In collaboration with the National Center for Jewish Film on the Brandeis campus, the Brandeis National Committee has assembled a lending library of DVDs. The 'Deis Flicks collection includes both the work of modern independent filmmakers and archival materials. Together they represent a visual record of the Jewish people in all of their vibrancy and diversity. Please explore our exciting array of films below.
Advice and Dissent
USA, 2002, 21 minutes, color
Director: Leib Cohen
After five years in a loveless marriage, Jeffrey Goldman (John Pankow) and his wife, Ellen (Rebecca Pidgeon), have reached a crossroads. She would like to salvage their relationship by having a child, and he would like to end it with a clean divorce. When she refuses, Jeffrey must resort to other means.
He hears of a famous rabbi (Eli Wallach), a legendary miracle worker. Goldman meets with him to request a curse on his wife so that she may die. The shocked rabbi refuses Goldman's request, and then offers the puzzling information that according to Jewish teaching, if one makes an unfulfilled vow, his wife will die.
Newly empowered, Goldman makes a huge pledge to a small local synagogue, promptly reneges and waits for the curse to take effect. What happens next sets in motion a chain of unexpected events.
American Matchmaker (Amerikaner Shadkhn)
USA, 1940, 87 minutes, black-and-white
Yiddish with English subtitles
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Restoration: National Center for Jewish Film
Leo Fuchs, the "Yiddish Fred Astaire," stars in this musical comedy as Nat Silver, a debonair and fabulously wealthy Jewish-American businessman whose recent engagement (his eighth) goes awry. Edgar G. Ulmer's last Yiddish movie was also his most modern, an art-deco romantic comedy about male ambivalence and Jewish assimilation. With its urbane, neurotic hero, "American Matchmaker" looks ahead to the films of Woody Allen.
Watch the trailer here.
Argentina, 2008, 86 minutes, color/black-and-white
Spanish and Yiddish with English subtitles
Director: María Victoria Menis
Grand Prize: Pays de Cauz International Latin Film Festival (2009)
Best Film: International Jewish Film Festival of Uruguay (2009)
At the end of the 19th century, Gertrudis, a shy, introspective "ugly duckling" in a colony of immigrant Argentinean Jews, grows into her role as a mother and wife of a charismatic Yidishe Gaucho—until she meets a nomadic photographer whose uncompromising vision allows her to see herself for the first time. This lyrical, inventive feature film from award-winning Argentinean director María Victoria Menis weaves together live action, animation and still photography in a unique tribute to the power of art and imagination.
French and Hebrew with English subtitles
Director: Marco Carmel
In the early 1970s, the Maimons, a rambunctious but tight-knit Tunisian-Israeli family, settle in Paris seeking adventure and fortune. Felix (Gad Elmaleh), Mireille (Yael Abecassis) and their two young sons rely on one another, especially when Felix's minor crimes escalate to bank robbery after he meets Serge (Richard Berry), a local Jewish gangster. Eleven-year-old Michael, who always thought of his father as a "superhero," discovers that maybe his definition of hero needs to change.
Drawing on events and characters from his own childhood for this unusual coming-of-age story, Israeli-French filmmaker Marco Carmel offers tender emotional portraits of a son whose allegiance to his father is tested and a fiercely protective mother trying to shield her children from the truth.
Finding Leah Tickotsky: A Discovery of Heritage in Poland
USA, 2010, 48 minutes
Director: Sarah Golabek-Goldman
In the summer of 2007, as a Stanford University student, Sarah Golabek-Goldman traveled to Poland to teach English in the village of Zakliczyn. While there, she also visited the towns where her family lived before World War II to search for Poles who remembered her relatives. In the village of Jasionowka, Sarah discovered the gravestone of her great-great-grandmother, Leah Tickotsky.
"Finding Leah Tickotsky" explores Polish-Jewish relations, as well as one filmmaker's personal journey to discover her family roots. Through her eyes, "Finding Leah Tickotsky" provides a perspective on one of the most painful periods in history and serves as a reminder of the extraordinary contributions Jews made to Poland over nine centuries.
From Philadelphia to the Front
USA, 2005, 37 minutes, color
Directors: Judy Gelles and Marianne Bernstein
New Filmmakers Award, Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival (2005)
Audience Favorite, Documentary Short; Second Place, Best Documentary, Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films (2005)
Second Place, Best Documentary Short, Warsaw Jewish Film Festival (2005)
One of the few documentaries to explore the stories of Jewish-American World War II soldiers, this film focuses on six Philadelphia veterans in their 80s, and their individual experiences during the war. For Jews, the war to defeat Hitler had deeply personal significance. Combined with photographs from the men's personal collections, the film includes rare archival footage, stills and newsreel, including Jewish soldiers celebrating Shabbat and Passover during wartime and the first Jewish service at Dachau after it was liberated.
