It feels a bit redundant to say that 5782 was a big year for Jewish film as every year seems to be filled with new Jewish movies and incredible performances by Jewish actors. Nonetheless: 5782 was a big and star-studded year for Jewish film. Māori Jewish filmmaker Taika Waititi returned to the director’s chair with “Thor: Love & Thunder;” meanwhile, Maggie Gyllenhaal made her directorial debut with “The Lost Daughter.” Similarly, Timothée Chalamet returned to the big screen in “Dune” and Alana Haim starred in her first film, “Licorice Pizza.” And, of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the long-awaited release of “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” from Jenny Slate!
Mazel tov to the winners of the Almas for the best Jewish movies of 5782:
The Best Jewish Movie
After last year’s “Shiva Baby,” it seemed like we might have to wait a while for another film that was both compelling and had Jewishness baked in. But thankfully for us, “As They Made Us” was right around the corner! Written and directed by Mayim Bialik, “As They Made Us” is an emotionally raw story about Abigail (Dianna Agron), a 30-something woman desperately trying to heal her broken family in the wake of her father’s quickly deteriorating degenerative illness. Complicating matters is her overbearing mother Barbara (Candice Bergen), who is unable to grasp the reality of the situation; her brother Nathan (Simon Helberg), who has been estranged from the family for years; and her own father Eugene (Dustin Hoffman), who is revealed to have had an abusive streak during her childhood and teenage years. “[Jewishness] is a thread throughout the story. It’s just more casually there,” Dianna told Hey Alma, reflecting on the film and her character. “And I think that that’s perhaps what I’ve been missing. I think oftentimes, when you’re telling Jewish stories, they relate to the past, they relate to the Holocaust, they are something that is much more focused as the plot of that kind of movie would be. And it’s nice to see it just there as a practice, and just there as another normal aspect of the character.” We couldn’t agree more.
The Best Jewish Actor
We’ll stop obsessing over Andrew Garfield whenever he stops being so stupidly gorgeous and multitalented. This year, the Oscar-nominated Jewish brit continued to astound audiences and critics alike with his portrayal of Mormon investigator Jeb Pure on FX’s “Under the Banner of Heaven,” Andrew’s first main role on a TV series after working on films like last year’s “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” and “Tick, Tick…Boom!” We weren’t surprised in the slightest when he made the list of 2022 Emmy nominees. However, we were shocked and frankly devastated when Andrew told Variety in April that he (*sobs*) intended to take a break from acting: “I’m going to rest for a little bit, I need to recalibrate and reconsider what I want to do next and who I want to be…I need to just be a bit ordinary for a while.” Andrew, take all the time you need; just know we’ll be waiting for you right here (and rewatching every single one of your movies) until your glorious return.
The Best Jewish Actress
When Apple TV+’s film “CODA” was released last year, it became the first film with a predominantly Deaf cast to win an Oscar for Best Picture and solidified Marlee Matlin’s place as the most famous Deaf Jewish actress in history. Marlee, who is also an author, activist and all-around badass, is truly revolutionary; she attended a Deaf synagogue growing up, signed her Torah portion during her bat mitzvah (!), is besties with fellow Jewish actor Henry Winkler, and in 1987 became the first Deaf actress to win an Academy Award for her performance in the romantic drama “Children of a Lesser God.” Marlee has since won a Golden Globe, was nominated for four Emmys, and even had her name immortalized on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At this year’s Oscars, audiences fell in love with Marlee all over again when she opened her acceptance speech with what we deemed a total Jewish dad joke: “I don’t need this,” she said, gesturing at the mic in front of her. “That’s why I pay my interpreter.” So all hail Marlee Matlin, who will undoubtedly continue to inspire long after 5782 has ended.
The Best Jewish Foreign Film
This horror film by Jewish Danish breakout Gabriel Bier Gislason, which played the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival, features queer love, Jewish mysticism — and a Jewish mother as, maybe, the perfect horror movie villain. The film tells the story of “a whirlwind romance between Maja, a former child actor, and Leah, a Jewish grad student in Denmark for research. Neither thinks it will last beyond the few days before Leah’s flight home. But when Leah has a seizure and snaps her leg, Maja accompanies her back to London to convalesce under the watchful eye of her mother in their Haredi neighborhood.” Per Mia Merrill: “Tropes get spun on their heads and come back speaking Yiddish and devouring souls. What if your Jewish mother-in-law’s nagging were the only thing that could save your life?”
The Best Jewish Documentary
For more than 50 years, “Fiddler on the Roof” has been among the most beloved films in the Jewish canon. To celebrate the musical, filmmaker Daniel Raim spent over a decade creating the new documentary “Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen.” Jason Flatt spoke to Raim about the result, which is full of original interviews from many of the cast and crew members and narration by Jeff Goldblum. The documentary “reveals the musical’s heart and explores how a humble Jewish tale became an international phenomenon.”