Diamond District Yankels Enchilada Synagogues, Jerusalem’s Holy Weirdos: Three New Videos


This fascinating 70-minute documentary about Jews (all male, of course) in the diamond business presents a world that is high stakes and addictive, sentimental and loyal. On a handshake, a chassid walks away with a million dollar bracelet in his pocket. Grandfathers, fathers and sons define this world, and it’s touching to watch them unabashedly love and respect each other, handling all the while. The men profiled have great big personalities; the chassidim study Talmud during lunchtime pizza breaks from diamond polishing; and the gorgeous heiress makes millions auctioning off her rubies at Sotheby’s while the little Jewish guys hustle in second-rate hotel rooms, say “ain’t” a lot, and get major endorphin rushes. Lots to think about. Available from filmmaker: Gaylen Ross, c/o OR Films,, 155 Henry St., PH-C, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Fax/phone: 718-875-1512.


“Jerusalem Syndrome” is that phenomenon that routinely afflicts tourists to the Holy City-causing them to “know” that they are Mary, King Solomon, and the angel Gabriel. In this uneven 51-minute documentary, we meet Carlos from Costa Rica who is being detained at Ben Gurion airport (because he believes he’s the Messiah); a Finnish psychotic in a Jerusalem mental hospital (who believes he’s the Messiah); and many ground-kissers, harp-makers, ecstatic desert sojourners, and white donkey-riders in between.

Explains a secular interviewee: “People visiting here experience a special religious disorientation. The symbolism is all over, yet it does not touch them inside. This disorients them, and they become the characters that have lived in Jerusalem—Jesus, King David, Samson.” Holy Madness provokes good discussion, though it doesn’t help viewers think about the difference between nonnative religious nuts and the merely mentally ill. Available from filmmaker: Mira Hamermesh, Sered Films. Ltd., 19 Hamilton Gardens. London, NWS 9PU, U.K. Fax: 44171-289-5532. Phone: 44171-286-3655.

A KISS TO THIS LAND (in Yiddish-inflected Spanish with English subtitles)

A surprisingly beautiful group portrait of half a dozen old Jewish men and women who immigrated to Mexico in the 1920s. In this 92-minute documentary, they tell their stories in stages: First the Old Country (Russia, Turkey, Syria, Poland), one by one, then their first days in Mexico; their years shlepping various housewares or shmattes across Mexico as peddlers: getting married and establishing Jewish communal life in Mexico City; becoming middle aged and “successful'”; and on into senescence. These aging immigrants are Jewish treasures; last links. Their memories are raw little poems. They’ve acquired wisdom.

Says one octogenarian: “In no way can I affirm that I have accomplished something sacred or something very special in my life. No. I am just an immigrant like any other who has sought to improve his life. But the mere fact of having had the courage to say farewell to all the traditions, to abandon one’s family and others in Europe, and to come searching for a new life, this puts us in a group of people of singular value.”

Available from filmmaker: Daniel Goldberg, Monte Chimborazo 625-701, Mexico D.F. I 1000. Fax: 525-202-5317. Phone: 525-520-24855.