The film premiered at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia as part of "A Soldier's Story: Intimate Artifacts of World War II," an exhibition of still photographs and letters.
Watch the trailer here.
Green Fields (Grine Felder)
USA, 1937, 95 minutes, black-and-white
Yiddish with English subtitles
Directors: Edgar G. Ulmer and Jacob Ben-Ami
Restoration and new English subtitles: National Center for Jewish Film
The most critically acclaimed and beloved of American Yiddish talkies, Edgar Ulmer's soulful, open-air adaptation of Peretz Hirshbein's classic play heralded the Golden Age of Yiddish cinema. "Green Fields" celebrates an idyllic world of tribal wholeness and innate piety—no other movie has ever represented the shtetl with such lyricism. Starring Helen Beverly and Michael Goldstein, "Green Fields" was voted the Best Foreign Film in France in 1938.
- Program notes by J. Hoberman
- Peter Bogdanovitch interview with Ulmer
- Cast interview
- Ulmer biography
USA, 1990, 93 minutes, color
Director: Pamela Berger
A nostalgic Jewish romance about a rich turn-of-the-century Boston widower who returns from the old country with a husband for his thoroughly modern daughter, who is appalled by this pious old-world scholar. She seems appalled, but is she?
Leon the Pig Farmer
UK, 1992, 98 minutes, color
Directors: Vadim Jean and Gary Sinyor
An irreverent comedy from the production company of Monty Python's Eric Idle, "Leon the Pig Farmer" is considered a cult classic in Europe. The movie's zany story is set in motion when Leon Geller (Mark Frankel), a sensitive Jewish boy from London, accidentally learns that he is the product of artificial insemination. Leon's search for his biological parents leads him to the still more startling discovery of a sperm bank mix-up, proving that he is the son of a Yorkshire pig farmer! The inevitable confusion results in a comic Jewish identity crisis.
The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg
USA, 1999, 95 minutes, color
Director: Aviva Kempner
Audience Award: Best Documentary, Washington Jewish Film Festival (1999)
Best Documentary: Online Film Critics Society Awards (2001)
Best Documentary: National Board of Review (2001)
Best Nonfiction Film: New York Film Critics Circle Awards (2000)
Best Feature Documentary: Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards (2001)
As Hitler invaded Europe, a young Jewish baseball player challenged Babe Ruth's homerun record. This is the story of how he became an American hero.
"The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" is a humorous and nostalgic documentary about an extraordinary baseball player who transcended religious prejudice to become an American icon. Detroit Tiger Hammerin' Hank's accomplishments during the Golden Age of Baseball rivaled those of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
This compelling documentary examines how America's first Jewish baseball star was a beacon of hope to American Jews who faced bigotry during the Depression and World War II. Included in the colorful collage of 47 interviews are Hank Greenberg and family members; sports figures Ira Berkow, Ernie Harwell, Joe Falls and Dick Schaap; fellow players Bob Feller, Charlie Gehringer and Ralph Kiner; fans Alan Dershowitz, Congressman Sander Levin and Senator Carl Levin; and actors Walter Matthau, Michael Moriarty and Maury Povich.
The film also features famous scenes from such Hollywood classics as "Gentleman's Agreement," "Night at the Opera," "Pride of St. Louis" and "Woman of the Year," as well as dramatic historical footage.
Love at Second Sight
Israel, 1998, 90 minutes, color
Hebrew with English subtitles
Director: Michal Bat-Adam
Renowned Israeli filmmaker and actress Michal Bat-Adam produced, wrote and directed this intriguing tale of romantic obsession in present-day Tel Aviv. The beautiful Michal Zuaratz stars as Nina, a promising newspaper photographer with a special knack for giving life to her pictures, a gift she inherited from her grandfather, Olek. Devoted to her work, Nina's life takes a sudden turn when she becomes infatuated with a stranger she accidentally captures on film. Though she knows nothing of this man, Nina is convinced she must find him.
Mamadrama: The Jewish Mother in Cinema
2001, 73 minutes
Writer and director: Monique Schwarz
"The Jewish mothers that I know and love are sexy, smart and strong, but I have never seen this mother in Hollywood movies, and I set out to find out why."
