CJFF Films

10th Annual Columbus Jewish Film Festival - November 2-16, 2014

The Art of Spiegelman

Directed by Clara Kuperberg & Joelle Oosterlinck, 2010, 43 min., France; French and English with subtitles.

In 1991, one of the key figures in American underground comics, Art Spiegelman, published his graphic novel Maus. Groundbreaking in both style and form, the emotionally raw Maus imagined a conversation between the alienated Spiegelman and his traumatized father Vladek, a Holocaust survivor. The stark black-and-white panels which portray the Jews as mice and the Germans as cats, drew critical raves and massive sales. Eventually Maus won Art Spiegelman a coveted Pulitzer, the first ever for a graphic novel. The documentary traces his journey from his childhood obsession with all things comic to his resurgence with the outrageous covers he created for the New Yorker.

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Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy

Directed by Michael Kantor, 2012, 90 min., USA; English

From the golden age of Gershwin, and Rodgers and Hammerstein, to more recent Broadway standouts as Sondheim, Streisand and Stephen Schwartz, the rousing anthems and timeless ballads of the Broadway stage were created almost exclusively by Jewish Americans.  Illuminating conversations with preeminent talents such as John Kander, Harold Prince and Mel Brooks are interspersed with performances from shows including Fiddler on the Roof, The Producers, Funny Girl, Cabaret, Gypsy and Wicked.  Narrated by Joel Grey.

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Every Tuesday: A Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists

Directed by Rachel Loube, 2012, 21 min., USA; English

Presented in partnership with The Ohio State University Film Studies Program, The Ohio State University Hillel, Wexner Center for the Arts and The Leventhal Visiting Artists Program

The New Yorker Magazine is famous for its pithy, witty, and occasionally incomprehensible single-panel cartoons. The cartoons are well known, but the cartoonists are not. This film follows four of them-Sidney Harris, Emily Flake, Drew Dernavich, and Zack Kanin-through their creative process and their weekly shared lunch.

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God’s Neighbors

Directed by Meni Yaesh, 2012, 98 min., France/Israel; English, German, Hebrew with subtitles

Presented in partnership with The Leventhal Fund of the Columbus Jewish Foundation

A group of religious young men in Israel proudly take it upon themselves to “supervise” their neighborhood of Bat Yam.  Although under the guiding influence of a charismatic rabbi, their behavior is less than pious.  Following the rules of the street, they are not afraid to fight to ensure that religious laws are followed.  When Avi, the group’s leader, falls in love with a young non-religious woman, he begins to question his own righteousness. An edgy, complex and moving portrait of young men trying to navigate the religious and secular worlds.

A prize winner at numerous international film festivals including Cannes and Jerusalem. Nominated for 9 Israeli Academy Awards.

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Joe Papp in Five Acts

Directed by Tracie Holder & Karen Thorsen, 2012, 84 min., USA; English

Raised from humble beginnings in Brooklyn, the streetwise producer-director Joseph Papp set out to democratize theater for audiences of every ethnic and socioeconomic background, mounting free outdoor Shakespeare plays (to later become New York’s beloved Shakespeare in the Park) and founding the Public Theater. This radical and tumultuous personality introduced colorblind casting, nurtured emerging playwrights, fostered countercultural plays like Hair, and revolutionized commercial theater with the Broadway smash hit A Chorus Line.

Featuring scenes from his greatest stage works and testimonials from such collaborators as Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Kevin Kline and James Earl Jones.

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Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald

Directed by Rob Cohen, 2012, 87 min., USA/Israel/Czech Republic/Germany

Established in 1937, Buchenwald was one of the largest and most well known German concentrations camps.  Among the population was a large and growing number of teenage boys, many who had lost family members in the ghettos and camps of Nazi-occupied Poland or in the Hungarian deportations to Auschwitz-Birkenau.  The German Communist –led underground at Buchenwald, which administered the camp on a day-to-day basis, made a conscious decision to do anything to protect the youths.  They established a children’s block, Block 66; locating the barrack furthest away from the main gate and Nazi SS gaze. The block leaders watched and cared for these children as best as possible, seeing in these youths hope for the future.  On April 11, 1945, Buchenwald was liberated. Nearly 1,000 boys survived.  On April 11, 2010, several of the surviving boys found the courage to return to Buchenwald.

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Lost Town

Directed by Jeremy Goldscheider, 2013, 85 min., USA/Ukraine/Israel/Poland/Brazil;

Deep in Western Ukraine, in a clearing surrounded by forests and farmland, there once was a town called Trochenbrod.  Founded in 1835 as a farming colony, by 1938 the town’s exclusively Jewish population had grown to 3,000.  Then, in 1942, Trochenbrod was decimated by the Nazis.  Seventy years later, Avrom Bendavid-Val, whose father grew up in Trochenbrod, continues to dedicate his life to piecing together the town’s history.  He travels the world to interview former residents, visits the site dozens of times and teases out scraps of information from locals about the daily life of this community.    First made famous by Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Everything is Illuminated, Trochenbrod was the only all Jewish town to ever exist outside of Palestine.  The town’s 3,000 Jews were obliterated by the Nazi’s, except for 33 people who escaped the massacre.  Several of those survivors and their descendants have lived here in Columbus, Ohio.

