The National Center for Jewish Film’s

19th Annual Film Festival

May 4 – 22, 2016

Venues: Museum of Fine Arts, West Newton Cinema, Coolidge Corner Theatre, Institute of Contemporary Art, Brandeis University

Arabic Movie 


Q&A with Professor Ari Ofengenden (May 19)

Sunday, May 8, 2:30 pm, West Newton Cinema

Thursday, May 19, 3:00 pm, Museum of Fine Arts 

A fascinating look at one of the rituals of Israeli popular culture: The weekly Friday afternoon TV broadcast of the “Arabic movie.” Back in the days when Israel had only one TV station, families of all backgrounds—Mizrahi, Ashkenazi, and Palestinians alike—would gather around the TV to watch Egyptian melodramas, comedies, and musicals. Full of marvelous film clips (roll the matinee idols and infectious pop music), this documentary explores the restorative role these movies played for many Jewish émigrés from Arab lands, and investigates how Israel’s official TV station bypassed sealed borders to obtain these beloved movies, even while Israel was at war with her Arab neighbors. Winner Art & Culture Award at the DocAviv Film Festival.

Directors: Eyal Sagui Bizawe & Sara Tsifroni | Israel | 2015 | 62m | Hebrew & Arabic w/ English subtitles

Baba Joon


Saturday, May 14, 7:00 pm, Museum of Fine Arts

Sunday, May 22, 7:00 pm, West Newton Cinema

Israel’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award (and the first Israeli movie filmed in Farsi) is a tender tale of generational divide and immigrant experience that will win your heart. Set in a Persian-immigrant moshav in the Negev in the 1980s, three generations of the stubborn Morgian family run a ramshackle turkey farm in an isolated desert community of Farsi speakers. Yitzhak (Navid Negahban, “Abu Nazir” on Homeland) plans for his son Moti to take over the family business, but Moti’s dreams lie elsewhere, especially after the arrival of his more worldly uncle from America. The debut feature of writer-director Yuval Delshad, himself the child of Iranian parents, won Israeli Academy Awards for Best Film, Best Cinematography, Best Art Director, Best Casting & Best Music.

Director: Yuval Delshad | Israel | 2015 | 91m | Farsi & Hebrew w/ English subtitles

Breaking Home Ties — 1922 Silent Film with Live Music by Composer Donald Sosin


New Digital Restoration by The National Center for Jewish Film

Q&A with NCJF Directors Sharon Pucker Rivo & Lisa Rivo

Thursday, May 12, 7:30 pm, Museum of Fine Arts

Thinking he has killed his friend Paul in a jealous rage, David Bergmann flees pre-revolutionary Russia for New York, where he becomes a successful lawyer and woos smart, independent Rose. When the Bergmann parents move to New York, immigrant life takes its toll. Will David marry Rose? Will the Bergmanns be reunited? And what about Paul, the friend David thought he killed back in Russia? Long thought lost, the world’s only existing print of Breaking Home Ties was discovered, rescued, and restored by The National Center for Jewish Film. Breaking Home Ties comes to Boston from event screenings in New York (Lincoln Center), Jerusalem, Washington, Cleveland, Toronto & Hong Kong.  Musician Donald Sosin is one of the world’s leading silent film composers.

Directors: Frank Seltzer & George Rowlands | USA | 1922 | 78m | Silent

By Sidney Lumet


Q&A with Professor Thomas Doherty

Sunday, May 15, 1:30 pm, West Newton Cinema

With great humor and candor, the consummate storyteller Sidney Lumet reflects on his passion for making movies and shooting in New York City, his love for his actors, including Henry Fonda, Paul Newman, and Al Pacino (whom he adoringly calls “an open wound”). Lumet also considers his childhood in the Yiddish theater, his tour as a WWII GI, and the impact of the Holocaust and McCarthy’s Blacklist. The film luxuriates in clips from Lumet’s groundbreaking masterworks, including 12 Angry Men, The Pawnbroker, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network and The Verdict. This must see portrait of one of cinema’s finest and most humane filmmakers had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. “Anyone who loves Lumet’s movies [will] be in heaven.” –Indiewire “Engrossing, entertaining, beautifully assembled film.” –Hollywood Reporter

