A closer look at the National Center for Jewish Film‘s Festival
I may be the only Jew who feels this way, but a lot of anti-Semitism makes me laugh purely on the basis of the failure of its own internal logic.
You mean we’re responsible for both banks and Bolshevism? We spend billions on PR and foreign aid, but are still pennypinchers?
When it comes to the arts, however, they’re half right—they say we own the media, but what they mean is that we PWN. Many of history’s most influential artists were Jews who based their work on their identity. See, no matter where in the world Jews live, it’s within two worlds. Conflict makes great art, particularly if it’s internalized, and Jewish heritage is always tugging at modern culture. Superman was a partial retelling of the Golem, as well as commentary on the aspirations of assimilation-minded kids. The Modernist films of 1920s Germany were largely the work of Jewish humanists and socialists responding to industrialization.
Which brings us to Jewishfilm.2012 at the Museum of Fine Arts, featuring films from a global tribe in the throes of its eternal culture clash.
It kicks off with Never Forget To Lie, the autobiographical documentary by vérité pioneer Marian Marzynski, perhaps best known for his Emmy-winning contributions to Frontline. In the film, he explores his childhood in WWII-era Poland, during which he escaped the Holocaust by hiding with Christians. He returns to Poland to explore contemporary feelings about Jews, Nazism, and the influence of the Catholic Church.
Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe features heavily in several other films as well. The dramedy My Australia is about young brothers in 1960s Lodz who, while members of an anti-Semitic street gang, are told that they and the rest of their family are Jews who hid their identity during the war. Joanna is the story of a Polish woman who finds an abandoned 8-year-old Jewish girl during WWII after she gets word that her husband has died. How To Re-Establish a Vodka Empire is a comic documentary about a family who returns to Ukraine after fleeing in 1917 in order to reestablish their abandoned distillery.
The American fish-out-of-water stories are my personal favorites, though. Punk Jews examines the variety of ways people apply their heritage in unconventional ways, whether it’s “Hassidic punk rockers, Yiddish street performers, African-American Jewish activists” and more. Women Unchained explores the changing face of women in Judaism, with agunot, women whose husbands have not granted them a Jewish divorce. The Max Davidson silent comedies of the 1920s are sure to be a highlight, following a major old-world European Jew in WASP-y America.
The only fully Israeli movie to be featured—The Policeman—is a brave one, which addresses a question that is often ignored in the debates around Israel: its own internal conflict. The film takes an honest look at the idea of revolution in Israel, and you may be surprised by its outcome.
So don’t be a mamser. Check this festival out.
Oh, and did you hear about the blind mohel? He got the sack.
WED 4.18.12 – SUN 4.29.12
THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS
465 HUNTINGTON AVE.
TIMES VARY/ALL AGES/$9 MEMBERS, SENIORS, STUDENTS; $11 NONMEMBERS