The 27th annual New York Jewish Film Festival (NYJFF) returns January 10 to 23, 2018 featuring the finest documentary, narrative, and short films from around the world that explore the diverse Jewish experience. The festival’s 2018 lineup includes 37 wide-ranging and exciting features and shorts from the iconic to the iconoclastic, of which 25 are screening in their world, U.S., and New York premieres.

The NYJFF opens on Wednesday, January 10, with the U.S. premiere of Nabil Ayouch’s mesmerizing Razzia, which follows five Moroccans pushed to the fringes in Casablanca by their extremist government. Closing Night is the U.S. premiere of Amos Gitai’s latest documentary, West of the Jordan River, a powerful look at West Bank citizens, both Israeli and Palestinian, who have risen to act in the name of civic consciousness and peace. The Centerpiece selection is Ofir Raul Graizer’s tender debut feature The Cakemaker, about the relationship that forms between a gay German baker and the Israeli widow of the man whom they both loved.

This year’s edition of the festival features an array of enlightening and challenging documentaries, including Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me, Sam Pollard’s exhilarating tribute to the legendary entertainer; the U.S. premiere of Chen Shelach’s Praise the Lard, an exploration of the Israeli pork industry; NYJFF alum Radu Jude’s haunting The Dead Nation, which consists entirely of photographs from Romanian photographer Costica Acsinte and audio of diary excerpts from Jewish doctor Emil Dorian, which both span the period from 1937 to 1944; the U.S. premiere of Daniel Najenson’s The Impure, which investigates institutionalization of Jewish prostitution in Argentina in the early 20th century. The festival also includes fiction works like Tzahi Grad’s morally complex, darkly comic The Cousin, about a progressive Israeli actor who comes to the defense of his Palestinian handyman when he’s accused of assault; and Francesco Amato’s comedy Let Yourself Go, about a detached psychoanalyst who finds his life recharged by the presence of a young, attractive, and undisciplined personal trainer.

NYJFF special programs include the world premiere of a new restoration of Alexander Rodnyanskiy’s The Mission of Raoul Wallenberg, 27 years after it premiered in the first NYJFF; a tribute screening of Amos Gitai’s One Day You’ll Understand in memory of Jeanne Moreau; Drawing the Iron Curtain, a special program of Soviet animated shorts, followed by a conversation with author/professor Maya Balakirsky Katz and film critic J. Hoberman; the U.S. premieres of restorations of Renen Schorr’s Late Summer Blues and Gilbert Tofano’s Siege; and a brand new world premiere restoration of Michał Waszyński’s 1937 classic The Dybbuk, one of the finest films ever produced in the Yiddish language, presented in conjunction with the U.S. premiere of main slate title The Prince and the Dybbuk, a documentary about Waszyński’s life.

2018 New York Jewish Film Festival Lineup


Nabil Ayouch, France/Morocco/Belgium, 2017, 120 min
French/Arabic/Berber with English subtitles
A kaleidoscopic drama, Razzia tells the story of five Moroccans pushed to the fringes in Casablanca by the extremist government. Director Nabil Ayouch contrasts the mythic romance of the classic 1942 film Casablanca with an honest and deeply humanistic portrait of contemporary Moroccans yearning for connection amidst political crisis. Ayouch and co-writer Maryam Touzani—who also stars in the film—paint a mesmerizing portrait of a city and a meditation on desire and love.
U.S. Premiere


The Cakemaker
Ofir Raul Graizer, Germany/Israel, 2017, 104 min
English/Hebrew/German with English subtitles
In this tender and moving debut, Ofir Raul Graizer explores the connection formed by a gay German baker, Thomas (Tim Kalkhof), and Anat (Sarah Adler), the Israeli widow of the man whom they both loved, Oren (Roy Miller). When Oren is killed in a car accident, Thomas moves to Jerusalem and takes a job in Anat’s café. As their relationship deepens, and pressure from Oren’s religious family rises for Anat, Graizer delicately and gracefully traces the fluidity of desire and sexuality, the bonds forged by shared grief, and the challenges those can present to faith and family. As food is one way cultures can bridge such divides, so too can it be a way to mark separation.
NY Premiere


