2007 TIFF Roster

2007 Teaneck International Film Festival Film Roster

A Cantor's Tale

documentary - 95 Minutes

Directed by Erik Greenberg Anjou

Description: Jeanette Catsoulis of The New York Times called cantor Jacob Mendelson "a documentary filmmaker's dream. Jovial, rotund and prone to impromptu bursts of song (he carries a tuning fork at all times), Mr. Mendelson is a celebrated teacher and practitioner of Jewish liturgical music and has dedicated his life to preserving the form's traditional vocal styling." This documentary film, a unique mix of humor and gravity, is both a biographical portrait and an exploration of the tradition of Jewish liturgical music in America.

Sponsored by Temple Emeth


drama - 95 minutes

Directed by Jerry Lamothe

Description: In summer 2003, America experienced the largest blackout in its history — widely reported as peaceful. But in Brooklyn's forgotten East Flatbush neighborhood, mayhem unfolded when the power shut down. This is a narrative feature based on events during the blackout and features Melvin Van Peebles, Michael B. Jordan, Zoe Saldana, LaTanya Richardson, and Jeffrey Wright. It was featured at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.

Talkback: Associate Producer Andrea Holmes Thompkins, Ace Media Corp.

51 Birch Street

documentary - 88 minutes

Directed by Doug Block

Description: Filmmaker Doug Block had every reason to believe his parents' 54-year marriage was a good one. So he wasn't prepared when, just a few months after his mother's unexpected death, his 83-year-old father, Mike, phoned to announce that he was moving to Florida to live with Kitty, his secretary from 40 years before. When Mike and Kitty married and sold the longtime family home on Long Island, Doug returned with camera in hand for one last visit. And there, among the lifetime of memories being packed away forever, he discovers three large boxes filled with his mother’s daily diaries going back well over 35 years. The veteran documentarian conducted increasingly candid conversations with family members and friends and found constantly surprising diary revelations. This is a riveting personal documentary that explores a universal human question: how much about your parents do you really want to know? A. O. Scott of The New York Times called this film "one of the most moving and fascinating documentaries I've seen this year ... Mr. Block has put his parents' life, and his own, into this film with such warmth and candor that it may take more than one viewing to recognize it as a work of art."

Grbavica: The Land of My dreams

drama - 90 minutes

Directed by Jasmila Zbanic

Description: Winner of the Golden Bear award at the 2006 Berlin International Festival, Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams is a powerful mother-daughter drama set in Sarajevo's Grbavica neighborhood, where life is still being reconstructed after the 1990s Yugoslav wars. Single mother Esma lives with her feisty, tomboy 12-year-old daughter Sara. Sara's father becomes an issue when the girl requires the certificate proving he died a "shaheed," a war martyr, so that she can receive a discount for an upcoming school trip. Sara is teased by classmates for not being on the list of martyrs' children and realizing that her mother has paid full price for the school trip, Sara aggressively demands the truth. As painful as their confrontation is, it is Esma's first real step toward overcoming her past and brings hope for a renewed relationship between mother and daughter. The film features remarkable performances by Mirjana Karanovic(Esma) and Luna Mijovic (Sara).

Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes

Documentary - 60 minutes

Directed by Byron Hurt

Description: This documentary provides a riveting examination of manhood, sexism, and homophobia in hip-hop culture. Director Hurt, a former star college quarterback, longtime hip-hop fan, and gender violence prevention educator, conceived the film as a "loving critique" of a number of disturbing trends in the world of rap music. He pays tribute to hip-hop while challenging the rap music industry to take responsibility for glamorizing destructive, deeply conservative stereotypes of manhood. The documentary features revealing interviews about masculinity and sexism with rappers such as Mos Def, Fat Joe, Chuck D, Jadakiss, and Busta Rhymes, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, and cultural commentators such as Michael Eric Dyson and Beverly Guy-Shetfall. Students will be admitted free to this film and discussion.

Sponsored by Bergen County Links and the Bergen/Passaic Chapter, National Coalition of 100 Black Women

Talkback with Heather Walker, moderator; Reverend Lonnie McLeod; Rahfeal Gordon, motivational speaker and author of "Hip-Hop Saved My Life;" Audra Jackson; students from Bergen County Community College


drama - 122 Minutes

Written and Directed by John Sayles

Description: When the down-on-his-luck owner of an Alabama juke joint (Danny Glover) recruits a guitar playing drifter (newcomer Gary Clark Jr.) to help save his club, the place and its patrons are turned upside down and inside out by an 'electric' new form of music. A legend of American independent cinema, writer/director John Sayles explores a time when juke joints were the place one could find release after a hard week in the cotton fields, all the while documenting that pulsating moment when the blues became rock 'n roll. Danny Glover, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Charles S. Dutton, Vondie Curtis Hall, Keb Mo, Mary Steenburgen, and introducing Gary Clark, Jr. John Anderson of Variety wrote that "In [this] endearing musical time-piece, the indie icon lets his narrative gifts take the lead and the social issues follow like a tight bass line. The result is one of Sayles' best films. The music, a mix of blues, seminal rock and newcomer Gary Clark Jr.'s performance, will be an obvious draw, as will the performances by some leading African-American actors."

