What to Watch: Film Festival Highlights
It’s that time of year, when Jewish film festivals get off the ground across the United States. Among the communities hosting festivals in January and February are: Atlanta (Jan. 24 -Feb. 15 ), San Diego (Feb. 8 -18), Tucson (Jan. 11-21), Palm Beach (Jan. 18-Feb. 11), Washington, D.C., (Winter season, Jan. 16 -Feb. 20) and New York (Jan 10 -23). And though there are many worthy offerings on the festivals’ schedules (check websites for specific films and showings), here are some movies that are earning buzz as must-sees.
Films about World War II and its aftermath: The powerful and lyrical Hungarian-made 1945 (see our review), about a father and son returning to their village after the war, has received praise from critics and viewers. The Testament is a somber procedural about a Jewish historian’s struggle to force the Austrian government both to admit to the massacre of 200 Jewish laborers in the waning days of World War II and to prevent developers from building on their mass grave. Claude Lanzmann’s documentary series Four Sisters, films about four women survivors from different areas of Eastern Europe, are complementary pieces to the director’s epic Shoah.
Dramas and thrillers from Israel: Foxtrot is Israel’s entry into the Oscars’ 2018 foreign language category. Director Samuel Maoz’s tense, beautifully shot absurdist film follows parents who are told that their soldier son was killed on duty (read our full review). A tender melodrama, The Cakemaker unites a gay baker from Berlin and an Israeli widow who both grieve over the same man. Friendship develops between Mossad agent Naomi and Mona, the Lebanese informer under Naomi’s protection in the noir thriller Shelter. Also of note: A comedy, Holy Air, about a Nazareth family man who comes up with a unique business scheme—hawking bottles of blessed air from a sacred mountain.
Among the documentaries exploring famous names from the past: Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, which reveals the brilliant contributions the 1930s starlet and Austrian Jewish émigré made to America’s battle in World War II. Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me explores the considerable charms of the famed 20th-century singer, dancer, actor and convert to Judaism.