The following critically acclaimed, international dramatic and documentary films were featured at the 2011 Rutgers New Jersey Jewish Film Festival:
Gei Oni (Valley of Fortitude)
Israel, 2010, 105 min.
Yiddish, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Turkish, and Romanian with English subtitles
Director: Dan Wolman
This beautifully rendered saga of survival weaves a dramatic love story with the late nineteenth century Jewish dream to return to and rebuild the Jewish homeland. Marriage becomes a means of survival for Fania and her baby daughter who escape the pogroms of Russia and join a small Jewish settlement in the Galilee, facing the challenges of a new family, place, and culture. The film is based on the best-selling novel Valley of Strength by Shulamit Lapid.
Amos Oz: The Nature of Dreams
Israel, 2009, 86 min.
English, German, and Hebrew with English subtitles
Directors: Yonathan and Masha Zur
Internationally acclaimed writer Amos Oz is a rare voice of compassion arising from the fractious, beautiful landscape of Israel. This documentary brings out Oz’s rich imagination and political vision as it follows him on an international book tour that begins and ends in the quiet of his study in the Negev desert. Based partly on his best-selling memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness, the film is an affectionate yet ambivalent account of his family and is sprinkled with his musings on the historical meanings of Zionism and Israel today.
Israel, 2009, 75 min.
Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles
Director: Noa Ben Hagai
In the early 1940s, 14-year-old Pnina disappeared near her home in what is now Israel. Years later, she began sending letters to her family from her home in the West Bank. Filmmaker Noa Ben Hagai journeys to uncover the mystery of her great-aunt Pnina and her family in the Palestinian Territories with the help of her uncle, a retired colonel in Israeli intelligence. Blood Relation chronicles the meetings between members of this Jewish-Arab family over the course of three years, in Israel and Nablus, and reveals the complexities involved when a family member marries "out."
Eichmann's End: Love, Betrayal, Death
Germany/Israel, 2010, 90 min.
German, Spanish, and Hebrew with English subtitles
Director: Raymond Levy
This documentary tells the story leading up to the capture of Adolph Eichmann by Mossad agents in Argentina. The film interweaves testimonials of people involved in the events with dramatic scenarios, presenting a suspenseful drama based on true events. At its heart is the story of a love affair between a Holocaust survivor’s daughter and the boy she did not realize was Eichmann’s son.
Auf Wiedersehen: 'Til We Meet Again
USA, 2011, 76 min.
English and German with English subtitles
Directors: Linda G. Mills and Brian Dilg
In this compelling and often funny tale of recovery and renewal, author and activist Linda G. Mills is propelled by her family’s life-threatening experience of September 11, 2001 to return to the site of her mother’s flight from Vienna in 1939. Accompanied by her restless ten-year old son and highly opinionated mother, Mills discovers unsettling truths that upend familial and historical myths. This unconventional documentary spans five generations and reveals the impact of historical events and family dynamics on the memory of the past.
The Flood (Mabul)
Israel, 2010, 100 min.
Hebrew with English subtitles
Director: Guy Nattiv
The week before Yoni Roshko’s bar mitzvah, his autistic older brother’s unexpected return home shakes the Roshkos’ tenuous family life. Acting as the only responsible adult in the family, Yoni is left to cope with his brother's obsessive behaviors until the two find common ground – the story of the flood and Noah's Ark – which Yoni is preparing for his bar mitzvah. Mabul is a touching family drama about painful truths and hidden strengths that bind the family together.
Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray
USA, 2011, 86 min.
Director: Jonathan Gruber
This fascinating documentary reveals the little-known struggles that faced Jewish Americans both in battle and on the home front during the American Civil War. Through period photographs, rare documents, letters and artifacts, and exclusive interviews with experts and descendants, the film chronicles the sacrifices that Jews made for their beliefs and how they took up arms to defend their country both in the Union and the Confederacy.
Poland, 2010, 118 min.