Talkforward with John Sayles and Maggie Renzi

Jersey Filmmakers of Tomorrow

multiple shorts - 120 Minutes

Description: Bergen County's Jersey Filmmakers of Tomorrow Competition, open to all high school students in the County, shows the breadth of film making talent in our area. We'll show some of the best of this year's competition. The program is administered by the Ft. Lee Film Commission.

Juggling Life

documentary - 30 Minutes

Directed by Ben Saltzman

Description Louis DeLauro, an award-winning New Jersey teacher, and two amazing young assistants run a juggling camp for children; the film follows the student's progress over a six-week period, culminating in a show at Ronald McDonald House. Following the film, Mr. DeLauro, his assistants and students demonstrate feats of juggling, and conduct a workshop to teach you the basics.

Living on the Fault Line: Where Race and Family Meet

documentary - 75 Minutes

Directed by Jeff Farber

Description This film explores the intersection of familial love and racial injustice in the experience of trans-racial families created through adoption. An intimate portrait, the film reveals the challenges these families face as children of color grow up in communities where racism and white privilege are unspoken yet undeniable realities. We get to know and care about the children as they express their tales of joy, challenge, acceptance and isolation, and as they strive to connect with their own racial and ethnic heritage. The film also explores how parents, trying to create supportive adoptive families, cope with and react to the unanticipated struggles their children often face.

Sponsored by Church of St. Anastasia

Talkback with Jeff Farber, Director

Long Road Home

Documentary | Drama - 60 Minutes

Directed by Bruce Spiegel

Description The community of sports is ably represented in this Sunday afternoon program. The documentary "Long Road Home" is the compelling story of John Malangone, an ex­-Yankee baseball player who grew up in the 1950s in East Harlem, whose personal secret haunted much of his adult life. Featuring priceless archival photography, the film was a labor of love for Teaneck resident Bruce Spiegel, a producer at CBS's 48 Hours Mystery, who had met Mr. Malangone at age 70 at the Hackensack YMCA, throwing baseballs up against a padded wall in the gym on a February morning. The film will follow "Don't Nobody Love the Game More than Me," a 10-minute short by Martha Pinson, centered on an upper Manhattan basketball court.

Talkback with Director Bruce Spiegel and John Malangone

Mostly Martha

comedy | romance | Drama - 109 Minutes

Directed by Sandra Nettlebeck 

Description: This is the tasty and charming film on which the Hollywood-ized "No Reservations" was based. See the original! The plot: in a German restaurant, Chef Martha Klein's life is firmly centered around cooking, which she conducts with stubborn single-mindedness. All that changes when her sister dies in a car accident, leaving her eight-year-old daughter, Lina. Martha takes her niece in and while making inquiries for her estranged father, she struggles to care for this stubbornly headstrong child. Meanwhile at work, a new chef named Mario is hired and the pressures of both her private and work life combine to make Martha question her life choices. As Martha and Marion, Martina Gedeck and Sergio Castellito have wonderful chemistry. And the soundtrack and food are irresistible.

Sponsored by Whole Foods Market, Edgewater

Opal Dream

drama - 86 minutes

Directed by Peter Cattaneo

Description: A movie for children and grown-ups of all ages, this film tells the touching story of a young girl, Kellyanne Williamson (Sapphire Boyce), whose unshakable faith in her two imaginary friends Pobby and Dingan resonates through her small hometown in the Australian Outback. Eight-year-old Kellyanne's father, Rex (Vince Colosimo), is one of the many local denizens feverishly mining the landscape for opals, while her mother Annie (Jacqueline McKenzie) and her eleven-year-old brother Ashmol (Christian Byers) are the more grounded members of the family. When Pobby and Dingan are suddenly not to be found by Kellyanne, the worried girl falls ill. As Ashmol takes it upon himself to rally the Williamson family and the community around his sister and her missing friends, everyone discovers what Kellyanne has long known; that you don't necessarily have to see in order to believe. The movie was filmed on location in South Australia.

