The Arty Semite

First Peek at Ari Folman's New Film

By Forward Staff

The first trailer is out for Ari Folman’s new film, “The Congress” (see here for background), and though I hate to say it, it’s a little disappointing.

I’ve been looking forward to this movie for ages, mainly because it seems like the perfect creative pairing.

Folman, in his 2008 film “Waltz With Bashir,” used groundbreaking animation techniques to create a movie of impressive psychological depth and intensity.

“The Futurological Congress,” the book by Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem on which “The Congress” is based, is a hallucinatory look at a possible future in which humanity has drugged itself with psychoactive chemicals in order to make an overpopulated, resource-exhausted world bearable to live in.

I was hoping that combining Folman’s animated storytelling technique with Lem’s multi-layered dystopia would produce something like Satoshi Kon’s “Paprika,” another animated exploration of the mind’s slipperiest states.

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Animated Memories for Yom Hazikaron

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror, is a somber one. Families and friends visit the graves of deceased loved ones, sad music plays all day on the radio, and special programming replaces regularly scheduled television shows. It doesn’t seem like the kind of day to be animated.

But Beit AVI CHAI, a cultural and social center in Jerusalem established by the AVI CHAI Foundation, is doing the unexpected. In a new project called “Panim. Yom. Zikaron,” (Face. Day. Remembrance) it is capturing memories of fallen soldiers in short animated videos. Families submit recollections of fallen loved ones, and young animators are commissioned to create short videos based on them.

There are currently nine videos posted on a special section of Beit AVI CHAI’s website, and it has put out a call out to animators, asking them to participate in the project, and to the public to submit stories. The videos and information are in Hebrew only, but you can understand the gist of the stories without knowing the language.

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Tavi Gevinson, Female Characters and ‘Archer’

By Ezra Glinter

Courtesy of FX

In March 2012, teenage fashion writer Tavi Gevinson gave a TED talk bemoaning the lack of strong female characters in pop culture. “Strong,” she said, doesn’t mean “two dimensional super-women who maybe have one quality that’s played up a lot.” Rather, she argued, we need “strong characters who happen to be female.”

In a recent post, culture blogger Alyssa Rosenberg went further. “The evaluation of whether a female character is strong shouldn’t be about whether or not the character herself demonstrates physical or emotional resilience, but about whether the execution of the character… is precise and unique,” she wrote. “”Strong,’ if we’re going to keep using the term, should be an indicator of quality, rather than of type.”

I couldn’t agree more. And it’s a reason that “Archer” — Adam Reed’s animated spy comedy now in its fourth season on FX — is one of the best shows on television.

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Friday Film: Chinese Animation Takes On the Holocaust

By Christopher DeWolf

With stadium seating and the scent of fresh popcorn in the air, the November 21 screening of “A Jewish Girl in Shanghai” could have taken place in any shopping mall cinema in the world. But there was nothing ordinary about the film itself, which is China’s first homegrown Jewish movie, and an animated one at that.

Go2Films

“Other Jewish film festivals are avoiding this like the plague,” said Howard Elias, the founder of the Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival, which screened the movie as part of its 11th edition. “I’m showing it for the novelty. It’s not anti-Semitic — in fact, it’s pro-Semitic, in its own perverse way.”

Directed by Wang Genfa and Zhang Zhenhui, and based on a graphic novel by Wu Lin, “A Jewish Girl in Shanghai” is set during World War II. It tells the story of two children, Rena and Mishailli, who flee Europe after their father goes missing and their mother is abducted by Nazis. They find their way to Shanghai, which at the time was one of the few places in the world that would accept Jewish refugees, despite being occupied by the Nazi-allied Japanese.

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Animating Brodsky In a Room and a Half of His Own

By Ezra Glinter

When the Russian-born American poet Joseph Brodsky won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1987, he was asked whether he thought of himself as an American or a Russian writer. “I am Jewish — a Russian poet and an English essayist,” he replied. Born into a Jewish family in Leningrad in 1940, he was exiled in 1972 on charges of “parasitism” and moved to the United States, where he became a citizen in 1977.

Whether to his regret or relief, Brodsky never returned to the Soviet Union. In “A Room and a Half,” Russian animator and director Andrey Khrzhanovsky imagines what Brodsky’s return might have been like. As critic and novelist Sonya Chung describes it for The Millions:

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Too Gross for the 21st Century? Jewish American Cartoonist Milt Gross

By Benjamin Ivry

Click for larger view

On February 7, at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, a new publication from New York University Press, “Is Diss A System? A Milt Gross Comic Reader” edited by Ari Y. Kelman, will be presented. Gross (born in 1895) of Russian Jewish ancestry, drew comic strips of wild slapstick energy, following in the violence-for-laughs tradition of “The Katzenjammer Kids.” A self-consciously low comedian, Gross drew racist images of black people and was not all that flattering about Jews either.

Gross’s defiantly insensitive gift for visual anarchy got him jobs in Hollywood writing and directing short films like “Izzy Able the Detective” (1921) and “Jitterbug Follies” (1939; see below). Gross was even reportedly hired by Charlie Chaplin to invent sight gags for the silent film “The Circus.”

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