The 23rd edition of the New York Jewish Film Festival kicks off tomorrow, Wednesday, January 8 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. A co-presentation of The Jewish Museum and the Film Society, the festival runs through Thursday, January 23, and presents more than 30 new and retrospective feature films, as well as shorts and special programs, such as symposium exploring film genres and identity-based programming, guest curation by Wim Wenders, a master class with Amos Gitai, and a celebration of the work of Otto Preminger and Saul Bass. Compared to last year’s edition, which saw about half the lineup focus on nonfiction programming, there are fewer documentaries screening, all noted below.
I’ve previously written about a third of the doc features out of other festivals: Alan Zweig’s very enjoyable WHEN JEWS WERE FUNNY, a search for the vanishing history of Jewish comedy; Dan Shadur’s fascinating BEFORE THE REVOLUTION (pictured), exploring the lives of Israelis in pre-revolution Iran; and Marcel Ophüls’ AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’, the auteur’s anecdote-driven stroll down cinematic memory lane.
Of the remaining titles, I’m most interested in Nili Tal’s UKRAINE BRIDES: 13 YEARS LATER, a follow up to the director’s 2000 film about Ukrainian women who came to Israel for marriage; Diana Groó’s REGINA, about the world’s first female rabbi; and Michal Aviad’s THE WOMEN PIONEERS (pictured), which tells the story of forward-thinking, proto-feminist women who emigrated from Europe to Palestine a century ago. Also screening is Edan Zeira’s hybrid film, LONELY PLANET, following documentarians on the Trans-Siberian Railway in a quest to find a legendary WWII feral boy.
I’m not at all drawn to either Maurice Linnane’s AMY WINEHOUSE: THE DAY SHE CAME TO DINGLE (pictured), about the late singer’s intimate performance in a small Irish town; or Ayal Goldberg’s RITA JAHAN FORUZ, on the regionally well-known Iranian-Israeli singer, but fans of those performers or of music docs in general may want to take a look.