screen. Edith’s sister Perl wrote a hopeful letter before her turn: “Dad is undoubtedly in an old folks home, and Elsa somewhere busy.” Then the list of the last transport scrolls by with the red-underlined name of Perl Finkel, and the screen fades out. Wilhelm’s responses to the Reich bureaucrats foretell the issues his son Wolfgang will have with the East German Stasi due to his wife, even as a colleague later philosophizes that the dead are dead, regardless of which ideology was the cause. As the spouse and children of a mixed-marriage, Wilhelm and two sons were sent to the Zerbst forced labor camp, whose experiences the director first covered in his 2001 film Vaterland, that I haven’t seen and is not available in U.S.; the song that follows the transport list is from a Nazi film Die Frau meiner Träume that his father said they had to watch at the camp, as sung by Marika Rökk.) (at 2019 New York Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center) (10/17/2019)

    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)

    Here We Are (Hine Anachnu) - Writer Dana Idisis goes beyond her autistic brother’s story, as in her 2013 documentary Turning Thirteen, and TV series On The Spectrum to create an unusual and intensely compassionate father/son experience, that defies the stereotypical dynamics of most non/fiction portrayals of a family coping with an autistic child. While the Israeli parents are divorced from the stress, as usual, it is the father “Aharon” (an all-consuming performance by Shai Avivi, emphasized by director Nir Bergman’s claustrophobic close-ups) obsessively caring for a son who has become an adult (Noam Imber as “Uri” is completely convincing). Idisis has said this is something she worries about within her own family. But the mother “Tamara” (Smadar Wolfman) is not the typical shrew, or bossy, or controlling; she is, instead, frantically trying to do what is best for her son and ex-husband as they both age and have to face the future. Even as the father flees the legal, financial, emotional, and practical roadblocks that she has had to set up, she is always a caring mother and person, which is a difficult balance to portray, and is successfully achieved in this very moving film. (preview at 2021 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (1/30/2021)

    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 at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (1/23/2010)

    Hester Street (1975) Restoration (2020): The classic film has been restored in 4K from the 35mm original negative by Cohen Film Collection at DuArt Media Services, with the help of the daughter Marisa Silver of the director/writer Joan Micklin Silver, who died 12/31/2020. Theatrical release premieres October 1, 2021 in NYC and L.A.
    Carol Kane’s (Oscar-nominated) “Gitl” is still one of my all-time favorite portrayals of a Jewish woman in film! I hadn’t remembered that Silver based the story on Abraham Cahan’s 1897 novella Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto, which I finally read. I was surprised how faithful to the original portrait of new immigrants on the Lower East Side is her adaptation, with more realism than the rose-glasses nostalgia such period films have shown since. Now in crisp black & white, from the opening “dance academy” scene that brings us inside a silent movie, using William Bolcomb’s music, until the characters speak in language that alternates from Yiddish (with clearly legible subtitles), to Yinglish, and authentically accented English, like my grandmother who arrived there in 1905. The low-budget ($400,000) of Silver’s debut feature doesn’t show with the evocative costumes, hair stylings, and mise en scène, such that each represents a stage in secularization and Americanization. Through the performances of Kane and her defender in Doris Roberts’s nosey neighbor “Mrs. Kavarsky”, the audience sympathies switch away from the husband “Yossel/Jake” (played by Steven Keats) whose ambitions in work and leisure fill the first scenes.
    The two concluding scenes brilliantly capture the Old World in the New, and the power of women within the patriarchy. ”The Parting”, as the highly choreographed divorce is titled in the novel, is portrayed, er, faithfully, but minus the overly melodramatic female histrionics and hysteria. The rebbetzin, wearing a sheitel just like the one “Gitl” had on at arrival that “Jake” ridiculed, collects the intermediary lawyer’s payments, courtesy of “Mamie Fein” (Dorrie Kavanaugh) “the Polish whore”, as the wife calls her. She organizes the mechanics – arranging the Orthodox witnesses and scribe, and distributing their fees. The elderly rabbi goes through the ritual formula, including laying of the get into the ex-wife’s cupped hands – of “Gitl” now completely outfitted, to her ex-husband’s shock, like a Gibson Girl “Yankee” in a shirtwaist and piled-up natural hair, with the warning that while he can re-marry today, she has to wait 91 days to marry again, when “Mrs. Kavarsky” assures the rebbetzin there will be another fee coming under a chupah.
    The final, wintry scene, that Cahan ironically termed “A Defeated Victor”, is an overview of the titular location, with each new couple going in opposite directions, and the women in full control. “Mamie” schleps “Jake” to City Hall by foot to save her nickels. The newly clear voice of “Gitl” is heard assuring the scholarly boarder “Mr. Bernstein” (Mel Bernstein) he will be able to continue his religious studies, while tutoring her son she now insists be called “Joey” not “Yossele”, behind the grocery store she’ll pay for with the divorce settlement she cannily negotiated with an expressive raised eyebrow.
    The realism is a wonderful lesson for those who a century later are tracing their Jewish genealogy with the complicated marriages and names that were changed by their ancestors themselves. In this beautiful restoration, Hester Street is even more vital and timeless now than in 1975. (previewed at 2021 New York Film Festival (updated 10/1/2021)

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

    Histoires d’Amérique: Food, Family and Philosophy (1989) I have to do more research on this Chantal Ackerman film from her NYC sojourn before I can comment, but the accounts by the Jewish women immigrants were very moving. (SRO screening at 2019 To Save and Project: MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation of Museum of Modern Art) (1/29/2019)

    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 at 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 at 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 at 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)

    Hummus! The Movie - The only Jews in the documentary are b’aal t’schuvah ex-hippie couple who were “converted” to the Breslov Hasidism by a musical guru. From a glimpse at her photographed in an off-the shoulder wedding dress, we now see her with enscarfed head and holding young children as she helps her Rasti-looking husband Eliyahu Shmueli run his successful chain of huumus stands. When I included this film in my presentation on diverse contemporary Israeli films at FHJC, an Israeli ex-pat strongly protested that the film primarily featured Arabs, while she considered huumus Israeli food. (at 2017 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum; then at Forest Hills Jewish Center Cinematek)

