Some of the Best Jewish Films Happen to Be Documentaries

I have been having so much fun sharing my recommendations of “What to Watch” with you on Sundays. As a former film critic, I love playing matchmaker between deserving film and appreciative audience. I hope I have made some successful “shidachs” (matches) in the past lonely months.

Happily, there is a plethora of films and shows with Jewish content available to stream today, including many films I have shown over the years at the Boulder Jewish Film Festival. As I observed during our Zoom conversation on Sunday, the documentary has taken a huge leap in creativity and artistic quality in the last few decades. (To view the discussion, click here.)

Due in large part to the rapid growth of the film festival as a platform for independently made cinema, the quantity of documentaries has also grown exponentially. In fact, today I view more documentaries than feature films during my selection process for the Boulder Jewish Film Festival. Often, the liveliest, most imaginative, and even most entertaining films I show are documentaries. Is there really a better closing night film than “Hava Nagila?”

So it is with pleasure that I share my list of indispensable non-fiction films that tell fascinating stories about the Jewish experience, organized by subject.

HOLOCAUST

Shoah (1985)

Weapons of the Spirit (1989)

Night and Fog (1956)

The Long Way Home (Produced by Rick Trank, 1997)

Who Will Write Our History? (2019)

Into the Arms of Strangers (2000) – see also My Knees Were Jumping (1996)

Paper Clips (2004)

Nicky’s Family (2013)

The Devil Next Door (2019)

The Last Days (1998)

The Invisibles (2016) – Documentary/Feature hybrid

SPORTS

Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story (2010)

Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel (2018)

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (2000)

Watermarks (2004)

On the Map (2016)

FOOD

In Search of Israeli Cuisine (2016)

Sturgeon Queens: Russ and Daughters (2014)

Deli Man (2015)

Hummus the Movie (2015)

MUSIC

Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives (2017)

AKA Doc Pomus (2012)

The Klezmatics: On Holy Ground (2010)

Itzhak (2017)

Defiant Requiem (2012)

Orchestra of Exiles (2012)

Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy (2013)

POLITICAL HISTORY

The Waldheim Waltz (2018)

Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz (2018)

Above and Beyond (2014)

Keep Quiet (2016)

Refusenik (2007)

Rock in the Red Zone (2014)

The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (1984)

One Day in September (1999)

POP CULTURE BIOGRAPHIES

The Outrageous Sophie Tucker (2014)

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (2017)

For the Love of Spock (2016)

The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg (1994)

Shalom Bollywood (2013)

THE JEWISH EXPERIENCE AND IDENTITY

Hava Nagila (The Movie) (2012)

Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies, and the American Dream (1997)

Little White Lies (2014)

Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas (2017)

The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama (2014)

Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter (1999)

The B Side: Elsa Dorfman, Portrait Photographer (2016)

Roberta Grossman

Roberta Grossman – Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh, Above and Beyond, Hava Nagila (The Movie), Seeing Allred, Who Will Write Our History?

Kathryn Bernheimer and Director Richard Trank at BJFF

Richard TrankAgainst the Tide, I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal, The Prime Ministers, It Is No Dream: The Life of Theodore Herzl, Winston Churchill: Walking with Destiny, Unlikely Heroes, Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres, Ever Again

Aviva Kempner

Aviva KempnerThe Partisans of Vilna, The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, Rosenwald, The Spy Behind Home Plate

BJFF tribute guest Dani Menkin

Dani Menkin – Dolphin Boy, On the Map, Aulcie, Picture of His Life, 39 Pounds of Love

College Career Consulting

About Kathryn Bernheimer

Kathryn has spent her professional life writing about, teaching, and presenting the arts. Founding Director of the Boulder Jewish Film Festival, Kathryn was Director of Menorah and ACE at the Boulder JCC from 2003 through August, 2019. The former film and theater critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, Kathryn is the author of "The Fifty Greatest Jewish Movies" and "The Fifty Funniest Films of All Time." kathryn.bernheimer@gmail.com

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