West of the Jordan River
Amos Gitai, Israel/France, 2017, 87 min
Hebrew/Arabic/English with English subtitles
Building on work he set forth in Rabin, the Last Day and Shalom Rabin, Amos Gitai returns to the West Bank to better understand the efforts of the citizens, both Israelis and Palestinians, to try to overcome the consequences of the 50-year occupation. Interspersing footage of his interviews with Yitzhak Rabin from the 1990s with the contemporary interviews of everyday citizens, Gitai emphasizes the lasting side effects of Rabin’s assassination on the twenty years since: peace was so close, and now it seems so far. Searching for hope amidst the rubble of the occupied territories, Gitai shows the many local Israelis and Palestinians who have risen to act in the name of civic consciousness and peace. West of the Jordan River is a powerful and moving film from a most important filmmaker.
U.S. Premiere


Across the Waters
Nicolo Donato, Denmark, 2016, 95 min
Danish with English subtitles
In this white-knuckled Danish drama based on a true story, a Jewish guitarist and his family barely escape Copenhagen after the Nazis seize control, and they set off to a remote fishing village in the north of the country where they’ve heard local fishermen are ferrying runaway Jews to Sweden. When the Gestapo starts to close in on the refugees, the family is forced to put their lives in the hands of strangers. Director Nicolo Donato, whose grandfather was one of the ferrymen in the underground, masterfully ratchets up the tension, heightening the suspense until the very last frame.
NY Premiere

An Act of Defiance
Jean van de Velde
Netherlands/South Africa, 2017, 123 min
English/Afrikaans with English subtitles
Based on the true story of the Rivonia Trial in apartheid South Africa, which led to the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and nine of his black and Jewish compatriots, An Act of Defiance is the story of Bram Fischer, the lawyer who chose to put his life and freedom at risk to defend Mandela. Peter Paul Muller’s performance as Fischer is exceptional, and captures both his sympathetic and idealistic nature and his more conflicted, practical humanity, afraid that he’ll be implicated with the Rivonia Ten for his membership in the Communist Party. Jean van de Velde has crafted a film that is both a moving and powerful meditation on the sacrifices necessary to stand against injustice, and an exciting political thriller.
NY Premiere

The Cousin
Tzahi Grad, Israel/USA, 2017, 92 min
Hebrew/Arabic with English subtitles
In this darkly comic thriller, a progressive-minded Israeli actor Naftali (writer-director Tzahi Grad) hires a Palestinian handyman Fahed (Ala Fakka), to do some work in his home. When a young girl is assaulted nearby, the neighbors immediately begin to suspect Fahed, and so Naftali steps up as the lone voice in Fahed’s defense. Grad cleverly evokes the moral complexities through Naftali, who is no Atticus Finch. Grad portrays him as a comically stubborn and self-righteous actor—one who, in the film, is developing a reality show about bridging the gap between Israelis and Palestinians—who must reckon with the uncomfortable realization that he, too, might be letting his politics cloud his reason.
NY Premiere
Preceded by:
The Law of Averages
Elizabeth Rose, Canada/USA, 2016, 13 min
A young woman must sort out her relationship with her mother while they await the death of her grandmother.

The Dead Nation (Tara Moarta)
Radu Jude, Romania, 2017, 83 min
Romanian with English subtitles
With echoes of Chris Marker, Susan Sontag, and W.G. Sebald, Radu Jude’s The Dead Nation consists entirely of photographs from Romanian photographer Costica Acsinte and audio of diary excerpts from Jewish doctor Emil Dorian, which both span the period from 1937 to 1944. A study in contrasts, The Dead Nation presents idyllic images of pastoral life, while Dorian’s diary excerpts portray a surging wave of anti-Semitism and brutality. How do our memories hide the truth of our actions, or lack thereof? How can we measure our individual experiences against the enormity of historical experience? How do we make sense of what we have not—and cannot—witness? Radu Jude’s (Aferim!) hauntingly relevant documentary is, in the words of its narrator, “torn between reality and poetry.”