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Simon and The Oaks

Directed by Lisa Ohlin, 2011, 122 min., Denmark/Germany/Norway/Sweden; English, German & Hebrew with subtitles

An epic coming of age drama spanning the years 1939 to 1952, this is the gripping story of Simon, who grows up in the loving working class family on the outskirts of Gothenburg.  Intellectually gifted, he stubbornly persists in acquiring an education normally reserved for young men of professional classes.  He finally convinces his father to send him to an upper-class grammar school, where he meets Isak, the son of a wealthy Jewish bookseller who has fled Nazi persecution in Germany.  As Swedish anti-Semitism surges, circumstances force the contrasting households to merge into a single makeshift surrogate family that forms and breaks alliances in unexpected ways.

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Sukkah City

Directed by Jason Hutt, 2013, USA; English  

Consider the humble sukkah. Intended to be used for only a few days as a symbolic shelter from the elements while observing the harvest holiday of Sukkot, sukkahs are by their nature designed to be built and disassembled quickly. As a consequence, little thought is given to aesthetics. New York–based journalist Joshua Foer and his colleague

Roger Bennett sought to radically shift the perception of what constitutes a sukkah by staging an international architectural competition. Their goal? To stun the sensibilities of their fellow New Yorkers by erecting a temporary sukkah city in New York’s Union Square. Sukkah Citychronicles the process under which the entrants were judged and the drama that ensued as the winning design teams shifted from concept to construction. Featuring luminaries such as Michael Arad, designer of the World Trade Center Memorial; Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for the New Yorker; celebrated author and artist Maira Kalman; and the venerable Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Sukkah City invites you to walk with the 200,000 people who wandered through Union Square one weekend in September 2010 to marvel at sukkahs made from a dizzying array of materials including cardboard signs, wire, twine, tree trunks, reeds and glass. Once you watch Sukkah City you’ll never look at a sukkah the same way again.

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Directed by Rudolf van den Berg, 2012, 118 min., Netherlands; Dutch with subtitles

The gripping true story of Walter Suskind, the Jewish industrialist who saved hundreds of Dutch children from death camps.   The German born Suskind flees to Amsterdam as the Nazis begin institutionalizing anti-Semitism and joins the local Jewish Council charged with the devil’s work of overseeing the orderly transfer of fellow Jews.  He exploits his position to protect his family and maneuvers 600 children to safety.  When a weak-minded SS commandant realizes his cat and mouse friendship with Suskind has been betrayed, the Nazis ruthlessly exact revenge.

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Two Sided Story

Directed by Tor Ben Mayor, 2012, 75 min.; Israel/Palestine

Presented in partnership with Noor Islamic Cultural Center, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Atid-Jewish Federation of Columbus, Tifereth Israel, and Temple Israel

27 Israelis and Palestinians meet under the frame of a unique project called “History through the Human Eye” led by the Parents Circle-Families Forum- bereaved Palestinian and Israelis for Peace and Reconciliation.  The project’s goal is to acknowledge the narrative of the other.   Among them include bereaved families, Orthodox Jews, religious Muslims, settlers, ex soldiers, ex security prisoners, citizens of the Gaza strip, kibbutz members, second generation holocaust survivors and non violent activists.  Each one holds his own historical truth, and carries with him his own emotional baggage.  They are not trying to convince each other that their narrative is right, nor are they seeking a political solution.  They have simply been asked to listen, to clarify the differences between how they grasp reality and how they see the other side.  The participants offer us an insight into their inner world.

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The World is Funny

Directed by Shemi Zarhin, 2012, 127 min., Israel; Hebrew with subtitles

Budding writer Zafi has trouble composing endings to her stories.  Instructed by her workshop leader to write about “people with secrets, lies, wounds and diseases”, she uses her housecleaning jobs to sniff out interesting tales.  The narratives she collects and ties together is the story of estranged siblings in the quiet, little town of Tiberias.

This whimsical tragicomedy ambitiously weaves together an impressive Israeli cast and multiple storylines about family and the power of art and imagination in the face of despair.  Israel’s number one box office hit of 2012.

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The ZigZag Kid

Directed by Vincent Bal, 2013, 95 min., Belgium/Netherlands; English, Dutch & French with subtitles.

A witty, spirited and action packed adventure about an almost thirteen year old boy named Nono. Nono longs to be a great detective like his father, but his rich imagination and wild nature constantly get him into trouble.  When one of his creative hijinks sets off a pyrotechnic chain reaction at his cousin’s bar mitzvah, his father sends him off to his uncle to be disciplined again.  Once on the train, the over-imaginative boy discovers one last chance to prove himself.  Together with a charming international thief, an old acquaintance of his father’s, Nono travels to the French Riviera and enters a world of disguises and crazy pursuits crossing paths with the famous singer Lola Ciperola and Zohara, a mysterious woman whose secrets will forever change Nono’s life.

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