AJFF What to Watch in August 2021


A much loved AJFF alum hits theaters again this month, as does an incisively fresh doc on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Meanwhile, on streaming, Netflix and Hulu showcase some incredible films, from a is-it-true Holocaust documentary, to the poignant and intimate romance between Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams as Orthodox Jewish women. There's also a drama set against the one percenteres of New York, and a look at the life of megamogul David Geffen.

Video On Demand

Misha and the Wolves (coming to Netflix)

It's a story that is so incredible, you have a hard time fully accepting it: a little Jewish girl, separated from her parents by the Nazis, taken in by a Catholic family and given a new name. But she flees to find her parents, wandering through the wilderness, where she finds refuge among a pack of wolves. When Misha wrote a book about her experience, it eventually got Oprah talking about it, and sparked a movie adaptation. But, well... is it actually true? This documentary, hitting Netflix this month, explores that question, dragging you through credulity and incredulity in equal measure. It's a stylistic production, and you'll be struggling to figure it all out right up until the end credits.

Disobedience (coming to Hulu)

When Rachel Weisz' Ronit learns that her rabbi father has passed away, she immediately heads home to mourn. But her circumstances aren't exactly normal, and she isn't exactly welcomed by the Orthodox Jewish community she left behind. This intimate portrait of a repressed life and human yearnings, straining to break free, showcases the incredible acting chops of Weisz and her co-star Rachel McAdams, who portrays her childhood lover, whose now married to Ronit's cousin, denying her own sexuality. The film got less attention than it probably deserved, but it's arrival on Hulu should hopefully put it in front of more eyeballs.

Those People (coming to Hulu)

Those People made the rounds of the Jewish festival circuit about a half decade ago, garnering buzz on the backs of its charmastic cast and its send up of extreme Manhattan wealth. But underneath the layers of class commentary, many people missed out on the core, coming-of-age story centered on the young, Jewish painter Charlie. Good-looking and talented, he nevertheless struggles to sort out his feelings between selfish Sebastian and the charming Tim. Audiences won't have a hard time knowing who to root for in that plot, but they can also expect to feast on a stylish portrayal of a lifestyle few will ever come close to.

American Masters: Inventing David Geffen (coming to Netflix)

Few have had as much of an impact on popular culture, while still keeping behind the scenes, as David Geffen. The Jewish multi-hyphenate has been everything from an agent, manager, record-industry mogul, producer on Broadway and in Hollywood, and a philanthropist. He finally sat for extensive interviews a decade ago as part of PBS' American Masters series, the result of which was a two-hour documentary with a galaxy's worth of star power waxing about the life and influence of Geffen. The film makes its way to Netflix this month, and hopefully a rediscovery by anybody who missed it back in 2012. How did Geffen go from working class Broolynite to billionaire entertainment power broker? Now you can find out.

In Theaters

On Broadway

This walk down memory lane, narrating the decline and resurgence of Broadway from the late 1960s to today, was a hit at the 2021 annual festival. It gave audiences a special hit of nostalgia, given the pandemic-driven shuttering of New York's theaters, but until now it hasn't been widely available for viewing. That changes when it goes into limited theatrical release on August 20, with showings in virtual cinemas as well. If you missed out this past February, don't miss your second chance to see luminaries of the stage recount their love for Broadway, while exploring how it was saved from the brink over the past few decades.

The Viewing Booth

It's a clever experiment. Put a bunch of American students in a room, all of them interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and let them watch video by activists. While the students watch, they verbalize their thoughts and reactions. Of course, while all of this is happening, Israeli filmmaker Ra’anan Alexandrowicz records everything. He ends up in dialogue with one particular student, often disagreeing. The whole excercise is a fascinating look at the ways documentary filmmaking can and cannot change minds, and how we approach the subject of the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors. When so many films have been made on this topic, this is the rare documentary that seems to break new ground with a fresh approach. Don't miss it when it hits limited theatrical release this month.