Those Who Remained directed by Barnabas Toth
Those Who Remained directed by Barnabas Toth

The Jewish Museum and Film at Lincoln Center will present the 29th annual New York Jewish Film Festival (NYJFF), January 15 to 28, 2020.

Dani Menkin’s documentary Aulcie is the Opening Night selection, screening in its New York premiere on Thursday, January 16. When a scout for the Israeli basketball team Maccabi Tel Aviv spotted Aulcie Perry on Harlem’s Rucker Court in 1976, he recruited the athlete to join their fledgling team. Less than a year later, Perry led the team to a win in the 1977 European Championship, a victory that he repeated four years later. Aulcie delves into the riveting story of this legendary player, who put Israeli basketball on the map, converted to Judaism, became an Israeli citizen, and overcame his demons.

The Closing Night film is the New York premiere of Dror Zahavi’s Crescendo. When a world-famous conductor (played by Toni Erdmann’s Peter Simonischek) accepts the job to create an Israeli-Palestinian youth orchestra, he steps into a firestorm of conflict and mistrust as he tries to bring the two factions of young musicians together in harmony.

The Centerpiece selection focuses on the career of Marceline Loridan-Ivens, the French film director, author, producer, and actress who died in 2018. The Birch Tree Meadow (2003), starring Anouk Aimée and August Diehl, is Loridan-Ivens’s autobiographical drama about an Auschwitz survivor who returns to the camp to confront her past and the young descendant of an SS guard she meets there. This screening is part of an annual initiative highlighting work by women filmmakers that merit broader American recognition.

The 2020 NYJFF marks the 50th anniversary of legendary director Vittorio De Sica’s Academy Award-winning The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. This beloved Italian drama, based on the classic novel by Giorgio Bassani, is set amidst the rise of Fascism in the 1930s. The wealthy, intellectual Finzi-Contini family’s estate serves as a gathering place for the local Jewish community that tries to remain sheltered from the country’s growing anti-Semitism. While romance unfolds behind the tall, stone walls of the garden, an increasingly hostile reality sets in.

The NYJFF will present the World Premiere of the new 35mm restoration of Charles Davenport’s long-lost 1919 silent film Broken Barriers, the first film based on the Sholem Aleichem stories that inspired Fiddler on the Roof. This story is uniquely told from the perspective of Khavah, Tevye the milkman’s daughter, who falls in love with the gentile boy Fedka and navigates the reverberations from her community and family. Donald Sosin will provide live piano accompaniment.

Two documentaries receive their world premieres:

Julia Mintz’s Four Winters: A Story of Jewish Partisan Resistance and Bravery in WWII revisits the story of Jewish partisans who took up arms against Hitler’s war machine through interviews with the last living partisans.

Brad Rothschild’s They Ain’t Ready for Me focuses on Tamar Manasseh, an African-American rabbinical student who is combating gun violence on the South Side of Chicago with magnetic, self-assured energy through her organization MASK (Mothers Against Senseless Killing).

Other films include Barnabas Toth’s Those Who Remained, Hungary’s submission for the 2020 Academy Awards, which focuses on a 42-year-old Holocaust survivor in Budapest who meets a teenage girl and forms a father-daughter connection that helps them both heal (New York Premiere).

Among the oldest and most influential Jewish film festivals worldwide, NYJFF each year presents the finest documentary, narrative, and short films from around the world that explore the Jewish experience. Featuring new work by dynamic voices in international cinema as well as film revivals, the festival’s 2020 lineup includes 30 wide-ranging and exciting features and shortsfrom the iconic to the iconoclastic, many of which will be screening in their world, U.S., and New York premieres. Screenings are held at the Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street.

29th New York Jewish Film Festival FILMS

Opening Night

Aulcie
Dani Menkin, Israel, 2019, 72m
English and Hebrew with English subtitles
New York Premiere

In 1976, Aulcie Perry was playing basketball in Harlem when scouts from Maccabi Tel Aviv spotted and signed him. A year later, he led the team to their first European Championship, converted to Judaism, and become an Israeli citizen. His rise to fame was precipitous, and his relationship with supermodel Tami Ben Ami became the subject of relentless media attention, solidifying his status as one of Israel’s biggest stars. But behind the scenes, he had a growing drug addiction that culminated in his arrest and imprisonment, and since his release he has committed himself to uplifting those suffering from drug abuse and addiction. Dani Menken’s documentary tells the story of this legendary athlete.
Subject Aulcie Perry, director Dani Menkin, and producer Nancy Spielberg in person

