Summer Movie Nights: Films You May Have Missed
Israeli, Yiddish, American and foreign films of Jewish interest come and go quickly in theaters, at film festivals or at community center screenings. When they appear on DVD, film lovers have a second opportunity to watch some worthwhile films they would otherwise have missed. There are dramas, comedies, features and documentaries to fit all tastes, many of them award-winners—two of them Academy Award nominees. Want to know more about Brooklyn-born Woody Allen? Can’t imagine Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish? Here’s our list of the latest.
Footnote tells the story of a father and son, both Talmud scholars. When the father is mistakenly informed that he is to receive an award for his research—it is supposed to go to his son—the movie humorously explores the effect of this error on those around him, who tries to do the “right” and “ethical” thing. Writer-director Joseph Cedar looks at the uncomfortable relationship of father and son and the not-always-pleasant behavior of academics who compete for recognition. Sony Pictures Entertainment (www.sonyclassics.com). —Susan Adler
To keep the film as realistic as possible, this 144-minute work by Agnieszka Holland takes place almost completely in the dark to portray the sewers beneath Lvov, Poland, where a group of Jews is being hidden from the Nazis. Their savior, who is at first doing it for the money—is sewer worker Leopold Socha; eventually, he grows a conscience and continues to feed and care for them even after the money runs out and at his own growing risk. Based on a true story, extras include a conversation with Holland and one of the survivors. Sony Pictures Entertainment (www.sonyclassics.com). —S.A.
Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish
For her master’s degree, middle-aged nurse Ava (writer-director-star Eve Annenberg) is required to translate Romeo and Juliet into Yiddish (don’t ask why). Needing help, she hires two “nouveau hippie Jews,” “leavers” (ex-Orthodox) who have never heard of Shakespeare and whose first language is Yiddish. The hippies and their friends reenact the play in Brooklyn settings, with Satmars and Lubavitchers standing in for Capulets and Montagues, a fire escape for a balcony. Meanwhile, the young people dodge the police and dream of going to college and losing their accents. The film is crazed, raunchy and often hilarious. Nancy Fishman Film Releasing (firstname.lastname@example.org). —Renata Polt
A Dangerous Method
Sigmund Freud faces off with disciple Carl Jung in David Cronenberg’s fascinating look at the genesis of psychoanalysis. The real danger here is married Jung’s unethical affair with patient Sabina Spielrein, a Russian Jew later turned psychoanalyst herself. Viggo Mortensen’s tenacious Freud, Michael Fassbender’s deeply conflicted Jung and Keira Knightley’s complex Spielrein are standout performances in a richly satisfying film. Sony Pictures Classics (www.sonyclassics.com). —Jules Becker
A Matter of Size
This humorous film shows how to make lemonade out of lemons, as overweight Israeli men are convinced to ditch their diet group and take up sumo wrestling instead. Being big, strong and competitive gives these friends a new lease on life. Menemsha Films (www.menemshafilms.com). —Susan Adler
The Thomashefskys: Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater
In case you didn’t know it, Michael Tilson Thomas is a chip off the old block. In this documentary, the charming music director of the San Francisco and Miami New World symphonies is the perfect host to celebrate the lives and theatrical accomplishments of his Ukrainian-born grandparents, Bessie and Boris Thomashefsky. Both together and separately, they were major stars—Boris founded the first Yiddish theater and Bessie spoke up for women’s rights (www.thomashefsky.org). —Zelda Shluker
Woody Allen: A Documentary
This two-disc film biography scans the eccentric filmmaker’s life, born Allan Stewart Konigsberg, from his early days writing gags for newspapers, comics, publicists, then for Catskill revues and the Sid Caesar show. His later success as comedian and movie mogul surprises Allen himself, who directed a movie yearly for four decades, many of which are excerpted in the documentary. Filmmaker Robert Weide interviews Allen’s sister, actors, directors and film critics, following Allen to Cannes, his old Brooklyn neighborhood and into his current home where he brainstorms story ideas from the same typewriter he used at age 16. Docurama Films (www.docuramafilms.com). —Sara Trappler Spielman
The Human Turbine
The Palestinian residents of Susia were evicted from their homes when their village was designated a Mishnaic heritage site. Forbidden to build houses, they remained and began to live in caves adjacent to a new Israeli settlement with modern apartments and a municipal swimming pool. A small band of Israeli scientists and intellectuals determined to normalize the Palestinians’ precarious future by helping them construct a wind turbine; the machine generates enough electricity to run a refrigerator and bring light to the caves, allowing the adults to earn a living selling cheese and the children to study at night. Ruth Diskin Films (www.ruthfilms.com). —Judith Gelman Myers