Presented by: The Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life with support from The Karma Foundation
2020 Audience Choice Award Winners
The following critically acclaimed, international dramatic and documentary films were featured at the 2020 Rutgers New Jersey Jewish Film Festival:
Artist Boris Schatz left an extraordinary legacy: an endless collection of his seminal works of art and two of Israel’s most important institutions—the Israel Museum and the Bezalel Art Academy. Yet, how is it that no one knew about the existence of his first daughter, Angelica? Abandoned in Bulgaria with her mother, who had fallen in love with one of Shatz’s students, Angelica’s art surfaces years later in an attic in Tel Aviv. This discovery sends the film’s director—Angelica’s great grandson—on a journey to uncover the tragic relationship between Boris and Angelica.
Q&A Discussion with Dan Peer: Friday, November 20
The Art of Waiting
Award-winning director Erez Tadmor delivers a moving, honest—and bracingly funny—portrayal of modern pregnancy. His romantic dramedy follows a happily married Israeli couple who develop baby fever, putting their relationship to the test as they struggle to get pregnant. With their lively family in the background who eagerly await a grandchild, the pressure mounts from family, friends, and each other. It soon becomes clear that the road to parenthood is no walk in the park. Tackling a sensitive topic with earnest performances by Roy Assaf and Nelly Tagar, the film landed four Israeli Academy Award nominations, including Best Director.
“It’s a normal part of life. You see all kinds of people when you’re waiting in line at the clinic. Jews and Arabs, secular and religious, everybody. You’re all just people there dealing with the same problem. And if you talk about it, you’ll realize a lot of other people are going through the same thing.”
—Erez Tador, director
WINNER: Best Editing, Haifa International Film Festival, 2019
NOMINEE: 4 Israeli Academy Awards,2019, including Best Director and Best Actress
Q&A Discussion with Erez Tadmor, Director: Sunday, November 22
Shira Haas (Unorthodox, Shtisel) stars in this emotionally powerful drama about Asia and Vika, Russian immigrants to Israel who are more like sisters than mother and daughter. Young mom Asia hides nothing about her work-hard, play-hard lifestyle, and expects the same openness and honesty from her teenage daughter. But Vika inevitably begins to rebel, seeking privacy and independence, all while experiencing the onset of a debilitating degenerative disease that makes her increasingly dependent. In her debut film, Israeli filmmaker Ruthy Pribar candidly explores the challenges of motherhood and the power of love.
“Asia sets itself apart from the rest of its sentimental cohorts and shows itself to be a moving and poignant mother-daughter drama of a different kind.” – Hoai Tran Bui (https://www.slashfilm.com)
WINNER: 3 Tribeca Film Festival Awards, 2020, including Best Actress
NOMINEE: 13 Ophir Awards, 2020, including Best Picture
Q&A Discussion with Ruthy Pribar, Director, and Natasha Zaretsky, scholar from New York University: Wednesday, November 18
OPENING NIGHT FILM
Recruited from the basketball courts of Harlem, Newark native Aulcie Perry joined Maccabi Tel Aviv in 1976. He quickly established himself as a leader, and helped defeat the heavily favored Soviets to give Team Israel its first European championship. He adopted a Hebrew name, converted to Judaism, and became an Israeli citizen; But the dark side of fame led to a stunning downfall. Aulcie shares his story of redemption, while electrifying game footage and insightful interviews complete this emotional profile of a superstar athlete who put Israel on the map.
“Combining a modern narrative of who Aulcie is with where he has come from, the film truly shows the making of the superstar, but also the making of the good man who followed.”
—Eddie Samuels, Atlanta Jewish Times
Q&A Discussion with Dani Menkin, Director and Aulcie Perry: Sunday, November 8
ISRAELI TV SERIES—BINGE WATCH ALL 4 EPISODES!
