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YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Neal Slavin
TIME: 104 min 35mm
SOURCE: Paramount Classics 5555 Melrose Avenue, Chevalier Bldg. Hollywood, CA 90038 USA Phone 323 956 2000 Fax 323 862 1103
TEXT: Based on Arthur Miller's novel of the same name, Focus tells the story of a husband and wife mistakenly identified as Jews by their Brooklyn neighbors during the waning days of World War II. William H. Macy (Oscar nominee for Fargo) gives a stellar performance as the milquetoast husband who finds his backbone with the help of his new wife (Laura Dern). Musician Meatloaf Aday plays the anti-Semitic bully next door, while David Paymer (Quiz Show) is a Jewish newsstand owner who takes the brunt of the neighbors' hatred. In his directorial debut, Neal Slavin uses his photographer's eye to impressive advantage. Seen at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 (

Arthur Miller wrote the following in the October 22, 2001 issue of The New York Times:
Shattering the Silence, Illuminating the Hatred
"Focus" sprang off the streets of New York in the 30's and 40's. With no money for college, I had spent three years driving trucks, pushing carts in the garment district and working as a parts clerk in a warehouse. I knew what I knew, what I had seen and heard, and too often it didn't match what I was reading in the papers and hearing on the radio. Especially the Big Secret - the city was pulsing with hatred. Perhaps not always but on certain days, yes. On certain days Hitler was rising, but not only in Germany.

With the abject failure of my first Broadway play, "The Man Who Had All the Luck," I resolved never to write another play but to give novelistic form this time to the assault, figurative and sometimes literal, that was coming at me from the streets.

It's all a long, long time ago. Only now, after nearly 60 years, does some of the feel of that time begin to return. The color and tone of an era are harder to convey the closer one is to it. Dickens's London comes more vividly to mind than the New York of the early 40's.

Pearl Harbor hadn't yet been attacked; the city like the nation was split in a lot of different ways as to how involved we ought to be in Europe's never-ending woes. Franco's destruction of the Spanish Republic was met by a mute official America. Maybe the silence helped create the craziness, as when the American Legion and the Communists found themselves on the same side for a while, both opposing our involvement: the left because the Russians, incredibly, were suddenly allied with Hitler; the legion because veterans were generally opposed to a replay of World War I.

And if the ranks of the British Army were filled with Irishmen, their brothers here didn't at all mind the British being in trouble now. And besides, a lot of veterans were Irish or Catholic or both, and the church had its concordat with Hitler and was generally perceived to be less than perturbed by fascism. It was all no less confusing then than it seems now.

Wherever one looked, the straight lines went crooked. World War II was several wars, not one. The South was gung ho, Britain having supported the Confederacy in the other century, and Southerners like shooting anyway. The most racist part of the country hated Hitler, who dared raise the swastika over church altars, but of course they were not exactly pro-Semitic down there either. It was like a dropped vase, cracked in all directions; touch it and it might shatter.

And the silence inevitably covered the Jews and their fate. More Jews than not were on the left side of the political spectrum, but here was the Soviet Union lying down with the Jew-hunting Nazi. And Roosevelt, friend of Jews, had denied landing privileges to the St. Louis, the ship carrying a couple of hundred of the Jews allowed to leave by the Germans. The ship's captain first tried landing in Cuba and, turned away, headed back to Germany. There were not many protests within or outside the Jewish ranks. In fact, that ship disappeared over the horizon going east in a bubble of silence, probably the largest crowd to leave the Statue of Liberty behind.

Along with a lot of others, what I made of the silence was that everybody, not excluding myself, was afraid of an outbreak of open anti- Semitism in America should that shipload of refugees be allowed to disembark. (This was a fairly prosperous, middle-class group of people and not what "refugee" seemed to connote, but even that seemed not to count.) Meantime one of the biggest radio audiences in the United States waited eagerly every Sunday for Father Coughlin's harangue against Jews on a national network.