Racing Against the Clock

documentary - 80 Minutes

Directed and produced by Bill Haney

Description Need a little motivation to get to the gym? This upbeat film tells the story of five extraordinary women between the ages of 50 and 82 who sprint, jump and pole vault their way through track and field competitions on their quest to make it to the World Masters Athletics Championships. These mothers, grandmothers, and even great-grandmothers include a three-time cancer survivor, a sharecropper's daughter, a political refugee, a former cowgirl, and the oldest athlete to ever be honored as a finalist for the Sullivan Award which celebrates the top amateur athletes in America. Full of drama and humor, this engaging film offers much to audiences both young and old and is proof positive that it is never too late to start moving.

Sponsored by Classic Residence by Hyatt

Reno Finds Her Mom

comedy | documentary - 89 Minutes

Directed and produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher

Description: Comedian Reno is on a search to find her birth mother who abandoned her as an infant and drags cameras into the quest. Reno is advised by an acquaintance shrink that she can't figure out who she really is unless she discovers where she came from. The camera follows Reno out onto the streets, into the halls of bureaucracy, across the country — or wherever the trail may lead — en route to solving the mystery of her birth. As a docu-comedy, the program uses a raw cinema verité approach to the actual search blended with heightened fantasy sequences in which Reno both looks forward to and dreads the truth that awaits her. The extraordinary Reno, a hit at last year's festival and subsequent performance at the Puffin Cultural Forum, will attend the screening and participate in a Q&A afterward.

Robot Stories

84 Minutes

Directed by Greg Pak

Description: Winner of more than 23 awards, "Robot Stories" is science fiction from the heart: four stories in which utterly human characters struggle to connect in a world of robot babies and android office workers. The stories include: "My Robot Baby," in which a couple (Tamlyn Tomita and James Saito) must care for a robot baby before adopting a human child; "The Robot Fixer," in which a mother (Wai Ching Ho) tries to connect with her dying son by completing his toy robot collection; "Machine Love," in which an office worker android (Greg Pak) learns that he, too, needs love; and "Clay," in which an old sculptor (Sab Shimono) must choose between natural death and digital immortality. This moving film features outstanding performances, especially by Wai Ching Ho and Sab Shimono.

Talkback with Greg Pak

Secret Courage: The Walter Suskind Story

documentary - 82 Minutes

Directed and produced by Karen and Tim Morse

Description Like other Jews who were forced to work in concert with the Nazis, Walter Suskind was considered a collaborator by many of his Jewish brethren. Suskind, a German Jewish salesman living in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation, was forced to serve as the Jewish head of deportation at the Hollandsche Schouwburg (the Jewish Theater), the main deportation site in Holland. What no one knew, however, until after his death, was that Suskind used his position to save an estimated 1,000 Jewish children slated for transport to death camps. Suskind and a group of Dutch resistance workers orchestrated an elaborate and risky escape route for Jewish children. This film tells, for the first time, the story of these rescuers and offers the voices of his compatriots: Five of the saved children and eleven of the Dutch resistance workers are interviewed, painting a story of a rescue operation fraught with intrigue and danger, and heavy with the burden of deciding who could be saved and who could not.

Talkback with Filmmakers Karen and Tim Morse and Teaneck resident Hilde Goldberg, interviewed in the film, will participate in a Q&A following the screening

The Secret Life of Words

112 minutes

Directed by Isabel Coixet

Description: Winner of Goya Awards (the Spanish equivalent of the Academy Awards) for best film, best director, best screenplay, and best production supervision, this film centers on Hanna (Sarah Polley), a solitary and mysterious young woman, who works in a factory somewhere in Europe. Forced by her boss to take a vacation, she travels to Northern Ireland where, on a whim, she volunteers to be a nurse on an oil rig in the Irish Sea to tend to Josef (Tim Robbins) who has been burned in a flash fire. The burns have left Josef temporarily blind but in flirtatious spirits and he is eager to discover who his enigmatic nurse truly is. On the oil rig, Coixet creates a labyrinthine world where only a handful of other characters live. The film beautifully shows a strange intimacy gradually developing between Hanna and Josef; she ultimately divulges her darkest secret, a revelation from which neither will emerge unscathed and which will change their lives forever.

Sponsored by WOW (Wise Older Women)


action | Comedy - 85 Minutes

Directed by Ted Wilde

Description Filmed in 1928, this "Silent Sunday" presentation should prove as popular with families as last year's "Steamboat Bill, Jr." "Speedy" was Harold Lloyd's last silent film. The action gets under way — and doesn’t let up — when Speedy loses his job as a soda-jerk, then spends the day with his girl at Coney Island. He then becomes a cab driver and delivers Babe Ruth to Yankee Stadium, where he stays to see the game. When the railroad tries to run the last horse-drawn trolley (operated by his girl's grandfather) out of business, Speedy organizes the neighborhood old-timers to thwart their scheme. Hosted by Bob McGrath, the film will be accompanied by organist Jeff Barker. Great for kids, and remember, admission is FREE for children under 12.

