Category Archives: New York Jewish Film Festival

New York Jewish Film Festival 2022: ‘We Were the Others’

'We Were the Others' written and directed by Hadas Ayalon, NY Jewish FF 2022 (courtesy of the film)
We Were the Others written and directed by Hadas Ayalon (courtesy of the film)

When the 1970 Stonewall Riots were happening in New York City and Gay Pride was taking off in other cities globally, in Israel, the situation was very different. In a remarkable documentary currently screening at the New York Jewish Film Festival 2022, in We Were the Others, filmmaker Hadas Ayalon interviews six gay men in order to slice open the discriminatory cultural mores and attitudes in 1960s and 1970s Israel. Importantly, with her pointed interviews that delve into the souls and emotions of the men, we understand the very human experience of negative acculturation. And in understanding how these men grappled with their sexual identities and finally accepted who they are, we note incredible human emotions, with which all of us may identify.

Ayalon organizes her documentary around themes, and filters through her subjects by having them discuss how they understood what their sexual identity was at an early age. Interestingly, all admit there was no language, nor was there any frame of reference in Israel for being attracted to the same sex. Indeed, these men were born in the days of the establishment of the State of Israel. Culturally and religiously, the classical values of marriage and children were an imperative to a newly forming state, though the rest of the world was changing. Nevertheless, the religious foundation for marriage and children excluded gay men and women. Indeed, gays were “the others.” They were like alien creatures that needed to be “cured,” and “corrected,” after they were jailed.

As her subjects discuss that they grew up and realized that they were attracted to the same sex, the external culture was nightmarish; they were alone. They couldn’t dare reveal the lifestyle they wanted. One individual states that walking down the street, he always keep his eyes looking at the ground, afraid to “give himself away” if he looked up at another man and showed interest.

A couple together for 40 years watching a gay pride parade. We Were the Others (courtesy of the film)

In each instance the subjects discuss that they were forced to go underground when they found out that there were others like them sexually. To have brief, silent encounters there were looks, signals and gestures as codes. There was a language being conveyed, but without words or speech. Most refer to a walkway along the beach in Tel Aviv that they frequented, but eventually the police patrolled, arrested and ousted the “criminals.” Then they went to a park where they were able to communicate and form a community eventually that led to organization, advocacy and freedom.

However, like in the U.S. in the 1940s-1950s, in Israel in the 1960s and 70s cultural mores insisted that homosexuals were perverted. In familial circles, gays were ridiculed and rejected. As many gays did, one subject, who was made fun of by his family for being effeminate, sought “normalcy.” He wanted desperately to be like other males, who were with women. He went to therapy, got married and had children. However, he was miserable; none of this stopped his desire for men. Eventually, he divorced and when the culture righted itself and being gay was no longer illegal or a great joke to laugh at, he enjoyed his life and was accepted by his family.

The documentarian makes it a point to include a few subjects who founded the Aquda, Israel’s pioneering LGBT organization established in 1975. Yotam Reuveni, journalist/author/poet, when confronted with his own fear and hypocrisy about gays revealing their preference for same sex relationships, discusses how he had a heart to heart with himself. Throwing caution to the winds, which seems like a nothing burger now, he came out in Yediot Ahronot. In a weekly series of articles, he described the how and why of his being gay and he advocated for human rights. Considering the taboo associated with homosexuality, it was a brave, necessary act that changed lives and allowed others to come out and not feel like they were monstrous in their clandestine sexual affairs and encounters.

Writer and director of We Were the Others Hadas Ayalon (courtesy of Hadas Ayalon)

In another instance of the repression involved, two of the subjects discussed how they were forced to go to another country to live without their rights being violated. One was a distinguished army officer and an aviation engineer. When it was discovered he was gay, he was summarily discharged. He emigrated to Canada. Another subject discusses his decision to leave the oppression of Israel, seeking not to live in the shadows of fear and isolation.

