The Jewish Museum and Film at Lincoln Center will present the 31st annual New York Jewish Film Festival (NYJFF) in person and virtually from January 12 through 25, 2022. Among the oldest and most influential Jewish film festivals worldwide, NYJFF presents the finest documentary, narrative, and short films from around the world that explore the Jewish experience.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, the 2021 festival was presented exclusively online. The 2022 edition will feature both in-person screenings at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street, NYC) and virtual offerings. The NYJFF lineup showcases 33 wide-ranging and exciting features and shorts (24 features and nine shorts), including the latest works by dynamic voices in international cinema, as well as the world premiere of a new 4K restoration of the 1984 film Kaddish by Steve Brand.
In the Opening film, Neighbours, 6-year-old Sero and his family live in a Kurdish community near the Syrian/Turkish border in the early 1980s. He’s extremely fond of his Jewish neighbors, but perplexed when a new teacher propagates fiery nationalism and antisemitism. Director Mano Khalil mines childhood experiences with a welcome sense of humor while drawing parallels with contemporary refugee crises.
This year’s Centerpiece film is Sin La Habana, winner of the award for Best Canadian Film at the 2021 Vancouver International Film Festival. In the film, a salsa dance instructor and his girlfriend, a lawyer, seek to escape Cuba by any means, ensnaring an Iranian-Jewish woman in their plot. Writer/director/composer Kaveh Nabatian, himself Iranian-Canadian, offers a lyrical and deeply felt meditation on cross-cultural relationships, with their attendant gulfs of religion and background, further complicated by the hidden agendas of all concerned parties.
The Closing selection is Rose, featuring a career-crowning turn from screen legend Françoise Fabian (star of the 1969 classic My Night at Maud’s). Suddenly widowed at 78, family matriarch Rose learns to pursue her desires, rejecting the societal pressure to “act her age” and fade into benign oblivion. Actress and screenwriter Aurélie Saada makes her directorial debut with this life-affirming reminder that it’s never too late to seek fulfillment. Rose took home the Variety Piazza Grande Award at the 2021 Locarno Film Festival.
Several notable highlights in this year’s festival are: A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff, The Lost Film of Nuremberg, Tiger Within, and The Will to See.
Set on Wall Street in 2008, A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff offers a singularly creative perspective on financial fraud. Musician/poet Alicia Jo Rabins plays herself, obsessing over Madoff and the capitalist system that enabled him, in this head-spinning hybrid of fantasy, music, and personal memoir.
Adapted from Sandra Schulberg’s essay “Filmmakers for the Prosecution,” The Lost Film of Nuremberg retraces THE HUNT by Hollywood filmmakers Budd and Stuart Schulberg for film evidence that could convict the Nazis at the Nuremberg Trial. Seventy-five years after the trial, French journalist and filmmaker Jean-Christophe Klotz uncovers never-before-seen footage, and interviews key figures to unravel why the resulting film about the trial was intentionally buried by the U.S. Department of War.
The late Edward Asner demonstrates his versatility yet again in one of his final roles in Rafael Zielinski’s Tiger Within. Asner portrays Samuel, a Holocaust survivor who develops an unlikely friendship with a troubled teenage runaway who sports a swastika on her jacket. The film sparkles with the genuinely surprising chemistry between its sublime leads, over 75 years apart in age.
The eye-opening essay film, The Will to See, grew out of writer, activist, and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy’s journalistic coverage of places where human suffering predominates. Journeying from Mogadishu, Somalia, “a ghost town abandoned to the warlords,” to Nigeria, where Christians are massacred with impunity, Lévy spotlights locations the world cannot afford to keep ignoring.
Cinema Sabaya, Orit Fouks Rotem. Nine women of divergent backgrounds from Hadera, Israel, who are Jewish and Arab, observant and secular, enroll in a filmmaking seminar which serves as the setting for this deft study of art’s capacity to unite disparate communities.
The End of Love, Keren Ben Rafael. Julie and Yuval, a couple living in Paris with their new baby, are parted when Yuval must return to Israel to renew his visa. This pre-pandemic account of technology’s role in a long-distance relationship poignantly foreshadows our reliance on screens to maintain connections.
Grossman, Adi Arbel. In this captivating and insightful documentary, Israeli author and peace activist David Grossman speaks eloquently on the nexus of art and existence.
The Last Chapter of A.B. Yehoshua, Yair Qedar. A.B. Yehoshua, “the Israeli Faulkner,” shares his late-period reflections, emerging as a living testament to wholehearted engagement with the world.
Labyrinth of Peace, Mike Schaerer. In Mike Schaerer’s illuminating and handsomely produced miniseries, three youths face bitter realities in post-World War II Switzerland, learning that war leaves no one untouched.
Beregovsky #136, Yoav Potash. This beguiling short accompanies archival footage of prewar Jewish life with a recent, live, outdoor performance by Saul Goodman’s Klezmer Band, shot in Berkeley, California.
The Violin Upstairs, Asali Echols. Filmmaker Asali Echols utilizes animation to recount the provenance of her beloved violin, from its origins in 18th century Austria to its present existence in San Francisco.
Mazel Tov, Eli Zuzovsky. Bar mitzvahs signify the arrival of adulthood, but 13-year-old Adam Weizmann must grow up extra quickly, as his coming-of-age ritual coincides with a war, family turmoil, and Adam’s apprehension of his sexuality.
The NYJFF will also present the World Premiere of the new 4K digital restoration of Steve Brands’ Kaddish, an engaging chronicle of a Hungarian Holocaust survivor’s son that reveals 1980s New York and activist Yossi Klein Halevi in his formative years.
In addition, the festival includes Special Program: Tribute to Pearl Bowser (presented virtually), focusing on the celebrated film scholar, author, archivist, educator, activist, filmmaker, and independent distributor. Harlem-raised Pearl Bowser is a stalwart champion of independent film and filmmakers of color. Alongside her late colleagues, psychologist and artist Mel Roman, and Charles Hobson, producer-writer at ABC-TV, Bowser researched and curated a landmark retrospective at the Jewish Museum in 1970 called “The Black Film,” igniting a new wave of enduring interest in exhibiting, producing, and engaging with African American cinema beyond borders.
She has spent her multifaceted career cultivating audiences for marginalized voices in motion pictures, particularly with her groundbreaking work on early 1900s Black film pioneer Oscar Micheaux. This virtual tribute program includes a recent short-film interview with Bowser and several films, including Body and Soul (1925) by Oscar Micheaux, which features Paul Robeson in his acting debut.
See below for the slate of films with full descriptions and schedule. Dates for Q&A sessions to be announced. Watch a preview from the programmers on the 2022 edition here.
The films for the 2022 New York Jewish Film Festival were selected by Rachel Chanoff, Director, THE OFFICE performing arts + film; Lisa Collins, filmmaker and programmer, digital journalist, and special events producer; Indigo Sparks, performance artist, writer, and arts administrator; and 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, and Dan Sullivan, Assistant Programmer, Film at Lincoln Center, as advisers.