New York Jewish Film Festival remains predominantly male

The temperatures are climbing in the Big Apple this week! Coming out of the really deep freeze should be motivation enough to get out and attend the New York Jewish Film Festival, which runs from January 10-23 with screenings held at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th St.).

If you need additional motivation, however, there are 37 wide-ranging features and shorts of which 25 are screening in either their world, U.S., or New York premieres at the festival presented by The Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Only two of the features are directed by women. The first, The Last Goldfish, is an 81-minute documentary by Australian director Su Goldfish, which documents her journey after discovering she has siblings. She uncovers her family history before and after Nazism and her Jewish heritage.

The second, The Prince and the Dybbuk, is an 82-minute feature directed by Piotr Rosolowski and Elwira Niewiera about Michał Waszyński, a Polish aristocrat and Hollywood producer, who was also a reprobate and liar, an open homosexual and husband to an Italian countess. He was also director of The Dybbuk, one of the most important Jewish films of all time. The Prince and the Dybbuk asks whether it is ever possible to cut oneself off from one’s roots, and at what cost.

When asked why there are only two women-directed features represented in the New York Jewish Film Festival, Anne Scher explained that some years they find more new films directed by women than other years.

Every year the NY Jewish Film Festival selection committee searches for the highest quality, new films from around the world that explore the diverse Jewish experience and every year the new films that are available at the time of the NYJFF vary, of course,” said Scher, senior director of communications of The Jewish Museum. “The NYJFF programming is strongly committed to exploring women’s issues in a variety of ways: through featuring the work in feature films and shorts of women directors, producers, screenwriters, artists, and book authors.”

She also explained that they like to feature actresses who are portraying strong women characters and telling stories in the films they appear in from a woman’s perspective. Some examples of that commitment in include The Impure, a documentary about the legacy of Jewish prostitutes in turn-of-the-century Argentina and its legacy for both Argentina’s contemporary sex workers and the contemporary Jewish community. Tracking Edith is a documentary which tries to uncover one crucial woman’s place in history, setting out to give her her due while Siege is an Israeli war film from 1969 told from the point of view of a war widow’s struggle with her and her late husband’s family to break free from the religious strictures which she feels are preventing her from moving forward.

There are seven women-centric shorts that include A Hunger Artist by Daria Martin, a female visual artist with an extraordinary visual sense, Counterlight by Maya Zack, also a female visual artist, and The Law of Averages by Elizabeth Rose which tells the story of three generations of women in a Jewish family, by a female filmmaker.

In addition to the features, the 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.

It also includes a tribute screening of Amos Gitai’s One Day You’ll Understand in memory of Jeanne Moreau; and 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.

There are also the U.S. premieres of restorations of Renen Schorr’s Late Summer Blues and Gilbert Tofano’s Siege; and the world premiere restoration of Michał Waszyński’s 1937 classic The Dybbuk, presented in conjunction with the U.S. premiere of main slate title The Prince and the Dybbuk, a documentary about Waszyński’s life.

Tickets may be purchased online or in person at the Film Society’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and Walter Reade Theater box offices, 144 & 165 West 65th Street. For complete festival information, visit

© Lisa Iannucci (1/8/18) FF2 Media

Photos: The Last Goldfish and The Prince and the Dybbuk

Photo Credits: The New York Jewish Film Festival

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