In order to enhance the viewers’ understanding, Ayalon uses tasteful reinactments and inter-edits archival footage from that period of time in Israel, which is superb. She also uses Amos Guttman’s gay films from the 1970s and 1980s. What is most heartbreaking is each of the men’s stories about their inner emotional sorrow and aloneness which brought some to the brink of suicide. The culture was a tormentor and after a while, living with torment daily and enduring the negation of who they were was a form of death. Thus, it was difficult to overcome the culture’s emotional brainwashing and former behaviors. Each of the men discuss how they struggled with love and intimacy after years of having to express their sexual desires in places that offered brief clandestine encounters.

It was only until 1979 when homosexual men and women formed advocacy organizations and went public, that the pressure began to be relieved. With mass demonstrations for their rights, the oppression lessened. As people identified, more joined, happy to be done with the nihilism, denial and hypocrisy of hell that the culture made them endure for so long.

Ayalon’s film is an important retrospective indicating how far we have come regarding the LGBTQ community. However, there are still nation states and even parts of the United States that are abjectly retrograde. Thus every film, every documentary, is a step in the right direction to uplift the human rights of all citizens.

We Were the Others is screening virtually. For tickets go to their website:

New York Jewish FF: ‘The Lost Film of Nuremberg’ and ‘From Where They Stood’

Hermann Wilhelm Göring, from Nuremberg: It’s Lesson For Today (courtesy of The Lost Film of Nuremberg)

Two documentaries, screening at the New York Jewish FF are must-see viewing. Both have as their subject the recording of photographic evidence of the Shoah, the Holocaust (the mass murder of Jewish people under the German Nazi regime during the period 1941–45). Considering the rise of white supremacist hate groups encouraged by the former U.S. president, these films provide an important record. Since World War II though the Holocaust has been much written about and over the decades has been the subject of movies, films, articles and plays, the Nazi atrocities in concentration camps throughout Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy and other countries, increasingly have been called into question by global Holocaust deniers.

Nuremberg: Its Lesson For Today (courtesy of The Lost Film of Nuremberg)

The Lost Film of Nuremberg chronicles how veterans of the OSS War Crimes Unit, brothers Bud and Stuart Schulberg (Hollywood filmmakers under the command of OSS film chief John Ford) endured obstacles and setbacks on their mission to track down and collect film evidence of Nazi war crimes to be used at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Their work was vital if done assiduously, for it would be used to judge the war crimes of high ranking Nazi officials like Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hermann Wilhelm Göring, Albert Speer, Rudolf Hess, Alfred Rosenberg and others, and punish them if found guilty.

Justice Robert Jackson presided over the trials (courtesy of The Lost Film of Nuremberg)

The Schulberg’s collection of Nazi films was used with testimony, documentation and the filmed proceedings of the Nuremberg trials to create Nuremberg: Its Lesson For Today. Thus, The Lost Film of Nuremberg shows the discoveries and angst the Schulbergs went through to create the superb pro-democracy film Nuremberg: Its Lesson For Today. It was released in 1948 throughout Germany, but it was never seen in the United States until a decade ago. Indeed, for over sixty years it had been “lost.”

Director/writer Christoph Klotz adapts daughter Sandra Schulberg’s monoaph, Filmmakers for the Prosecution to make The Lost Film of Nuremberg a stirring and exciting revelation about a chaotic period of time after WW II. Klotz includes tidbits from Schulberg’s perspective in letters to his wife. This material is provided by daughter Sandra. What makes the film more intriguing is the inclusion of Sandra’s perspective of her father and this commission which she only discovered after her mom died and she was cleaning out their home.

The defendants at the Nuremberg Trial, Palace of Justice (courtesy of The Lost Film of Nuremberg)

Klotz uses flashback liberally with narration by Sarah-Jane Sauvegrain to tie in the past and the present. Thus, we see clips of the youthful brothers examining Nazi film they’ve received. We hear/see Stuart’s letters to his wife detailing the journey to Germany and his impressions the to find films that the Nazis themselves produced. Stuart (the youngest member of the OSS Team) and brother Bud learned early on that the film they were making must be a compilation of actual films recording the words and deeds of the defendants. Thus, the incriminating films would be used to convict them.