    Hysterical Girl (short) (NY Times Op Doc) Kate Novack updates Freud’s case ”Dora”: Analysis of a Hysterical Woman” to show how his denial of her accusation of sexual abuse by a friend of the family (who Freud knew) by blaming it on her “hysteria” has fed a century of debasement of women who protest their treatment and control by men, especially when they come forward to accuse their abusers. The clips of art, movies, images, testimony and more are compelling, while the women have to flee in animation. “Dora”, as portrayed by red-headed first-time actress, 16-year-old Tommy Vines, only mentions in passing she is Jewish, and that she was in reality named “Ida”.
    Her German-born great-granddaughter Katharina Adler, after years of family and archival research, wrote a novel Ida in 2018 about Ida Bauer, that’s not yet fully available in English, only translated excerpts (pages 9 – 66). New York Times “Op-Docs Team” email blasted an interview between the filmmaker and the author, who explained: “When I started writing my novel, I was very determined to tell Ida’s entire life. It was a project to give my great-grandmother a voice and show that she may have been a victim, but she was also strong-willed and lived a rich life. What was also important to me, was to tell her story in the 1940s when she had to flee Austria, first to France and then to the U.S. All of this was very important to me, but I have to say that everything seemed pretty historic to me. Only when the #MeToo movement started did I have a kind of awakening and realize, wait a minute …The story of her youth, that’s a #MeToo case… I think Ida could have thrived with the same education her brother received. But she was not educated the same way and even had to take care of her father.” The director described to her the research she did: “The first thing I did was try to understand Ida — not through the eyes of Freud. I read the transcripts of interviews that had been conducted with her (and your!) family members in the 1950s at the Library of Congress. Her cousin Elsa in particular helped paint a very different portrait of Ida than Freud did. I read your wonderful and lyrical novel about your great-grandmother. Your story of her arrival in the U.S. and her escape from Austria, her strained relationship with her son, your grandfather, was incredibly helpful, even though those parts took place when she was a grown woman. My sense from the research is that Ida was a curious, smart and sharp girl who wanted more education and more knowledge. But there were so few outlets for that in Vienna 1900.”
    Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing: Documentary (2/17/2021/ 4/21/2021/ 7/28/2021)

    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 at 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 Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians (Îmi este indiferent daca în istorie vom intra ca barbari) (review forthcoming) Scanning through all the reviews/interviews online with writer/director Radu Jude about why and how he made such a pointed film about his country’s determined Holocaust denial (even after the country had to investigate and confirm their collusion with the Nazis in order to gain entry into the European Union), none raised the obvious possibility that the brilliant, charismatic woman at the center of this film is Jewish. But I consider “Mariana Marin” (Ioana Iacob in a terrific film debut) at least a “putative Jew”, though her name is borrowed from a famous poet. (I can’t find anything personal on producer Ada Solomon to determine if she is Jewish either). She’s obsessed with Romania’s persistent twisting of history about the Summer of 1941 in Odessa (through what was then called Besserabia and Bukovina, sent to Transnistria) when a national hero Marshal Antonescu began ethnic cleansing of Jews and Roma (proclaiming the titular quote – and whose statues up throughout the country also had to be removed for EU approval). Planning a huge re-enactment of the Fascist events in the city square, she conducts thorough research in the archives (using imagery from the Einsatzgruppen as inspiration and checking uniforms’ authenticity in the National Military Museum,); she reads Jewish philosophers Hannah Arendt, Isaac Babel, and Walter Benjamin about the Holocaust perpetrators to her adulterous lover; she holds her own in intensive intellectual debates about the past vs. the present with him and a local official “Movilă” (Alexandru Dabija) – his debate on the relative definition of “massacre” is as funny as it is serious-- as well as with prejudiced and defensive actors and extras. While I’m of course dependent on the English subtitles, to me the specific clue that she could be Jewish (or of Jewish heritage because there are few Jews left in Romania) is when the official mocks her would she prefer if the Germans won – “But you would have been in a soap dish.” When she actually pulls off the complicated production, she’s disgusted that the audience applauds the words of the Marshal’s actual anti-Semitic speech and the immolation and hanging of the victims.
    Radu Jude’s background historical research first resulted in his documentary essay The Dead Nation - Fragments of Parallel Lives (Țara moartă) - He reads the 1937 – 1948 year-by-year journals of small town Jewish doctor Dr. Emil Dorian marking the horrific rise of anti-Semitism in the country is visually constrasted with happy, proud photographs of normal life and soldiers taken by a professional studio in the town of Slobozia, in southeast Romania, accompanied by actual political speeches and nationalistic anti-Semitic anthems. The doctor mentions his daughters and family just in passing, then he goes to Bucharest, as he talks of whole families killed by Romanian Legionnaires, and women and girls raped on the deportations; even a politican reports on 200,000 women and girls assassinated, set on fire, children shot. He tells of all the restrictive laws and atrocities he’s heard about, on the street or on the radio. “Some of the murdering monsters were women.” He reports on a malnourished girl in 1944 who “somehow survived” to be shipped to Palestine after witnessing years of death; another survivor girl refuses to speak in Romanian like the Christians. The historian consultant on both was Adrian Cioflâncă. (both films at 2018 Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema) (12/24/2018)

    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)

    Incitement (Yamim Noraim) [Commentary on the Jewish women forthcoming] (at 2020 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (2/5/2020)

    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, for Robert Marshall's In the Sewers of Lvov. 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 at 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 at 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)

    The Invisibles (Die Unsichtbaren - Wir wollen leben) (review forthcoming – two of the four survivors portrayed are women) (Docu-Drama) (at 2018 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (1/7/2019)

    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 at 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)

    Irmi A surprisingly quiet choice to spotlight for “Closing Film” in the Festival, this documentary is a model for how almost any Jewish woman’s life that intersects with history could be made into a memoir film, co-directed by Susan Fanshel and subject’s daughter/interviewee Veronica Selver, as long as one has a tremendous eye and resources for archival footage and photographs, plus home movies, including interviews with the subject and her family and friends. Let alone getting actress Hanna Schygulla to read the memoir German émigré Irmagard Selver wrote late in life for her grandchildren. (preview at 2021 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (2/1/2021)

    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 at 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)

    An Israeli Love Story (Sipur Ahava Eretz-Israeli) (2017) Director Dan Wolman adapted this from Pnina Gary's solo autobiographical play, “based on a true story” of what the publicists’ describe as “A Pasionate [sic] Romance Between A Theater Director And The Son Of Israel's Second President”. But to me it reeked of every cliché of the pioneer generation of the post-World War 2 set, with stiff acting that had wincible chemistry between characters, exacerbated by the naiveté of the talent-less wannabe actress/director “Margalit” (played by Adi Bielski). She was particularly naïve about the role of the arts in a Socialist kibbutz facing Arab assaults. Just the kind of movie that appeals to audiences at small, suburban Jewish Film Festivals. (seen courtesy of Film Movement) (10/25/2019)

    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 at 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)

    Jojo Rabbit - Writer/director/co-star Taika Waititi’s adaptation of Christine Leunens’s Caging Skies, that I haven’t yet read. The Jewish girl “Elsa”, played with charming aplomb by Thomasin McKenzie, is central to ground in reality this lovely satire of Fascist society in the 1940’s where a German boy has his version of Adolf Hitler as an imaginary friend. While the very creative New Zealander Waititi usually identifies publicly with his father’s Māori of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui heritage, as in his wonderful, somewhat autobiographical Boy, he has said this film is his tribute to his mother’s Russian-Jewish heritage, with reminders that earlier in his film and writing career he had used her birth name of "Cohen". (commentary forthcoming) (11/17/2019)

    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)


    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)

    Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide (So, nu: Begun and co-directed by the artist’s daughter Malia Scharf, she briefly interviews her good-humored grandmother Rose: “I don’t know where he got the talent. I never thought he’d be a professional artist.” (Rose is also memorialized in the closing credits.) While the information is Google-able, with his personal anecdotes, nowhere does Malia refer that they are Jewish, even when late in the bio-doc friends and colleagues refer to the importance of family in his life and he’s seen playing with two grandchildren, who are identified by name but not which of his daughter’s is their mother. Yet, could this strength be a reason why he seems to be the only artist of the drug-fueled, AIDS-decimated Downtown 1980’s visual art scene to survive? (preview at 2020 DOC NYC Film Festival/ Greenwich Entertainment theatrical release) (11/7/2020)

    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)
    In Noah’s Ark of Claude Lanzmann’s The Four Sisters interviews, a train survivor provides a differing participant account. (preview at 2017 New York Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center) (5/15/2019)

    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 at 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). (6/24/2016)

    Kindertransports to Sweden (Dem Leben entgegen – Kindertransporte nach Schweden) Reflecting on her Kurdish background, German-Swedish director Gülseren Şengezer says, “on account of my own personal history, with the massacre of many relatives, the long history of persecution of the Jews has always touched me. I am also interested in how political circumstances affect the life of individuals”. Beyond any other documentary, or exhibition, I’ve seen on kindertransports that saved 20,000 Jewish children from 1938 – 1940 when countries refused to help their families, Şengezer is able to draw out of her four “witnesses” of the 500 Sweden permitted entry (three of whom are women - Herta Lichtenstein, Elise Reifeisen-Hallin, and Gertraud Fietzberger - confusingly they are only identified once) revelatory emotional reflections. While other testimonies have focused on facts and pressed participants to be grateful for being saved and their parents’ sacrifice, here with minimal photographs, letters, and archival footage, each seems to be asked about each chapter (such as: “Homeless”, “Parting”, “Into the Unknown”, “A New Beginning”, “Once Again”, “Those Who Remain”, “The Self”, “Burden”, and “Catharsis”) in their geographical and maturation journey: “And how did that make you feel?”
    Interspersed between beautiful scenes of sunrises/sunsets of the Swedish seasons, set to quietly aching violin and piano, we hear how they had begun to absorb the anti-Semitism around them, in Germany, Austria, and Sweden, so that they were always wrestling with their Jewish identity. One woman painfully recalls how her older brother beat her so viciously that, ironically, she had to hide away from him; then decades later he weeped for forgiveness. Another woman recalls finding a mirror to stare at her body trying to discern what made her different – was she a Negro? Şengezer uses the word “trauma” to describe their experiences, a confession they probably weren’t able to make for decades in comparison to other Holocaust survivors; the male participant recalls that others were less resilient, especially at learning of their families’ fates, and committed suicide. (A Holocaust survivor in our congregation shrugged the same way to me about his sister; another congegant who was one of the ten thousand sent to England, had different experiences becase she was part of a large group where there was a large welcoming Jewish community.)
    Regardless of the poignant insights into their emotional health at this point, it is very frustrating not to get the usual final factual scroll about them. (preview at 2021 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (streaming through Menemsha Films) (2/4/2021)

    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)

    Kings of Capitol Hill - Not only is it obvious from Israeli director Mor Loushy’s extensive interview with past leaders and staff of AIPAC that it was a boys club for influencing other boys, but most of the younger people she interviews who object to their swallowing whole the right-wing direction of Israeli policies are female, including a former Board member. (preview at 2020 DOC NYC Film Festival) [see with ‘Til Kingdom Come (seen at 2020 Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival] (10/30/2020)

    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.)

    Knots: A Forced Marriage Story - There have been several documentaries about the marriage restrictions on Hasidic/Ultra-Orthodox women, particularly One of Us, and films based on memoirs, particularly a section of #FemalePleasure and its fictionalized TV series Unorthodox (that I still haven’t watched). Director Kate Brewer’s documentary puts frum women within the context of all girls/women in the U.S. facing no choices, with no social or legal recourse within their communities/families. While at least in the U.S. the Hasidism appear to wait until the female turns 18, activist and former Borough Park resident Fraidy Reiss, one of the three women intimately profiled, makes a strong case that the matchmaker process and family pressure constitute “forced marriage”. The other two women are a Californian who at age 15 was forced by her father and his religious cult to marry an older man, then taken to Nevada to make it civilly legal when she was 16 and pregnant, and a home-schooled Michigan woman in a closed-off Christian community pushed at age 19 to marry an older man she didn’t know. In addition, choreographer Bella Waru beautifully symbolizes the points they make by dancing entangled in red strings throughout the film.
    Not mentioned in Reiss’s experiences, but what I’ve observed among my Ultra-Orthodox relatives, is that the marriages seem to take place as quickly as possible after her 18th birthday. The extent of the huge celebrations among the extended family and whatever sect (Reiss doesn’t specify hers or distinguish among those in Borough Park or Lakewood, NJ) borders on the bizarre, with exaggerated celebrations of the match between two young people who barely know each other. One wedding documented recently in the NYC press attracted tens of thousands of Hasidic men, in contravention of pandemic restrictions, because the two young people were uniting rabbinic dynasties, like something out of medieval royal histories. The bride was barely noticeable. Reiss calls this out as “grooming”, with the choice presented as “Say ‘yes’ or the repercussions will be terrible”. With such relationships usually unsurprisingly resulting in immediate pregnancies, all three women stress the difficulties of leaving with their children. A Baal Teshuva (adult convert) friend of a friend described having thee children in quick succession when she was within a Hasidic sect: “Then I woke up.”
    The film makes the strongest points about underage marriage, with startling statistics on not only the numbers in the U.S., but both the lack of any restrictions on age in over a dozen states and the flexible exemptions in more states that make such restrictions irrelevant. Let alone that such trapped girls are in a limbo where they cannot then claim help from either child protection agencies or women’s shelters. These numbers make a mockery of the U.S. foreign policy stance against child marriages and the rights of girls in such places as Afghanistan. Most objections, including a legislator and governor quoted in the film, turn on either religious freedom or parental rights – with no consideration for female rights, wishes, or alternative opportunities, including education. One academic historian participating in the film, though, claims that the 1950’s (illustrated with excellent archival footage) had a higher marriage age than previously, while I’ve seen the opposite trend lines, what with the post-war natalist push and moral insistence on “shotgun marriages” – part of what the MAGA crowd misses. I remember two such in my small NJ high school graduating class alone. (Facebook reunions confirmed they both ended in divorce.)
    The film cites its two secular partners for advocacy, including organizing the attention-grabbing demonstrations of young women dressed in bridal gowns and chains seen, and assistance, Unchained At Last and Tahirih Justice Center, especially to help girls. Within the Jewish community Yaffed and Footsteps can provide some help, especially for young people seeking of broader educational opportunities. (screened courtesy of Global Digital Releasing) (5/31/2021)

    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 at 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)

    Land Mine: The Other Side Of Silence For her debut feature, video artist Tirtza Even returned to the three-story apartment building 14 Tchernichovsky Street (named for a doctor and acclaimed Hebrew poet) in Jerusalem where she grew up in the mid 1960’s with eight other families (with 20 kids), now crumbling and mostly empty. Insightfully, she realizes it’s haunted by deaths and grief that are symbolic of Israel’s issues. Because the men in the families mostly died first “unnaturally” – of accidents, of war (“the first night of the 1982 Lebanon War”), murder, and from unsuccessful surgery, she interviews the women (and the daughter of the widow with Alzheimer’s) who are left with the memories, from the Holocaust to now, in chapters and seasons. (Further review forthcoming) (seen at MoMA’s 2019 Documentary Fortnight) (2/25/2019)

    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 (Commentary forthcoming) (preview courtesy of CAVU) (3/16/2019)

    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 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.)

