AJFF Recommends: What to Watch, Films Featuring Hollywood Stars


Familiar Hollywood faces populate this mix of comedies, dramas and classics. Film titles are linked with information on where to watch.

After Class
Justin Long leads an all-star cast in this edgy, Big Apple dysfunctional family dramedy about a 30-something college professor forced to defend his reputation. Josh is also beset with multiple family issues—divorcing parents and bickering siblings, among them—in this millennial urban tale that tackles changing social attitudes with humor, candor and compassion. With Lynn Cohen, Fran Drescher and Richard Schiff. Featured at the 2020 AJFF.

Closer to the Moon
Oscar-nominee Vera Farmiga stars in the absurdist black comedy based on the incredible true story of an audacious Romanian bank heist by high-ranking Jewish Communists posing as moviemakers. Set in 1959 Bucharest, the film opens as the crime is hatched and executed by old friends from the WWII Jewish Resistance, who seek to recapture the excitement of their glory days. Led by a chief police inspector (Mark Strong) and a political academic (Farmiga), the quintet also includes a respected history professor (Christian McKay), a hotshot reporter (Joe Armstrong) and a space scientist (Tim Plester). One of the most expensive productions in Romanian cinema, the film mixes distinctive Jewish humor with a fatalist melancholy in an outlandish history lesson open to endless interpretation. Featured at the 2015 AJFF.

Jonathan Pryce stars as an old Jewish baker whose faltering business is inadvertently saved by his young Muslim apprentice in this British dramedy, which had its world premiere at the 2015 AJFF. The film, directed by John Goldschmidt, is a warmhearted and gently humorous story about overcoming prejudice and finding redemption in unexpected places. The cast of characters is rounded out by Ian Hart as a tough marijuana dealer and Oscar-nominee Pauline Collins as the landlady with a none-too-subtle crush on Nat.

Holy Lands
James Caan leads an all-star cast as a retired American cardiologist who leaves everything behind to become a pig farmer in Israel, in this comedic family drama, a wry, moving, personal tale of a dysfunctional family—with an ex-wife, an alienated son and a perennial student daughter—striving for reconciliation and acceptance. Featured at the 2019 AJFF.

Marathon Man
Based on William Goldman's bestselling novel, the plot centers on Thomas "Babe" Levy (Dustin Hoffman), a driven, long-distance runner hoping to vindicate the memory of his father, whose suicide was spurred by the McCarthy era witch hunts. When he learns that his brother is a rogue government agent murdered in pursuit of a treacherous Nazi fugitive (a Golden Globe-winning performance by Laurence Olivier), Babe finds himself deep in a tangle of sadistic madmen, and diamonds plundered from Holocaust victims. As even his girlfriend (Marthe Keller) becomes a suspect, Babe's world is suddenly upside down. Featured as a classic for its 40th Anniversary at the 2016 AJFF.

The Pawnbroker
This 1964 American drama based on the novel of the same name and directed by Sidney Lumet, stars Rod Steiger and focuses on former professor Sol Nazerman (Steiger), a survivor of a German concentration camp, who now runs a pawn shop in East Harlem.The film was the first produced entirely in the United States to deal with the Holocaust from the viewpoint of a survivor. In 2008, the fllm was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Featured as a classic for its 50th Anniversary at the 2014 AJFF.

To Dust
A grief-stricken Hasidic widower (Géza Röhrig) enlists an unwitting and incredulous biology professor (Matthew Broderick), in an obsessive quest to make peace with his loss and grasp the mortality of the flesh, in this perversely charming, dark buddy comedy and inquiry into the spiritual and scientific dimensions of death. Featured in the 2019 AJFF.