Actress Carol Kane, known for her work in such productions as “Taxi,” “Annie Hall,” “The Princess Bride,” and most currently, the TV show “Gotham,” was on hand Tuesday night at the AFI Silver to receive the Visionary Award as part of the DCJCC’s annual Jewish Film Festival. The film “Hester Street,” was selected by WJFF founder and former director Aviva Kempner, for expertly showcasing the Jewish experience on the silver screen.
Kane, in fact, acquired an academy award nomination for her work as the female lead of the movie, based off of an 1890s Yiddish novella by Abraham Cahan. In conversation with Kempner in front of a packed theater, Kane recalled shooting the film at the Lower East Side, with a budget so paltry that they had to paint the one horse they had on set in order to denote that there were several. Director Joan Silver, also a recipient of the Visionary Award though she couldn’t attend this event, raised the money with her husband in order to shoot and promote the film independently.
We had the chance to watch “Hester Street” that night, and I was particularly taken with the scratchy, black and white film. Although shot exactly 40 years ago in 1975, this choice transported the story back to it’s 19th century roots, almost reminding me of a silent picture in the beginning at the dance class. The streets also looked full and bustling with Yiddish life.
Like with the Israeli contemporary movie, “Apples from the Desert,” my other film choice from this festival, the story revolved around a woman negotiating between Orthodoxy and secularism, as personified by one antagonistic and one sympathetic male character. Kane did an incredible job, particularly with her eyes, as “Gittel” grew from a meek “greenhorn” to a more self-possessed, Americanized woman. Kane asserted that this role comprised her most full character arc to date.
The Festival will continue until Sunday at several different venues. Click here for more information.