Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

15th New York Jewish Film Festival Settles in at Lincoln Center

Festival season is officially back in swing in the city, where the New York Jewish Film Festival fires up tonight at Lincoln Center. For 2006, the event’s programmers have locked up two world premieres, five U.S. premieres and 16 New York premieres from more than a dozen countries–not bad for a festival that started 15 years ago screening eight films over the course of a week.
“I’m really excited about this year’s program,” festival director Aviva Weintraub told The Reeler in a conversation late last week. “I mean, it feels extremely international–which it always is–but we’ve got some entires from countries that we don’t often have represented. We have a terrific short from Mexico (Jai), and our opening film, Live and Become (above), is beautiful. The director, Radu Mihaileanu, was born in Romania, but the film is a French-Israeli co-production, and it’s about an Ethiopian boy who’s sent to Israel. It’s a very moving drama.”
Adding to the international mix are the festival’s two world premieres, both documentaries looking at the Iranian Jewish experience. Love Iranian-American Style follows good-humored filmmaker Tanaz Eshaghian around New York and “Irangeles” as her family pushes her toward marriage, while Ramin Farahani’s Jews of Iran looks closer at the lives of Persian Jews who stayed in Iran after 1979’s Islamic Revolution. Farahani’s presentation of his film will mark the first-ever appearance by an Iranian filmmaker at the festival.
Among the New York documentary premieres are Erik Greenberg Anjou’s A Cantor’s Tale–about a Brooklynite who inherits the celebrated cantorial tradition of Eastern Europe–and Jerry Blumenthal and Gordon Quinn’s follow up to their 1988 New York Film Festival entry Golub. The duo’s latest, Golub: Late Works Are the Catastrophes, chronicles the last months of the trailblazing artist’s life in 2004. Another notable New York doc, Ira Wohl’s Best Sister, returns to the family thread Wohl followed through his Oscar-winning Best Boy and Best Man.

In conjunction with the Jewish Museum‘s Sarah Bernhardt: The Art of High Drama exhibiton, festival organizers also programmed a pair of little-seen Bernhardt films from 1912 (Queen Elizabeth and Lady of the Camelias). But even the rare Bernhardt pictures have likely been viewed more frequently than some of the festival’s more contemporary selections. “We try to show as many premieres as possible,” Weintraub said. “Any film that’s had a theatrical release, we don’t show in the festival. Our emphasis is always on bringing new films to New York, and some of them do go on after the festival to have theatrical releases. For some of them, we turn out to be the only venue to have presented them.”
Aditional screenings branch out into the Jewish Museum and Makor as well, so get your running shoes on and plan ahead–you have 16 days to take advantage, and it goes fast. And you know it is never too early to get back in shape for that long festival grind. At least not in this town.

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“Roger Ebert claimed that the re-editing of The Brown Bunny after Cannes allowed him a difference of opinion so vast that he first called it the worst film in history and eventually gave it a thumbs up. This is both far fetched and an outright lie. The truth is, unlike the many claims that the unfinished film that showed at Cannes was 24 minutes shorter than the finished film, it was only 8 minutes shorter. The running time I filled out on the Cannes submission form was arbitrary. The running time I chose was just a number I liked. I had no idea where in the process I would actually be when I needed to stop cutting to meet the screening deadline. So whatever running time was printed in the program, I promise you, was not the actual running time. And the cuts I made to finish the film after Cannes were not many. I shortened the opening race scene once I was able to do so digitally. After rewatching the last 4 minutes of the film over and over again, somewhere within those 4 minutes, I froze the picture and just ended the film there, cutting out everything after that point, which was about 3 minutes. Originally in the salt flats scene, the motorcycle returned from the white. I removed the return portion of that shot, which seemed too literal. And I cut a scene of me putting on a sweater. That’s pretty much it. Plus the usual frame here, frame there, final tweaks. If you didn’t like the unfinished film at Cannes, you didn’t like the finished film, and vice versa. Roger Ebert made up his story and his premise because after calling my film literally the worst film ever made, he eventually realized it was not in his best interest to be stuck with that mantra. Stuck with a brutal, dismissive review of a film that other, more serious critics eventually felt differently about. He also took attention away from what he actually did at the press screening. It is outrageous that a single critic disrupted a press screening for a film chosen in main competition at such a high profile festival and even more outrageous that Ebert was ever allowed into another screening at Cannes. His ranting, moaning and eventual loud singing happened within the first 20 minutes, completely disrupting and manipulating the press screening of my film. Afterwards, at the first public screening, booing, laughing and hissing started during the open credits, even before the first scene of the film. The public, who had heard and read rumors about the Ebert incident and about me personally, heckled from frame one and never stopped. To make things weirder, I got a record-setting standing ovation from the supporters of the film who were trying to show up the distractors who had been disrupting the film. It was not the cut nor the film itself that drew blood. It was something suspicious about me. Something offensive to certain ideologues.”
~ Vincent Gallo

“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
~ Jodie Foster