The creators of the international hit TV series Shtisel return with this gripping dystopian thriller series. Set in the present day, the film imagines an alternative reality where Israel is split into two separate entities: the secular State of Israel, whose capital is Tel Aviv, and, on the other side of a dividing wall, an ultra-orthodox autonomy based in Jerusalem. A tentative peace between the two regions is put into jeopardy by a heated custody battle over a young girl born into a Haredi family, but raised by secular parents.
Q&A Discussion with Yaacov Yadgar, Stanley Lewis Professor of Israel Studies, Oxford University: Monday, November 16
Exotic cuisine and a side of politics are on the menu in this delightful and inspiring documentary. Dr. Nof Atamna-Ismaeel is on a quest to effect social change through food. The first Muslim Arab to win Israel's MasterChef, she founded the A-sham Food Festival in Haifa where Arab and Jewish chefs collaborate on local dishes. As the chefs work side-by-side to transform and preserve traditional recipes, they draw tens of thousands of food lovers into the city. Breaking Bread follows the chefs of A-Sham on their unique culinary journeys as they celebrate their respective cultural heritages and their passion for food.
A film about hope, synergy, and mouthwatering fare, Breaking Bread illustrates what happens when people focus on the person, rather than her religion; on the public, rather than the politicians.
WINNER: Audience Award for Favorite Culinary Cinema Film, Napa Valley Film Festival, 2019
Q&A Discussion with Beth Elise Hawk, Director, and Chef Einat Admony, (Balaboosta, Kish-Kash, Taïm): Tuesday, November 17
This romantic comedy, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, begins where most films of its kind end—after the wedding. Arriving at their lavish honeymoon suite on their wedding night, a surprise gift to the groom from an ex-girlfriend ignites a knock-out fight. An all-night odyssey through the streets of Jerusalem ensues in an effort to return the gift. Over the course of a single night, the couple is forced to confront past lovers, repressed doubts, and the lives they’ve chosen to leave behind.
“Honeymood is a stirring romantic comedy anchored by two lively and dynamic performances, cementing Lavie’s singular cinematic talent.”
—Shayna Weingast, Tribeca Film Festival
Q&A Discussion with Talya Lavie, Director: Friday, November 13
Latter Day Jew
Encore Showing in partnership with the JCC of Central New Jersey
With a poignant mix of hilarity and seriousness, Latter Day Jew follows H. Alan Scott, a gay writer-comedian, cancer survivor, and former Mormon who becomes a Jew by choice. His family embraces his new spiritual path as he visits Israel and prepares for his Bar Mitzvah.
Q&A Discussion with H. Alan Scott, Documentary subject: Thursday, November 12
The Gottex swimwear empire was founded by legendary designer, Holocaust survivor, and larger-than-life character Lea Gottlieb. She started the company in her tiny Tel Aviv apartment, and navigated her way to the top of the fashion world. She spent her fortune extravagantly and lived her life like there was no tomorrow—often at the expense of those closest to her. This inspiring documentary examines her meteoric rise, her creative vision, her gorgeous fashion sense, and her complicated relationship with her daughters.
“She was ahead of her time. Colors and lycra, she was the first to do that—she did amazing things.”
—Dalit Kimor, Director
Q&A Discussion with Keren Ben-Horin, Co-Writer, and adjunct Instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology: Sunday, November 15
My Name is Sara
A gripping drama, My Name is Sara is based on the true story of Sara Goralnik, a 13-year-old Polish Jew who escaped to the Ukrainian countryside after her family was killed by Nazis during World War II. Taking on the identity of her Christian best friend, Sara finds refuge in a small village, working for a farmer and his young wife. She soon discovers her employers’ dark secrets, compounding fears about protecting her own greatest secret—her true identity.