    The Last Resort
    It is unusual for a documentary to change my own impressions and memories. All those times I went to Miami to visit relatives (me in the 1960’s, though my grandfather and parents resisted either migrating or becoming regular snow birds; and my husband from the mid-50’s to early ‘70’s – above in 1957 with his mom and sister, at a hotel, on a main street, and at Pumpernick’s Deli). But we did not see the overwhelming settlement of elderly Jews there as positive from their perspective. Two young local photographers saw more than we did at a similar age to make a gorgeous visual documentation over ten years: Andy Sweet and Gary Monroe, the former with startlingly bright candy color shots, often taken with a Hassalblad, and the latter in moodier black and white.
    Returning from art school in 1977 to their neighborhood haunts, they captured some of the first joyously beautiful images I’ve seen of elderly Jewish women (and men) on vacation or in relaxing retirement from tough lives in Europe or Up North, who welcomed them like grandsons into their daily activities and celebrations. (So many of the Catskills hotels documentations have an anti-bourgeoisie bias.) The film’s emphasis is on the biographies of the two men and how they worked, how one photographic archive was lost and is now revived by his family. Though the archival research is impressive, the photographs are sometimes overshadowed by unidentified interview film and video footage, that is very similar to those in Four Seasons Lodge.
    For additional context, directors Dennis Scholl and Kareem Tabsch also include interviews with Jewish Museum of Florida Executive Director Susan Gladstone, Pulitzer Prize winning crime writer Edna Buchanan, and (surprisingly) Miami native filmmaker Kelly Reichardt. The documentary stretches from the start of the Jewish migration to southern Florida, through the development of Miami Beach as an entertainment supplement to Las Vegas (more cynically and fictionally chronicled in Miami native Mitch Glazer’s TV series Magic City), then how the South Beach neighborhood flourished and declined. (Rising rents are cited, but our matriarch lamented about why her money wasn’t lasting to keep up her lifestyle: “I never thought I’d live this long.”) I wish editor Tabsch allowed a little more lingering over each photo instead of on the interviewees, as these are more artistic than just family memorabilia; some of the photographs included in the film are on the photographers’ personal websites for longer perusal.
    I was inspired to finally start reading historian Deborah Dash Moore’s 1994 book To the Golden Cities: Pursuing the American Jewish Dream in Miami and L.A.. She is more aware of the neighborhoods’ class and generational boundaries than these two photographers as they picked up their cameras and had the foresight to document a Jewish community that didn’t last longer than this reluctant visitor’s memories. Now this film helps younger people get a more positive glimpse back. (at 2018 DOC NYC Festival/preview pre 12/21/2019 theatrical run courtesy of Kino Lorber) (updated 12/15/2018)

    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 Suit (El Último Traje) - In Pablo Solarz‘s Jewish/Argentinean take on King Lear, octogenarian Abraham Burzstein (Miguel Angel Sola) is disrupted from his home by his two feisty daughters in Buenos Aires, Shoshana (Noemi Frenkel) and Sara ( Nora Brozynski), has to apologize to his favorite daughter, in exile in Madrid, Claudia (Natalia Verbeke), while meeting for the first time her daughter Abril (Arlen Germade Lopez de las Hazas). Claudia does get him onto a cross-Europe train to start fulfilling his pilgrimage back to Lodz, but instead several non-Jewish women respect his quest and provide him the key assistance to find his old Polish friend. Otherwise, he is haunted in dreams and theater pieces by the image and memories of his little sister he couldn’t save from the Nazis. (seen courtesy of Strand Releasing) (12/16/2018)

    Late Marriage (Hatuna Meuheret)

    Late Summer Blues (Blues Lahofesh Hagadol) I appreciated director Renen Schorr and writer Doron Nesher post-Six-Day War classic to see how non-Socialist, Zionist or revolutionary were the relationships between the sexes, where military service had little impact on the female teenagers, compared to their boyfriends, and both earlier and alter Israeli films. (U.S. Premiere of the restoration at 2018 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum)

    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 at 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 at 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)

    Leona Mexican director Isaac Cherem, with co-writer and star González Norvind, subverts most of the clichés of a Jewish rom com from the non-Jewish boyfriend to the variety of nerdy Jewish options matched by her family to create a very sexy portrait of a free-thinking street artist who turns into a confident “lioness”. Playing nationally through virtual cinema February 12, 2021. (preview at 2020 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum and shown at 2020 New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival) (2/25/2020/ 2/6/2021)

    Let’s Dance! (briefly in Reviewed: New York Jewish Film Festival 2013 of Film at 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 at 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 at 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 at Lincoln Center (So, nu: my commentary forthcoming) (3/27/2015)

    Liberty Heights

    Life According to Agfa (Ha-Chayim Al-Pi Agfa) (1992) (restoration at 2019 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) Great to see another facet of the work of actress Gila Almagor, as written/directed by Assi Dayan, amidst a wide cast of characters full of biases against each other.

    The Life Ahead (La Vita davanti a Sé) Edoardo Ponti’s 2020 Italian-set re-make, starring his mother Sophia Loren in a return to cinema after a decade, of Moshé Mizrahi’s award-winning Madame Rosa (La vie devant soi) (1977), starring Simone Signoret, both based on Romain Gary’s aka Émile Ajarnow out–of-print in English 1975 Paris-set novel MoMo (The Life Before Us) While the premise of the elderly Holocaust victim caring for prostitutes’ children is the same in all, in this version, the young orphan boy is a Sengelese immigrant who has to be told by the Muslim merchant she brings him to for guidance that she’s Jewish and learn that the numbers on her arm have something to do with a place Auschwitz he’s never heard of. “Momo” (short for Muhammad) does not know that her fear of hospitals as places for evil experimentation comes from her experiences there, only that he promises to get her out. He also befriends and helps a Romanian boy left in Rosa’s care who she insists learn Hebrew for his eventual bar mitzvah. (Netflix) (1/1/2021)