Director: Nancy Buirski | USA | 2015 | 103m | English

Carvalho’s Journey


Q&A with Filmmaker Steve Rivo and Professor Jonathan Sarna (May 5)

Thursday, May 5, 7:30 pm, Museum of Fine Arts

Sunday, May 22, 2:00 pm, West Newton Cinema

A real-life 19th century American western adventure story about Solomon Nunes Carvalho, an observant Sephardic Jew born in 1815 in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1853, traveling with John Fremont’s 5th Westward Expedition, Carvalho became one of the first photographers to document the sweeping vistas and treacherous terrain of the far American West. Living alongside mountain men, Native Americans and Mormons, Carvalho overcame enormous odds to produce beautiful art: daguerreotypes that became the lens through which the world experienced the West. “Staggering…breathtaking.” –Wall Street Journal “Great story…stunning visuals…a very rare treat.” –Huffington Post

Director: Steve Rivo | USA | 2015 | 85m | English



Q&A with Professor Antony Polonsky (May 13 & 17)

Friday, May 13, 7:00 pm, Museum of Fine Arts

Tuesday, May 17, 7:00 pm, Coolidge Corner Theatre

In this chilling, modern interpretation of the Dybbuk legend, Piotr discovers human bones buried in the backyard of the Polish country home of his future in-laws. It’s the eve of his wedding, so Piotr (Itay Tiran) overlooks this ominous find, but the soul inhabiting the remains won’t let go of the bridegroom. As the wedding celebration’s bacchanalia spins out of control, director Marcin Wrona’s brilliant story of possession becomes an unflinching, allegorical censure of contemporary Poland, where the absence of Jews and willful irresolution on matters of Polish antisemitism, gives rise to spirits. Tragically, Wrona died, at age 42, just as the film was to be released. Winner of the Tobias Szpancer Award for Best Film, Haifa Film Festival; Winner Best Film, Austin Fantastic Fest; Spotlight selection, Toronto Film Festival and MOMA’s New Directors/New Films.

Director: Marcin Wrona | Poland/Israel | 2015 | 94m | Polish & Yiddish w/ English subtitles

Dirty Wolves / Lobos Sucios


Welcome: Consul General of Spain Julio Núñez Montesinos (May 5)

Thursday, May 5, 5:00 pm, Museum of Fine Arts – Yom Hashoah Event

Sunday, May 15, 4:30 pm, West Newton Cinema

Manuela (Goya Award-winning actress Marian Álvarez) and the poor citizens of her small village in northwest Spain work in the mines processing wolfram (aka tungsten) for the Nazis who are harvesting the rare metal for the Third Reich’s war machine. When the miners plan a revolt and her sister begins helping Jews cross the border into Portugal, Manuela must decide if she can remain neutral in a time of war. Spanish director Simón Casal de Miguel imbues his WWII thriller with the look of a Francisco de Zurbarán oil painting and notes of magical realism, infusing the Galician countryside with a mysticism as old as the forest’s twisting yew trees and the mysterious wolves that roam beneath them. Inspired by actual events.

Director: Simón Casal de Miguel | Spain | 2015 | 105m | Spanish & German w/ English subtitles

Drawing Against Oblivion / Zeichnem Gegen Das Vergessen


Thursday, May 19, 5:30 pm, Museum of Fine Arts

Austrian artist Manfred Bockelmann was born in 1943, the son of privileged parents who joined the Nazi party. Deeply troubled by this history, Bockelmann set out to revive the memory of Jewish children who perished in the Shoah. Turning away from the colorful graphic landscapes for which he was well known, Bockelmann began producing powerful, monumental charcoal drawings born from small photo portraits of the victims. “What happened to the children who lay in the wrong cradle?” Bockelmann asks, “I want to get these children back out of the darkness.” Winner Best Documentary, Best Cinematography & Best Music at New York Festivals; Best Music, Fimucinema Festival Spain.