The writing of "Focus" was an attempt to break through the silence; just putting the words down was a relief. But I had no idea whether the subject itself would make publication unlikely, and so it indeed appeared from the moment it was offered to publishers. No one I talked to could think of any fiction on the subject, although the widespread existence of anti-Semitism, from the universities on down through the large corporations and professions, was of course known to everyone. It was like some sort of shameful illness that was not to be mentioned in polite society, not by gentiles and not by Jews.

But I was lucky. Reynal & Hitchcock, a new gentile publisher, had opened only a year or so earlier, and Frank Taylor, an associate of my wife who worked at a medical publisher, had just been hired to get new authors for their virgin list. Taylor was swinging his lasso all over the city and had looped in a number of exciting young talents.

That the book was already making some people very nervous only enhanced its value at Reynal & Hitchcock. If there was no explosion once it appeared, I thought it was quite possibly because "Gentleman's Agreement" had beat it out by a month or two and helped break the ice. But when the left-wing Book Find Club adopted "Focus," some of its members did object on the ground that the book repeated anti-Semitic slurs, as of course it had to when some of its characters hated Jews.

But even recalling all this doesn't quite revive the feel of that time, more than a half-century ago. Rather, I can recall my own amazement that the story was to be published at all, so accustomed was I to the fearful silence surrounding the issue. But I do very clearly remember the day I was supposed to come to the publisher's offices to have my picture taken for the book jacket. I had totally forgotten the appointment until my wife walked in and was surprised to find me in Brooklyn when I had this important appointment on Madison Avenue.

I rushed about getting into decent clothes and walked straight into the edge of a partially open closet door and by the time I arrived at Reynal & Hitchcock's had a nice black eye. This is why I am in profile on the jacket. That long-ago photo, of a young man with hair, looking confidently into the distance, brings back some of the excitement of the imminent publication date and, for all anyone knew, outraged public condemnation.

Some 60 years later a movie has been made of "Focus," so its relevance has apparently not disappeared. The current attacks on people for their appearance - Middle Easterners this time - runs right down the middle of the book's theme. This time around, however, silence is out of fashion, and a lot of us find ourselves struggling very consciously with our fears.

Beyond Hitler's Grasp

TITLE: Beyond Hitler's Grasp
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Nitzan Aviram
TIME: 67 min video
SOURCE: Yael Yomtov Transfax Film Productions 22 Nachmani Street Tel Aviv 65201 Israel phone: 972 3 566 1484 fax: 972 3 566 1450 Email:
TEXT: Bulgaria was the only European country in which the Jewish population increased during World War II, in spite of its pro-Nazi government and anti-Jewish laws. For three years the Bulgarian people resisted Nazi demands to send Bulgarian Jews to the death camps. Beyond Hitler's Grasp documents this unforgettable story, a complex chain of events involving all levels of Bulgarian society. The citizens of the small town of Kyustendil thwarted the first attempt to deport the Jews by sending their representatives on an urgent mission to Parliament in the nick of time; the Bulgarian Church helped stop another planned deportation. This inspiring film is a tribute to a people who embraced their Jewish countrymen as nashi, or "one of us." Many Bulgarian Jews settled in Israel, particularly Haifa; the film features interviews with several Haifa residents. Seen at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 (

The Seventh Day (El SÚptimo Dia)

TITLE: The Seventh Day (El SÚptimo Dia)
YEAR: 1999
DIR/PROD: Gabriel Lichtmann
COUNTRY: Argentina
LANGUAGE: Spanish w/ English ST
TIME: 14 min in 35mm
SOURCE: Gabriel Lichtmann Cervino 4000 piso 10 Buenos Aires 1425 phone: 5411 154 4041627; 5411 480 71780 Email:
TEXT: In spite of all the obstacles-a traffic jam, power failure, and security check-a Buenos Aires family celebrates a Bar Mitzvah. Seen at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 (

