European Association for Jewish Culture 

 

European Association for Jewish Culture 

Newsletter 
Spring-Summer 2001

Cinema
By Gad Abitan

European Film Awards and the Cesars

On December 2, 2000, for the first time in Paris, the Academy of European Cinema, (27 countries, 1000 members) made its awards during a gala evening at the National Theatre of Chaillot before an audience that included Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, Mrs. Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Culture, and Mrs. Catherine Tasca, the French Minister of Culture.

The only surprise of the European Awards was that Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri who were not among the winners at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000, were voted best screenwriters for Le goût des autres.

This well deserved prize provided a foretaste of their victory during the 26th Cesar Awards, in 2001. Agnès Jaoui's first film won the Cesar for the Best Film of the Year, the most coveted prize among French screenwriters after the Hollywood Oscar for the Best Foreign Film, for which the French entry was, appropriately enough, Le goût des autres.

At the Movies

Autopsy of a Lie

A documentary by Jacques Tarnero and Bernard Cohn with archive material and interviews with Claude Lanzman, Alain Finkielkraut and Tahar Ben Jelloun, among others, on the resurgence of anti-Semitism in France, and the need to preserve the memory of the Holocaust at a time when confusion reigns.

La Vérité si je mens II ! (I Swear it's True II)
by Thomas Gilou

The sequel to the saga follows in much the same mould as the first film, with the same effective jokes. This enormously satirical film dissects, in a high-spirited manner, the behaviour of the North African Jews in Paris' garment district. 

Les fantômes de Louba (Louba's Ghosts)
Martine Dugowson with Elsa Zylberstein

As soon as we hear Charles Trenet singing 'Sweet France' at the beginning of the film, we know where we are: Vichy France. The film uses archives (anti-Jewish laws, an exhibit on the Jews of France, forbidden sites…) that continue to haunt the main character, Louba, who is disturbed by the persecution to which her parents fell victim. A demanding film.

Origine Contrôlée (Made in….)
by Zakia and Ahmed Bouchaala

Ronit Elkabetz, an Israeli film and cinema star who has been living in France for the past 4 years, plays her best card this year in the theatre and on screen in Origine Contrôlée, one of Zakia and Ahmed Bouhcaala's best works. This film has been a big hit outside of France.

Stalingrad, Enemy at the Gate
by Jean-Jacques Annaud, with Rachel Weisz and Joseph Fiennes

 

J.J. Annaud has effectively recreated the Battle of Stalingrad. His egalitarian handling of the two ideologies that he depicts remains somewhat uncomfortable, however, and he seems to want to "repent" by portraying two attractive characters, both of Jewish descent and both of whom sacrifice their lives. Tania, a woman fighter, played by Rachel Weisz, dies while avenging her murdered parents, and a brave popular commissar played by Joseph Fiennes, dies to preserve the morale of his soldiers.

Requiem for a Dream
By Daren Aronofski 

 

Sarah Goldfarb (the fabulous Ellen Burstyn) lives alone with her television as her sole companion. Harry, her only son, is a drug user before going through detox. The film's shocking images and frenetic rhythm manage to translate all the visions of horror experienced by a young drug addict seeking thrills and escape, as well as the private hell of an abusive Jewish mother.

Film Festivals

51st Berlin Film Festival

The Israeli-American film, Trembling Before God, a film dealing with homosexuality, won the Teddy for the Best Documentary Film at the Berlinale. Trembling describes the lives of Orthodox Jews caught between their religious world and their sexual leanings.

I am Josh Polonski's Brother
by Raphaël Nadjari

Raphael Nadjari's second film (his first was The Shade, 1999, based on Dostoyevsky) is based on an idea for an original screenplay about three brothers, Abe, Ben, and Josh, who run a textile business in Brooklyn where they live with their Yiddishe mama. When one of the brothers is brutally killed in front of his younger brother, the somewhat naïve Abe decides to make his own investigation. This leads him to New York's seamy underside. This nightmarish film, which was released in June 2001, is one of the revelations of the Festival.

Love Inventory (Réshimat' ahava)
by Israeli documentary film maker David Fisher

A family drama about a young woman whose sister disappeared when she was a baby. The film gives a poignant account of the ongoing search for her which also includes a modicum of humour. Love Inventory was shown on ARTE (Channel 5) during the Festival.

23rd International Festival of Ethnographic and Sociological Films: 
Cinema of Reality, 9-18 March 2001

The theme of Jewishness is presented annually among the selections. This year's opening film, Casting, is a documentary in Yiddish by Emanuel Finkiel made during the shooting of Voyages.

Homemad(e)
By Ruth Beckermann.

A walk down memory lane of an old textile district in Vienna, beginning on Marc Aurel Street, the main artery, with its café, a large "stage where people are like the actors of a social game," with its boutiques, including one which is still run by a Holocaust survivor.

Dust 
By Michale Boganim

A sad acknowledgment of the persistence of the extreme right. Michale Boganim visited the old Jewish quarter of Odessa to collect the accounts of three old women. His film was co- produced by Great Britain and the Ukraine.

Shabbat
By Gulya Mizzoeva 

Gulya Mirzoeva's Shabbat (1990) stands out among the films in the retrospective on Central Asia. It gives an extremely sensitive account of the painful departure of the Jews of Bukhara (Uzbekhistan), whose traditions and religious practices recall those of Sephardic Jews.

Film in Production

After many months of preparation, Roman Polanski began shooting The Pianist in Berlin on February 19th 2001. The film is based on the autobiography of the Polish Jewish composer Vladislav Spilman who, along with his family, was shut up in the Warsaw ghetto and escaped deportation thanks to a music-loving German officer. Roman Polanski has long wanted to make this film, for obvious reasons. Born in Paris in 1933, Polanski left for Poland at age three, with his parents. With the German occupation in 1939, his family found itself in the Warsaw ghetto; his mother was murdered at Auschwitz.

Istvan Szabo is finishing his latest film, Taking Sides, about the ambiguity of the relationship between Wilhelm Furtwangler, the German orchestra leader, and the Nazis. A musical symbol under Hitler, Furtwangler tried to save a number of Jews, but was listed by the Americans during the period of denazification. In this European co- production, Szabo describes this pivotal moment in Furtwangler's life.

In early April, Eric Atlan began two months of shooting Pétain-Laval: Terminus Sigmaringen. Costa Gavros is preparing The Vicker, based on Rolm Hochmuth.

Ivan Attal is working on the post-production of his first feature-length film, My Wife is an Actress starring his wife, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Laurent Bouhnik (Zonzon) is due to start the shooting of his third film, based on Stephan Zweig's Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman.

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