Director: Bärbel Jacks | Germany/Austria | 2015 | 67m | German & English w/ English subtitles

The Kind Words 


Friday, May 6, 7:00 pm, Museum of Fine Arts

Sunday, May 15, 7:30 pm, West Newton Cinema

Writer-director Shemi Zahrin (World Is Funny NCJF’13, Aviva My Love, Noodle NCJF’08) gives us another masterful depiction of the complex bonds of family in his most recent box office smash about three siblings who discover a shocking family secret. Chasing the unraveling threads of a family legacy that stretches back to their mother’s native Algiers, hot tempered Dorona (Rotem Zisman-Cohen), her older brother Netandel (Roy Assaf, God’s Neighbors NCJF’13), now an Orthodox family man, and free spirited brother Shai (Assaf Ben-Shimon) leave behind their father (Sasson Gabai, The Band’s Visit) and take off on a funny, poignant journey to Paris. Nominated for 12 Israeli Academy Awards, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Script & Best Actor. “Displaying the literary, humanist sensibility that’s made the director also successful as a novelist.” –Hollywood Reporter

Director: Shemi Zarhin | Israel/Canada | 2015 | 118m | Hebrew & French w/ English subtitles



Sunday, May 8, 7:00 pm, West Newton Cinema

Ephraim (Rediat Amare) is sent by his father to live among distant relatives in the countryside after his mother’s death in writer-director Yared Zeleke’s luminous and touching debut feature. Ephraim uses his cooking skills to carve out a place among his cousins, but when his uncle decides that his beloved sheep must be sacrificed for the next religious feast, he will do anything to save the animal and return home. Ethiopia’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award, Lamb was the first Ethiopian film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival. Winner Jury Prize, Denver Film Festival & Best Feature Film, Milan Film Festival. Opening night New York Jewish Film Festival “Sheer Brilliance!” –The Guardian “BEAUTIFUL! –Variety

Director: Yared Zeleke | Ethiopia/France/Germany | 2015 | 94m | Amharic w/ English subtitles


The Law / La Loi


Q&A with NARAL Leadership (May 8) Professor Shula Reinharz (May 18)

Sunday, May 8, 4:30 pm, West Newton Cinema

Wednesday, May 18, 7:30 pm, Museum of Fine Arts

Simone Veil’s intrepid fight to legalize abortion in France is vividly brought to life in this taut fact-based political drama. In 1974, French health minister Veil is charged with decriminalizing abortion and easing access to contraceptives. Facing strong opposition from politicians, an enraged public, and the Catholic Church, Veil, who survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen and lost her parents in the Shoah, refuses to give up. Fighting for justice amidst a swirl of antisemitic sentiment, sexism, and personal attacks, she perseveres in advancing women’s rights. César Award-winning actress Emmanuelle Devos (Coco Before Chanel) delivers a smoldering performance in the lead role.

Director: Christian Faure | France | 2015 | 90m | French w/ English subtitles

The People Vs. Fritz Bauer / Der Staat Gegen Fritz Bauer


Welcome: Consul General of Germany to NE Ralf Horlemann

Wednesday, May 4, 7:00 pm, Museum of Fine Arts

Burghart Klaussner (The White Ribbon, Bridge of Spies) and Ronald Zehrfeld (Phoenix NCJF’15) star in this riveting historical thriller chronicling the herculean efforts of German District Attorney Fritz Bauer to capture and bring to justice Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann. With death threats mounting and government intelligence services (in his own office!) employing noxious methods to shut him down, Bauer, a German-Jew, refuses to back down amid a post-war climate where Nazi perpetrators remain at large or newly ensconced in government or corporate jobs. Kraume’s propulsive direction and moody jazz soundtrack give the sinister proceedings a noir edge. Winner Audience Award, Locarno Film Festival. “A Masterpiece.” –Der Tagesspiegel

Director: Lars Kraume | Germany | 2015 | 105m | German, English & Yiddish w/ English subtitles

Rabin, The Last Day


Q&A with Film Scholar Richard Peña (May 9)

Monday, May 9, 6:30 pm, Brandeis University

Saturday, May 14, 1:30 pm, Museum of Fine Arts

On November 4, 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated at a political rally in Tel Aviv. The killer was a 25-year-old student and observant Jew. As acclaimed filmmaker Amos Gitai reveals in his provocative new film, the murder was the culmination of a climate of hate and paranoia fueled by the hysterical rhetoric and political intrigue of extremists who condemned Rabin by invoking an obscure Talmudic ruling and prominent right-wing politicians who joined in the campaign of incitement. Winner of the Human Rights Film Network Award at the Venice Film Festival.

