March 2: “Foxtrot.” Samuel Maoz’s second feature didn’t make the cut for the foreign-language Oscars but it is as impressive and rigorous as any film we’ve seen in the past few years. The drama, which intermingles the lives of a troubled married couple in Tel Aviv with the fate of their son’s feckless IDF unit stationed in the middle of nowhere. City Cinemas 1,2,3 (citycinemas.com) and the Angelika (angelikafilmcenter.com).
March 5-15: New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival. The festival celebrates its 21st year with another global selection, ranging from a timely documentary about Syria’s Jewish population to some favorites from the past, “Nora’s Will” and “The Band’s Visit.” Center for Jewish History (15 W. 16th St.), nysephardicfilmfestival.org.
March 8-14: 10th Annual ReelAbilities Film Festival. One of the thrills of covering N.Y. film has been watching this unique event grow in its outreach and content; it is so much more than just a piece of clever niche programming, but an event with an impact that changes lives. This year’s schedule features some exciting films, including a profile of former WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw, focusing on her work as a mental health advocate, and the opening-night film, “Keep the Change,” a romantic comedy about people on the autism spectrum. Venues are all over town. http://reelabilities.org/newyork/.
March 16-22: 5th Annual Socially Relevant Film Festival. This kaleidoscope of politically committed cinema reaches its fifth birthday this spring. Among last year’s offerings was “American Socialist,” Yale Strom’s latest film. This year’s opening night movie is a biopic about the legendary colleague of Freud and Nietzsche, Lou Andreas-Salome. Cinema Village (22 E. 12th St.), http://www.ratedsrfilms.org/.
March 16: “7 Days in Entebbe.” Do we really need another retelling? This new film boasts a capable pairing of Brazilian action director Jose Padilha (“Elite Squad”) and screenwriter Gregory Burke, whose Irish Troubles drama “’71” and stage play “Black Watch” showed a superb understanding of men in combat situations. For them alone, this should be worth a look. Theater TBA.
March 23: “Ismael’s Ghosts.” Arnaud Desplechin has almost always had strong Jewish subtext and subplots rumbling through his films. “Ismael’s Ghosts,” continues in that vein, with blocked filmmaker Ismael (Mathieu Amalric, wonderful as usual) and his famous Jewish writer father-in-law, dealing with the sudden reappearance of Ismael’s long-vanished wife. Desplechin throws the elements of the film together in a wild gumbo that is equal parts Hitchcock drama of memory, Blake Edwards Hollywood farce and his own brand of quirky romanticism with a darkly comic undertone. Theater TBA.
March 28-April 8: New Directors/New Films. The daddy of all the NYC spring film festivals, now in its 47th year. Co-sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center (both of which screen the films), the event’s discoveries have included such major figures as Kelly Reichardt, Spike Lee, Pedro Almodovar and many more, and it has long been a favored venue for emerging Israeli directors. Filmlinc.org/ndnf2018.
April 11: “Hitler’s Hollywood.” What happens when genuinely evil men gain control of major mass-media outlets? Given current events, this is a question of more than merely historical interest, and this new documentary by Rüdiger Suchsland is pertinent viewing not only for film buffs. Having seized complete control over the massive German film industry in 1933, the Nazis might have been expected to shovel out propaganda non-stop but very few of the thousand or so feature films they produced were preachy agitprop, a fact worth keeping in mind today, and one that preoccupies Suchsland. Film Forum (209 W. Houston St.), filmforum.org.
April 18-29: Tribeca Film Festival. Another high point in the movie-goer’s spring schedule. This year’s TFF opens with a documentary about the late Gilda Radner and will undoubtedly include many Jewish-themed films (it always does), as well as a generous selection of American indie and global offerings that run the gamut of subjects and styles. Tribecafilm.com/festival/.
April 27: “Disobedience.” After the death of her father, an Orthodox rabbi, a young woman reluctantly returns to her former community in London, bringing controversy in her wake. Rachel McAdams, Rachel Weisz and Alessandro Nivola star in this adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s popular novel, a first English-language feature for Chilean director Sebastian Lelio. Theater TBA.