The Jewish Museum and Film at Lincoln Center is presenting the 2021 New York Jewish Film Festival online through January 26.
Among the oldest and most influential Jewish film festivals worldwide, NYJFF each year presents the finest documentary, narrative, and short films from around the world that explore the Jewish experience. Viewers can also click here to explore free talks and Q&As during the festival.
The festival’s 2021 virtual lineup showcases seventeen features and seven shorts, including the latest works by dynamic voices in international cinema, as well as the World Premiere of the new restoration of a 1939 classic by Edgar G. Ulmer.
Each film will be available for viewing beginning at 12 PM EST on the specified date, and remain available for 72 hours from their premiere time.
The Opening film is Here We Are. Set in Israel, Nir Bergman’s warm and moving tale of parental devotion focuses on divorced dad Aharon (Shai Avivi), who has given up his artistic career to look after his autistic son Uri (Noam Imber). They live a quiet life, and as the boy reaches young adulthood, his mother decides that he needs to be placed in a boarding facility more equipped to cater to his needs. Resistant at first, Aharon runs away on a road trip with Uri. But this break from their routine quickly leads to difficulties. With gentle humor, this beautiful film—winner of multiple Ophir Awards, including Best Director—examines the intricacies of love, disability and community, and change.
This year’s Centerpiece film is Winter Journey, co-directed by Anders Østergaard and Erzsébet Rácz and inspired by classical radio host Martin Goldsmith’s book The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love. The film features veteran actor Bruno Ganz in his last role as Goldsmith’s father, George, who is interviewed in the film by his son (played by Martin himself). Told with layered visuals and sounds, the film deftly combines history and drama.
The Closing selection is Irmi, a documentary that tells the inspiring story of Irmi Selver, a Jewish refugee who faced tragedy while escaping Nazi Germany in the 1930s but went on to live a long, resilient, and colorful life. Co-directed by Susan Fanshel and Veronica Selver (Irmi’s daughter), Irmi combines archival images, and interviews with a narration taken from Irmi’s memoirs and voiced by the legendary actress Hanna Schygulla.
Another notable film in this year’s festival is Shared Legacies: The African American-Jewish Civil Rights Alliance. This searing documentary delves deep into the longstanding relationship between Jewish and Black communities in the United States. Director and clinical therapist Dr. Shari Rogers shows how this union originated in a mutual recognition of the suffering of segregation, violence, and bigotry; and in the bonds of strength that emerged with the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909 and the rise of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the ’50s. But she also illustrates how this alliance has diminished in recent years. The film features archival footage and current interviews with leaders, witnesses, and activists, including the late Congressman John Lewis, UN Ambassador Andrew Young, the scholar Susannah Heschel, and many others. Shared Legacies is presented collaboratively by Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, the Jewish Museum, and Film at Lincoln Center. The film will be shown in the JCC’s Cinematters: NY Social Justice FIlm Festival, which takes place January 14-18.
Other films in this year’s lineup include:
- Adventures of a Mathematician, Thor Klein. In this film based on a true story, a Polish Jewish mathematician tasked with working on the Manhattan Project faces a moral crisis when the war ends.
- Asia, Ruthy Pribar. In Israel’s entry to the 2021 Oscars, the spirited teenage daughter of a young single mother falls very ill, demanding an overhaul of their strained relationship.
- Love & Stuff, Judith Helfand. A poignant and personal film about the connections between love and the objects we accumulate and pass on. Screening with Helfand’s short, Absolutely No Spitting.
- The Red Orchestra, Carl-Ludwig Rettinger. A fresh and well-rounded account of the Red Orchestra, a crucial resistance network in Nazi Germany, told through interviews and excerpts of feature films made in East and West Germany in the early 1970s.
The Sign Painter, Viestur Kairish. A sign painter in 1940s Latvia is caught in a love triangle; meanwhile, his signs start to reflect the country’s changing politics.
- Who’s Afraid of Alice Miller?, Daniel Howald. The son of the psychotherapist Dr. Alice Miller—a famed advocate of children’s rights—embarks on a trip to uncover the family’s transgenerational trauma.
- On Broadway, Oren Jacoby. This star-studded documentary pays tribute to one of the most vibrant legacies of New York: the magic of Broadway.
- The Crossing, Johanne Helgeland. This adaptation of a best-selling novel by Maja Lunde tells the inspiring story of four Norwegian children on the run from the Nazis in the winter of 1942.
- Tahara, Olivia Peace. A poignant and comic film that traces the coming-of-age of two Jewish teenage girls—one white and straight, and the other Black and queer—following the suicide of one of their classmates.
- Breaking Bread, Beth Elise Hawk. Dr. Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, the first Muslim Arab to win Israel’s MasterChef, founded the A-Sham Food Festival, where pairs of Arab and Jewish chefs collaborate on delicious dishes. This documentary captures the event’s hope, synergy, and mouthwatering fare.
- Minyan, Eric Steel. Adapted from a story by David Bezmozgis set in Brighton Beach in the 1980s, the film follows a young Russian Jewish man as he befriends an older gay couple and comes to terms with his homosexuality.
- Kindertransports to Sweden, Gülseren Şengezer. A powerful documentary about the experiences of four Jewish people who, as children, were sent to Sweden by their parents before the outbreak of World War II.
The festival’s Shorts Program includes:
- The Cantor’s Last Cantata, Harvey Wang. A delightful documentary about a local production of the 1947 fringe hit “Brooklyn Baseball Cantata” by a small reform Jewish synagogue in Brooklyn.
- Mimi and Panda, Miriam Luc-Berman & Panda Shi Berman. First cousins Mimi and Panda reflect on their Chinese and Jewish identities and their family relationships.
Ismail’s Dilemma, Dhimitër Ismailaj-Valona. Inspired by numerous true stories, this narrative short gives a voice to the many Albanians who protected Jewish refugees at great danger to themselves during World War II.
- Holy Woman, Emily Cheeger. By turns sweet and dark, this humorous short about female empowerment in the Hasidic community involves an errant fish bone, facial hair, and a dazzling protagonist.
- Mazel Tov Cocktail, Arkadij Khaet & Mickey Paatzsch. This entertaining and provocative short swirls around the story of Dima, a 19-year-old Russian Jewish man living in Germany.
The festival also includes the World Premiere of the National Center for Jewish Film’s new 4K digital restoration of Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1939 feature, The Light Ahead. Known as one of the greatest Russian shtetl films ever made, this restored classic—adapted from a Mendele Mokher Sforim tale—is a sweetly romantic part-comedy, part-satire.
This year’s New York Jewish Film Festival was selected by Rachel Chanoff, Director, THE OFFICE performing arts + film; Lisa Collins, filmmaker and programmer, digital journalist, and special events producer; Aviva Weintraub, Director, New York Jewish Film Festival, The Jewish Museum; with Dennis Lim, Director of Programming, Film at Lincoln Center and New York Film Festival, as adviser; and assistance from Indigo Sparks, performance artist, writer, and arts administrator.
Get tickets here. Tickets must be purchased online. One rental per account. For ticketing assistance or questions about the virtual cinema, please email [email protected], or call 212-875-5367.