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

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

    The Light Ahead (Fishke der Krumer) (1939) I was unaware of Edgar G. Ulmer’s four 1930’s shtetl films in Yiddish. Nor of “the grandfather of Yiddish literature” known as Mendele Mokher Sforim. So I expected more stereotypes of women in Edgar and Shirley Ulmer’s adaptation, with dialogue by Chaver Paver (pen name) from his own unproduced play, of Fishke the Lame (Fishke der krumer) (1868 story/1888 novel). Set in the fictional town of fools Glupsk near Odessa (filmed in N.J.), the women characters, played by members of New York’s Artef and Yiddish Art Theater, are: “Hodel” (Helen Beverley, an active leftist), a blind orphan a bit older than the flower girl in City Lights in love with the title character (played touchingly by David Opatoshu), making them the poorest couple in town; “Gitel” (Anna Gushkin, also Assistant Director), her rebellious best friend who defies Shabbos rules to swim in the polluted river and is in effect punished by dying of cholera; “Drabke” (Rosetta Bialis) a bitter, nasty widow who took in the orphan years ago for unrewarded expectation that this chintzy town would help support them; “Dube” (Jenny Cashier), a snarling, hunchback beggar fixated on “Fishke” and craftily lies to make sweet, loyal “Hodel” jealous; a middle-aged, childless, illiterate woman (I think played by Helena Benda, various spellings) who asks the bookseller for an appropriate book of prayers – not to buy, but to hear him daven them; and a wailing “Sexton’s wife”, “Hiah” I think (played by Celia Budkin), who fills the screen like Munch’s “The Scream”.
    This virulent yenta prefigures Arthur Miller’s The Crucible in how the virago spies, calls out the teens’ religious violation, and whips the town into a frenzy of superstition over science for blame of spreading cholera. Embodying the traditional distaff side of the conflict between the corrupt hidebound theocracy vs. modernizing forces, she pushes the Orthodox town fathers to reject the literate booksellers’ and enlightened citizens’ effort to recruit a doctor and build a hospital. (Ulmer’s father died in the flu epidemic, and he at this time made a series of public health PSA films for various sponsors, aimed at minority communities, on hygiene and the proper control of TB contagion.) The harpy insists the community organize a ”plague wedding” in the cemetery to expiate the problem. (Opatoshu’s father wrote a story on such an event; the original footage of the ritual has been cut over time). Ironically, the disadvantaged yet dignified young lovers turn this embarrassing sacrifice to their advantage for a dowry and escape to the big city, where they may even find medical experts to cure their disabilities that have made them outcasts, at least hers. (4K digital restoration by The National Center for Jewish Film) (premiere at 2021 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum) (3/5/2021)

    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 at 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) (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)

    The Lost Crown (HaKeter HaAvud)

    The panel of Israeli experts that director Avi Dabach, great-grandson of the original keeper of the Aleppo (Syria) Codex, assembles to gather all the clues on what happened to the missing pages of this most complete version of the Bible, as approved by Maimonides, includes a woman investigative journalist Yifat Erlich, above. (She is also a West Bank-living religious Zionist and erstwhile Knesset candidate. Times of Israel also describes her: “Over the years, she has conducted many high-profile investigations centering around the religious and ultra-Orthodox communities and focusing on sensitive topics like abortions, religious cults, corruption in religious courts and child molestation.) Women also provide other useful bits of information, including Sarina Faham, the widow of the cheese merchant who wrapped up the Codex for smuggling from Aleppo into Israel in 1957, and his elderly sister-in-law in Deal, NJ, where the Halabi families vacation every summer, who remembers when he emigrated to the U.S. for more opportunities. Producer Judith Manassen-Ramon has further developed the story into a VR website to continue to bring attention to the condescending and detrimental attitude of the Ashkenazi establishment elite of Israel in the 1950’s treated the Aleppo and other Jews from Arab countries and their patrimony. (at 2019 New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival /seen at Forest Hills Jewish Center Cinematek) (11/10/2019)

    Lost & Found (So, nu: In writer/director Liam O’Mochain’s concatenation of seven intersecting, inspired-by-true-stories, “The Tent” features a putative Jewish woman, as he says in the Production Notes: “I had heard about 100 children that lived in a farm in the North of Ireland in 1939. They have travelled there as part of the kindertransport from Germany and Eastern Europe. After I heard this story I decided to do some researching on both lost treasure of the Second World War and children who had been sent from their homeland by their families to the UK and Ireland. I relocated the Czech Republic part of the story to an area in Poland and I created a character who had come to Ireland as part of kindertransport, settling here after the war had ended.” Does he really think that a child who was just of Polish identity was sent? Certainly as a grandson Daniel, he knows nothing. His Gran (Barbara Adair) is haunted on her death bed by her kindertransport experience as a 7-year-old in about 1939 —but she’s buried in a Catholic cemetery. Richie Buckley’s score for this episode was full of fiddle and accordion, but more Irish than klezmer.) (Preview courtesy of Gravitas Ventures) (3/15/2019)

    Lost Embrace (El Abrazo partido)

    Lost Love Diaries (Yomanei Haahava Haavudim) (preview at 2012 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at 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 & Stuff Judith Helfand’s emotionally intimate documentary of motherhood first ranges over 25 years of her living, dying, and dead mother Florence and her house, then apartment full of stuff (particularly Judaica items like Shabbat candlesticks, Hanukiah, and the same style tools for chopped liver that I saved from my grandmother’s Brooklyn apartment). Then she reels from the absence of her mother when she adopts a baby girl (from a Jewish mother). Using footage from her A Healthy Baby Girl (1997) covering the inter-generational trauma of being a DES-daughter having a hysterectomy at age 25, and other home documentation of family simchas and ritual meals, particularly of seders, she learns to cope with being a 50-year-old, first-time mother, of a newborn through running toddler to kindergartener, without a mother. (Odetta’s niece becomes a paid substitute.) Helfand credits the editing by Marina Katz and David Cohen for focusing the hundreds of hours of footage into a time-traveling thematic whole. (preview at 2020 DOC NYC Film Festival/ at 2021 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum, shown with her prequel short Absolutely No Spitting where Helfand compared the results of their spit DNA tests – she almost all Ashkenazi and her adopted daughter’s rainbow “pan-global heritage of New York City” – and how they’ll celebrate all.) (11/17/2020; 3/13/2021)

