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Five Jewish-Adjacent Films (And A Teaser!) For The Ten Days of Teshuvah

The upcoming two weekends, from Friday sunset to Sunday sundown, are the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the high holidays of Judaism.

Ten Days of Repentance

That time from September 15th to the 25th is known as the Ten Days of Teshuvah – or for those of us gentiles – the “Ten Days of Repentance.” Traditionally, one is supposed think of who they’ve harmed or hurt – intentionally or unintentionally – and ponder their conscious.

We’ve compiled a list of five films (and a preview of another) that run the gamut of the Jewish cinematic experience. Whether you’ve gone down the rabbit hole of atonement or you’re just exploring some cultural traditions, there’s something here for everyone!

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Shana tova umetuka and g’mar chatima tovah, friends!

Uncut Gems (2019)

Say what you will about Adam Sandler but his performance as Howard Ratner, the fast-talking NYC Diamond District gambling addict-slash-jewelry salesman will make your head spin. Writer/directors Josh and Benny Safdie employ pure chaos in everything from the dialogue to the cinematography to the props in this two-hour-fifteen-minute roller-coaster ride. The eclectic cast includes Julia Fox, Idina Menzel, Kevin Garnett, Abel Tesfaye and NYC-scenester Wayne Diamond. but it’s Sandler who steals the show and proves he’s definitely aged out of the cheese of his yesteryears.

Yentl (1983)

Yentl (it rhymes with “lentil”) simply wants to follow in her father’s footsteps as a person of strong faith. However, Poland in 1904 wasn’t so kind to young women who wanted to study the Talmud so Yentl transforms herself into a man and enters a yeshiva. Steeped in production snags and glitches, Yentl literally took years to make and was super buzzy back in 1983. The musical made Barbara Streisand the Golden Globes’ first female Best Director. Unapologetically standing up to the Orthodox Jewish patriarchy, following one’s dreams, and crossdressing, Yentl has seemingly aged well.

Shiva Baby (2020)

Emma Seligman‘s directorial debut filled with awkward, angsty Jewish millennial energy is one of those indie home-runs we always crave. The film opens with Danielle, a bisexual college student (Rachel Sennott, Bottoms ) having sex with and accepting money from her sugar daddy, Max (Danny Deferrari). Then she goes onto spend the afternoon at a shiva with her parents. Discomfort ensues as it turns out fellow shiva attendee Max is a former co-worker of her father’s. A must-watch in times of introspection.

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Annie Hall (1977)

Woody Allen just released his 50th feature film, a romantic thriller, Coup de Chance, earlier this month at the Venice Film Festival. Around the same time, he did an interview with Variety and claimed that he’s most likely, finished making films. Perhaps given his age (87), and recent allegations and headlines, maybe that’s a good thing. However, we cannot deny that his seventh release, Annie Hall, set the standard for the modern-day rom-com. Sure, Allen‘s character, a Coney Island Jew named Alvy Singer, is cringey by today’s standards – no one wants to listen to all that neurotic jabber. But hey, it got Allen a Best Picture Oscar and made him about $40M in the ’70s.

Tahara (2020)

The newest film on this list, Tahara, also stars Rachel Sennott. Much like Shiva Baby, the theme of Jewish grief lingers in the background while the film’s main characters, Hannah and Carrie (Sennott and newcomer Madeline Grey Defreece) begin to develop feelings for each other after a kiss during a funeral of a classmate. This was the first film for Olivia Peace, who was the Debut Feature by a Black Filmmaker Award Recipient at NewFest 2020.

White Bird: A Wonder Story (2023?)

** White Bird should have been released this summer but because of WGA Writers and SAG-AFTRA strikes, Lionsgate Films is keeping it on ice for the time being.

White Bird stars Helen Mirren and Gillian Anderson. It’s based on the 2019 graphic novel of the same name by R.J. Palacio about a grandmother whose stories reveal her struggles as a young Jewish girl in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. She was saved from certain death by a disabled classmate. The themes of kindness and redemption run parallel to 2017’s Wonder, a story of a young boy with a facial deformity that hides behind an astronaut helmet. The box office smash family drama starred Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. White Bird was created as a companion piece to Wonder and with any luck, we’ll maybe be seeing more Wonder Stories in theaters.

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Shiva Baby Director Emma Seligman’s Bottoms Is The Queer Teen Comedy We’ve Been Waiting For

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