Natural Occurring...

Perhaps you are familiar with NORCs, the town or neighborhoods that are Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, places where all the young people have moved away, leaving the geography primarily with empty nested retirees who are “aging in place.”

But what about NOJFFs?

I am happy to report that this weekend, Manhattan is having a NOJFF, a naturally occurring Jewish Film Festival. Like comets, it happens once in a while; when a person, who is not attending Camp Jewlicious, can program their own multi-day film fest by just visiting a few Manhattan theaters.

And what is the line-up you ask? This weekend, at least eight films are playing, in addition to the Jewish themed musicals and plays at the NY Fringe Festival. They include:

JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK. A favorite at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and on the Jewish Film Festival circuit, this documentary follows the Jewish comedian for 13 months and gives you a glimpse of her life, her apartment, her comedy, her losses, her workaholism, her face, her dog, and more.

NESHOBA. A documentary on the murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964, two of whom were of Jewish heritage, finally gets a theatrical release. No one has ever been convicted of their murders, even though most residents of the town know who the perpetrators were. It explores the history and changing racial attitudes of Neshoba County, Mississippi 40 years after James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were killed during Freedom Summer.

FREEDOM RIDERS, is a documentary on the Summer of 1961. It hits NYC theaters. It premiered in 2010 at the Sundance Film Festival. Stanley Nelson, the legendary director, focuses on the courageous civil-rights activists who traveled to the Deep South on Greyhound buses, fell out with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and were beaten and jailed for their efforts. Teamsters refused to drive the buses for fear of injuries or worse. It makes you wonder whether following the organized policy (JFK, MLK, SCLC) or going it alone leads to success. Near the end, a rabbi is interviewed about the interreligious task forces that participated and the clergy who were jailed.

A FILM UNFINISHED. Discussed below in previous postings, this Israeli documentary is playing in American theaters. It highlights a found film that was staged in the Warsaw Ghetto by Nazi filmmakers, and was used years later by others as if it was a factual depiction of life in the Ghetto.

Shmulik in '82 fuels the storyline of Lebanon

LEBANON. An award winning Israeli film that is more claustrophobic than “Das Boot” as it spends the day with an Israel tank crew. It opens with an extremely loud tank engine revving up, and gives you the feel for what a tank crew experienced in Lebanon on the first day of fighting; its only glimpse of the outside being through the gunner’s scope and an occassional visit through the hatch by a senior officer.

Another film, in this case a documentary, than looks at the life of soldiers who follow their orders and don’t have time to question the roots or goals of policies, is RESTREPO. Jewish? Sure. Two of the soldiers featured in this film, which follows a platoon for the full time of its deployment in Afghanistan, are of Jewish heritage. Guess which ones.

LIFE DURING WARTIME, part three in a trilogy by Todd Solondz, picks up where his last film left off. Some have called it the “feel BAD film of the year.” Trish has fled NJ for Florida. She has started over after her husband has gone off to prison for sexual crimes against children. She is excited to be engaged to Harvey, a nice Jewish man and father figure. The family is preparing for a bar mitzvah, which Trish’s sister, Joy, is being haunted by the ghost of a former lover, played by Paul Rubens (Pee Wee Herman). On TV, there is news of the war.

Still need a fix of film? Other films this week with Jewish themes include LE CONCERT, a French film by Radu Mihaileanu, which won two César Awards. In the film, a former conductor of the Bolshoï, known as “The Maëstro”, now works as a cleaner in the concert hall. One day, through craziness, her snags the invitation from France for a concert and organizes the old musicians to perform in Paris and complete a concerto interrupted 3 decades earlier. MY PERESTROIKA, a documentary about several families in Moscow, is also playing. In one great scene, the mother of one of the married couples confides that she knew that one day “some Jew” would get his hands on her daughter.

But even with all these great films.. I would rather be at Camp Jewlicious. 🙂

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  • For those readers in the Hamptons (NY) this weekend, check out the film A FILM UNFINISHED, which will be sponsored in West Hampton by Rabbi Marc Schneier and Russell Simmons.

    The film will be introduced by ANAT GILEAD, the Consul for cultural affairs for the Consulate General of Israel.

    Saturday, August 21, 9 PM at the Hampton Synagogue in West Hampton NY (their ads say that they are New York’s MOST CELEBRATED synagogue… reall? REALLY??…)