“New York Jewish Film Festival” Celebrating 20 Years

Opening Night Film "Mahler on the Couch"

The Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Jewish Museum will present the 20th edition of the New York Jewish Film Festival which will run from January 12 – 27. The New York Jewish Film Festival will screen a variety of films from all over the world consisting of narratives, documentaries and revivals.

As is always the case with a film festival many of the offerings will be untested commodities, new movies about which we know little or nothing. Seeing films fresh like this can often lead to interesting discoveries but can also uncover films that are less than great. Hence we have the fun, mystery and perhaps even the frustration, inherent in any film festival.

My film festival rule of thumb is to stick with the documentaries. Rarely have I seen a bad documentary at a film festival. Why this is I can only guess. We are living in a golden age of documentaries. As the result of less expensive, digital, means of production, and post production, documentary filmmakers have the opportunity to present their stories as never before.

I was privileged to preview some of the festival’s offerings and by far them most impressive was the documentary, “Crime After Crime.” The film tells the story of the legal battle to free Debbie Peagler, an African American woman imprisoned for playing a part in the murder of her abusive boyfriend, who had beaten her and forced her into prostitution. At the time Paegler was sentenced, the early eighties, little was known about domestic violence. Attorneys Joshua Safron (an orthodox Jew) and Nadia Costa take on Paegler’s case. “Crime After Crime” will, without a doubt, be one of the festival’s highlights.

The festival’s opening night film will be the New York premiere of “Mahler on the Couch” from Germany. The story concerns the titular composer’s encounter with Sigmund Freud, during which Mahler discusses his relationship with his much younger wife Alma. It is a film about passion, creativity, humor and, of course, great music.

A festival revival that caught my eye is the restored version of “Lies My Father Told Me” (1975). I remember first seeing this film at the age of 13 and being very moved by it. “Lies My Father Told Me” tells the story of the relationship between a grandfather and his six –year-old grandson, David, in a Jewish community in 1920’s Montreal. Inevitably the grandfather’s ideas of tradition come into conflict with the modern world as personified by David’s father.

The festival venues include The Film Society of Lincoln Center Walter Reade Theatre, 165 West 65th Street, http://www.filmlinc.com, The Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street, http://www.thejewishmuseum.org, and The JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue at west 76th Street, http://www.jccmanhattan.org.

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on January 7, 2011, in Feature Articles. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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