Wanderings: A Journey to Connect

TITLE: Wanderings: A Journey to Connect
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Nikila Cole
TIME: 51 min., video
SOURCE: Rob Bromley Force Four Entertainment 1152 Mainland St., Ste. 310 Vancouver, BC V6B 4X2 Canada phone: 604 669 4424 fax: 604 669 4535 Email:
TEXT: This utterly charming film is three documentaries in one: a Jewish mother and daughter road picture, a map of Jewish geography, and a coming-of-age tale. Vancouver filmmaker Nikila Cole and her twelve-year-old daughter, Sarah, set out to circle the globe in search of the remaining trails of 4,000 years of Jewish settlements in the Diaspora. The adventurous Nikila conceived of the trip as a way for her and her daughter to connect with their Judaism, and she lures Sarah on this "travelling Bat Mitzvah" with promises of sun and sparkling beaches. Structured around the major Jewish holidays and following the Jewish calendar year, their far-flung travels take mother and daughter to the Caribbean, Iceland, the Netherlands, Spain, India, and Korea. During this shared journey both women make unexpected connections. Seen at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 (


YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Emanuel Finkiel
LANGUAGE: French and Yiddish w/ English ST
TIME: 90, video
SOURCE: Matthieu FertÚ Les Films du Poisson 54, rue RenÚ Boulanger 75010 Paris France phone: 331 42 02 54 80 fax: 331 42 02 54 72 Email:
TEXT: To cast his films Voyages (The best Jewish film of 2000) and Madame Jacques Sur La Croisette (1994), French director Emmanuel Finkiel interviewed hundreds of non-professional, Yiddish-speaking men and women ranging in age from 60 to 90. You needn't have seen either film to be utterly charmed by this documentary featuring some of the auditions; the would-be actors' personalities and stories stand on their own. Taken as a whole, the auditions offer precious glimpses into a lost world and into the new lives these survivors have created. North American premiere at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 (

Sobibor, Oct. 14, 1943, 4 P.M.

TITLE: Sobibor, Oct. 14, 1943, 4 P.M.
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Claude Lanzmann
LANGUAGE: French and Hebrew with English ST
TIME: 95 min in 35mm
SOURCE: Linda Duchin /New Yorker Films/ 16 West 61st Street/ 11th floor/ New York, NY 10023/ phone: 212 247 6110/ fax: 212 307 7855/ Email:
TEXT: The title notes the place, month, day, year, and hour of the only successful uprising in a Nazi extermination camp. This latest documentary by Claude Lanzmann, the acclaimed director of Shoah (1985), artfully merges the Warsaw and Minsk of today with a 1979 interview with survivor Yehuda Lerner. Lerner's story is extraordinary. Taken from the Warsaw ghetto at 16, he escaped from eight different camps over the course of six months, only to be one of the 250,000 people sent to the death camp Sobibor. Lerner describes how he and his fellow inmates planned and carried out an uprising whose success depended on German punctuality, and how he, a non-violent man, dealt one of the guards a fatal axe-blow. This remarkable film is a tribute to those who died at Sobibor, as well as to those who survived. Director: Claude Lanzmann. Seen at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 ( Also at NYFF in October 2001, Released in NYC October 2001.

At The End of the Day

TITLE: At The End of the Day
YEAR: 2000
DIR/PROD: Ayelet Bargur
LANGUAGE: Hebrew w/ English ST
TIME: 50 minutes video
SOURCE: Ayelet Bargur /10 Moria Street / Ramat Hasharon /47228 /Israel phone: 972 9 958 3467 fax: 972 3 547 3795 Email:
TEXT: Four young men, all commanders in the same Israeli Defense Force Golan Heights paratrooper unit, were killed over a twenty-two month period from 1995 to 1997.Their families, realizing they all suffer a common fate, agree to meet and share their stories. With great sensitivity and skill, director Ayelet Bargur, whose brother Zvi was among those who died, documents the ongoing attempts by these families to come to terms with the deaths of their loved ones. This painful subject is one that touches many Israeli families today. Seen at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 (

