18 Things to Know About Jewish Filmmaker Benny Safdie

It took 10 years for Benny and his brother Josh to make "Uncut Gems."

If you like movies, you’ve probably heard of the Safdie brothers. The duo, comprised of older brother Josh and younger brother Benny, have gained renown over the last few years for their frenzied, thrilling and anxiety-inducing movies like “Uncut Gems.” Lately, however, Benny Safdie has been working independently from his brother, acting in commercially successful movies and even an HBO show!

Here are 18 things to know about Benny Safdie.

1. Benny Safdie was born on February 24, 1986 in New York City to a Jewish family.

2. Look how cute Josh and Benny were as kids:

3. On his father’s side, Benny is Sephardic and Syrian Jewish. On his mother’s, he is Russian Jewish.

4. He went to Hebrew school as a kid and had a bar mitzvah.

Still, he doesn’t identify as particularly religious. “I think of Judaism as a culture less than as a religious experience,” he told the New York Jewish Week.

5. He attended Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School. In 2008, he graduated from Boston University College of Communication.

6. Benny and Josh’s first feature movie was 2009’s “Daddy Longlegs,” a film which drew on their childhood experience with their own father.

7. Benny has a strong connection to his Jewish heritage.

“So many of the people [Josh and I] been influenced by are Jewish too,” he told the New York Jewish Week. “I have a strong attachment to Jewish history; I feel a strong connection to the history of my people. There’s not a lot of Jewish people in the world, and when you think of how influential they have been…”

8. Benny and his wife Ava married in 2013. (Apparently he smashed the glass so hard he nearly broke his foot!)

9. They now have two kids, Cosmo and Murray, whom they’re raising in an interfaith home.

10. In addition to “Daddy Longlegs,” Josh and Benny have co-directed movies “Lenny Cooke,” “Heaven Knows What,” “Good Time” and, of course, “Uncut Gems.”

11. It took the Safdies 10 years to make “Uncut Gems,” which was based on their father’s mentor in the NYC diamond district.

12. They won Best Director at 2020 Independent Spirit Awards for “Uncut Gems.” Watch their hilarious acceptance speech here:


13. Please enjoy this video of Benny and Josh geeking out over movies.

14. Benny is also an actor! He’s starred in movies like “Pieces of a Woman,” “Licorice Pizza,” “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” and “Oppenheimer.”

15. His role in “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” resonated with his own identity.

In a weird way, Herb is probably the closest to me that I’ve ever played,” Safdie told Kveller. “Because I have two boys, I’m Jewish, I’m playing a father — all this stuff.”

16. He even had a moment with one of his kids like the scene in the movie where Margaret wants to go to temple with her Jewish grandmother.

“I was going to go to services somewhere, because every once in a while, I’ll feel the need to do it. I don’t know why, but you feel compelled to be a part of a collective experience with people, and so I wanted to go to temple. And my son looked at me and said, ‘I want to go, too, I want to know what that’s like.’ He was like 4 at the time,” Benny told Kveller. “And of course, we went, and he had no idea what was going on. He was bored out of his mind, but he wanted to go. I was excited to share that with him in some way.”

17. According to Benny, “Oppenheimer” is “Chris’ best movie by far. It’s got everything firing on all cylinders.” In it, he plays Jewish physicist Edward Teller.

18. Benny created, wrote and starred in “The Curse,” alongside fellow Jewish actor Nathan Fielder. The show, in which he plays a TV producer named Dougie, is based on Safdie’s obsession with home renovation programs.

Evelyn Frick

Evelyn Frick (she/they) is a writer and associate editor at Hey Alma. She graduated from Vassar College in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. In her spare time, she's a comedian and contributor for Reductress and The Onion.

Read More