Centrepiece

The Birch Tree Meadow
Marceline Loridan-Ivens, France/Germany/Poland, 2003, 91m
English, French, and Polish with English subtitles

Anouk Aimée and August Diehl star in this astounding autobiographical drama by Marceline Loridan-Ivens, a French filmmaker and memoirist who passed away in 2018. Aimée plays Myriam, a filmmaker and Holocaust survivor who has lived in New York for years. When she returns to Europe for a reunion of fellow survivors, she confronts her past and visits Auschwitz, the scene of her “murdered adolescence.” There, she meets Diehl’s Oskar, a young photographer coming to grips with his grandfather’s role in the SS. This extraordinary film, which screened in the 2004 NYJFF, is a profoundly moving reflection on memory from a true iconoclast of French cinema.

Closing Night

Crescendo
Dror Zahavi, Germany, 2019, 106m
English and German with English subtitles
New York Premiere

When world-famous conductor Eduard Sporck (played by Toni Erdmann’s Peter Simonischek) accepts a job to help establish an Israeli-Palestinian youth orchestra, he steps into a firestorm of discord and mistrust. The two factions of young musicians have grown up in a state of conflict, with fear governing their perceptions of each other. With only three weeks of rehearsal, Sporck’s essential task becomes more interpersonal than musical: can the children of conflict come together in harmony? Director Dror Zahavi brings us a gripping, clear-eyed drama imbued with hope for understanding, humanity, and peace.
Producer Alice Brauner and co-producer Michael Zechbauer in person

MAIN SLATE FILMS

Nimrod Eldar, Israel, 2018, 95m
Hebrew with English subtitles
New York Premiere

Yoram is a veterinarian in Tel Aviv. When his adolescent daughter Roni attempts suicide, his cloistered world is shaken to its core. To rediscover her happiness and expand their worldview, they travel together to visit her mother’s family along the banks of the Dead Sea, beginning a journey of mutual discovery that helps clarify the source of his daughter’s depression and his latent feelings of hopelessness. Director Nimrod Eldar writes of this graceful and tender film, “I tried to write a film that is not driven by narrative provocations of any kind – a film where everyone is ‘good.’”

Dolce Fine Giornata
Jacek Borcuch, Poland, 2018, 96m
Italian, Polish, and French with English subtitles
New York Premiere

A freethinking Polish Jewish Nobel Prize–winning poet living in the Tuscan countryside grows fond of a younger immigrant, which gradually begins to fracture her relationships with her husband and daughter. After a terrorist attack in Rome leads to anti-immigrant hysteria, she boldly speaks out against the European perspective, and her comments wreak unexpected havoc for her, for the immigrant, and for her family. Dolce Fine Giornata peers into the lives and attitudes of small-town Italy, from the perspective of an uncompromising and brilliant woman who consistently stands for what she values most.

Four Winters: A Story of Jewish Partisan Resistance and Bravery in WWII
Julia Mintz, USA, 2019, 90m
World Premiere

This essential documentary tells the stories of some of the 20,000 Jews who took up arms against Hitler’s war machine. Despite extraordinary odds, Jewish partisans fought the Nazis and their collaborators from deep within the forests of Eastern Europe. These determined men and women, many barely in their teens, engaged in acts of sabotage, blowing up trains, burning electric stations, and attacking armed enemy headquarters. As the number of living partisans dwindles, director Julia Mintz shines a spotlight on their bravery through interviews, archival footage, and historic war records. Four Winters is a stunning, heartfelt narrative of heroism and resilience.
Director Julia Mintz in person

50th Anniversary Presentation
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
Vittorio De Sica, Italy/Germany, 1970, 94m
Italian with English subtitles

Presented for its 50th anniversary, this beloved Italian drama based on the classic novel by Giorgio Bassani is set amid the rise of Fascism in the 1930s. The wealthy, intellectual Finzi-Contini family’s estate serves as a gathering place for the local Jewish community, as they try to take shelter from growing anti-Semitism. Ordinary tennis clubs become off-limits to Italian Jews, but such policies are unenforceable behind the tall, stone walls of the garden. While romance unfolds, the increasingly hostile reality sets in. This beautiful film from legendary director Vittorio De Sica (Bicycle Thieves; Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow) won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film

God of the Piano
Itay Tal, Israel, 2018, 79m
Hebrew with English subtitles
New York Premiere

A Greek tragedy set in contemporary Israel, God of the Piano is the story of a concert pianist from a respected musical family who has never been able to live up to her father’s stratospheric expectations. When she becomes pregnant, she transfers her hope of being a musical prodigy onto her child. She is devastated when her son is born deaf, but she doubles down on her dream, obsessively grooming him for stardom. This beautifully composed film has the pacing of a thriller.