Q&A Discussion with Stephen D. Smith, Film Producer and the Andrew J. and Erna Finci Viterbi Executive Director Chair of the USC Shoah Foundation: Sunday, November 22
Nowhere in Africa
RETURNING FESTIVAL FAVORITE
A love story spanning two continents, Nowhere in Africa is the extraordinary true tale of a Jewish family who flees the Nazi regime in 1938 to live and work on a remote farm in Kenya. Abandoning their once-comfortable existence in Germany, Walter Redlich, his wife Jettel, and their five-year-old daughter Regina must deal with the harsh realities of their new lives as Jewish refugees in Africa. As the war rages on the other side of the world, the family’s relationships to their new environment become increasingly more complicated. This beautiful film is based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by Stefanie Zweig.
WINNER: Best Foreign Language Film, Academy Awards, 2002
Q&A Discussion with Caroline Link, the director of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and Nowhere in Africa: Sunday, November 15
The Rabbi Goes West
Rabbi Bruk left the bustle of Brooklyn for a new life and to start a family in Bozeman, Montana. Founding the state’s first Chabad Center, he set out to affix a mezuzah on the doorpost of every Jewish home he can find. But his outsized personality and proselytizing tactics are openly challenged by Jewish neighbors and fellow rabbis. When the specter of neo-Nazism threatens the community, ideological differences come to the fore. Spectacular Montana landscapes provide a scenic backdrop to this engaging, funny, and balanced profile of religious pioneers in the American West.
“They open your eyes, showing you all the different sides, and then, in the spirit of Jews when they’ve had enough, wish you a Zei Gezunt so you can finish the discussion on your own.”
—Lois Alter Mark, Alliance of Jewish Women Film Journalists
Q&A Discussion with Amy Geller and Gerald Peary, Directors: Monday, November 16
Shared Legacies: The African American-Jewish Civil Rights Alliance
The modern alliance between Blacks and Jewish Americans dates to the NAACP founding in 1909. Since then, both groups have endured segregation and racism—from the codified bigotry of southern Jim Crow laws, to blatant bias in real estate, employment, higher education, and politics. Common cause was found in the turbulent 1960s Civil Rights era, as Jewish leaders backed Dr. Martin Luther King’s efforts in support of racial equality and harmony. Yet, the relationship has frayed in recent years, as a once mighty bond of support and respect has seemingly faded, or been forgotten or ignored. This potent, inspiring story of unity, empathy, and partnership, shows how freedom and equality for all can be achieved only when people come together.
“If the lion does not tell his story, the hunter will.”
Q&A Discussion with Dr. Shari Rogers, Director: Thursday, November 19
Itai, an Israeli boy living in America, dreams of being cast as the lead in the annual school play. When he discovers that once again he is assigned to play one of the trees, he rallies the other tree performers —also immigrants from other countries— to give livelier interpretation of their roles. Itai gives an unforgettable performance in this charming short film that challenges stereotypes and brings people together.
When HItler Stole Pink Rabbit
The director of the Academy Award–winning Nowhere in Africa delivers a remarkable epic film with the grand dramatic sweep and exquisite visuals of an earlier era. Based on Judith Kerr’s best-selling novel, the film is set in 1933 Berlin and centers on 9-year-old Anna, who isn’t concerned by the societal changes that are occurring and the sense of growing dread as Hitler rises to power. That all changes when her own father—a prominent Jewish journalist and vocal critic of Adolf Hitler—goes missing. As Anna and her family move to Switzerland, and then to Paris and London, she experiences family disruption, dislocation, and assimilation into a new life. Caroline Link’s film provides a touching portrait of the experience of German Jews who fled the country before the war.
"Under conditions where the German elite is again promoting anti-refugee sentiment and encouraging the growth of fascist forces, the release of Caroline Link’s new film is very timely."
WINNER: Best Youth Film, Bavarian Film Awards, 2020
NOMINEE: Best Children’s Film, German Film Critics Association Awards, 2020
Q&A Discussion with Caroline Link, the director of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and Nowhere in Africa: Sunday, November 15
2020 Film Festival Trailer