Sandra learns salient details why her Dad’s “lost Nuremberg film,” edited and finalized in 1948 was created. It was to be shown in Germany and Europe for educational purposes. The intent was for the de-Nazification of the attitudes and mores of citizens after the war. It was also to show the difference between Allied Justice leveled against those committing crimes against humanity and Nazi Justice which was no justice if you were not a member of the Third Reich. Sandra’s eyes were opened to another side of her father’s vital work, for surely though it didn’t receive public release, other filmmakers knew of it and the archival Nazi films used to make it. These provided the linchpin around which subsequent films about the Holocaust would be made.

From Lennie Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (courtesy of The Lost Film of Nuremberg)

Klotz adds rare, never-before-seen footage, and reveals why the film was never released in the United States. Also, he includes Sandra’s reflections about what her father must have felt upon seeing the horrors of the camps as a young man. Klotz includes commentary of the older, retired Bud Schulberg giving a lecture about the subject of the film and why the Nazis made incriminating films of disturbing and horrific images. However, other films and Nazi evidence, buildings and documents were destroyed. The Nazis intended to escape justice, which many did, leaving Germany for the US, South America and other safe havens.

In The Lost Film of Nuremberg, Klotz relates the story of how German film director Lennie Riefenstahl was arrested and became a witness for the prosecution. Her propaganda film Triumph of the Will was created for Hitler’s use. The film identified various Nazi officials at Hitler rallies and it also evidenced Hitler’s plans. Another helpful individual was Hitler’s personal photographer Heinrich Hoffman, who had 12,000 negatives they used, after he was picked up, arrested and questioned.

As a result of the film evidence, the 19 out of 22 high ranking members of the Third Reich at Nuremberg were found guilty. Only three were acquitted. The other19 were either executed (Göring committed suicide) or received life or lesser sentences for committing crimes against humanity.

The Lost Film of Nuremberg is screening at 1 pm and 7 pm on 13 January at Lincoln Center, the Walter Reade Theater. Q & As with the director and producer Sandra Schulberg are also on that date. For tickets go to

(courtesy of From Where They Stood)

From Where They Stood is French documentarian Christophe Cognet’s unadorned and acute investigation of rare secret photos taken by prisoners in various concentration camps at great risk to their lives. They did this in the hope of documenting the atrocities they witnessed from spring 1943 to the fall of 1944. Examining the negatives carefully with a magnifying glass, Cognet visits the camps where the prisoners took the film and then either buried it to dig it up later or sent it out in a package. Some negatives came with a description that was revealed after the liberation of the prisoners who then wrote down the information. Other photos are of portraits of prisoners with no explanation or names sitting against the barracks. Others are of crematoria.

Many of the photos elucidate and confirm life and atrocities in various camps: Dachau, Buchenwald, Mittelbau-Dora, Ravensbrück, Auschwitz-Birkenau. With a translator, Cognet visits the camps and adjusts the photo negatives so that the viewer can see how the photo depicts what the location looked like. Verified are crematories, burn pits where bodies were disintegrated as much as possible. Interestingly, the bone fragments are present to this day, leaving a record of the great crimes of murder. The bone fragments to the surface after a heavy rainfall.

Unlike The Lost Film of Nuremberg, there is no music or narration or attempt to thread the places together. We hear just the silence of footsteps crunching against the walkways and the sound of birds chirping in the background. The simplicity is haunting and one realizes one is viewing a graveyard where many innocents suffered because they were considered enemies of the Third Reich.

A woman from Ravensbrück showing her injury from being experimented on (courtesy of From Where They Stood)

Cognet also includes negatives which document Sonderkommandos (usually Jewish prisoners who pulled out the naked bodies from the gas chambers and piled them on carts taking them to the crematories) stand in front of a massive pile of bodies to dispose of and burn. Additionally, women who had been used for experiments (referred to as rabbits) also pose for the camera showing the areas of their body where they’ve been experimented on. Reference is made to one experiment: a gash is made and gas gangrene is encouraged by injecting a bacillus into the site. The wound is left untreated to see the progress of the gangrene.