An Impossible Love
Catherine Corsini, France/Belgium, 2018, 130m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

Rachel, a young office clerk, meets Philippe, a charismatic man from a bourgeois family, and she gives birth to a daughter amid their whirlwind romance. But Philippe proves to be an insufferable narcissist, disappearing and reappearing as a toxic presence in the lives of both Rachel and her daughter Chantal. Over the next 50 years, Rachel and Chantal attempt to preserve an unconditional love for each other despite the absent and abusive father. Hailed as a “brilliantly dark and tender family drama” by Variety, An Impossible Love meditates on all forms of love – familial, romantic, functional – and their messy intersections.

Incitement
Yaron Zilberman, Israel, 2019, 122m
Hebrew with English subtitles
New York Premiere

This acclaimed historical drama follows the disturbing radicalization of Israeli ultranationalist Yigal Amir in the year leading up to his assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. A law student and Orthodox Jew outraged by Rabin’s announcement of the Oslo Accords, which aspired to achieve a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Amir turns to violent extremism and begins to recruit fighters and gather weapons. As he becomes fixated on his righteousness and his justification of the assassination, his mental health continues to decline. Israel’s submission for the 2020 Academy Award for Best International Feature Film.
Director Yaron Zilberman and producer Tamar Zilberman in person

An Irrepressible Woman
Laurent Heynemann, France, 2019, 103m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere

The year is 1940, and French-Jewish socialist politician and three-time Prime Minister Leon Blum has been imprisoned at Buchenwald. This touching historical drama starring Elsa Zylberstein and Hippolyte Girardot follows Jeanne Reichenbach, who has been in love with Blum since they were teenagers but has always only admired him from afar. Now she is married with a son, but she is driven by the urge to link her fate with Blum’s once and for all – as the Nazis invade France, she abandons her comfortable life and risks everything to reunite with and marry him in prison.

I Was Not Born a Mistake
Rachel Rusinek & Eyal Ben Moshe, Israel, 2019, 52m
English and Hebrew with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

This beautiful documentary tells the true story of Yiscah Smith, who was living as an ultra-orthodox married man with six children and deep ties in the community before coming out as a gay man and leaving Israel. In the United States, Smith underwent a gender transition and took her current name. Twenty years after leaving home, she returned to Israel to be close to her family and her heritage, becoming a religious educator and spiritual mentor. I Was Not Born a Mistake alternates between past and present, where she helps clients on their own paths of awareness and self-discovery.

Preceded by

Butterflies in Berlin: Diary of a Soul Split in Two
Monica Manganelli, Germany/Italy, 2018, 29m
New York Premiere

This sumptuous animated short tells the story of one of the world’s first post-op transgender women in Weimar-era Berlin. As discrimination rises against “deviance” of all kinds, can she stay true to her identity?
Directors Eyal Ben Moshe & Rachel Rusinek and subject Yiscah Smith in person

Leona
Isaac Cherem, Mexico, 2018, 95m
Spanish with English subtitles
New York City Premiere

A young woman in Mexico City ekes out a living as a muralist while living with her more conservative mother. She feels pressure from all sides to find the right man to settle down with – after all, her grandmother was a bride by 15 and a mother of three by 18. But when she falls in love with a gentile man, she struggles to do the right thing as she navigates the age-old conflicts that interfaith relationships can provoke. Leona is a heartfelt, dramatic, and contemporary take on a timeless love story.

Ma’abarot: The Israeli Transit Camps
Dina Zvi Riklis, Israel, 2019, 84m
Hebrew with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

The transit camps of 1948–1952 were a temporary housing solution to accommodate Israel’s surge of immigrants following World War II. Over 300,000 immigrants lived in tents and tin huts in this controversial initiative, contributing to the divide between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews in Israel. The impact of the camps on the lives of immigrants resonates into contemporary Israeli culture, but has largely been forgotten in the public consciousness. Ma’abarot takes a close look at life inside the camps through interviews with former residents, research, and archival footage, shattering misconceptions and offering stark insights into the racial divides that still permeate Israeli society.
Director Dina Zvi Riklis and producer Arik Bernstein in person

