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United Nations Association Film Festival: A look at ‘Guangzhou Dream Factory’

“Their Communism is better than some democracies.” This line from the documentary “Guangzhou Dream Factory” elicited some chuckles from the audience. The light was dimmed, and the small screening room was crammed with ardent viewers coming from drastically different walks of life. In fact, many of them had made this pilgrimage to the United Nations…

‘Live from New York’ falls short

New York City has a way of filtering out its mediocre acts — there’s ample reason for the city’s reputation for world-class artistic and cultural institutions. Making it big in the Big Apple is an incredible feat. Lasting 40 years, though — that’s something else entirely. But that’s the story of Saturday Night Live!, the…

Documentaries to watch

Watching documentaries is a great way to relax while still doing something productive and educational, or at least that’s how I justify spending so many hours on Netflix. I’ve compiled a list of some great ones out there. Man on a Wire The movie centers on Philippe Petit, an astonishingly spirited and reckless tightrope walker in his…

A look at the Oscar-nominated documentaries of 2014

Though they employ diverse stories and forms to convey their message, this year’s Oscar-nominated documentary features all explore the role of art in contemporary society.

Both “20 Feet from Stardom” and “Cutie and the Boxer” expose the working realities of the contemporary art world, giving voice to relatively unheard artists. Meanwhile, “The Act of Killing,” “The Square” and “Dirty Wars” challenge audiences to consider the ethics and efficacy of art as a means of political expression. While these films are not of universal quality, they are, collectively, a reminder that art matters and that films have an uncanny capacity to shape the world they depict.

Documentaries shine at the Toronto International Film Festival

The Toronto International Film Festival screens many of the finest documentaries of the year, including those that can only be done full justice on the big screen. The Daily presents reviews of three of the most exciting documentaries at the festival.

Still from “When Jews Were Funny”. Courtesy of the Toronto International Film Festival.
“When Jews Were Funny”
There’s an interesting film somewhere inside Alan Zweig’s documentary “When Jews Were Funny,” but it has little to do with his thesis statement that Jews make the best comedians and that Jewish comedy is dying as Jewish oppression fades. The film is at its best when it starts to probe at what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century, now that secular Jews are more common than religious ones, Jews aren’t isolated in their own communities, and it’s fairly common for Jews to marry the “goyum”. Will this mean that the younger generation is less Jewish or unable to pass on the traditions? Through interviews with various Jewish comedians about their culture and what is special about Jewish comedy, the film suggests that it might just be the brand of Jewish comedy that keeps the culture alive. Unfortunately, the film gets bogged down by the director’s own personal issues – he’s 61 with a two-year-old daughter from a “gentile” wife and is concerned that his daughter won’t be a real Jew – and with a question that can’t be answered definitively, especially when the subjects interviewed are exclusively Jews, ignoring the broader context of 21st-century comedy.