While I've seen many of the films at the New York Jewish Film Festival some of the films have defied my efforts to turn in full reviews. To that end I present some capsule reviews:
Hour long portrait of Regina Jonas (1902-1944) the first female rabbi in the world. The film is a very good portrait of a specific time and place and a person I never knew existed. One has to admire her drive to do what she felt was God's work. My sole complaint film about the film is that there is too much slow motion imagery which I know was used to evoke a time gone by but what it does is simply slows the film way down do that it feels much longer than it's 63 minutes. Worth a look.
Plays January 13 and 15
When Jews Were Funny (2013)
Alan Zweig's discussion about the influence of Jewish comedians in popular culture. Full of interviews and clips of comedians over the last several decades the film is frequently funny.
Unfortunately the film suffers in two areas. First if you have any sort of interest in the history of comedy you probably know most of the history here. Yes, there are are new stories and jokes but odds are you know most of this already.
The other problem is that director Zweig makes some major missteps. First he isn't a good interviewer, asking frequently obvious questions or questions that just lie there or get non-answers (I don't have an answer for that or I don't know what you're asking me is a frequent refrain). At other times his subject berates him for not listening to what they are saying. Personally I wanted to smack him.
A funny film but I'd wait for TV.
Plays January 9
Lonely Planet (2011)
A documentary crew investigates the story of Mishka Zilberstein who spent three years living with wolves during the Second World War.
Strange blending of fact and fiction is the sort of film you either buy into or you don't. Gorgeous real life images of traveling through along the Trans Siberian Railway mix with sequences that are staged. It plays like a weird found footage film where some sequences are very much head scratchers or knowingly obtuse. Its a kind of absurdist documentary.
To be honest 20 minutes in I was done and tuned out much of the rest of the film. While I was enjoying the scenery the staged material left me cold. For whatever reason I simply couldn't click with the film. The mixing of real and stage material just didn't work for me.
I have no idea what your reaction will be but I suggest proceeding with caution.
Plays January 9
Amy Winehouse: The Day She Came to Dingle (2012)
BBC Arena documentary about when Amy Winehouse went to Dingle in Ireland to record an episode of the The Other Voices TV series.Wonderful portrait of not only a singer and her music but also the village of Dingle. I don't know what to say other than if you are a fan of the late Ms Winehouse you owe it to yourself to see this short documentary (it runs an hour)
It plays January 14 and 15
Zigzag Kid (2012)
Amusing family film about a young boy who is being trained by his police inspector father to follow in his footsteps. When he’s sent away by his dad on the eve of his bar mitzvah he soon finds himself on the trail of a mystery which will impact his life. Better than most recent American family films of the last few years this romp is a great way to spend an afternoon at the movies. Might I suggest January 12 when this plays?