“New York Jewish Film Festival” Celebrating 20 Years
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.