Because Cognet uses straight cinema verite style, the effect of the prisoners’ photographs of the past paralleled with the locations of those places in the camps in the present is stark and shocking. The posting of the enlarged negatives at the location allows the viewer to see what the prisoner saw, to stand in his or her shoes. Indeed, it leaves one numb to consider the risk these individuals, took to sneak out the film to document what was going on so the world would know. For this film Cognet’s minimalism to just see what is in the photograph is remarkable.

From Where They Stood is screening virtually from 14-19 January. For tickets go to

The Lost Film of Nuremberg is screening at 1 pm and 7 pm on 13 January at Lincoln Center, the Walter Reade Theater. Q & As with the director and producer Sandra Schulberg are also on that date. For tickets go to

New York Jewish FF 2022: ‘Sin La Habana’ review

Evelyn O’farrill and Yonah Acosta between takes of Sin La Habana at the Callejón de Hamel in Havana. Evelyn wears a cloth representing Ochún (the goddess of love and fertility) around her neck.” – Kaveh Nabatian (courtesy of the FB page for Nabatian’s film Sin La Habana)

Sin La Habana, the award winning narrative feature, exceptionally written and directed by Kaveh Nabatian, who also wrote the original music, is a beautifully layered film that completely engages from the opening shot to the uncertain ending. Sin La Habana is enjoying its New York premiere as the Centerpiece film at the New York Jewish Film Festival 2022. The NYJFF 2022 is being presented live and virtually from January 12-25, 2022. For tickets and scheduling see the last paragraph of this review.

The haunting, profound, poetic cinematography by Juan Pablo Ramirez, and the acutely thoughtful editing by Sophie Leblond intrigues us to the story arc of a Cuban ballet dancer and his lawyer girlfriend who loathe La Habana, Cuba. The city of Havana (in Spanish Habana) holds little promise for them, amidst the broken down buildings, squalid impoverished settings and lack of progress evidenced from Fidel Castro’s dictatorship and the decades long U.S. embargo. Leo and Sara envision a better life for themselves elsewhere, but their first world destination country in a time of global immigration restrictions leaves their only route of escape to be marriage to foreigners.

Evelyn O’farrill as Sara in Sin La Habana directed by Kaveh Nabatian (courtesy of the FB page for Nabatian’s film Sin La Habana)

Leonardo (the excellent ballet dancer/actor Yonah Acosta Gonzalez) is the best dancer in the company where he performs, but he can’t catc,h a break for the star role as Romeo because of his “lack of humility,” says the director of the company whom he accuses of racism, and who fires him after he curses the director out. His girlfriend Sara, who is a daughter of Orisha (both Leo and Sara are practitioners of the West African religion of Babalawo which in Cuba resembles Santeria or Vodun) is as ambitious as Leo. Their high expectations and confidence in themselves lead them away from La Habana to achieve material success and new identities, though it will mean leaving their cultural heritage back in La Habana. Their decision is filled with risks, isolation and heartbreak; but with each other, they believe new possibilities are at their fingertips with their talents and skills.

We note that throughout Sin La Habana, Leo always prays and keeps in touch with his faith, practicing it as best he can through his memory when he lives in Canada, “without the influences of La Habana,” the music of the ceremonies, the rituals and the divination which at the beginning of the film he relies upon for guidance. Through flashbacks of Leo’s religious practice in La Habana, Nabatian reveals the importance of Leo’s faith every time he endures a setback on the journey to his dreams. To maintain the connection to hope, he has endowed an object of his goals, a beautiful, crystal clear, large marble as a symbol of affirmation that his dreams will come true.

Yonah Acosta Gonzalez in Sin La Habana (courtesy of the FB page for Nabatian’s film Sin La Habana)

Inspired and persuaded by Sara, Leo works their plan to leave La Habana by sparking the interest of Nasim (the Iranian Canadian Aki Yaghoubi) during his Salsa dance classes for tourists at a Parador (house in La Habana set up for the tourist trade). Leo looks for wisdom from his previous divination sessions with the Babalawo priests and strikes out for a relationship with Nasim, whom he keeps in touch with after she returns to Montreal, Canada.