The Last Jewish Town

TITLE: The Last Jewish Town
YEAR: 2000
DIR/PROD: Gil Lesnik
LANGUAGE: Juarit and English w/English subtitles
TIME: 38 minutes, video
SOURCE: Matt Henderson /Seventh Art Releasing /7551 Sunset Blvd. #104 Los Angeles, CA 90046 /phone: 323 845 1455 fax: 323 845 4717 Email:
TEXT: Nestled in the hills of the Caucasus in north Azerbaijan is the town of Guba where 6,000 "Mountain Jews" found refuge at the beginning of the 18th century. Today the Jewish population there continues a unique way of life that dates back thousands of years. Director Gil Lesnik imparts the town's beauty and the narrator's deep affection for her childhood home. Seen at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 ( see also for more information on Mountain Jews

They Came to Pick Me Up

TITLE: They Came to Pick Me Up
YEAR: 2000
DIR/PROD: Ilana Navaro
LANGUAGE: Turkish/Hebrew/French/Ladino w/subtitles
TIME: 23 minutes in 35 mm
SOURCE: Matthieu FertÚ / Les Films du Poisson 54, rue RenÚ Boulanger 75010 Paris France phone: 331 42 02 54 80 fax: 331 42 02 54 72 Email:
TEXT: A woman about to emigrate from Turkey to Israel to be with her family must first make sure that the door connecting her granddaughter to the past is left open. Ilana Navaro directed this lyrical and subtle short fictional film. Seen at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 (

Life, Death, and Soccer

TITLE: Life, Death, and Soccer (La Vie, La Mort, et Le Foot)
YEAR: 2000
DIR/PROD: Sam Garbarski
COUNTRY: Belgium
LANGUAGE: French with ST
TIME:6 minutes, 35 mm
SOURCE: Diana Elbaum /Entre Chien Et Loup /rue de l'ambleve, 43 1160 Bruxelles /Belgique /phone: 32 2 736 48 13 /fax: 32 2 732 33 83 Email:;
TEXT: Two rabbis wonder if there are soccer games in heaven. Seen at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 (


TITLE: Gripsholm
YEAR: 2000
DIR/PROD: Xavier Koller
COUNTRY: Germany/Switzerland
LANGUAGE: German w/subtitles
TIME: 102 min., 35 mm
SOURCE: Michael Weber /Bavaria Film International/ Bavaria Media / bavariafilmplatz 8 D-82031 Geiselgasteig phone: 49 89 64 99 31 79 fax:49 89 64 99 37 20 Email:
TEXT: Academy Award-winning Swiss director Xavier Koller has created an expansive and elegant period drama that combines Kurt Tucholsky's semi-autobiographical novel, Castle Gripsholm, with events from the writer's life. Tucholsky was a brilliant Jewish poet, journalist, and social critic. In the summer of 1932, he and his girlfriend, Lydia, leave the urban pleasures of Berlin for an idyllic vacation at Castle Gripsholm (a Swedish mansion, now a national landmark). There, with two friends, they spend a sensuous and unforgettable summer-while back at home, the German Reich takes action against Tucholsky for his declaration that "all soldiers are murderers." Gripsholm features fine performances by Ulrich Noethen as Tucholsky, Heike Makatsch as Lydia, and Jasmin Tabatabai as a cabaret singer. The film also offers exquisite cinematography and a memorable musical score, with cabaret songs featuring lyrics by Tucholsky. (Mature Content) Seen at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 (

