The Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center will present the 28th annual New York Jewish Film Festival (NYJFF), January 9–22, 2019. Among the oldest and most influential Jewish film festivals worldwide, the NYJFF each year presents the finest documentary, narrative, and short films from around the world that explore the diverse Jewish experience. Featuring new work by fresh voices in international cinema as well as restored classics, the festival’s 2019 lineup includes 32 wide-ranging and exciting features and shorts from the iconic to the iconoclastic, many of which will be screening in their world, U.S., and New York premieres. Screenings are held at the Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street, NYC.
The NYJFF opens on Wednesday, January 9, with the New York premiere of Eric Barbier’s epic drama Promise at Dawn, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Pierre Niney. This riveting memoir chronicles the colorful life of infamous French author Romain Gary, from his childhood conning Polish high society with his mother to his years as a pilot in the Free French Air Forces.
The Closing Night film is the New York premiere of A Fortunate Man, directed by Academy Award–winner Bille August (Pelle the Conqueror). In it, a gifted but self-destructive young man leaves his suffocating Lutheran upbringing for metropolitan 1880s Copenhagen, where he’s welcomed into a wealthy Jewish family and strives to realize his grand ambitions.
The Centerpiece selection represents the first time an Israeli television series has been presented at the NYJFF with the three-and-a-half-hour miniseries Autonomies, to be presented all at once, binge-style, with a 20-minute intermission. Directed by Yehonatan Indursky, the dystopian drama is set in an alternate reality of present-day Israel, a nation divided by a wall into the secular “State of Israel,” with Tel Aviv as its capital, and the “Haredi Autonomy” in Jerusalem, run by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group. A globally relevant tale of identity, religion, politics, personal freedom, and love, this gripping story follows a custody battle that upends the fragile peace of the country, pushing it to the brink of civil war. Indursky will present a master class in conjunction with the screening of Autonomies.
New to the NYJFF this year is an annual initiative that highlights a film made by a woman filmmaker that deserves broader American recognition. Maria Victoria Menis’s Camera Obscura (2008) 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.
Filmmaker Amos Gitai returns to the 2019 NYJFF with the U.S. premiere of his thought-provoking new drama, A Tramway in Jerusalem. Gitai uses the tramway that runs through Jerusalem to connect a series of short vignettes, forming a mosaic of Jewish and Arab stories embodying life in the city.
The NYJFF will also present the U.S. premiere of Fig Tree by first-time director Aäläm-Wärqe Davidian. Set in Addis Ababa during the Ethiopian Civil War, the film 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.
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, NYC. For complete festival information, visit NYJFF.org.