Polish with English subtitles
Director: Jan Kidawa-Blonski
Divided loyalties and misguided love play out against a backdrop of escalating political unrest in 1967 communist Poland. In this spy thriller, security police colonel Rozek enlists his sexy yet naive girlfriend, Kamila, to spy on the writer and suspected Zionist Adam Warczewski. Eager to please her domineering lover, Kamila accepts the mission, reporting under the code name "Little Rose." As her relationship with Warczewski develops, the film reveals untold secrets and shifting loyalties.
The Matchmaker (Pa'am Ha'iti)
Israel, 2010, 118 min.
Hebrew with English subtitles
Director: Avi Nesher
In 1968 Haifa, teenage Arik gets a summer job working for Yankele Bride, a mysterious Holocaust survivor who makes ends meet by brokering marriages and smuggling goods. As Arik begins to learn the mysteries of the human heart, he falls in love with his neighbor Tamara, who is visiting from America during the "summer of love." Based on the novel When Heroes Fly by award-winning writer Amir Gutfreund, The Matchmaker mixes comedy with drama at this turning point in Arik’s life.
My Life with Carlos(Mi Vida con Carlos)
Chile/Spain/Germany, 2009, 83 min.
Spanish with English subtitles
Director: Germán Berger-Hertz
Carlos Berger Guralnik’s death at age 30, at the hands of Chile’s Pinochet regime, shattered the lives of his surviving family members: his parents, three brothers, wife, and infant son. Having escaped from Nazi persecution in Europe, the family found itself facing a new fascist regime. The film follows Germán Berger-Hertz, Carlos’ son, as he searches for the memory and meaning of his father’s life. This beautifully shot documentary breaks the silence in a country that does not wish to remember its shadowy past.
The Round Up (La Rafle)
France, 2010, 124 min.
French, German, and Yiddish with English subtitles
Director: Roselyne Bosch
The infamous Vel' d'Hiv Roundup in the summer of 1942 is the focus of this French drama starring Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds, The Orchestra) and Jean Reno (The Da Vinci Code, The Professional). The Round Up sheds light on one of the darkest moments in French history when the Vichy government, in collaboration with the Nazis, imprisoned and disposed of more than 13,000 Parisian Jews.
Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness
USA, 2011, 93 min.
English and Yiddish with English subtitles
Director: Joseph Dorman
A riveting portrait of the great writer whose stories became the basis of the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof, this film tells the tale of the rebellious literary genius who became the best known Yiddish writer and playwright in Europe and America. Plumbing the depths of a Jewish world locked in crisis and on the cusp of profound change, Sholem Aleichem’s pen captured that world with sharp clarity and brilliant humor.
Israel, 2008, 6 episodes/ 30 min. each
Hebrew with English subtitles
Director: Eliezer Shapira
Where do you go to find a social scene when you're a single thirty-something in Israel and an Orthodox Jew? Srugim, the hit Israeli television series billed as Israel’s Friends, focuses on young professional Orthodox Jews who live and work in Jerusalem. Rave reviews from the Israeli media attest to the series’ appeal both to religious and secular Israelis. Six episodes from season one will be screened over two Sundays.
Israel, 2011, 72 min.
Hebrew, Polish, English, and French with English subtitles
Director: Ronit Kertsner
Can one be a Catholic priest and an observant Jew at the same time? Twelve years after he was ordained as a Polish Catholic priest, Romuald Waszkinel discovers that he was born to Jewish parents, and that his name was Jacob Weksler. The film follows his personal journey from conducting mass in a church in Poland to his life as an observant Jew on a religious kibbutz in Israel. With sensitivity and depth, this unusual documentary captures the life of a deeply spiritual person, torn between two identities, and unable to renounce either.
Dressing America: Tales from the Garment Center
USA, 2011, 56 min.
Directors: Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher
This vibrant documentary tells the story of a colorful and creative industry that grew from humble beginnings in Manhattan into a global enterprise. The film explores the Jewish immigrant roots of the industry, the business of "celebrity designers" like Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan, and the intersection of art and commerce in the design studios.