The Travellers: This Land Is Your Land

TITLE: The Travellers: This Land Is Your Land
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Robert Cohen / Shari Cohen
TIME: 72 minutes video
SOURCE: Shari Cohen Media Headquarters Film & Televisions, Inc. 760 Bathurst Street, Studio 2 Toronto, Ontario Canada M5S 2R6 phone: 617 876 3947; 416 537 8384 fax: 416 537 8602 Email:
TEXT: Inspired by folksinger Pete Seeger and the Weavers, the popular folk group THE TRAVELLERS transformed Woody Guthrie's song "This Land Is Your Land" into a Canadian national anthem. Their Jewish upbringing in the 1930s and early exposure to Canadian anti-Semitism fueled their idealism and political activism as members of the left-leaning United Jewish People's Order. The members of the group believed their music - a repertoire of Canadian and Yiddish folksongs-would help change the world. Featuring footage of their musical performances and interviews with group members Sid Dolgay, Jerry Gray, Jerry Goodis, and Simone Johnston, this lively, sweeping documentary traces the group's evolution. The film ends with a reunion of the original members and a performance by today's Travellers. Produced in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada. US Premiere at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 (


TITLE: Kosher
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Aimee Barth
TIME: 5 minutes, video
SOURCE: Kathleen Barber Florida State University Film School A3100 University Center Tallahassee, FL 32306 2350 phone: 850 645 4840 fax: 850 644 2626 Email:
TEXT: Charles is determined to marry his Jewish sweetheart. He has two problems: 1) his religion-he's a Christian and his sweetheart won't marry him unless he converts, and 2) his age- Charles is six. Seen at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 (, and Schmoozedance 2003, and Tribeca Film Festival 2004. The director wrote: The idea for Kosher came to me as a result of a number of things: my childhood classmate marrying a new boy every week at recess, my brother's desire to be Jewish at a young age because "they really know how to party," my own aversion to ham, and finally a relationship that made me realize that love was the most important thing. What I hoped to convey with Kosher is the sense that if you love someone, romantically or platonically, then nothing else matters--not what you do on Sundays or your mother's conventions or even your favorite food. I wanted to tell a light-hearted tale about the strength of human emotion and the lengths we go to in order to experience and perpetuate it. Kosher is my means of re-instilling hope in the term: True Love.

Najeeb - A Persian Girl in America

TITLE: Najeeb - A Persian Girl in America
YEAR: 2000
DIR/PROD: Tanaz Eshaghian
LANGUAGE: English and Farsi w/ English ST
TIME: 26 minutes, video
SOURCE: Tanaz Eshaghian 11 Fifth Ave. 15F New York, NY 10003 phone: 212 529 0965 Email:
TEXT: "May he be tall, with a nice face, and may he be wealthy," says one glamorous well-wisher in Najeeb, a humorous and personal look at one young New Yorker and her traditional Persian Jewish family's attempts to marry her off-now that she has hit the desperately advanced age of 25. Seen at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 (


TITLE: Passengers
YEAR: 2000
DIR/PROD: Francine Zuckerman
TIME: 15 minute, 35mm
SOURCE: Jeff Crawford Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre 37 Hanna Avenue Suite #220 Toronto, Ontario M6K 1W8 Canada phone: 416 588 0725 fax: 416 588 7956 Email:
TEXT: On the day of her father's funeral, a woman draws on his legacy of love to come to terms with her sexual identity. Seen at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 (

Avenue Amy (TV Series)

TITLE: Avenue Amy: Outfriended and The Sister Effect
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Joan Raspo
TIME: 22 min video
SOURCE: Viet Luu Curious Pictures 440 Lafayette St. 6th Floor New York City, NY 10003 phone: 212 674 1400 fax:212 674 0081 Email:
TEXT: The program concludes with two episodes from the second season of Avenue Amy, a short animated series featured on X-Chromosome (aired on the women's TV network Oxygen). Written by and featuring novelist Amy Sohn (Run Catch Kiss) as Amy and directed by Joan Raspo, the series takes a sharp and funny look at a 20-something Jewish girl's attempts to experience true love, great sex, and sustaining friendship in Manhattan's East Village. Seen at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 (