Marceline. A Woman. A Century
Cordelia Dvorak, France/Netherlands, 2018, 76m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere

The effervescent and brilliant French director, author, producer, and actress Marceline Loridan-Ivens dazzles in this vibrant documentary tribute to a radical chronicler, Holocaust survivor, and loving partner. Marceline was a key figure, with Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin, in the French avant-garde film movement in the 1950s. She later worked alongside her husband, Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens, as they traveled to capture the sights and sounds of the independence struggle in Vietnam, and the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution in China. Loridan-Ivens’s autobiographical feature The Birch Tree Meadow is being screened before this film.
Director Cordelia Dvorak in person

Mrs. G
Dalit Kimor, Israel, 2019, 55m
English, Hebrew, and Hungarian with English subtitles
New York Premiere

The Gottex swimwear empire was founded by legendary designer, Holocaust survivor, and larger-than-life character Lea Gottlieb. She started the company in her tiny Tel Aviv apartment, and navigated her way to the top of the fashion world. She spent her fortune extravagantly and lived her life like there was no tomorrow – often at the expense of those closest to her. This inspiring documentary examines her meteoric rise, her unyielding professional vision, and her complicated relationship with her daughters.

Preceded by

Gurit Kadman
Nili Tal, Israel, 1981/2020, 34m
Hebrew with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

This delightful documentary profiles the influential dancer and choreographer Gurit Kadman, who helped found the Dalia Folk Dance Festival in Israel, and was instrumental in recording and nurturing dance traditions from both the nascent country and the traditions of Israel’s immigrants.
Director Dalit Kimor in person

My Polish Honeymoon
Elise Otzenberger, France, 2019, 88m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere

When French newlyweds Adam and Anna take their honeymoon in Poland, the home of their Jewish grandparents, excitement about discovering their families’ histories begins to morph into anxiety. As the trip unfolds and they attend a ceremony commemorating the Jewish community in Adam’s grandfather’s village, which was destroyed 75 years ago, anxiety gives way to culture clash in this deliciously dark romantic comedy.
Director Elise Otzenberger in person

Picture of His Life
Yonatan Nir & Dani Menkin, USA/Israel/Canada, 2019, 71m
English, Hebrew, and Inuit with English
subtitles
New York Premiere

Yom Kippur War veteran Amos Nachoum is one of the greatest underwater photographers of all time, and has a special affinity for apex predators—he has captured great white sharks, giant crocodiles, anacondas, and killer whales in breathtaking close-up. One fearsome animal has continued to elude him: the polar bear. Picture of His Life is an astonishing portrayal of Nachoum’s quest to safely swim alongside the formidable bear, photograph it underwater, and, in the process, find some semblance of inner peace in a life marked by trauma.
Co-director Dani Menkin and producer Nancy Spielberg in person on January 15

The State Against Mandela and the Others
Nicolas Champeaux & Gilles Porte, France, 2018, 106m
New York Premiere

This synthesis of archival footage, animation, and interviews chronicles the trial of Nelson Mandela and his nine other co-defendants after which they were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964. There were no cameras in court, but this rousing documentary puts 256 hours of newly discovered audio to brilliant use. While Mandela captivated the world during the historic trial, each of his co-defendants endured the same withering cross-examinations, and each held fast to the moral high ground and played a crucial role in planting the seeds that would bloom decades later into the fall of apartheid.

They Ain’t Ready for Me
Brad Rothschild, USA, 2019, 89m
World Premiere

This moving and timely documentary tells the story of Tamar Manasseh, an African-American rabbinical student who is combating gun violence on the South Side of Chicago with magnetic, self-assured energy through her organization MASK, or Mothers Against Senseless Killings. They Ain’t Ready for Me explores the complex identity and motivations of an extraordinary person who is Jewish and black, and how these intersecting identities offer her a road map for addressing one of America’s most urgent crises.
Director Brad Rothschild and subject Tamar Manasseh in person

Those Who Remained
Barnabas Toth, Hungary, 2019, 83m
Hungarian with English subtitles
New York Premiere

The 42-year-old Aldo lives a solitary life in Budapest in the years following his imprisonment and the loss of his wife and child during the Holocaust. When he meets 16-year-old Klara, whose family was also murdered by the Nazis, they form a father-daughter connection that helps them both heal. As Hungary falls under the postwar shadow of the Soviet Union, the innocence of their relationship is called into question. Toth’s film is a lyrical meditation on the power of love to bolster the human spirit in the face of trauma and conflict. Hungary’s submission for the 2020 Academy Award for Best International Feature Film.