The Impure
Daniel Najenson, Israel/Argentina, 2017, 69 min
Spanish/Hebrew/Yiddish with English subtitles
Daniel Najenson’s personal and trenchant documentary The Impure investigates the institutionalization of Jewish prostitution in Argentina in the early 20th century. During the wave of Eastern European Jewish emigration, thousands of Jewish women were lured with promises of wealth to Argentinian brothels. The prostitutes and their pimps—in some cases the husbands of the prostitutes—were also newly-emigrated Jewish men, who quickly developed an expansive, flourishing underworld in Buenos Aires. They were seen as “the impure,” provoking the shame of the Argentinian Jewish community. But, as Najenson illustrates by digging up revelations of his own family’s history, “the impure” were inextricably woven into the social and political fabric of Argentinian-Jewish life.
U.S. Premiere
Preceded by:
Daniella Koffler & Uli Seis, Germany, Israel, 15m; 2017
U.S. Premiere
Netta, a young Israeli woman, wishes to immigrate to Berlin. Her father, the son of Holocaust survivors, is horrified. Based on Daniella Koffler’s personal story, Compartments is the first German-Israeli animation to explore collective memories of the Holocaust in the third generation.

The Invisibles
Claus Raefle, Germany, 2017, 116 min
German with English subtitles
In June 1943, the German government famously declared Berlin “judenfrei”—free of Jews. But, there were still about 7,000 Jews living in hiding in the German capital. In this extraordinary film, Claus Raefle tells the story of four of the 1,700 survivors who hid in plain sight throughout the war. The Invisibles brings suspense to a remarkable true story by using a hybrid of documentary and highly accomplished dramatizations (gorgeously photographed by Joerg Widmer, whose previous credits include Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life and Wim Wenders’s Pina), which render the harrowing story even more astonishing.
NY Premiere

Iom Romi (A Day in Rome)
Valerio Ciriaci, Italy/USA 2017, 30 min
Italian with English subtitles
In this intoxicating short documentary, Valerio Ciriaci chronicles a day in the life of the contemporary Roman Jewish community. The only cultural group that has lived in Rome uninterrupted since the days of the empire, Roman Jews have fostered their own unique set of traditions. Taking place over the course of one day, Iom Romi (A Day in Rome) provides a view into a way of life that is at once distinctly Roman and distinctly Jewish.
Followed by:
Della Seta Home Movies
Italy, 10 min
In these beautiful home movies, recently unearthed by the Centro Primo Levi, an Italian family gets acquainted with film. Heartwarming and mesmerizing, these home movies are sure to captivate.
Followed by:
Maya Zack, Israel, 2016, 24 min
German with English subtitles
Inspired by the writings of the poet Paul Celan, Israeli visual artist Maya Zack crafts a hypnotic story of an archivist who becomes part of her own work. Weaving together images of death and rebirth with the map of Czernowitz, Celan’s hometown, the archivist creates a “memory golem,” blurring the boundaries between past and present, reality and document.
NY Premiere

The Last Goldfish
Su Goldfish, Australia, 2017, 81 min
As director Su Goldfish notes early in her autobiographical documentary The Last Goldfish, “my father told me stories, not always the truth.” When she discovers as an adult that she has siblings she’s never met, Goldfish burrows through her parents’ pasts to uncover the truth in her father’s tales. Spanning the globe from Australia, to Trinidad, and to Germany, The Last Goldfish is an astounding revelation not only of one woman’s discovery of her family history before and after Nazism, but also of her reconnection to her Jewish heritage. Introspective and self-aware, Goldfish confronts such universal questions as whether it is possible to separate oneself from one’s past—and what it means to try.
NY Premiere