Lifetime Guarantee: Phranc's Adventures in Plastic

TITLE: Lifetime Guarantee: Phranc's Adventures in Plastic
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Lisa Udelson / Eric d'Arbeloff
TIME: 58 video
SOURCE: Eric d'Arbeloff Roadside Attractions 427 North Cannon Drive, Suite #216 Beverly Hills, CA 90210 phone:310 860 1692 fax: 310 860 1693 Email: or
TEXT: As an "All-American Jewish Lesbian Folksinger," Phranc has been part of the musical counterculture for years. Having once transformed herself from an influential member of L.A.'s punk scene to a folksinger with a sense of both politics and humor, Phranc's latest incarnation introduces her to the ups and downs of bringing sealed-in freshness to the masses-as a Tupperware Lady! Lifetime Guarantee: Phranc's Adventures in Plastic follows Phranc as she tries to maintain a balance between being herself and being embraced by her newfound Tupper-world. Seen at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, November 2001 (

Becoming Mighty

TITLE: Becoming Mighty
YEAR: 2001
DIR/PROD: Blake Hamilton
TIME: 19 minutes in 16 mm
SOURCE: Contact Philip Hoffman at York University, 4700 Keele Street, North York Ontair Canada MPJ 1P3, Tel 416 736 5149
TEXT: Seen at the NYU Internationak Student Film Festival. Although not a Jewish film, I thought it was the best of the student crop and is a good tear jerker for any festival, This is the story on one boy's sacrifice for his mother in the face of approaching death from cancer. Pmeroy is an 8 year old dying of cancer at Toronto's Catholic sick children's hospital. He deals with is pain by surrounding himself with a group of imaginary friends. After making peace with death, he makes the ultimate sacrifice for his single mom and sends his friends off to find a suitable man for her, instead of staying around to comfort him. The story of unconditional love among a mother, her son and might mouse. Bring kleenex.

Stolen Summer

TITLE: Stolen Summer
YEAR: 2002
DIR/PROD: Pete Jones / Project Greenlight, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Chris Moore
TIME: 60
TEXT: The first project of Project Greenlight (as seen on HBO). Two young boys spend the Summer trying to find the keys to heaven. Over a period of 5 weeks, one Jewish boy and one Catholic boy, ages seven and 8, respectively, talk precociously and try to rebound after a tragedy. Stolen Summer is one of those remarkable films that manage to move and delight, all the while challenging us to ask the big questions. Writer/director Pete Jones beautifully explores difficult issues--family, loss, tolerance, faith--through the prism of two families, one Jewish, one Catholic, during a turbulent summer in a Chicago suburb in the mid-'70s.
Eight-year-old Pete O'Malley is on a quest. After a tumultuous year in the second grade, he vows to take the advice of his beleaguered teacher, Sister Leonora Mary, and spend the summer making amends to God. After earnest reflection, Pete decides that the best way to improve his spiritual standing is to successfully convert a Jewish person to Catholicism. He sets up shop outside the local synagogue and becomes friends with Rabbi Jacobsen and his small son Danny.
Initially disapproving of his son's new friendships, Pete's father eventually comes to know the Jacobsen family as well. The two fathers, one struggling with his children growing up in ways he hasn't expected, and the other coming to terms with his child's mortality, begin a delicate, tentative friendship that teaches both the true meaning of understanding.
Jones's script, full of humor and poignancy, is matched by powerful, nuanced performances from a stellar cast, including Aidan Quinn, Kevin Pollak, Brian Dennehy, and Bonnie Hunt. Stolen Summer shows us that the innocence and fearlessness of childhood make religious differences an opportunity for compassion and growth, not an insurmountable barrier to meaningful connections.
Screened at Sundance, January 2002

Main Page is -- Revised: 1/15/98, 7/5/98, March 2000, July 2000
Copyright © 1996-2000 Jewish Film Archive online website, Larry Mark, webmaster gadol -- Revised: 1/15/98, 7/5/98, March 1999
Copyright © 1996-2000 Jewish Film Archive online website, Larry Mark, webmaster gadol

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