The Arty Semite

Berlin Jewish Film Festival Turns 18

By A.J. Goldmann

  • Print
  • Share Share

The words “Mehr Juden ins Kino” (“More Jews to the movies”) are plastered all over Berlin. With its yellow lettering and graffiti-like script, the resemblance to Nazi-era posters is intentional. This is the striking (and somewhat confusing) logo for this year’s Jewish Film Festival Berlin and Potsdam, running from June 4 to 17.

The Hamburg-based artist artist (and son of Israeli parents) Daniel Josefsohn, who designed the poster, intends the text as a way of turning a Nazi ban on Jews going to the movies on its head. Well, the poster definitely is an attention-grabber for one of Europe’s most established Jewish film festivals.

Courtesy of Little Shark

The 18th installment of the festival opened this week with a gala screening of “Max Raabe in Jerusalem,” by Brigitte Bertele, Julia Willmann, Sabine Scharnagl and Bettina Hausler.

The documentary, seen here in its world premiere, chronicles the German cabaret singer Max Raabe and his band, the Palast Orchester, on tour in Israel with their “Tonight or Never” show. Part concert film, part travelogue of Israel, the documentary is most notable for its interviews with Berlin-born Israelis now in their 80s and 90s, who recall the Weimar-era songs that Raabe performs from their youth. Interestingly, many still see themselves as Berliners.

Raabe’s shtick is an impeccably calibrated nostalgia trip to Berlin of the 1920s and early ‘30s. He croons song made famous by Marlene Dietrich, the Comedian Harmonists, the Andrew Sisters and Irving Berlin with pizazz and precision, providing wry commentary in between numbers.

Early on, Raabe says that an Israeli tour feels especially meaningful given that many of the songs he sings were penned by Jewish composers and lyricists.

“These Jewish composers guarantee our success. We keep these names alive,” Raabe explains at one point in the film. Despite the band’s misgivings about how a bunch of German musicians with a tall, blonde singer, will be received in the Jewish State, the tour is a success.

Raabe, who has performed all over the world, says that the only audience who matched the Israelis’ enthusiasm for clapping and cheering was the Italian one. After the screening, Raabe and the Palast Orchester came onstage (without their instruments, alas) to sing Gib mir den letzten Abschiedskuss.

The gala was held at the strikingly modern Hans-Otto-Theater in Potsdam. They played to a packed house. Politicians and artists were among the guest of honor. Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, the recently-appointed Israeli ambassador to Germany, speaking before the screening, commended the festival for including so many Israeli films in this year’s program.

Friend of the festival actress-singer Meret Becker queried in her opening remarks: “What is a Jewish film? Are we talking about Jewish themes? Directors? Actors? My God! All films are Jewish! This is never a question for gay film.” That got a laugh.

“Well, maybe it has to do with the content. But what is Jewish content? Every Jew will have a different answer.” Another laugh.

To settle the issue, Becker quoted the famous Supreme Court ruling on the definition of pornography: “You know it when you see it.”

All joking aside, though, the actress commended the festival for showing that, “Jewish culture is not foreign. It’s an important part of this country and other countries as well.”

The festival unspools at select independent cinemas across Berlin and Potsdam. The nearly 30 short and feature films offered hail from Israel, Germany, America, France and the U.K. Highlights include the Berlin premiere of Joseph Cedar’s Oscar-nominated “Footnote,” and the European premiere of Joel Fendelman’s “David,” about the son of an imam in Brooklyn who is mistaken for a Jewish boy.

The line-up also includes French comic-book writer and director Jonathan Sfar’s “The Rabbi’s Cat,” an animated fable about a cat who, after swallowing a parrot, gains the power of speech and decides to convert to Judaism.

In the documentary category, films of special note include “Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler,” Peter Rosen’s film biography of the 20th Century’s most famous violinist, and Duki Dror’s “Mendelsohn’s Incessant Visions,” a portrait of the revolutionary architect Erich Mendelsohn, which will be screened three times during the festival.

“We’ve come of age,” said festival founder Nicola Galliner before the curtain rose at the festival opening, referring both to the age of majority in Germany and the numerical value of “Chai.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Max Raabe, Palast Orchester, Jewish Film Festival Berlin and Potsdam, Daniel Josefsohn, Art, A.J. Goldmann

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.