There are few things as effective as film in teaching about the Jewish American experience.
“For a researcher and historian like me, it really gives you a chance to look at historical situations, about how and why a film was made at that time,” Yeshiva University film professor Eric Goldman said in a phone interview.
Author of The American Jewish Story through Cinema, Goldman is a featured speaker during the week-long NH Jewish Film Festival, which starts March 27. His presentation will be accompanied by short clips to fuel conversation.
“Filmmaking is a collaborative process. … In cinema, there are so many different forces weighing in on the final product — religious, social and economic forces — and so, by examining the film, you can really learn a great deal,” he said.
Goldman’s book release and presentation are very timely, as the 6th Annual NH Jewish Film Festival’s theme revolves around the Jewish-American experience. Nine films will show this year, which were picked from a sea of 65, said Linda Gerson, co-chair of the 2014 NH Jewish Film Festival. Thirty-five volunteers have worked to put this festival together.
To go along with these screenings are more speakers and more programming than ever in the festival’s history.
“We have Peter Miller, a producer/director, who has quite a history in the film industry; he’ll be speaking to us about his film, AKA Doc Pomus. It’s about a very well-known Jewish songwriter, known for ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ and ‘Teenage Love,’” Gerson said. “We also have a children’s entertainer following a showing of American Tail, and ... a stand-up comic from the Boston area performing at the wrap-up party.”
A good number of the films are recent releases screening for their first time in the Granite State.
“These films are playing in Berlin, in London — we get to screen the same movies that are playing in festivals around the world, and they’re generally films that don’t normally come to New Hampshire,” Gerson said.
She’s particularly excited for New Hampshire to see Glickman, a film about the record-setting Jewish sprinter who was pulled from the 1936 Olympic Games to appease the Nazis. (Jesse Owens would eventually run in his place.)
That runner, Marty Glickman, would later become one of sports broadcasting’s biggest names and invent classic sports terms like “swoosh.” (A New Hampshire connection here: His great-grandaughter lives locally and won the Miss New Hampshire pageant in 2003 and placed in the Top 10 for the Miss America 2004 pageant.)
Another film is The Jewish Cardinal, about Jean-Marie Lustiger, the Jewish-born Archbishop of Paris whose religious identity is tested when there are Jewish protesters fighting against the plans to build a convent inside Auschwitz. Yet another is Quality Balls, about David Steinberg, who quit his rabbinical studies to direct sitcoms like Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
In fact, this year there were quite a few films to choose from. Goldman is seeing more films about the Jewish experience being produced across the globe.
“How exciting is it that we’re having this burst of films about the Jewish experience that are of public interest? … They’re being filmed worldwide, coming from all kinds of interesting areas, and not just by Jewish filmmakers,” Goldman said.
As seen in the March 27, 2014 issue of the Hippo.