“I hope a lot of Americans see this film–for the warning it offers.” –Thomas Friedman, NYT “A tough-minded, unflinching work of art, the first great film of 2016.” –Jewish Week “Both a political thriller and a work of conscience.” –Hollywood Reporter “Knockout dramatic thriller…a startling portrait of political upheaval.” –Indiewire “Spellbinding moviemaking.” –Huffington Post

Director: Amos Gitai | Israel/France | 2015 | 153m | Hebrew w/ English subtitles

Summer Solstice / Letnie Przesilenie


Q&A with Professor Antony Polonsky

Thursday, May 19, 8:00 pm, Museum of Fine Arts

This searing drama set in the summer of 1943 in provincial Poland under German occupation follows two teenage boys. Polish railway worker Romek scavenges the train tracks for goods, immune to the fate of the human cargo passing by, while Guido, a Jazz-loving German military policeman, becomes more ruthless by the day. Romantic preoccupations prove fateful when they encounter a Polish country girl and a young Jewish woman escapee. With his award-winning script and arresting cinemagraphic visual style, Polish director Michal Rogalski exposes the brutality of war and the corrosive power of antisemitism. Winner Best Script, Montreal World Film Festival; Best Polish Film, CameraImage; Best Cinematography & Best Supporting Actress, Gdynia Film Festival.

Director: Michal Rogalski | Poland/Germany | 2015 | 95m | Polish & German w/ English subtitles

Tango Glories / Glorias del Tango


Saturday, May 7, 7:00 pm, Institute of Contemporary Art

Friday, May 13, 3:00 pm, Museum of Fine Arts

Featuring exquisite dance numbers, gracious performances, and a hint of the surreal, this Argentinian drama finds Buenos Aires psychiatrist Ezequiel Kaufman (Gastón Pauls) flummoxed by his new patient Fermin (veteran actor Héctor Alterio), a prickly octogenarian who communicates only in tango lyrics. As the connection between the two men grows, and as Ezequiel falls for Fermin’s dance-instructor daughter, we are transported back to Buenos Aires in the 1940s, where Fermin navigated love and betrayal as one of the city’s most popular tango dancers. Surrender to the power of Tango!

Directors: Hernán Findling & Oliver Kolker | Argentina | 2014 | 109m | Spanish w/ English subtitles

The Venice Ghetto 500 Years of Life


Q&A with Professor Benjamin Ravid

Celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Venice Ghetto

Thursday, May 12, 5:30 pm, Museum of Fine Arts

The rich story of the Jews of Venice is celebrated in this charming film, which uses an inventive mix of documentary and drama, animation, location photography, and interviews. Conjuring up 500 years of history, language, architecture, food, art, and politics—even the smells of market day—the film introduces us to Lorenzo (Laurence Olivieri), a Jewish teenager from New York, who is guided through Jewish Venice by his artist aunt (Sandra Toffolatti). Together they explore the unique character of Venetian Jewish life, which began in the 14th century when Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Levantine Jews arrived in Venice, then the center of trade between the East and West.

Director: Emanuela Giordano | Italy/France | 2015 | 54m | Italian & French w/ English subtitles

Wedding Doll 


Friday, May 20, 7:00 pm, Museum of Fine Arts

Sunday, May 22, 4:30 pm, West Newton Cinema

The radiant Moran Rosenblatt (Apples from the Dessert) won the Israeli Academy Award for her portrayal of Hagit, a dreamer who lives with her loving but protective mother Sarah (Assi Levy, Aviva My Love) in a desert town. Socially alienated by a childhood brain injury, Hagit finds escape in designing bridal gowns and miniature dolls out of leftover materials from the toilet paper factory where she works. When writer-director Nitzan Gilady (Jerusalem is Proud to Present NCJF’08) frames her against the stark amber-colored Negev desert, it is impossible not to feel Hagit’s formidable will. Winner of 2 Israeli Academy Awards (9 nominations). Winner Best Actress (Assi Levi) and Best Debut Israeli Feature Film at the Jerusalem Film Festival. “Fantastic…built on two remarkable leading performances…Rosenblatt is magnificent.” –Cinevue “Expertly drawn characters who are lovingly bound together.” –Variety

Director: Nitzan Gilady | Israel | 2015 | 82m | Hebrew w/ English subtitles