New York Jewish Film Festival program to highlight films by women

Pat Steir: Artist by Veronica Gonzalez Peña
Pat Steir: Artist by Veronica Gonzalez Peña

Have a case of the winter blues? Get out and see a film festival! The New York Jewish Film Festival runs from January 9-22 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Out of the 22 feature films playing at the festival, eight are by women directors.

“The number has increased from last year’s festival, which included two feature films directed by women directors (The Last Goldfinch directed by Sue Goldfinch and The Prince and the Dybbuk directed by Piotr Rosolowski and Elwira Niewiera),” said Daniela Stigh, director of communications for the New York Jewish Film Festival. “The 2017 NYJFF included 20 main slate films, of which nine were directed by women.”

When asked if the festival was trying to get more females to participate in the festival Stigh said, “Every year the New York Jewish Film Festival selection committee searches for new films from around the world that explore the diverse Jewish experience. And every year the new films that are available at the time of the NYJFF vary.  Some years we find more new films than others directed by women.”

This year, the festival inaugurated a new annual program that highlights films made by women that deserve broader American recognition. This year’s highlight is Camera Obscura (2008) by Maria Victoria Menis. The movie (Argentina, 2008, 86 min. Spanish and Yiddish with English subtitles) tells the story of an immigrant woman whose encounter with an itinerant photographer reveals a sense of self she never knew. The film was shot in the lush forests and lagoons of Buenos Aires province in a mélange of visual styles, including elements of hand-drawn animation, World War I archival footage, and early surrealist black-and-white films.

The other women-directed films at this year’s festival include:
Fig Tree by Aäläm‐Wärqe Davidian (Photo credit: Black Sheep Film Productionsav Medien PenroseEn Compagnie Des Lamas)

Chasing Portraits by Elizabeth Rynecki (USA/Canada/Israel/Poland, 2018, 78 min. English and Polish with English subtitles N.Y. Premiere) is the compelling story of the director’s quest to uncover the fate of her great-grandfather’s paintings, dispersed after the Holocaust.

Fig Tree by Aäläm‐Wärqe Davidian (Israel/Germany/France/Ethiopia, 2018, 93 min. Amharic with English subtitles U.S. Premiere) is set in Addis Ababa during the Ethiopian Civil War, and concerns a young woman who plans to flee to Israel with her brother to reunite with their mother. But she is unwilling to leave her Christian boyfriend behind and hatches a scheme to save him from being drafted.

The Light of Hope by Silvia Quer (Spain, 2018, 96 min. Spanish, Catalan, and French with English subtitles N.Y. Premiere) is based on the true story of Elisabeth Eidenbenz, who as director of the Elne maternity home in the south of France saved the lives of 600 infants during the Spanish Civil War and World War II.

Mohamed and Anna: In Plain Sight by Taliya Finkel (Germany/Israel, 2017, 58 min. English U.S. Premiere) is the remarkable story of an Egyptian doctor who saved a Jewish woman from the Nazis by disguising her as a Muslim, putting himself at great personal risk.

Pat Steir: Artist by Veronica Gonzalez Peña (USA, 2018, 74 min. English World Premiere) is an intimate portrait of the groundbreaking painter and feminist.

Seder Masochism by Nina Paley (USA, 2018, 78 min. English, French, Bulgarian, Hebrew, and Aramaic with English subtitles N.Y. Premiere) is a playful and imaginative retelling of the Book of Exodus in musical form.

Who Will Write Our History by Roberta Grossman (Poland/USA, 2018, 95 min. English, Polish, and Yiddish with English subtitles N.Y. Premiere) is about the group of scholars, journalists, and community leaders in the Warsaw ghetto that conducted a secret effort to document the fate of the 450,000 Jews sealed within.

The festival features a total of 32 wide-ranging and exciting features and shorts. Screenings are held at the Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street, NYC.

NYJFF tickets may be purchased online or in person at the Film Society’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and Walter Reade Theater box offices, 144 & 165 West 65th Street. For complete festival information, visit

© Lisa Iannucci (1/09/18) FF2 Media

Featured photo: Seder Masochism by Nina Paley (Photo credit: Nina Paley)
Tags: Camera Obscura, Chasing Portraits, Fig Tree, Mohamed and Anna, New York Jewish Film Festival, Pat Steir, The Light of Hope, Who Will Write Our History

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