Spotlight on Local Filmmakers

multiple shorts - 120 Minutes

Description A program of shorts by filmmakers from our area, this taste of local talent will touch you; make you think; make you chuckle. Featured: Cathy Levin-Barbella, Lupita Sebastian O'Brian, Marta Renzi. Plus: winning short films from Teaneck High School's own 2007 film festival. Meet the filmmakers following the screenings.

Starting Out in the Evening

drama | romance - 110 Minutes

Directed by Andrew Wagner

Description: Tony award winner Frank Langella plays Leonard Schiller, a once-famous New York writer who is both shaken and emboldened when a beautiful graduate student (Lauren Ambrose) invades his solitude to mine his life for her thesis about his novels. All that remains for Schiller is to finish the novel he has been laboring on for almost 10 years. His solitary writer's life is shaken by the arrival of Heather (Lauren Ambrose), an ambitious graduate student who persuades him that she can use her thesis to spur a rediscovery of his work. But as her inquiry proceeds, Heather displays a profound personal interest in Leonard, which unsettles him and stirs up his long-dormant need for intimacy. Meanwhile, Leonard's daughter Ariel (Lili Taylor) reconnects with her ex-boyfriend Casey (Adrian Lester), a man Leonard firmly disapproves of. The Hollywood Reporter said that the film is a "knowing portrait of three complex individuals of very different ages, all of whom feel the breath of Father Time at their necks." This film, based on Teaneck native Brian Morton's novel of the same name, has already drawn critical kudos following its Sundance and Toronto film festival screenings. We are honored to present this New Jersey premiere; the film is scheduled for theatrical release later in November.

Ten Canoes

adventure | Comedy | drama - 91 Minutes

Directed by Rolf de Heer with English subtitles 

Description Set centuries ago and in mythical times, this is a surreal and mesmerizing tragi­comedy and the first major Australian feature film completely filmed in an indigenous Aboriginal language. The Storyteller, who speaks English, is portrayed by the veteran Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil, an Australian screen icon. Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote that "there is nothing more enthralling than a good yarn, and 'Ten Canoes' interweaves two versions of the same story, one filmed in black and white and set a thousand years ago, and an even older one, filmed in color and set in a mythic, prehistoric past." The newer narrative begins when the tribal chief, Minygululu (Peter Minygululu), leads 10 warriors on a journey deep into the forest to gather bark to make canoes, which they paddle into a crocodile-infested swamp in search of goose eggs. Making the trip for the first time is Minygululu's impatient younger brother, Dayindi, who vents his frustration at having no wife. Minygululu pacifies Dayindi by regaling him with an ancient story that addresses his plight. Featuring stunning cinematography, the film won a special jury prize at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.


drama | romance - 117 Minutes

Directed by Deepa Mehta with English subtitles

Description Shifting between romantic melodrama and spiritual inquiry, this film is a profoundly moving and vibrant story of India's "widow houses," where women of all ages are taken to live (even today), isolated from society following the deaths of their husbands. Sprinkled with humor, rife with universal emotions and visually stunning, the story of Water follows three widows who dared to stand up for themselves in the liberating time of Mahatma Gandhi. One of the widows is Chuyia, still a child, through whose eyes we see much of the action. She is befriended by a beautiful young widow, Kolynani, who meets and falls in love with young Narayan. Shokuntola, who takes Chuyia under her wing, ultimately changes the girl's fate. Set in 1938 when India was still ruled by the British, the movie was the 2007 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, from Canada.

Classic Spotlight: Wild Strawberries

drama | romance - 91 minutes

Directed by Ingmar Bergman

Description An incomparable writer and director, the late Ingmar Bergman left a body of work always focused on the major questions: life's meaning, what it means to be human, the persistent impact of childhood experiences; the struggles of relationships between men and women. One extraordinary example is "Wild Strawberries,” filmed in 1957, which chronicles one long day in the life of a 78-year-old medical professor named Isak Borg (Victor Sjostrom). On that day, Borg makes a long automobile journey — and a long, strange trip it is — from his home in Stockholm to a university in southern Sweden to receive an academic honor. He is a man who has been successful in his professional life, but failed to connect with people on a personal level. Most of all, Borg's mind is flooded with memories, reveries and dreams as he tries to come to terms with the life he has lived. If you haven't seen this film in long time, see it again! If you've never seen it, you're in for a great pleasure.