Waikato Times

Festival’s must-see Jewish movies

A highlight of the Jewish Film Festival’s lineup sounds like a sequel to Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, but the pre-World War II drama is based on a beloved 50-year-old book, finds James Croot.

- Stuff to Watch The Jewish Internatio­nal Film Festival is now in select cinemas around the country until August 15. See jiff.co.nz

Working closely with the organisers of a correspond­ing festival across the Tasman, Kiwi film distributo­rs Vendetta Films has put together a Jewish Internatio­nal Film Festival. Featuring six recent Israeli and Jewish-themed films, it will screen in cinemas in Auckland, Christchur­ch, Dunedin, New Plymouth and Wellington over the next month.

has had the opportunit­y to preview a trio of the terrific titles on offer.

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

The title may draw obvious comparison­s with Taika Waititi’s Academy Award-winning effort, this is actually based on Judith Kerr’s much-loved, barely fictionali­sed 1971 book, which was inspired by her own childhood.

As in the novel, the action takes place well before World War II. Nine-year-old Anna Kemper (Riva Krymalowsk­i) is thrown into chaos by the prospect of an Adolf Hitler victory in the 1933 German elections.

An outspoken critic of the newly appointed German Chancellor through his columns and radio broadcasts, Anna’s father Arthur (Oliver Masucci) had already fled to Switzerlan­d and now the rest of the family have been advised to quickly follow suit.

But necessaril­y packing lightly, means leaving behind most of Anna’s beloved toys, including her cherished pink rabbit. While she adjusts to life in a foreign land, she knows that even there, their safety and security is not guaranteed.

Nowhere in Africa director Caroline Link does a terrific job of bringing this family drama to life, refreshing­ly and cleverly never presenting the increasing Nazi threat to their lives in any typical jackbooted form.

Instead, we remain focused on the Kempers, and particular­ly Anna, evoking memories of Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun or The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.


Arriving with oddly perfect timing, Yaron Zilberman’s 2019 movie is a cracking psychologi­cal and political thriller and a kind of quasi-sequel to SoHo and Neon’s drama Oslo.

Set in the aftermath of the initial signing of the Oslo Accords, agreements reached by the Israeli authoritie­s and the Palestinia­n Liberation Organisati­on to try to end the cycle of violence between their peoples, it follows Bar-Ilan University law student Yigal Amir (a compelling Yehuda Nahari Halevi), as he grows increasing­ly disillusio­ned with his government’s ‘‘betrayal’’ of its populace.

Whipped up by religious rhetoric claiming that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s death would be justified under ‘‘Jewish Law’’, Amir hatches an assassinat­ion plan.

Reminiscen­t of the films of Paul Greengrass

(United 93, 22 July), Zilberman skilfully underplays and keeps the drama intimate, mixes in real life, archival footage of Rabin and other significan­t figures of the time, then delivers a chilling final few moments.

The Match

Fans of the star-studded 1981 British football-meetsWorld War II crowdpleas­er Escape to Victory should check out this US-Croatian co-production. Essentiall­y a remake of the 1961 Hungarian drama

Two Halves in Hell, it details a game between a group of Hungarian prisoners of war and a handpicked German team eager to gain revenge for the country’s loss against the Magyars in the buildup to the Berlin Olympics in 1936. The drama follows predictabl­e beats, but the cast sell the story, among them Danish actor Caspar Phillipson, Italian legend Franco Nero, Hollywood’s Armand Assante and Australia’s Mark Viduka.

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When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit
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The Match

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