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Feminist P.O.V. in New Films

Daring to Resist, by Martha Lubell and Barbara Attie, is a captivating documentary about three young women who survived and helped others survive during the Holocaust. Narrated by actress Janeane Garafalo, the film tells of the lives of Barbara, a ballerina who worked for the underground in Holland; Shulamit, a Hungarian Zionist who escaped every evil; and Faye, a Polish partisan who photographed what the Nazis did. Each of the women was in her late teens when the war began, still very much girls tied to their families. And each made the striking decision to dodge the danger alone after her family refused to flee.

The women, now senior citizens, tell their stories with humor and grace. Each is filmed on a pilgrimage back to her roots: finding her home, train stations, and even fellow resisters.

Contact: Women Make Movies, (212) 925-0606; fax (212) 925-2052; e-mail: orders@wmm.com; www.wmm.com.

The halutzot, women pioneers in pre-state Palestine, often have been ignored by historians. In Living for Tomorrow, Lilach Dekel interviewed her 94-year old grandmother and fellow halutzot who immigrated to Palestine as young women. Rita, one of the interviewees, says, “I only became brave in Israel.” That attitude pervades the film.

Many of these women came from privileged European backgrounds and went to build a kibbutz, where they did physical labor, ate half an egg a day and shared their possessions. They had no privacy with their husbands, contracted typhus and malaria, had to work twice as hard to be taken seriously by the male leadership, needed permission to get pregnant, and couldn’t complain for fear of being thrown out.

Each woman regretted not raising her children herself, having surrendered them to the kibbutzim’s communal children’s homes. “It was against human nature,” they felt, but they were full of Zionist spirit and didn’t object.

Contact: Lilach Dekel, (718) 965- 4670; lilachd@yahoo.com.

Since the documentary Women of the Wall premiered in New York City last summer, it has been screened in more than 80 communities and college campuses. The 30-minute film records the efforts of women to pray openly, out loud, and as a group at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, despite physical and judicial attacks. Ten years have passed since their campaign for equal access began, but it has been resolved neither by the courts nor by the force of public opinion, though a May ruling found in favor of the women’s right to pray there. “People’s refusal to move the situation beyond a women’s rights issue, into the broader context of civil rights, is short-sighted,” filmmaker Faye Lederman has said.

Lederman has made her film into a teaching tool, using it to lead discussions in synagogues and on campuses about such issues as women’s status in Judaism and pluralism in Israel.

Contact: New Day Films, (888) 367- 9154; squeezestone@hotmail.com

The Washington DC Jewish Film Festival this year featured an abundance of engaging films about Jewish women, but the audience-choice award went to an endearing biography of a Jewish man. Written, directed and produced by Aviva Kempner, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg has gone on to win rave reviews and commercial distribution across North America.

Greenberg, called “the baseball Moses,” was the first Jewish hero of the sport, a national star in the 1930s and 1940s who refused to play on Yom Kippur. Even in notoriously anti-Semitic Detroit, where he starred for the Tigers, Greenberg was adored, and the feature-length film includes accolades from Alan Dershowitz, Senator Carl Levin, and a now-elderly but still worshipful female fan, among others.

Kempner’s 13-year-long labor of love is an unabashed valentine to the handsome 6’4″ slugger. Kempner (“Partisans of Vilna”) told Lilith, “Being a woman, I approached this sports film from a different perspective—it’s more romantic and emotional than I believe a male filmmaker would have made.” Part of the fascination is this film’s attitude. Kempner says she was determined “to focus on a strong, brawny Jewish man who was a hero and not the nebbishy, Jewish male you most often see on the screen….I grew up thinking that Hank Greenberg was the model of the American Jewish man.”

For local listings, see: www.hankgreenbergfilm.org.