'Promise at Dawn' ('La Promesse de l'aube')
‘Promise at Dawn’ (‘La Promesse de l’aube’)

The New York premiere of Eric Barbier’s epic drama Promise at Dawn, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Pierre Niney will open the 2019 New York Jewish Film Festival  one of the oldest and most influential Jewish film festivals worldwide. The 28th edition will run January 9­ to 22, 2019.

This riveting memoir chronicles the colorful life of infamous French author Romain Gary, from his childhood conning Polish high society with his mother to his years as a pilot in the Free French Air Forces. The Centerpiece selection represents the first time Israeli TV has been presented at the NYJFF with the 3½ hour miniseries Autonomies. Directed by Yehonatan Indursky, the dystopian drama is set in an alternate reality of present-day Israel, a nation divided by a wall into the secular “State of Israel,” with Tel Aviv as its capital, and the “Haredi Autonomy” in Jerusalem, run by an ultra-Orthodox religious group. A globally relevant tale of identity, religion, politics, personal freedom, and love, this gripping story follows a custody battle that upends the fragile peace of the country, pushing it to the brink of civil war.

Filmmaker Amos Gitai returns to the 2019 NYJFF with the U.S. premiere of his thought-provoking new drama, A Tramway in Jerusalem. Gitai uses the tramway that runs through Jerusalem to connect a series of short vignettes, forming a mosaic of Jewish and Arab stories embodying life in the city.

The NYJFF will also present the U.S. premiere of Fig Tree by first-time director Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian. Set in Addis Ababa during the Ethiopian Civil War, the film concerns a young woman who plans to flee to Israel with her brother and grandmother to reunite with her mother. But she is unwilling to leave her Christian boyfriend behind and hatches a scheme to save him from being drafted.

This year’s festival features an array of enlightening and gripping documentaries. Highlights include the New York premiere of Roberta Grossman’s Who Will Write Our History, which uses painstakingly compiled archival materials unearthed after World War II to tell the story of a resistance group in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation and the reality of Jewish life in occupied Warsaw; and Rubi Gat’s Dear Fredy, focusing on Fredy Hirsch, a proud and openly gay Jew in Nazi Germany and, later, Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, who oversaw and protected hundreds of children in the camps by setting up a day care center.

NYJFF special programs include the New York City premiere of the new digital restoration of Ewald Andrew Dupont’s 1923 silent masterpiece, The Ancient Law, featuring a new score and live accompaniment by pianist Donald Sosin and klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals. In this classic drama the son of an orthodox rabbi leaves home, against his father’s wishes, to join a traveling theater troupe.

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