The New York Jewish Film Festival has been a preeminent showcase for Jewish film since its inception in 1992, and is presented annually by the Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. In addition to being one of the leading global film forums, the NYJFF is one of New York’s longest running collaborations between two cultural institutions. Among a diverse lineup of films scheduled for this year’s 26th annual festival, a few highlights stand out in demonstrating the wide range of what defines Jewish film.
Peshmerga, the French philosopher Bernard‐Henri Lévy’s latest directorial feature and his most mature to date, brings center stage one of the most war‐torn zones in northern Iraq. The film documents a troupe of peshmerga, Kurdish freedom fighters, who risk their lives in the everyday battle against ISIS—or Daesh as Lévy refers to them. A controversial figure both in‐ and outside of France, Lévy presents an astonishing view of the lives of these soldiers and their enduring conviction, which impacts a critical stage in the region.
Doing Jewish: A Story from Ghana reveals the story of a little‐known Jewish community in rural Sefwi Wiawso that Westerners only recently came to discover. Encouraged by her mother to celebrate the Jewish High Holidays while volunteering in Ghana, the Canadian filmmaker Gabrielle Zilkha befriends a man whose family had been practicing Judaism there for centuries.
Brothers Barak Heymann and Tomer Heymann, past NYJFF filmmakers of The Queen Has No Crown, return with two documentaries that span three continents. Ohad Naharin, the widely known artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company, is depicted in Mr. Gaga, a well‐deserved tribute to this master of choreography that includes breathtaking footage from some of his best routines.
Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? examines the life of an HIV‐positive Israeli man living a free life in London and his attempt to reconnect with his estranged family. Sincere in his search for identity, Saar is one of the most talented vocalists in London Gay Men’s Chorus, although he never fulfilled his parents’ expectations.
Such Is Life (Takový je život)Among this year’s special programming is a tribute to the German actress and cabaret artist Valeska Gert, whose prolific career during Germany’s Weimar Republic is represented by three films screening in January: Carl Junghans’s Such Is Life (1929); Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s The Threepenny Opera (1931); the unusual and surreal Pett and Pott: A Fairy Story of the Suburbs (1934), which promotes the use of the telephone; and a 1970s documentary on her life by the filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff.
Following up on his previous film Rabin, The Last Day, a portrait of the final days and aftermath of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, Amos Gitai brings us Shalom Rabin, a documentary about the legendary politician. Gitai accompanied Rabin on his international quest to seek peace more than 20 years ago and assembled a film essay that offers an unparalleled glimpse into the inner workings of Rabin’s complex negotiations.
There is also a screening of the classic film The Producers. Starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder in the 1967 production (in roles later reprised by Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick) and directed by the legendary Mel Brooks, The Producers remains as hilarious and irreverent as when it debuted.