    Love, Antosha Within this bio-doc of the late, young actor Anton Yelchin is one of the most loving tributes to a Jewish mother. Though his father Viktor Yelchin is more explicitly identified as Jewish, in reacting to the upswing in anti-Semitism in the USSR in the 1980’s when he and his wife/skating partner Irina Korina couldn’t compete as ice dancers abroad so moved his family as refugees to the U.S. with little of their inheritances and earnings, and is seen wearing a yarmulke in family photos, at their wedding and another family event, so his mother is putatively Jewish. Through interviews with her, friends, and Anton with the media, she’s described as a hard-working immigrant to California, giving ice dancing lessons and choreographing skaters’ routines, who is the force who encouraged his artistic tendencies, as seen in many photos and home movies of them together. Irina took him to youth theater groups and acting classes, then to auditions and shoots of commercials, TV shows, and his early movies, around her work schedule. His emails, video tapes, songs, and hand-drawn cards, in English and Russian, declare his constant love for her, and gratitude for her support. With her cropped silver hair, thick Russian accent, and black eye frames, she is very dramatic looking. When he was cast in the remakes of Star Trek as the young “Chekhov”, as originally played by Walter Koenig the accent was so in-authentic he found he cound’t use hers as a model, but said he could use his grandfather’s, seen in a couple of photos without specifying maternal or paternal. His friend and co-star Jennifer Lawrence remembered surprise that he was looking forward to his mother’s visit at their filming location, in contrast to her: “My mother coming always brings on a pre-migraine.” His mother also helped him manage his cystic fibrosis, even keeping his diagnosis from him until its flare-up at puberty could also interfere with his film and music performance ambitions. She set up a foundation to help young people with similar struggles “to empower and support young people engaged in creative arts who face career challenges due to debilitating disease or disability”. (7/26/2019)

    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) (2/29/2012)

    Ma’Abarot - While not the first eye-opening documentary about the titular “temporary transit camps” for immigrants in Israel in the late ‘40’s/50’s, the angry, tearful interviews with those who lived in them as children, including many women, are supported by racist, paternalist documents from Israeli government and Jewish agency files. The interviewees include Ashkenazim and Romanians, to point out the differences in the treatment of the Mizrahim, particularly the Yemeni. (As awful as was the brutal drive against an alleged outbreak of ringworm, the U.S. did the same to Appalachian and other poor kids, so perhaps effective medications weren’t known.) Directed by Dina Zvi-Riklis, this 90 minute version distributed in the U.S. is edited down from a four-episode public TV docu-series, so I wonder what was left out? (at 2020 New York Jewish Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum and seen at 2020 New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival) (2/25/2020)

    The Maestro - Ostensibly a bio-pic of 1940’s/50’s Hollywood unheralded composer and important mentor Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, the primary focus, as directed by Adam Cushman, written by C.V. Herst (who cameos as Igor Stravinsky), is on his student Jerry Herst (Leo Marks); both their compositions are in the soundtrack. With continuing inferences that Jerry is Jewish, his voice-over describes that after Pearl Harbor he had to leave the Navy “on my way to Corregidor” in 1942 to care for his terminally ill mother, so credits her with saving his life from the Japanese death march. Early in his time at a Los Angeles rooming house in 1945, he calls his girlfriend back home and strings her along. His fellow veteran roommates remind him when she calls, and they warn him to return her calls, which he evidently does not. He gets surprise visits from first his father Abe (William Russ) and then his younger, conventionally married suburban brother Sam (Mackenzie Astin) who repeat the same point: Your girl has dinner with us at least once a week. She’s a great gal…You’re losing her. They do everything but say she’s a nice Jewish girl as they imply she comes for Shabbat dinner. But I didn’t catch that either putatively Jewish woman, presumably related to the scripter, is heard from directly or seen, though judging from the credits they may have been edited out. (preview courtesy of Freestyle Digital Media) (2/12/2019)

    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 at Lincoln Center) (updated 3/27/2016)

    The Magnificent Meyersons - Terrific cast, including Kate Mulgrew, Richard Kind, Shoshannah Stern, Neal Huff, Daniel Eric Gold, Melissa Errico, Lauren Ridloff, and Barbara Barrie, with cinematographer Derek McKane’s lively verité use of the blocks around NYC’s Union Square and 14th Street, can’t lift writer/director Evan Oppenheimer’s fairly boring story of a middle-class Jewish family in Manhattan, dealing in the past and present with the repercussions from the father who left them. I track five branches of mine and my husband’s families and there are stories like this in each one. (8/20/2021)

    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)

    Mama Weed (La Daronne) - A clever French caper movie that’s female-centered, with multi-ethnic solidarity among middle-aged women willing to run circles around the system that is usually against them. Co-written by lawyer/filmmaker Hannelore Cayre based on her 2017 French novel (published in English as The Godmother), with director Jean-Paul Salomé. When the titular character “Patience Portefeux” (played by Isabelle Huppert), a French-Arabic translator/interpreter for the police department (Huppert memorized quite a lot of Arabic dialogue), tries to feed her mother (played by Liliane Rovère), who is slipping into dementia in an expensive assisted living facility that she’s behind on paying the fees, the mother complains: I didn’t survive death camps to eath this crap! The first-person book, in the English translation by Stephanie Smee, provides more background on “Patience”s parents: “They had lost everything, it must be said, including their country. Nothing was left of my [pied-noir] father’s French Tunisia, nothing of my mother’s Jewish Vienna. Nobody for him to talk to in his patouète dialect, nor for her in Yiddish. Not even corpses in the cemetery. Nothing. It had all been erased from the map, like Atlantis. So they bonded in their solitude, putting roots down in the no man’s land….two vulgar foreigners who found each other in post-war, post-colonial France.”
    The mother’s background and her financial burden on her daughter was inspired by Cayre’s own; here’s her descriptions combined from a couple of Google-translated interviews: "My mother had survived the deportation, so she was indestructible. Living in Camp des Milles with a simple summer dress in any season, when everyone would die of typhoid, tuberculosis, hunger, and cold… she was interned throughout 1942, [and] systematically escaped deportation thanks to her maiden name, Wilker. The trains were filled in alphabetical order, and always crowded when it came time to her turn…Then her family managed to reach Switzerland, a fate not easy for everyone to assume; seeing no way out of his existence, my grandfather ended up hanging himself in the middle of the day in a park in Geneva…My mother opted for a radical choice of life: in 1954, she found my father, her first love of the 1940s, in the back of a bus. That day, she did not return home, immediately abandoning her first husband and their daughter… But I forgive her, because it's so awful, what she went through. She couldn't give love… But she was terrible, she should never have had children… After her stroke, she was paralyzed in the left hemisphere: she turned into a 4 year old girl devoid of any notion of reality, she spoke to nonexistent people, she told nonexistent facts, she spoke a word of Yiddish out of two, I didn't understand anything, she also had hallucinations… and as soon as I left, she screamed, it was horrible. [The Press Notes say the mother’s character also speaks occasionally in Yiddish, but I didn’t notice.]… All of the baby-boom generation has aging parents, dying at 3,200 euros per month in a retirement home. They wonder how they are going to be able to pay for their children's school as well. It's a real generational choice: the age pyramid is bulging, society will not be able to absorb." What with her father’s and husband’s shady backgrounds, this context makes credible “Patience” throwing herself into a very smart criminal plan with her Moroccan health aide “Khadidja” (Farida Ouchani) and Chinese landlady “Mrs. Fo” (Jade Nadja Nguyen). (preview courtesy of Music Box Films) (7/16/2021)
    Chapter 3 in the novel focuses on the mother:”Where there’s a will, the intrepid Jewish woman will find a way” – now when she’s ill, and during the lead character’s childhood, when she was in PTSD from her camp experiences: “She would read novels that were an infinitely repetitive variation on the same theme: Jewish woman leaves Austria, Poland or Russia, disembarking, bare foot, at the base of the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island, and thank to cunning nature, her ass, her good fortune, becomes a famous publisher, a renowned fashion designer, a feared lawyer…This Jewish female bulldozer crushes everything in her path, men in particular.”

