PROGRAMME DIRECTOR RECOMMENDS
The Opening of the 19th Warsaw Jewish Film Festival is approaching and we are very proud and excited to present one week of filmic events: retrospectives, short film programs, workshops, expert panels and of course the best, newest Jewish related films from around the world!
This year we are back in the cinemas and also offer an online streaming program.
Our program is extremely varied and therefore it is hard for me choose only a small number of films to recommend but I will try my best!
The Festival's retrospectives: A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME
The first is A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME on the occasion of DEFA’s 75th anniversary (the state-owned film studio of the German Democratic Republic throughout the country's existence). This retrospective was curated as collaboration between our festival and the Jewish Festival Berlin Brandenburg and is supported by the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation in Berlin. Films in Warsaw are screened in partnership with The German Embassy in Poland.
The retrospective examines the images of Jewish lives in German and in Polish films during the Cold War and compares films that were made in the GDR and in Poland before the political change. With the help of German-Polish “film couples”, we attempt to illustrate the cinematic approaches to Jewish topics in both countries as well as the development of the culture of remembrance which was influenced by political premises.
One of the films in this program: The Actress (dir. Siegfried Kühn), was released in 1989 few months before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the closing of the DEFA studios.
This film features one of the most famous actresses of the German Cinema in the last four decades, the fantastic Corinna Harfouch, and marks thematically and stylistically clear influences of the Western world cinema of that time. The Actress poses essential moral and ethical questions to the German audience such as: “what would you do if you or your partner were Jewish during the Nazi time”? The use of scenes from theater plays and the presentation of the Nazi state funded Jewish Theatre in Berlin in the film are fascinating and the film is one of the rare pearls of German Cinema of that time. BOOK YOUR TICKET NOW: CLICK HERE.
Ford's earliest film in this retrospective is the 1935 Yiddish speaking production MIR KUMEN ON. What did Ford know/feel that others failed to see? It is a hearth-breaking documentary that presents daily life at the Wlodzimierz Medem children Sanatorium in Miedzeszyn near Warsaw. During the years 1926-1939, it treated almost 10,000 children from poor Jewish working class families who suffered from tuberculosis. In 1942, the employees and patients of the sanatorium were transported to the extermination camp at Treblinka. Watching those wonderful children, their dilemmas and difficulties but also the endless talent that they present and the innovative treatments that they are offered, one cannot avoid thinking what would have become of those young individuals. Ford leaves us with a most sensitive historical document and reveals glimpse of naive children's lives that were taken cruelly few years after the shooting of the film.
THE NEW GERMAN PRODUCTIONS
Two new German productions are also worthy to mention here. Both films are based on true controversial stories and present new perspectives on publicly discussed themes.
The first is the film PLAN A written and directed by the Israeli brothers Doron and Yoav Paz. The directors chose to focus on a fascinating theme that is barely discussed in popular culture. It is the story on “Nakam”, a small group of Holocaust survivors, led by Abba Kovner, who later was one of the central witnesses in the Eichmann Trial. The group panned to kill six million Germans in a form of indiscriminate revenge. The film´s protagonist Max, played by one of the most beloved German film actors, August Diehl, leads the viewers through an external and even more an internal inferno and raises contemporary questions regarding the meaning of revenge in our lives and the human abilities to cope with catastrophies. It is a thought provoking film that offers a contemporary interpertation to past events. BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOW: click here!
The second German film I would like to recommend is Damir Lukacevic´s Wet Dog. This is a Berlin film that depicts the street life and culture in the migrant neighborhood Wedding and features an adaptation of Arye Sharuz Shalicar’s 2010 autobiography “A wet dog is better than a dry Jew”. Other among others - a young Jewish boy, originated from a Muslim country, and lives in Berlin Wedding, where most of the youngsters are Muslims - embodies a provocative and controversial story. Wet Dog is a coming-of-Age rough-style film, which raises questions of cultural diversity, religious identity and the failure of integration. It is a fascinating eye-opener regarding the existence of Anti-Semitism in Germany nowadays. BOOK YOUR TICKET HERE!
Partner of German films is: The Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation in Warsaw.
Documentaries from Israel
Last but not least in my list of recommendations is the new documentary from the renewed Israeli director, who was 2019 a special guest of our festival, Yair Qedar.
Qedar´s new film The Fourth Window, is an artistic interoperation of the latter period of Amos Oz´s life. The connecting line between the various scenes in the film is recorded telephone conversations that Oz's biographer and closest friend had with him shortly before his death. We hear Oz´s voice asking to be presented in his biography as a spoiled person, a narcissist who pursuits honor. Gradually this filmic portrait, which uses also scenes from film adaptations of Oz´s books, reveals the darker side of the most renowned Israeli author. The film creates an ambivalent picture of Oz as a person and as a persona. Is it still politically correct to admire him? Can one explain his relationship with his daughter as an outcome of his tragic experience - losing his mother as a young boy? How fragile and misleading is public fame? BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOW: click here!
The Fourth Window is one of a few documentaries and feature films, which Festival's team selected and will present in the SECTION NEW ISRAELI CINEMA. Partner of Israeli cinema: The Emabssy of Israel in Poland.
You are more than welcome to join us!
Warsaw JFF Programme Director