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First Person Jewish

First Person Jewish

Alisa S. Lebow
Volume: 22
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    First Person Jewish
    Book Description:

    Alisa S. Lebow examines films from Jewish artists to reveal how the postmodern impulse to turn the lens inward intersects provocatively (and at times unwittingly) with historical tropes and stereotypes of the Jew. Using a multidisciplinary approach Lebow shows how this form of self-expression is challenging both autobiography and documentary and, in the process, changing the art of cinema and recording the cultural shifts of our time.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5643-1
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: Reading First Person Documentary
    (pp. xi-xxxiv)

    First person documentary entails a range of practices, techniques, and temporalities: it can document a moment or event in the filmmaker’s life; it can be a diary of thoughts and feelings; it can be a memorial for a relative, friend, or lover; it can be a testimony or a poem, an essay or a diatribe; it can be a rant, a romp, or a drone; it can be framed in the present, past, future, or even subjunctive tense. Some first person documentaries fit the more common autobiographical mold by giving a chronological account of the narrator’s history. Others fulfill Walter...

  5. 1 Memory Once Removed: Indirect Memory and Transitive Autobiography in Chantal Akerman’s D’Est
    (pp. 1-35)

    InThe Imaginary Jew,contemporary French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut laments that, although his Jewishness furnished him with the deepest, most precious aspects of his identity, it was, upon closer examination, not an identity conferred on him by his parents but rather one livedthroughthem.¹ He fears that with their passing the substance of his Jewish identity would also pass, for it was through their memories and lived knowledge of the customs and languages of the culture that he experienced Jewishness. Having been secularly educated in assimilationist postwar France, he was without direct experience of a larger Jewish community, one...

  6. 2 Reframing the Jewish Family
    (pp. 36-86)

    UnlikeD’Est,the films of this chapterappearto take a direct route home, tracing memory, tradition, and history to the psychological ground zero of modern identity construction: the nuclear family. This apparent directness may be no more than a wish, illusory in its fulfillment. The memories, however personal, are nonetheless filtered through family narratives the telling of which involves a multiplicity of perspectives and a liberal dispersion of the self. Inextricably bound to personal identity as such family narratives are, they may well reveal the displaced nature of memory itself, there being, finally, no direct route to the home...

  7. 3 A Treyf Autocritique of Autobiography
    (pp. 87-110)

    In 1998 I finished an autobiographical film with my then-partner, Cynthia Madansky, titledTreyf(“unkosher” or “impure” in Yiddish).¹ The film explored Jewish lesbian secular identity and politics from our two first person perspectives. The work made the usual festival rounds, especially Jewish and gay/lesbian film festivals, and was broadcast on the Sundance Channel. Women Make Movies picked it up for distribution. Shortly after completing the film, we were invited as filmmakers to participate in a symposium at the University of Southern California; the symposium, “Eye and Thou,” focused specifically on Jewish autobiographical film. Although I had been aware of...

  8. 4 Ambivalence and Ambiguity in Queer Jewish Subjectivity
    (pp. 111-148)

    When I informally interviewed British filmmaker Ruth Novaczek, she told me that her way of dealing with the dual identities of lesbianism and Jewishness in her films is to “just stick them in the same room and make them get on.”¹ To her credit, she does at times attempt to force the issue in her films, though it is not always certain that these identities do get on. However, what concerns me here is that the issue needs to be forced at all. It is not only Novaczek’s Jewish queer self-representation that struggles with the integration of these identities. Other...

  9. Conclusion: A Limit Case for Jewish Autoethnography
    (pp. 149-160)

    I would like to conclude by looking at one last Jewish autobiographical film made by a filmmaker/theorist, one that precluded the possibility of autocritique in that the filmmaker did not survive to write about it.In Her Own Time(1985) by Barbara Myerhoff (codirected by Lynne Littman) is a prototypical Jewish autobiographical film, preceding most of the films discussed in this study and pioneering many of the salient themes of this book. The first person Jewish films of this study are primarily distinguished by three characteristics. First, in the service of contemporary self-representation, each deploys, often unwittingly, a cultural narrativity...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 161-182)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 183-194)
  12. Selected Filmography of Jewish Diasporic First Person Documentaries
    (pp. 195-198)
  13. Index
    (pp. 199-203)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 204-205)