AJFF What to Watch in June


Classics, comedies, dramas, documentaries, and several films formerly featured at AJFF's annual festival make up this month's picks. Film titles are linked with information on where to watch or purchase.

Video on Demand

This 1995 Martin Scorsese classic stars Robert De Niro as Ace Rothstein, inspired by the real-life story of Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal who managed the Fremont, Hacienda, and Stardust casinos in Las Vegas for the Chicago mob back in the 1970s and 1980s. The well-reviewed film was a worldwide box office success and Sharon Stone's performance, inspired by socialite Geri McGee, was singled out for acclaim, earning her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress and a nomination for the Academy Award as well.

Dirty Dancing
A naïve Jewish teenager learns about life, love and dancing while summering with her family in the Catskills, circa 1963, in this pop landmark starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. Frances “Baby” Houseman is bored with the rituals of the mountain resort, until she falls for the hotel’s dreamy dance instructor, Johnny Castle. A mismatched romance ensues over the objections of the girl’s father (Jerry Orbach), culminating in a breathtaking dance finale. Featured as a classic for its 25th Anniversary at the 2012 AJFF.

Meet the Parents & Meet the Fockers 
Jewish male nurse, Greg (Ben Stiller) faces off against his prospective and formidable new father-in-law Jack (Robert De Niro) in this 2000 comedy and again in the 2004 sequel. As Greg's hope to impress Jack escalates, so, too, does the accidental harm he renders in his relationship with his girlfriend, later (spoiler alert) fiancée, Pam (Teri Polo). Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand join the ensemble cast in the sequel.

The Pawnbroker
This 1964 American drama based on the novel of the same name and directed by Sidney Lumet, stars Rod Steiger and focuses on former professor Sol Nazerman (Steiger), a survivor of a German concentration camp who now runs a pawn shop in East Harlem.The film was the first produced entirely in the United States to deal with the Holocaust from the viewpoint of a survivor. In 2008, the fllm was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."  

Picture of His Life
A daring Israeli underwater photographer prepares for his greatest challenge yet, in this extraordinary true-life adventure. Starting as a war photographer, Amos Nachoum built a 40-year career capturing stunningly gorgeous close-up photos of aquatic wildlife, from great white sharks, to killer whales and crocodiles. But one fearsome predator remains elusive. Setting out across the Arctic to fulfill his dream, Amos embarks on a perilous quest to swim alongside a polar bear and become the first to capture the encounter on film. His journey brings him face-to-face with painful memories that have shaped his fearless determination. This breathtaking, intimate portrait reveals a passionate artist and environmental activist who risks life and limb in pursuit of singular beauty. Featured at the 2020 AJFF.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights 
This Mel Brooks musical adventure comedy heavily lampoons prior Robin Hood films while offering a new spin on the cherished legend. With an all-star cast, including a memorable cameo from Brooks as Rabbi Tuckman, a parody of Friar Tuck, the film, though not beloved by critics, has still become a cult favorite over the years. 

Blu-Ray & DVD

Recently featured at the 2020 AJFF, Noah Schnapp (of Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things) is a Brooklyn kid with an identity crisis hoping to unify his mixed-heritage family through food. Learning his way around a professional kitchen as an unpaid intern, Abe uses his newfound cooking skills to prepare a Thanksgiving feast, hoping to finally bridge his family’s differences.

In this DocAviv best film winner, a controversial Jewish lawyer pushes Israeli courts to the limit in her unwavering defense of Palestinian rights. Against dispiriting odds, Lea Tsemel has for nearly 50 years represented Palestinian prisoners in the face of what she views as a rigged legal system. Navigating a tricky ethical morass, Tsemel reserves judgement of the accused, even those resisting Israeli occupation with violence. Juxtaposing high-profile court cases with flashbacks to her leftist awakening and fraught attempts at raising a family, this Sundance Grand Jury Prize nominee employs an inventive mix of live-action footage and rotoscoped animation to examine this outspoken anti-establishment figure. Featured at the 2020 AJFF.

Promise at Dawn
Nominated for five Caesar Awards, is the sweeping adaptation of French novelist Romain Gary's beloved memoir of exotic globetrotting and an impassioned mother-son bond. Spanning over 20 years in the celebrated writer and diplomat's extraordinary life, this lavish epic follows Gary (Pierre Niney) from childhood poverty in Poland, to his education in south France and exploits as a WWII aviator. This mélange of rich vignettes is seen through the prism of a problematic relationship with his eccentric, domineering mother Nina (Charlotte Gainsbourg in a stunning turn), who pushes beleaguered Gary to fulfill his potential. While her overwhelming love drives his ambition and is instrumental to his fame, his constant need for her approval proves a suffocating burden. Sparkling with meticulous cinematography and production design, this breathtaking saga contemplates the complex emotional truths of a parent's self-sacrifice and impossible dreams for a child. Featured at the 2019 AJFF.

An abuse survivor exhumes his past in a forensic search for healing, in this brave, no-holds-barred investigation of trauma in a Jewish American family. All his younger life, Sasha’s father obsessively recorded the family’s every move. Once frisky and bright, Sasha becomes angry and isolated, and the innocuous footage proves a sinister archive of secrets. Amid a high-stakes court battle and media firestorm, family and mental health and legal experts are enlisted to reconstruct a history of child sexual abuse, as cathartic and instructive, as it is disturbing. Winner of the 2020 AJFF Documentary Jury Prize.