Though Leo is not particularly interested in Sara’s plan to continue the seduction and marriage to Nasim, he communicates to Nasim even writing down the words Sara tells him that will touch Nasim’s heart. Sara’s words do encourage Nasim. She pays for Leo’s way to Montreal and his expenses until he can find a job with a ballet company. They live together in a house of Nasim’s friend which she has agreed to stay in and watch over while her friend is away. Eventually, Leo discovers Nasim’s backstory; she, too, is an artist; however, he remains unaware of her secret plan for her life.

Yonah Acosta Gonzalez in Sin La Habana (courtesy of the FB page for Nabatian’s film Sin La Habana)

As Leo and Nasim become closer, he tries to maintain his connection with Sara and his religion but it is difficult and Nasim is opposed to him practicing it, though she says it’s because he can’t mess anything up in the house of her friend. While Sara waits for him to earn enough money to send for her, she fears he will disappear in Montreal into a new life with his new girlfriend Nasim. Leo’s fortune changes and he experiences a setback after he bombs out of dance auditions, first with a ballet company, then with a maverick, new wave dance company. At a club with Nasim, he meets a fellow Cuban who hooks him up with a job and a plan to bring over Sara by marrying her off.

At this point complications arise and the risk that both Sara and Leo take intensifies. Leo meets up with Nasim’s parents and runs into racist attitudes from Nasim’s father who is disappointed that his daughter didn’t stay with her X husband who she divorced because he abused her. Nasim seeks another life away from the strict upbringing of her parents and the types of potential husbands that she would meet at the synagogue. Not only is Leo exciting, he is the epitome of the opposite of her former husband; her rebellion pleases her and she intends to make that rebellion permanent, unbeknownst to Leo, her parents and her siblings.

Meanwhile, Sara, marries Julio (Leo’s friend) and goes to Montreal. Leo and Sara see each other. Upset by Leo’s long time away from the house, Nasim turns detective and discovers Leo’s mail exchanges to Sara. Through Nasim’s expert detective work she discovers Sara is in Montreal. Meanwhile, Leo has lost his symbolic dream token, his pure marble which signifies that perhaps he has subverted his culture, his dream and the individual he wishes to be via his faith. All three stand on a precipice with no way forward except to plunge into uncertainty stoked by each other who they eventually must confront.

Evelyn O’farrill as Sara in Sin La Habana directed by Kaveh Nabatian (courtesy of the FB page for Nabatian’s film Sin La Habana)

Nabatian’s screenplay realized through Ramirez’s cinematic ingenuity and Le Blond’s editing of close-ups, blurred montages of color, black and white shots of Leo dancing solo, contrasted with closeups of each of the characters provide an ethereal connection with this cultural world we are not familiar with. The director’s vision is fascinating, beautiful and surreal, as he reflects the minds of the individuals, especially Leo’s struggles at defining himself in place and time. The director also gradually reveals the plots of each of the individuals separate and apart from each other. Highlighting their perspectives and relationship to each other, the result is always surprising along the arc of each of the character’s developments.

Aki Yaghoubi portrays Nasim in Sin La Habana (courtesy of the FB page for Nabatian’s film Sin La Habana)

The music throughout is lyrical, the rituals of Babalawo are rhythmic and the dance scenes are engaging. All of these musical and ritualistic scenes contrasted with the classical ballet add to the haunting portraits of Sara, Leo and Nasim who pursue their own journeys. We empathize with the paths Leo and Sara have chosen as they try to settle far from La Habana, carried by their hopes and memories. Likewise, the scene where Nasim is at her sister’ son’s Briss is revelatory; we empathize with Nasim’s plight as she must deal with her father’s viewpoint of her divorce and present partner, Leo. The characters’ journeys are wonderfully manifested by the performances, the cinematic compositions of each frame, the editing, music, overall design, all with a nod to Nabatian’s direction.

Nabatian’s artistry coupled with the talented crafting by Ramirez and Leblond and the actors’ heart-felt performances create a memorable film deserving of it awards. It is being shown in person at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th St.) at Lincoln Center, Monday, January 17, 4:00pm. This is definitely a must see. For tickets and scheduling to the New York Jewish Film Festival go to their website at:

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