Let Yourself Go
Francesco Amato, Italy, 2017, 98 min
Italian with English subtitles
In this delirious Italian spin on Jewish comedy, a detached psychoanalyst, Elia (Toni Servillo, wearing his misanthropy with glee), is warned by his doctor that his health is at risk, so he enlists the young, attractive, and undisciplined Claudia (Veronice Echegui) as his new personal trainer. But—despite Elia’s resistance—their relationship deepens and they come to depend on each other, as Claudia’s lack of inhibition helps Elia reignite the passion in his marriage, and Elia’s unwavering sense of propriety inspires Claudia to bring focus to her frenetic lifestyle. As the comedy veers from the intellectual to the delightfully slapstick, director Francesco Amato deftly maintains the odd couple’s emotional grounding to hilarious effect.
NY Premiere
Preceded by:
The Backseat
Joe Stankus & Ashley Connor
USA, 2016, 8 min
In this charming documentary-fiction hybrid, two elderly parents rush to save the day when their adult daughter’s car breaks down.

Mr. and Mrs. Adelman
Nicolas Bedos, France, 2017, 120 min
French with English subtitles
Mr. and Mrs. Adelman follows Sarah Adelman (Doria Tiller) as she tries to convince Victor (Nicolas Bedos) she’s the right woman for him. Tracking their courtship from his early years as a non-committal aspiring writer through his later years as an egotistical, fame-obsessed one, this film toes the line between biting cynicism and aching romanticism. First-time director and co-writer (with Doria Tiller) Nicolas Bedos uses the changing face of Paris over the years to evoke the changing nature of the relationship. Mr. and Mrs. Adelman is a hilarious and absurd take on the romantic comedy that slyly toys with the cliché of writer and muse.

Praise the Lard
Chen Shelach, Israel, 2016, 60 min
Hebrew with English subtitles
The documentary Praise the Lard explores one of the biggest taboos in Judaism—pork—and how the existence of Israel’s pork industry came to exemplify much of the tension inherent in Zionism: the struggle to create a new, secular Jewish identity that exists apart from religious tradition, and whether it will be possible for this secular identity to survive in the face of mounting pressure from observant Jews. Praise the Lard presents an incisive, engaging take on how the unsuspecting pig took on such an outsized role in the land of Israel.
U.S. Premiere
Preceded by:
The Red House
Tamar Tal, Israel, 2016, 20 min
Hebrew with English subtitles
In this beautifully animated short documentary, the history of one unique building in Tel Aviv becomes a reflection for the ever-changing face of Israeli society. U.S. Premiere

The Prince and the Dybbuk
Piotr Rosolowski & Elwira Niewiera, Poland/Germany, 2017, 82 min
English, Italian, Spanish, Polish, German with English subtitles
He is remembered as a Polish aristocrat, Hollywood producer, a reprobate and liar, an open homosexual and husband to an Italian countess, and director of The Dybbuk, one of the most important Jewish films of all time. But who, really, was Michał Waszyński? Piotr Rosolowski and Elwira Niewiera portray Waszyński, né Moshe Waks, as a fabulist, a man of constantly shifting identity, blurring the lines between reality and illusion. A perpetually restless filmmaker, Waszyński became obsessed with his adaptation of The Dybbuk and its mythical imagery of the shtetl. A modern take on the archetype of the Wandering Jew, The Prince and the Dybbuk asks whether it is ever possible to cut oneself off from one’s roots, and at what cost.
Presented in conjunction with The Dybbuk (1937) – see special programs.
U.S. Premiere
Preceded by:
A Hunger Artist
Daria Martin, UK, 2017, 17 min
Based on the 1924 short story by Franz Kafka, A Hunger Artist is the kaleidoscopic tale of an entertainer acclaimed for his ability to fast. But his act soon falls out of fashion and, left to himself with neither sta ge nor audience, he dies of hunger. Daria Martin’s lush adaptation understands the delicate tone of Kafka’s work: fiercely anti-authoritarian, constantly self-effacing, and toeing the line between hilarious and heartbreaking.

Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me
Sam Pollard, USA, 2017, 100 min
What didn’t Sammy Davis, Jr. do? In this exhilarating documentary, long-time Spike Lee collaborator Sam Pollard pays tribute to the multi-talented, multi-racial entertainer by scrutinizing the political complexities and contradictions that defined his career. Amidst the violence and tensions of the Civil Rights era and after, as the political winds shifted, Sammy Davis, Jr. struggled to maintain his identity, while embracing his Judaism. An electric portrait spanning the Depression to the 1980s, and featuring new interviews with Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Jerry Lewis, Norman Lear, and more, I’ve Gotta Be Me embraces the unique complexity of an iconic American entertainer.

Tracking Edith
Peter Stephan Jungk, Austria/Germany/Russia/UK 2016, 91 min
English/German/Russian/French with English subtitles
A documentary about the Austro-British photographer Edith Tutor-Hart, Tracking Edith follows filmmaker Peter Stephan Jungk’s journey to understand the motivations of his great aunt who, while living a double life as a spy for the KGB, recruited Kim Philby and created the Cambridge Five, the Soviet Union’s most successful spy ring in the United Kingdom, which infiltrated the very top of British intelligence (and inspired John le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). As Jungk learns more about his aunt and her work, his film demands the question: why is she not recognized alongside Kim Philby and the Cambridge Five as one of the spies that change the world?
U.S. Premiere


107 min
Various languages

The Story of Jon Burgerman
Bas Berkhout, USA/UK, 2017, 6 min
Whimsical artist Jon Burgerman explores how his family history affects his creative inspiration.

El Becerro Pintado
David Pantaléon, Spain, 2017, 10 min
In this experimental short, the biblical story of the golden calf is transported to rural Spain. U.S. Premiere

El Hara
Margaux Fitoussi, Tunisia/France, 2017, 16 min
El Hara is a vivid, mesmerizing portrait of the old Jewish ghetto in Tunis. NY Premiere

Pearl Gluck, USA, 2017, 18 min
Young, Orthodox Jewish girls explore their burgeoning sexuality amidst the strict rules of their sleep-away camp. World Premiere

Shlomi & Mazy
Leonhard Hofmann, Germany, 2016, 17 min
In this tender documentary portrait, an Israeli opera singer living in Berlin struggles to balance his career with his true passion: performing in drag as his alter ego, Mazy Mazeltov. U.S. Premiere

Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Frank Stiefel, USA, 2016, 40 min
This warm portrait explores sculptor and visual artist Mindy Alper’s journey through extreme depression to a place of love and openness via her creative process and transformative relationship with her art teachers and therapist. NY Premiere



Avanti Popolo
Rafi Bukai, Israel, 1986, 84 min
Hebrew/Arabic/English with English subtitles
In the aftermath of the Six-Day War, as the ceasefire is beginning, two Egyptian soldiers stranded in the Sinai Desert try to make their way back to safety across the Suez Canal. As they cautiously make their way west, the dangerously dehydrated Haled and Gassan stumble across a dead UN peacekeeper and help themselves to his cargo—two bottles of scotch. Instilled with liquid courage, they hitch a ride with a British journalist and a small platoon of Israeli soldiers who, they hope, can help them get home. In this absurd comedy—made all the more poignant by Salim Daw’s performance as Haled, a Shakespearean actor with aspirations to play Shylock—Rafi Bukai paints a humanistic, antiwar picture of both Israelis and Egyptians caught amidst the violent and ever-shifting winds of Middle Eastern politics.
New York Premiere of the Restoration

The Dybbuk
Michał Waszyński, Poland, 1937, 125 min
Yiddish with English subtitles
Filmed just before the outbreak of World War II, The Dybbuk weaves a mystical story of the Hasidic shtetls of the late 19th century with the story of two close friends, Sender and Nisn, who vow to marry their first-born children. But when Sender reneges on the vow to marry his daughter to a wealthier son-in-law, the spirit of Nisn’s son arrives to haunt Lea’s wedding. A rich, ethnographic tapestry of Jewish legend, The Dybbuk, based on S. Ansky’s seminal Yiddish play, is one of the finest films ever produced in the Yiddish language, presented here in a brand-new restoration.
World Premiere of the Restoration
Presented in conjunction with The Prince and the Dybbuk