Preceded by

Life Is All There Is
Ron Blau, USA, 2019, 15m
World Premiere

Told through the 8mm images that a young German Jewish immigrant to the U.S. captured in the 1930s, coupled with his reflections nearly a half-century later, this moving short tells the story of a young man struggling to find his way in a new culture.
Director Barnabas Toth in person

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
Caroline Link, Germany/Switzerland, 2019, 120m
German with English subtitles
New York Premiere

This stunning film from the director of the Academy Award–winning Nowhere in Africa has the grand dramatic sweep and ravishing visuals of cinematic epics from an earlier era. Based on the best-selling novel by Judith Kerr, the film begins in 1933, following 9-year-old Anna, who isn’t overly concerned with the changes coming to Berlin and the creeping dread of Hitler’s rise to power until her own father goes missing. Moving with her mother and brother to Switzerland, then Paris, then London, Anna experiences family disruption, dislocation, and assimilation into a new life. Caroline Link’s film offers a moving perspective on the experience of German Jews who fled the country before the war.

RESTORATION

Broken Barriers
Charles Davenport, USA, 1919, 76m, 35mm
Silent with English intertitles
World Premiere of the Restoration

This 1919 silent is the first American film based on the same Sholem Aleichem stories as Fiddler on the Roof, but produced 50 years before the blockbuster musical. Unlike most adaptations of Aleichem’s work, Broken Barriers focuses not on Tevye the milkman, but on his daughter Khavah, who falls in love with the gentile boy Fedka and must navigate the reverberations from this with both her community and her family. A print of the film, long thought to be lost, was recently discovered by one of the producer’s granddaughters. The NYJFF will present the world premiere of the beautiful new 35mm restoration with live piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin.

SHORTS BY WOMEN

These five compelling shorts directed by women offer bold, incisive, and darkly funny looks at contemporary Jewish femininity.

Eleanor of Illinois
Danielle Durchslag, USA, 2019, 6m
U.S. Premiere

In this experimental short, Broadway star Judy Kuhn embodies Katharine Hepburn’s Eleanor of Aquitaine from The Lion in Winter, but as a contemporary Jewish mother. The result is an exploration of the emotional, class, and power dynamics of Jewish wealth.

Maman
Hila Cohen, Israel, 2018, 13m
English and Hebrew with English subtitles
New York Premiere

This idiosyncratic short follows a young woman whose Shabbat ritual is put on hold when a 90-year-old neighbor interrupts with a medical emergency.

Marriage Material
Oran Zegman, USA, 2019, 25m
New York Premiere

In this darkly comic musical, a young woman enrolls in a retreat designed to transform her into “marriage material” after her boyfriend rejects her marriage proposal. There, she must confront what she’s willing to sacrifice for love.

Silhouette of the Braids
Rotem Dimand, Israel, 2019, 15m
U.S. Premiere

In this poignant look at how mother-daughter relationships evolve from one generation to the next, a woman and her mother unearth the family archive of 8mm home movies of her grandmother’s life in 1960s Tel Aviv.

Write Me
Pearl Gluck, USA, 2019, 7m
New York City Premiere

In this moving adaptation of Deborah Kahan Kolb’s poem “After Auschwitz,” starring Lynn Cohen and tattoo artist Virginia Elwood, a woman reclaims the painful history tattooed on her body.
Directors Danielle Durchslag and Pearl Gluck in person

MASTER CLASS WITH YARON ZILBERMAN
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Amphitheater, 144 West 65th Street, NYC
This event is free and open to the public

Master Class with Yaron Zilberman
Yaron Zilberman is currently in postproduction on an eight-episode drama series, Valley of Tears, about the 1973 Yom Kippur War. His film Incitement, playing at this year’s NYJFF, about the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, won the Israeli Academy Award, the Ophir Prize, for Best Picture of 2019 and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Yaron also directed, co-wrote, and produced the internationally acclaimed A Late Quartet, about a world-renowned New York string quartet as its members struggle to stay together on the eve of their 25th anniversary, starring Academy Award–winners Philip Seymour Hoffman and Christopher Walken. Yaron’s first film, the feature-length documentary Watermarks, was co-produced with HBO and ARTE. It tells the story of the champion women swimmers of the esteemed Jewish sports club Hakoah Vienna, as they reunite in their eighties to swim together one more time in the city they were forced to escape from 65 years earlier. Join Yaron Zilberman for a master class on screenwriting and directing.

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