—Filmmaker Monique Schwarz
Jewish mothers are the most easily maligned image of Jewish women found in movies and television. You know who they are: the caricature of the overbearing, emasculating, long-suffering mother ever ready with mountains of food. Australian director Monique Schwarz takes a funny, penetrating look at how the loving and affectionate portrayals in early Yiddish and Hollywood silent movies developed into the Jewish Mother of modern Hollywood and, conversely, the more flesh and blood characterizations in contemporary Israeli cinema.
"Mamadrama" features hilarious film clips from "Come Blow Your Horn," "Goodbye Columbus," "Next Stop Greenwich Village," "The Jazz Singer," "Portnoy's Complaint," "Where's Poppa," "Torch Song Trilogy," rare Yiddish films and recent Israeli features. In addition, many filmmakers and critics discuss the changing image of the Jewish mother on screen. Interspersed throughout is the story of Schwarz's own mother, Berta, from her life in Vienna before World War II to her struggles as an immigrant in post-war Australia, a picture of a woman vastly different from the Jewish mothers seen in contemporary films.
Israel, 1998, 56 minutes, color
Hebrew with English subtitles
Director: Doma Zvi-Riklis
Two young women, friends since childhood, share a spacious apartment in the heart of Tel Aviv. Their high rent forces them to take in a third flatmate, Malka, a mysterious ultra-Orthodox woman who becomes part of their lives. Her strange insistence on living with two secular women touches Yael's heart and arouses Shlomit's suspicions. Slowly, with various twists and turns, Malka's secret is discovered. The Orthodox woman's wretched fate moves both young women, and they become determined to help her.
The rift between the secular and religious world, the prejudices, the mutual ignorance and the resultant mistrust and suspicion are at the heart of "Purple Lawns." The film tells the story of women who decide to take fate into their own hands. Initially, the possibility of any connection between them seems completely impossible; yet as the plot develops, they undergo changes that enable them to accomplish something and prove that the sisterhood of women is strongest of all.
Germany, 1998, 89 minutes, color
German with English subtitles
Director: Liliane Targownik
In this fast-paced thriller, two Jewish brothers, children of Holocaust survivors, confront the ugly, growing wave of extreme right-wing violence in Germany. It's 1991, and a group of skinheads attacks a foreign-workers' hostel the same night a neo-Nazi leader is shot dead. Because he was in the hostel with his Vietnamese girlfriend that night, Michael Rosenzweig becomes the main suspect. But Michael can't recall what happened. His brother, Jacob, a young attorney, takes on his defense in this tense courtroom drama, where Germany's violent past hangs like a shadow over the present. In the end, the film raises the question: Are there ever circumstances where victims should be permitted to kill in revenge?
Travel the World's Jewish Communities with 'Deis Flicks
Jewish culture and religion has flourished in parts of the world not frequently associated with the centers of Jewish life, such as Mexico, Libya and India. In cooperation with the National Center for Jewish Film, BNC has introduced a series of films exploring the diversity and richness of Jewish life from the far corners of the globe. See how Jews have lived, worshipped, played, cooked, loved and survived all across the world by selecting from the following films in our 'Deis Flicks collection:
An intimate family portrait and a fascinating ethnographic study of the Bene Israel, one of three groups of Jews living in India today. The film documents one family's religious and cultural traditions representing this unique brand of Judaism. Through stories, songs, family prayer and community ritual, the film introduces the viewer to three generations of Indian Jews.
Last Jews of Libya
Some 36,000 Jews lived in Libya at the end of World War II; today, none remain. "Last Jews of Libya" documents the final decades of a centuries-old North African Sephardic Jewish community through the lives of a remarkable family.
Minyan in Kaifeng: A Modern Journey to an Ancient Chinese Jewish Community
The last rabbi of Kaifeng died well over a century ago, and today's descendants of the ancient Chinese Jewish community have never celebrated Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. Now, two curious families have invited a modern group of Jewish travelers into their homes, leading to a reunion a thousand years in the making. "Minyan in Kaifeng" shows this unique journey and the unexpected meeting of cultures through the eyes of modern travelers from Australia, China, Israel and the United States. It is a story of ancient Diaspora, of old dangers and newfound wisdom.
Of Stars and Shamrocks
A provocative documentary chronicles the relationship between Boston's Jews and Irish as both groups fought for a foothold in the New World.
Traveling in a vintage Cadillac, filmmaker Brian Bain, a third-generation Jew from New Orleans, sets out on a 4,200-mile road trip through the Jewish American South.
Throughout the 20th century, thousands of European Jews sailed to Mexico looking for opportunity. This documentary explores the blending of Jewish and Mexican cultures and customs in an unlikely place.