Brief Reviews: Finding Love and Seeking Justice
The emotions and setting of this Polish film are dark indeed, as it re-creates the experiences of a dozen Jewish men, women and children hidden for 18 months in the sewers under Lvov during Nazi occupation. Director Agnieszka Holland (Europa, Europa) depicts both strengths and weaknesses of victims and an unlikely savior, a Catholic sewage worker and part-time thief. Sony Pictures Classics (www.indarknessfilm.com). —Tom Tugend
Four years before Daphni Leef set up her tent in Rothschild Boulevard, Nadav Lapid wrote this script concerning a group of wealthy sabras protesting the obscene income gap between the few tycoons who control the Israeli economy and the struggling middle class. The film’s title refers to the supermacho head of an antiterrorist unit who is unprepared to deal with rich, blue-eyed, blond kids who commit terror. Laila Films Ltd. (email@example.com). —Judith Gelman Myers
Left catatonic after nearly being beaten to death by boys in his village, Morad is taken to Eilat for dolphin therapy—a radical treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder—in the hopes that the animals’ ability to bond with humans will help the boy learn to trust again. The astonishing human-animal relationship pales next to the unconditional love Morad gets from his father, who leaves job and family to help heal his son. Written, directed and produced by Dani Menkin and Yonatan Nir. First Hand Films (www.dolphinboyfilm.com). —J.G.M.
Hannah, a Jew, and Tomasz, a political prisoner, meet and fall in love in a Polish concentration camp. Daringly, they escape but are soon parted, each believing the other to be dead. Thirty-two years later, Hannah, now a wife and mother living in New York, sees a man she believes to be Tomasz on television and becomes obsessed with finding him. Moving expertly between 1944 and 1976, Anna Justice’s complex and satisfying film provides equal suspense in both eras (www.annajustice.de). —Renata Polt
Based on an actual incident in the run- up to the Hitler-staged 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, the film centers on German Jewish athlete Gretel Bergmann, one of the world’s top women high jumpers. Facing the threat of an American boycott of the games if Jews were barred from the German team, Bergmann became a pawn in the high-stake Nazi machinations. The realism is heightened by newsreel footage but deviates from the facts in a key subplot. Directed by Kaspar Heidelbach. Corinth Films (www.corinthreleasing.com). —T.T.
Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women
Eighteen women who since the 1970s have shaped graphic storytelling share their cartoon drawings and excerpts, graphic novels and comic books. Among them are Vanessa Davis, Aline Komensky-Crumb and Miss Lasko-Gross (above, self-portrait). Depicted is the discovery of identity while on Birthright Israel, a struggle with repeated miscarriages and wearing a risqué dress to a high school dance. A thought-provoking video is based on Bernice Eisenstein’s book I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors. Through April 15 at Yeshiva University Museum, New York (www.yumuseum.org). —Sara Trappler Spielman
Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace
This eye-opening documentary reveals behind-the-scenes connections and political risks that led to the Egypt-Israel peace treaty of 1979. Aside from the principals—Jimmy Carter, Anwar el Sadat and Menahem Begin—there were numerous known and unknown players (described by Carter adviser Leon Charney and journalist Wolf Blitzer), from Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania and Austria’s Bruno Kreisky to Morocco’s King Hassan and others. A Channel Production Film (www.backdoorchannels.com). —Zelda Shluker
By 2005, Israel’s public television station, Channel One, had become little more than a vehicle for state propaganda. That’s when filmmakers Doron Tsabari and Ori Onbar teamed up to break the Knesset’s hold on what should have been the voice of the people. The two filmed their struggle, and Revolution 101 is the fascinating result. It is a portrait of men willing to give up everything in service of a “doomed” cause. Guerilla Films (www.ruthfilms.com). —J.G.M.
A sensitive, funny and tragic film on life and death in a Mexican Jewish family, Nora’s Will deservedly won seven Mexican Academy Awards. First-time director Mariana Chenillo probes the hidden mistakes and misunderstandings that run through marriages and other relationships. Menemsha Films (www.menemshafilms.com). —T.T.
What is in a surname? At www.nameyourroots.com, it may be a link to a lost Sefardic past. The new English-, Spanish- and Portuguese-language site is dedicated to helping those who suspect their ancestors may be Crypto-Jews (Jews forced to convert during the Spanish Inquisition). Visitors can search an extensive database by family name. If a match is found, NameYourRoots e-mails a report with information on the surname and its Jewish connections. The site, a first step in what may be a life-changing discovery, includes historical information, links to useful organizations and video clips that feature personal stories from those who have found their Jewish roots. —Leah F. Finkelshteyn