Late Summer Blues
Renen Schorr, Israel, 1988, 103 min
Hebrew with English subtitles
Set just after the Six-Day War, in the shadow of the War of Attrition with Egypt, Late Summer Blues follows a group of high school graduates during the summer before they’re conscripted into the army. Restored after thirty years, this Israeli classic portrays the paradox of Israeli adolescence in raw, deeply human terms: the uncertainty, confusion, and playful embrace of the present are constantly tainted by the shadow of military service and the razor’s edge of anxiety, only somewhat tempered by days at the beach and rock music. Drawing from his own experiences, director Renen Schorr and writer Doron Nesher create a powerful and bitterly funny anti-war message by drawing on the restlessness of the young men and women as they cope with their growing fatalism.
U.S. Premiere of the Restoration

The Mission of Raoul Wallenberg
Alexander Rodnyanskiy, Soviet Union, 1990, 72 min
Russian/English/German/Swedish with English subtitles
Twenty-five years after it premiered in the first NYJFF, Alexander Rodnyanskiy’s The Mission of Raoul Wallenberg returns to the festival in a brand new restoration. The film investigates the mysterious circumstances surrounding the disappearance and death of Raoul Wallenberg in the Soviet Union following the end of WWII. Wallenberg had saved tens of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust in his role as Sweden’s special envoy in Budapest. Tireless filmmaker Rodnyanskiy searched across the globe for traces of Wallenberg, from Moscow and St. Petersburg, to the Russian interior, to Hungary, Israel, and Sweden. Featuring interviews from subjects as far-ranging as Ronald Reagan, Simon Wiesenthal, and Yelena Bonner, the film passionately confronts the shadowy circumstances of Wallenberg’s fate.
World Premiere of the Restoration

Siege (Matzor)
Gilbert Tofano, Israel, 1969, 89 min
Hebrew with English subtitles
Israel’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 42nd Academy Awards in 1970, Siege is the story of the widowed Tamar (legendary Gila Almagor) whose husband was killed in the Six-Day War who wants to begin to put her grief behind her. But her late husband’s friends and family have other ideas—they expect her to remain in mourning for the rest of her life. Through Almagor’s haunting performance, Siege presents a humanizing look at a country and people struggling with a visceral, existential anxiety hiding just below the surface of the ecstatic outpouring following the victory of the Six-Day War.
U.S. Premiere of the Restoration


In memory of Jeanne Moreau
One Day You’ll Understand
Amos Gitai, France/Germany/Israel, 2008, 89 min
French/German with English subtitles
When Victor (Hippolyte Girardot), a middle-aged French businessman, discovers a trove of wartime letters from his late father, he discovers his mother’s (the late Jeanne Moreau) hidden past as a Jew. When he presses her about it, she demurs, leaving Victor to uncover the secrets behind his mother’s past. Moreau inhabits the role with a stunningly reflective grace, as Amos Gitai crafts a haunting and finally optimistic tale of memory, denial, and reconciliation. With the trial of Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie taking place, One Day You’ll Understand presents a poignant meditation on what it means to be a witness, and the weight of such a burden.


Drawing the Iron Curtain
Maya Balakirsky Katz with J. Hoberman
Maya Balakirsky Katz, professor and chair of the art history department at Touro College and author of Drawing the Iron Curtain: Jews and the Golden Age of Soviet Animation, will screen shorts from the Soviet Union’s animation studio Soyuzmultfilm, which was as pervasive and influential in the Soviet imagination as Disney was in America’s. Katz and film critic J. Hoberman will discuss how the studio brought together Jewish artists from all over the USSR and served as a haven for dissident artists, allowing them to explore distinctive elements of their identity as Jews and Russians.


Sam Pollard
Join Sam Pollard, director of NYJFF Main Slate selection Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me, for a behind-the-scenes master class on documentary filmmaking. An Emmy- and Peabody-winning director, Sam Pollard has directed and produced numerous documentary films.
*Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center Amphitheater

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