What to Watch on Large and Small Screens This Summer

There’s no shortage of Jewish stories being told by filmmakers these days, from big budget biographies to small screen mini-series.

Soul Doctor plays at theaters across the country on June 13th as a Jewish/Black harmony event with support from diverse groups and individuals, including Stand with Us, The Museum of Tolerance, Hadassah, SCLC, Black Press of America, United Negro College Fund, National Voting Rights Museum, Martin Luther King III, Professor Susannah Heschel and many more. “Soul Doctor” is the new film version of the musical based on the influential and controversial singer/composer Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and his personal and professional relationship with singer Nina Simone. AMC Flatirons Crossing and the Westminster Promenade 24 are among 1,000 theaters that will host 7 pm screenings in celebration of Juneteenth. TRAILER

Oppenheimer,which opens in theaters on July 21, is Christopher Nolan’s much anticipated biography of the nuclear physicist who led the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. Focused on the creation of the atomic bomb, the film stars Cillian Murphy (who also starred in Nolan’s “Dunkirk”) as Robert Oppenheimer. Another famous Jewish scientist, also played by a non-Jewish actor, makes an appearance with Tom Conti playing Einstein. TRAILER

Between the Templesis written and directed by Nathan Silver and features Jewish actors Jason Schwartzman, the legendary Carol Kane, and Caroline Aaron (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”). The comedy, which has just finished filming, is about a cantor who takes on an adult Bat Mitzvah student.

Another Bat Mitzvah movie comes to Netflix on August 25, featuring the inimitable Adam Sandler and his “Uncut Gems” co-star, Broadway legend Idina Menzel. You Are SO Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah is based on the 2008 young adult novel and costars Sandler’s daughter and wife, as well as Sarah Sherman.

Also opening on August 25, “Golda,” directed by Guy Nattiv, comes to theaters with Helen Mirren as Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir leading the young nation facing an existential crisis during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. TRAILER

Israel’s Six Day War will also be depicted on the big screen, with Oded Raz (“Maktub”) directing Jerusalem 67,” which will start filming in Israel  this summer.

Bradley Cooper stars as Leonard Bernstein in Netflix’s Maestro,” to be released later this year. Cooper also directs this musical biographical drama co-produced by Cooper, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, with a script co-written by Cooper and Josh Singer.

Three Jewish-themed series are currently streaming on small screens. While none are noteworthy, they all tell compelling stories.

Transatlantic (Netflix) focuses on the heroic rescue of Jewish notables (Chagall, Hannah Arendt and many more) from Marseille by American businessman Varian Fry. Sadly, much of the story is invented – including three unnecessary love stories – and the writing and acting are mediocre. Still, it is extremely heartening to see Varian Fry’s story told. TRAILER

Similarly, Rough Diamonds (Netflix) suffers from formulaic and improbable writing, but is to be commended for offering a glimpse into the Orthodox enclave in Antwerp and its thriving diamond business. TRAILER

A Small Light (Hulu and Disney+), which I have just started watching but also have found disappointing, focuses on the heroism of Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who sheltered the Frank family and returned Anne’s diary to her father Otto Frank (played by the marvelous Liev Schreiber) after the war. TRAILER

With only the first episode now available, Ghosts of Beirut (Showtime) is more promising. This four-part spy drama from “Fauda” creator and star Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff depicts the real-life manhunt for master terrorist Imad Mughniyeh. TRAILER

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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