From Maria Motter
“Shalom, Oida” is one of the slogans that the Jewish Film Festival Vienna has used in its thirty-year history. Now, for the anniversary, the motto for the upcoming festival edition from October 3rd to 17th, 2021 is “Nevertheless!”.
“The measures to combat the pandemic have exposed the latent anti-Semitism in our society with alarming clarity,” writes the team at the Jewish Film Festival Vienna in the new program catalog. 51 films invite you to dedicate yourself to the lives of Jewish “ordinary citizens” today – as it says in the catalog – as well as during the Nazi regime and back to the time during the First and Second World Wars.
From Austrian classics like “Gebürtig” to the European premiere of the quirky and cute comedy “An American Pickle” there is a wide variety of stories to experience. The program ranges from the portrait of a resistance fighter “Liza ruft!” To the dream of photographing a swimming polar bear (in “Picture of his Life”). Here are the first recommendations for the Jewish Film Festival Vienna 2021!
Jewish Film Festival Vienna,
October 3 to 17, 2021, full program: jfw.at.
A partisan in Vilnius: “Liza calls!”
The older lady is so good at walking and quick to think, the young German film team hurries after her every now and then. Fania Brantsovskaya was nineteen in July 1941 when the Wehrmacht invaded her city, Wilna (German for Vilnius, today’s capital of Lithuania). She has to leave home with her family, like all Jewish residents on her street, she comes to the ghetto that was built, controlled and sealed off by the Nazis. But on the day before the ghetto is completely evacuated, she manages to escape into the woods. The young woman, who was previously part of a resistance group, joins partisans.
She reports all of this to the filmmaker Christian Carlsen. “Liza calls!” Is the very first portrait of a Jewish partisan, says the film team.
The great thing about “Liza ruft!” Is that the documentary not only brings reminders and eyewitness reports about the Nazi terror regime and the systematic annihilation of Jewish life onto the screen, but is also interested in what follows: for the decades in which Jewish Life in Vilna has been kept small. For decades in which it was made difficult for the survivors and the first memorial plaques for the murdered Jewish people and for resistance fighters were destroyed.
In today’s Lithuania there is a tendency to rewrite history, even to deny it. In 2008, Fania Brantsovskaya found herself confronted with wild allegations and a preliminary investigation.
Vilna, the Murer case and clarification in the cinema
“Messieurs, it seems to me that we are in Jerusalem!” Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have said in 1812 about Vilna. This is what Johannes Sachslehner writes in his book “Roses for the murderer – The two lives of Nazi perpetrator Franz Murer”. And this book is worth reading again or for the first time at all after having watched “Liza calls!”. Vilnius was known as the “Jerusalem of the North”, and the Eastern European Jewish Enlightenment flourished in the city. Of the 200,000 residents, around 75,000 were Jewish. Franz Murer, Styrian local politician and large farmer, was responsible for the Vilnius ghetto from 1941 to 1943. “Murer – Anatomy of a Process”, which was voted the best feature film on the Diagonale in 2018, also shows the “Afterwards”, about how the Second Republic dealt with the Nazi perpetrators and the survivors.
“The village of Ponary is surrounded by dense forests, the area was a popular destination for the residents of Vilnius before the war,” writes Sachslehner in the non-fiction book “Roses for the Murderer”. In 1941 the National Socialists begin the mass shootings in the forest of Ponary. Fania Brantsovskaya will climb over branches in the film “Liza ruft!” And look even more delicate at the memorial for the Jews murdered in Ponary.
“Like the Fis deceived me,” explains Fania Brantsovskaya. As long as they carry their feet, they will fight for a Jewish life in Vilnius.
“Liza ruft!” Will be shown on Thursday, October 7th, at 7.30 p.m., in the Village Cinemas Wien Mitte. After the film there will be a panel discussion with the director Christian Carlsen and the philosopher Katharina Lacina.
Neonazis retten? „Thou Shalt Not Hate“!
Huge questions about the dignity of life, about guilt and atonement are presented in the Italian film “Thou Shalt Not Hate” with a crash at the beginning and then they really crawl into you for the duration of the film. Should neo-Nazis be saved?
A surgeon – played by Alessandro Gassmann – is paddling in a river when he hears a car accident. Shortly afterwards, the intensive care doctor bends over the seriously injured driver, alerts the ambulance and ties off his leg from which the blood is pumping. When he opens the man’s shirt, he is emblazoned with a large tattooed swastika. And the doctor loosens the hemostatic belt.
A right-wing extremist is rarely out and about alone and so the surgeon who, out of remorse, seeks the closeness of the bereaved of the accident victim, is soon confronted with hatred. Director Mauro Mancini creates an uncanny tension through the restraint of the main character.
“Thou Shalt Not Hate” runs on October 10th. and on October 15th at the Jewish Film Festival Vienna.
“Anything but ordinary” with Vincent Cassel
The Jewish Film Festival Vienna will open next Sunday, October 3rd, with the French feature film “Everything Exceptional” (“Hors Normes”) with Vincent Cassel as a devout Jew who looks after the most serious cases of young people far beyond his community.
Bruno (Vincent Cassel) and his Muslim friend Malik (Reda Kateb) take care of autistic children, severely neglected adolescents and young adults who are otherwise only temporarily admitted to psychiatric hospitals and are turned away from care facilities.
“Anything but ordinary” is based on a true story and convinces with its quiet, realistic narrative style. The screenplay comes from the writers of blockbuster hits like “Pretty Best Friends”.
Believe in all people
A boy has to wear a helmet all the time because he so often hits his head against everything around him. A young adult sets the alarm for the emergency braking every time he takes the subway and watches repair videos for washing machines for hours. His mother bakes Bruno pineapple cakes and when she confides in him one evening and says in desperation that she is so worried about what will become of the son when she is no longer there and that it would be best if she would kill herself with him today, Bruno grabs the plate with the cake and still stays. Only Bruno and his colleagues have no official approval for what they do, but they are constantly being called by psychiatric hospitals.
Because Bruno and Malik also train young people from the neighborhood who are difficult to place on the job market as supervisors, the film also has humorous aspects and overall such a nice approach to people. “Anything but ordinary” is about believing in people, in all and especially in those who do not function in the way that is usually expected in all social life.
At the opening, the actor Cornelius Obonya, who is the president of “Aktion gegen Antisemitismus”, and the student Sashi Turkof, co-president of the Jewish Austrian students and “younger than our festival”, announced the speaker.
Schrullig: „An American Pickle“
Last but not least, the Jewish Film Festival shows nine comedies. Including the European premiere of “An American Pickle”. In it, a Jewish immigrant in New York falls into a barrel with pickled cucumbers, is thus converted and brought to life by a failed drone flight a hundred years later and washed to the surface. From then on, the man has to find his way in the present. But after a deep sleep in the brine, there is no princess waiting for him, instead he is staying with his great-great-grandson in Brooklyn, an app developer. But he has too little to remember his ancestors. So he moves through the streets selling pickles. “An American Pickle” is quirky and cute slapstick and good if you want to think very little for an hour and a half.