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The Annual New York Jewish Film Festival Returns for Its 20th Anniversary in January
The Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center will present the 20th annual New York Jewish Film Festival at the Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center will present the 20th annual New York Jewish Film Festival at the Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater, The Jewish Museum, and The JCC in Manhattan, Jan. 12-27, 2011. The festival’s 36 features and shorts from 14 countries—31 screening in their world, U.S. or New York premieres—provide a diverse global perspective on the Jewish experience. In celebration of the festival’s 20th anniversary, several film screenings will be followed by filmmakers and special guests in onstage discussions and/or performances.

The festival opens on Wednesday, January 12, with the New York premiere of “Mahler on the Couch,” Percy and Felix Adlon’s witty examination of composer Gustav Mahler’s relationship with his tempestuous wife, Alma, and his consultations with Sigmund Freud. The film is filled with Mahler’s sublime music, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. It joins the closing night film, Avi Nesher’s “The Matchmaker”—a New York premiere about a teenage boy in 1968 Haifa who gets a job working for a matchmaker who is a Holocaust survivor. This film was nominated for seven Israeli Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Festival documentary screenings include three world premieres. Daniel Burman’s “36 Righteous Men” (“Los 36 Justos”) follows a group of Orthodox Jews on their annual pilgrimage to the tombs of Tzaddikim (righteous men) in Russia, Ukraine and Poland, culminating in a visit to the tomb of the founder of Hasidism, the Baal Shem Tov. Jonathan Gruber’s “Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray” is the first film to address the struggles that American Jews faced on the battlefield and at the home front on both sides in the Civil War, and features the voice of Sam Waterson as Abraham Lincoln. Joseph Dorman’s “Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness” is a moving portrait of the great Yiddish writer, whose stories inspired Fiddler on the Roof.

Four documentaries examine facets of contemporary Israeli life. Eytan Harris’ “As Lilith,” receiving its New York premiere, takes the viewer through the aftermath of a teenage girl’s suicide. Her grieving mother wishes to cremate the daughter’s body over the objections of Israel’s emergency service. Anat Zuria’s “Black Bus,” also receiving its New York premiere, chronicles the lives of two women who leave the close-knit Haredi community and are consequently estranged from their families. Shlomi Eldar’s “Precious Life,” an HBO Documentary Film, tells the complex and touching story of Israeli and Palestinian doctors’ attempts to save the life of a Palestinian baby born without an immune system. Lisa Gossels’ “My So-Called Enemy,” receiving its New York premiere, tells the story of six Palestinian and Israeli girls who participate in a program meant to bridge the gap between the two sides.

Two films examine the deportation of French Jews during the Holocaust. Raphaël Delpard’s documentary, “Convoys of Shame” (“Les Convois de la Honte”), receiving its United States premiere, explores how SNCF (the French national rail company) transported thousands of Jews, Roma and members of the resistance to Nazi concentration camps. Accounts from eyewitnesses, historians, and lawyers are supplemented by dramatizations. Roselyne Bosch’s “The Roundup” (“La Rafle”), receiving its New York premiere, dramatizes the infamous “Vel d’Hiv” roundup of 13,000 Jews. The film, which has created a sensation in France, features Jean Reno (The DaVinci Code) and Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds).

There will be a special screening of George Marshall’s 1953 “Houdini” in memory of Tony Curtis and in conjunction with The Jewish Museum’s current exhibition, Houdini: Art and Magic. This film stars Curtis as the legendary magician and escape artist Harry Houdini and Janet Leigh as his wife. The screening will be followed by a performance by contemporary magical entertainer Josh Rand.

Restored versions of two archival films will receive their United States premieres. Ján Kádar’s 1975 film, “Lies My Father Told Me,” follows 6-year old David, who lives in 1920s Montreal with his Canadian-born parents and his beloved grandfather, a junk peddler who emigrated from Russia. In Max Nosseck’s 1956 work,”Singing in the Dark,” Yiddish star Moishe Oysher plays a concentration camp survivor suffering from traumatic amnesia. One of the first feature films to dramatize the Holocaust, this was Oysher’s only English-language film. There will also be a special screening of the classic 1939 “Tevye,” directed by and starring Maurice Schwartz, at The Jewish Museum. Restored with new subtitles by The National Center for Jewish Film, this adaptation of the Sholem Aleichem play will be followed by a book signing with J. Hoberman, author of the newly expanded Bridge of Light: Yiddish Film Between Two Worlds.

