Happy fifth night of Hanukkah, everyone! To celebrate, here are some off-the-beaten-path films you can stream about Jewish characters and Judaism, in a variety of contexts and with a range of sensibilities.
A Serious Man (2009)
The Coen Brothers are among the most prominent Jewish filmmakers working today, but seldom do they so directly address the Jewish-American experience as in this semi-autobiographical movie about a ’60s college professor who finds his life slowly, absurdly falling apart. His search for philosophical answers to his problems condenses millennia of Jewish intellectual inquiry into a dark but very funny story.
The Rabbi’s Cat (2011)
We see the stories of Sephardic Jews far less frequently than those of Ashkenazi Jews in media, so it’s nice to see the change of pace in this French animated film, directed by Joann Sfar and based on his comic book series of the same name. After a cat gains the ability to speak, rather than become a wacky cartoon sidekick animal, he prompts deep introversion in his master, a rabbi who tries to set him on the straight and narrow (with lessons from the Torah).
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (2014)
This closes out Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz’s trilogy on the unhappy marriage of Viviane Amsalem (played by Ronit Elkabetz), following from 2004’s To Take a Wife and 2008’s Shiva. You don’t need to have seen those films to understand this one, though. Set almost entirely in court, it explores in agonizing detail the unfair, often sexist confinements of religious law through the title character’s dogged pursuit of a divorce. It’s a finely tuned, precisely written and acted drama.