Monday, January 17, 2011

New York Jewish Film Festival 2011


Mahler on the Couch

20th New York Jewish Film Festival
January 12-27, 2011
Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street

Since it began two decades ago, the New York Jewish Film Festival has been the place to see films addressing Jewish history and culture, and this year’s edition is no different.

Opening night’s Mahler on the Couch might be dime-store psycho-analysis of the great Austrian composer‘s troubled marriage, but directors Percy and Felix Adlon recreate a meeting between Gustav Mahler and Sigmund Freud with equal parts melodrama, humor and Mahler’s glorious music (mostly the Adagio from his unfinished tenth symphony). Johannes Silberschneider (Mahler) and Karl Markova (Freud) give strong portrayals, and Barbara Romaner makes Alma Mahler a believable (and very sensual) femme fatale.

Raymond Ley’s Eichmann’s End, a hybrid of documentary and dramatization, follows the trail of Mossad agents who followed the infamous war criminal to Argentina. We hear testimony from those who came into contact with or were instrumental in tracking down the Nazi alongside recreated true events, including the affair between Eichmann’s son and a young Argentine Jew. Intermittently powerful, Eichmann’s End is too propagandistic to be truly effective (and affecting).

A trio of documentaries is well worth seeking out. Eytan Harris’ As Lilith tells the heartrending story of an Israeli mother ostracized for hoping to cremate the remains of her 14-year-old daughter—who committed suicide by hanging herself. It’s eye-opening watching Lilith do what she thinks best even if it goes against the traditions of her faith.

In Convoys of Shame, an account of how the national French railroad, SNCF, shamefully became a ready-made conveyance for many Jews to the death camps, director RaphaĆ«l Delpard ponders the moral dilemma of an institution that today scarcely admits its complicity with the Nazis. And Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray, Jonathan Gruber’s documentary about how Jews served in both the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War, brings to light a little-known aspect of American history.

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