    Mank: Even without factual accuracy about writer Herman J. Mankiewicz (played by Gary Oldman), in Jack Fincher’s script, directed by his son David Fincher, his wife Sarah Mankiewicz (attractively portrayed by Tuppence Middleton) seems to be the only Jewish woman in 1930’s and 1940’s Hollywood. While they are clearly fond of each other, and she’s involved with his career by importuning his brother Joseph to help him, he only occasionally brings her along to parties, explaining she’s home with the offspring. Near the end she gets a rebellious speech (transcribable approximately because it’s available on Netflix): I raised your children kosher by myself, put up with drinking, gambling, platonic affairs. I made nice with Louis B. Mayer to have your job back…Herman, I’m never bored, exhausted, exasperated so much I have to stick around to see how it all turns out. Whatever you do, be mindful of those who care for you most. Nobody call me ‘Poor Sarah’ anymore! I’ve downloaded the recent well-reviewed bio of the brothers, which may have additional insight on her to compare to her fictional representation. (12/25/2020)

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

    Marianne & Leonard: Words Of Love - Exhibition and Documentary
    When I submitted this piece to Lilith editor, I got an expected query: “Seems to me that your use of "blond" is in most case here a proxy for "non-Jewish woman". And I do think we want to be careful not to stigmatize a whole category of women because of the color of their hair, whether real or artificial (or bleached by the Greek sun).” No and no. Here’s why I’ve noticed the irony of Jewish men’s attraction to blondes:
    Rabbi Susan Schnur’s Fall 1991 (subscriber-accessible) article in Lilith “Notes from Underground: A Gathering of Children Hidden During the Holocaust” on the first hidden children’s conference in 1991 made the point vivid and has stuck with me: “The first thing that strikes me is how good-looking everyone is...The second thing what strikes me—also in the looks department—is how blond the room is. There are real blonds and fake blonds, but still, many more blonds per capita than one would find at a Hadassah convention or a CAJE CAJE [Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education] conference. Every real blond, of course, means an Aryan-looking child, one who was more easily passed off as a Gentile’s “orphaned niece” or a Catholic convent child. One woman says, ‘To this day, I walk down a busy street and see waves of hair—blond, black, blond, black, and what I am saying to myself is ‘life’, ‘death’, ‘life,’ ‘death.’…To get back to the blondness in the room. . . the fake blonds were of interest, too. What does it mean—to a 2 year old, or 4 year old, or 8 year old—to be blond? It means to be safe. It means to be ‘one of the strong ones’ as one woman puts it…blondness means safety.” In an interview, probably in the documentary Irena Sendler: In The Name of Their Mothers (2011), the Righteous Gentile said she could only save blond children from the Warsaw Ghetto. Looking at my own kids, I thought they would only have qualified until their hair turned darker at age three. In the nonfiction The Zookeeper’s Wife, the Righteous Gentile Antonina Zabinski devised a wartime dye so the Jews she smuggled to safety could dye their hair blonde.
    Liv Ullman took on her last acting role, in Two Lives (Zwei Leben), to showcase a lesser known war crime. As part of Himmler’s Lebensborn program that saw Nordic women as the ideal Aryans, he directed SS and other German officers to fraternize with blonde, blue-eyed women of “Viking blood” in occupied countries, arranged for special homes for them to live and to give birth in special clinics, then sent up to 12,000 Norwegian children, for example, to Germany for adoption.
    In contrast, my own work monitoring the image of Jewish women in movies and TV documents that we are usually shown with dark curly hair – and almost never appear as blondes. (The French, exceptionally, stereotype Jewish women with auburn hair.)
    So I find Jewish men’s, particularly artists who set popular images, fascination for blondes as their sexual/erotic/whatever ideals, to be particularly ironic – including documentary director Nick Broomfield. In interviews up through this film, he found it amusing when interview subjects, such as Afrikaners for his film The Leader, His Driver, and the Driver’s Wife (1991), thought he was Jewish, and he only talked about his Quaker pacifist father Maurice. But later in 2019 he made My Father and Me, which includes the information that he only found out in his ‘20’s that his refugee mother was Jewish, so he had more in common with Cohen than a lover. So Broomfield’s obsession with Marianne, let alone that his first partner/co-director/cinematographer Joan Churchill is a blonde, and supports my cynical point that he, too, is a quintessential Jewish man cliché,. (Thanks to Donna Schulman for her help!) (9/5/2019; 10/7/2019)

    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)

    Mary Magdalene
    My interest was in how she would be portrayed as a Jew, before Jesus converts her to his new cult – as well as that my mother, poet Charlotte Mandel wrote the related spoem novella The Life Of Mary.
    Here’s the film’s intentions, as directed by Garth Davis, from the Press Notes: “Producer Iain Canning in the press notes described the genesis as ‘The initial script was written by acclaimed playwright Helen Edmundson who came up with the blueprint and drew together all the relevant texts into a narrative. Philippa Goslett subsequently worked on the script to bring a filmic edge and a little bit more dynamic between the disciples and Mary herself to really bring it to life.’ Goslett’s research took her on a journey into biblical history which presented further complications but also underlined the importance of the story at the heart of the film. “We had a multitude of conversations with rabbis, priests, Jewish historians, biblical scholars and archeologists and everyone we talked to disagreed with each other! They each had a distinct take on the Jesus movement and what it meant, so that was fascinating. But what was even more fascinating was that they all agreed, without exception, that Mary of Magdala should be considered as a disciple and an apostle.’… Producer Liz Watts continues the story: ‘The screenplay and the production were influenced by lots of different theological and historical texts, and we had a number of biblical and historical consultants - Jewish, Greek Orthodox, Catholic - on the film, who were really fantastic but who also offered totally different viewpoints - from the Jewish idea of the 1st Century, to the Christian writing and rewriting of the 1st Century, from the Gospel of Mark, primarily, to the Gospel of Mary.’…As she’s presented in the film even before she meets Jesus, Mary is a very strong, independent and, in some ways, a modern woman - still unmarried despite being in her early 20s and working with her family of fishermen. As [actress Rooney] Mara explains, "We first meet Mary while she's living in Magdala with her family and she is very different to everyone in her family. Her family are pushing her to get married and have children, as she’s already considered old, and to do what a woman is expected to do. She’s really resistant to that. I think she really loves the fishing work and she feels very connected to God in a way that she can't really understand and that she wants to explore more. She's always felt very different to everyone else and feels she’s never been listened to, so when Jesus comes along he's the first person who understands what she's feeling. She’s brave enough to leave her family behind and follow him.’”
    So much for their intentions. Here’s what I actually saw in the film. In 33 CE under Herod, her community when Jesus comes to preach in her neighborhood is never called “Jewish” or in the “Kingdom of Judah” or “Hebrews”, though he is referred to as a “rabbi”. After services, where men sit on one side, and women on the other, including her fecund sister-in-law Rachel (Ariane Labed), her father Aaron (Jules Struk) and her brother Daniel (Denis Ménochet) arrange a marriage for her with a widower who has two kids needing a mother. She demurs that she wouldn’t feel comfortable because she was friends with their mother, who she probably helped in childbirth as she’s a midwife-in-training. But she goes outside to fervently pray for what decision to make, and the rabbi Ephraim (Tsahi Halevi) watches her unusual behavior. Interestingly, this plays out much like Hannah in the biblical Book of Samuel, whose fervent prayers for a child made Eli the High Priest suspicious that she was drunk. Daniel has a more conventional, patriarchal view: You pray at services with the other women; you pray at home with family, not outside like some wandering lunatic. You want to shave your head and pray whenever you want like a man?…You have brought shame on the family. When she makes clear that she refuses to marry, however, the family goes in an oddly non-Jewish direction when the rabbi decides she is possessed by a demon and insists on an exorcism. So no wonder she leaves them and becomes an equal disciple with “The Baptists”, in this interpretation.
    More Jewish-sounding were the haunting arrangments by Sophia Brous sung in Hebrew by the women cast members and psalms, sung with the vaguely identified Temple Beth Israel Choir. (preview courtesy of IFC Films) (4/6/2019)