Eve Annenberg’s “Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish” will have its United States premiere. A middle-aged ER nurse who is a bitterly lapsed observant Jew undertakes a Yiddish translation of Shakespeare’s great classic. In perhaps the first Yiddish “mumblecore” film, Annenberg creates a parallel universe where Romeo and Juliet stem from divergent streams of ultra-Orthodox Judaism and speak their lines in street-smart Yiddish.

Two additional dramas receive their New York premieres. Acclaimed Israeli director Eran Riklis’ “The Human Resources Manager,” based on A. B. Yehoshua’s novel, follows a human resources manager at a Jerusalem bakery on a journey to Romania to accompany the corpse of an employee killed in a suicide bombing. Along the way he is at turns aided and hindered by her family, local politicians and a persistent reporter. This film is Israel’s official submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Fabián Hofman’s poignant drama, “I Miss You” (“Te Extraño”) depicts the exile of 15 year-old Javier from his native Argentina during the 1970s. Sent to live in Mexico after the “disappearance” of his older brother, Javier struggles to grow up and to separate himself from the specter of his missing sibling.

Three documentaries highlight different facets of musical life. Erik Greenberg Anjou’s “The Klezmatics: On Holy Ground,” receiving its New York premiere, mixes mesmerizing performances by the Grammy Award-winning band with soulful interviews. “Red Shirley,” receiving its New York premiere, is directed by Lou Reed and photographed by portraitist Ralph Gibson. The film is a portrait of Reed’s 100 year-old activist, unionist cousin. The Saturday, January 15 screening will be followed by a discussion with Lou Reed and Ralph Gibson. Garry Beitel’s “The ‘Socalled’ Movie” is a portrait of klezmer hip-hop artist Socalled, aka, Josh Dolgin. A pianist, singer, arranger, rapper, producer and composer, he works to break the boundaries that separate music from different cultures, eras and generations. Socalled will perform following the screening on Saturday, January 22.

Three additional documentaries receive United States premieres. Nir David Zats & Zuzanna Solakiewicz’s “Cabaret Polska” is an unusual take on the effects of the 1968 anti-Semitic campaign in Poland, combining documentary footage with cabaret performance and animation. Ivo Krankowski & Jan Śpiewak’s “8 Stories That Haven’t Changed the World” offers childhood memories of eight Polish Jews born before World War II. They vividly recall their first days at school, books they read, and their first loves. Raymond Ley’s “Eichmann’s End: Love, Betrayal, Death” retells the story leading up to the capture of Adolph Eichmann by Mossad agents in Argentina through real-life testimonials interwoven with dramatic scenarios. At the heart of the film is the true story of a love affair between a Holocaust survivor’s daughter and the boy she did not realize was Eichmann’s son.

Seven additional documentaries receive New York premieres. Yoav Potash’s “Crime After Crime,” depicts the legal battle to free a woman imprisoned in California for over a quarter century due to her connection to the murder of the man who abused her. She finds her only hope for freedom when two attorneys – one of them an Orthodox Jew – step forward to take on her case. Lilly Rivlin’s “Grace Paley: Collected Shorts” explores the life of the acclaimed writer and activist through footage of Paley and her family, as well as interviews with Alice Walker, Allan Gurganus and others. In “Sixty and the City,” documentarian Nili Tal decides at age 60 that she doesn’t want to get older alone. With honesty and an amazing sense of humor, she turns the camera on herself and some of her dates as she searches for romance on the Internet.

Kevin McNeer’s “Stalin Thought of You” looks at the life of Russian illustrator Boris Efimov, who produced political cartoons on nearly every world event of the past hundred years. Efimov’s words, drawings and animated films are interwoven with rarely seen footage from the Russian State Film Archive. Rod Freedman’s “Wrong Side of the Bus” focuses on Sidney Bloch, an internationally recognized professor of psychiatry and ethicist who returns to South Africa for his medical school reunion, determined to resolve the guilt that has troubled him for 40 years. Karen Goodman & Kirk Simon’s “Strangers No More” is about a Tel Aviv school where children from 48 countries, including Darfur, South Africa, and Eritrea, come together. Dan Wolman’s “Yolande: An Unsung Heroine” tells the story of Yolande Gabai de Botton, considered by many the Jewish “Mata Hari,” who risked her son’s life and her own while collecting intelligence in Egypt and fighting for the creation of an independent State of Israel while undercover as a reporter.

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