    Masel Tov Cocktail - A funny, visually entertaining short, co-written by Merle Teresa Kirchhoff, explains the wrought historical and contemporary political context in the life of the Russian-Jewish community in Germany, from the perspective of a high school senior guy dating a non-Jewish girl. Too bad his mother (played by Liudmyla Vasylieva) is not given any sense of identity or personality. (seen at 2021 New York Film Festival of Film at Lincoln Center) (3/5/2021)

    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 at 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)

    The Meaning of Hitler - So, nu: Filmmaking couple German Petra Epperlein and American Michael Tucker do include Jewish women interviewees among the experts who discuss different aspects of the title, as framed by Sebastian Haffner’s 1978 titular book. Most prominent is Prof. Deborah Lipstadt, per the Holocaust denier’s lawsuit against her, as fictionalized inDenial (and he is interviewed in Poland as the only country that welcomes him to tour sites), and her 2019 book Anti-Semitism: Here and Now. Also included is Francine Prose, who has been described as growing up in a secularized Jewish milieu and has won Jewish Book Council awards, but is cited here as the author of her 2009 Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife. The Nazi-hunting Klarsfelds are interviewed, but she is not Jewish. (preview at 2020 DOC NYC Film Festival/ IFC Films theatrical release) (11/2/2020)

    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 at 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 at Lincoln Center/MoMA) (updated 7/28/2017)
    The surprising impact that making this film in Borough Park had on one young woman in the neighborhood. (added 5/27/2021)

    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)- 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at Lincoln Center/The Jewish Museum)

    Mr. Klein (1976): Directed by Joseph Losey, who left the U.S. for Europe under McCarthy-ite pressure, this original script by Marxist writer Franco Solinas, emphasizes the ghoulishness of the anti-Semitism that infects Paris under the Nazi Occupation, as the majority is apathetic. A presumably Jewish woman is featured in the explicit opening scene as a naked woman (played by Isabelle Sadoyan) is examined by “Le professeur Montandon” (Jacques Maury) using Nazi pseudo-anthropological criteria for categorizing the parts of the face, head, and body to determine if a subject is Jewish. She is anonymous but obviously terrified in hoping that the officious academic will clear her (he decides she could just as well be Armenian), then meets up with a man in the hall outside the examination room, possibly her husband, whispering in shadows. The image of her haunts the film as the titular art collector character (played by Alain Delon), who negotiates the price down from Jews desperate for ready cash to flee, then finds himself trying to prove he is not Jewish, even as there is a doppelganger around him who presumably is – and is active in the Resistance. As he tries to track down this other “Klein” in order to clear his own name, his intersections with that life lead him to other women who may be Jewish, including Jeanne Moreau as “Florence”, the other Klein’s older mistress, a wealthy, bored wife and mother ensconced in a snowy chateau, with a formal garden, servants, and art-covered walls with glaring gaps where some pieces were obviously sold off. By the end of this Kafka-esque mystery that takes place during in 1942 while the French gendarmes and the Gestapo are meticulously preparing for the round-up of Jews to the Vel’ d’Hiv and onto cattle cars, I was wondering if the other nervous women were also hiding that they were Jewish, including his sexy, flighty young mistress “Jeanine” (Juliet Berto), “la concierge” (Suzanne Flon), and his co-conspirator with many aliases who may work at a munitions factory. Standing on the bus, “Mr. Klein” is queried by a nervous Jewish woman as to what will happen to them, because there’s rumors of being sent to work in Germany, but surely the French police wouldn’t let that happen to them. He doesn’t want to hear about such things. Throughout the film, the Jewish men seem more resigned than scared, as they all end up at the stadium. (preview of restoration with new subtitles at Film Forum) (8/14/2019)
    In an interview with Michel Ciment, Losey explained including the drag cabaret act that featured a Jewish woman in a mourning veil being mocked to the bourgeois audience’s, including a couple of young Nazi officers attending with attractive French men, great amusement: “if [Frantz Salieri with La Grande Eugène] would do the anti-Semitic show, the fact that they were men created a certain distancing thing. He had the brilliant idea of using Mahler’s music. The strangeness of this man, a widow, singing the Mahler song [“Kindertotenlieder - Nun Will Die Sonn' So Hell Aufgehn”], and the ugliness of the anti-Semitism, were such that the worst anti-Semite would not want to identify with it. For me that’s one of the most successful sequences in the picture. And there was nothing in the script that corresponded to that. This was entirely planned with me and Salieri.”

    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 at Lincoln Center and IFC Center) (updated 7/30/2017)


    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 at 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 at 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)

    My Father and Me
    [courtesy of New York Film Festival, 2019]
    So, nu: Commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum to accompany an October 2020 exhibition of the photographs from the acquired archive of Maurice (pronounced “Morris”) Broomfield as the top visual documenter of British factories and industy, his son documentarian Nick made this retrospective of the relationship of the three generations, including Nick’s son Barney. I had found Maurice’s first wife identified in his obituary as Sonja Lagusova (her brother Charles, David Attenborough’s first cameraman on his nature documentaries, changed his last name to Lagus), but as Nick only referred to her as a “Slovak refugee”, I did not presume she was Jewish – but maybe those were from before he knew she was Jewish. He attributes the secret to her and her father’s reaction to the rest of their family’s deaths in the Holocaust (though their experiences and the date they fled to safety is not given) – let alone Maurice’s mother’s virulent anti-Semitism, which in the film he mildly forgives as “fear of foreigners” typical of her rural farming community that alienated her son. But their Jewish identity didn’t even come up when he interviewed his beloved grandfather he called “Gogo” about his British army service that included liberating