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New short film skewers the ‘Miss Hitler’ beauty pageant – and everyday antisemitism

By Stephen Silver

(JTA) – “Miss,” a short film that debuted on Vimeo on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, at first seems like a British version of Lena Dunham’s “Girls”: Two young female roommates, Nina and Olive, share a London flat and appear to have something of an uneasy relationship. 

Nina tells Olive that she wants to compete in an online beauty pageant and would like her photographer roommate to take some pictures for it. After a photoshoot, Nina steps out and Olive peeks on her computer, only to find that Nina’s contest is the infamous “Miss Hitler” pageant – an annual neo-Nazi event full of SS regalia that has gotten some of its contestants arrested.

The title of the 12-minute film, like its plot, refers to how antisemitism can fester under the surface of everyday life. Yael Roth, the film’s London-based co-director, spoke with JTA about her journey as an up-and-coming filmmaker and how the project shines the light on a shocking form of modern-day antisemitism.

(The film is now free on Vimeo.)

JTA: Tell me a little about your background, and what brought you to this film.

Roth: I grew up in Belgium, [in] Antwerp, and I was there until I was 18. Then I went to Israel for a year, then I went to university. I actually, by trade, work in PR, mostly within the hospitality industry. So obviously that had a massive hit because of COVID.

But film is something that I’ve always wanted to do but never did, [except for] the odd internship here, the odd work experience there, kind of dipping in and out over the years. And then, when COVID happened, I was signed up to do a filmmaking course for six months, but that got pushed back. So I thought, no one’s coming to give it to you, so just kind of go out and make a film. So this is the first short that my friend Ella [Marks], who’s my great creative partner who wrote the script and co-directed it with me, that’s how we started.

I assume being Jewish had something do with your wanting to make a film with this subject matter.

Fully, fully, 100%. I’m very kind of vocal, proud to be Jewish, and love Israel, and all of what comes along with it. … It was back in May last year, and I was just thinking, “What film can you make, what short film that you can fully finance yourself as well?” And I thought, “What’s interesting? What do you like?” And the first thing that came up was obviously anything Jewish.

So I went on this website called The Jewish News, which is a U.K.-based publication, and the third or fourth article down was … something along the lines of “Miss Hitler Beauty Pageant Winner Arrested.” I started reading the article, and you know when you just go down a black hole of darkness of the internet? Five hours later I was still reading about it. I was shocked. I know antisemitism is alive and very well, especially in the U.K. with COVID, and a lot of people hanging out on the internet, it’s pretty bad at the moment. But that was just another level of madness.  So I found the article and I thought, “let’s just use that as the base of a story.” 

Has there been any thought of making this into a feature film?

We’re talking about it. The whole point of this was really to raise awareness – antisemitism on social media is just so crazy online. And from an educational perspective, we just think it’s way more engaging and fun, and a noncombative form of communicating a different perspective. But when it comes to making a feature, you never know.

A roommate’s photo shoot has a dark motive in “Miss.” (Screenshot)

Oscars 2021: Jewish nominees (nearly) strike out

By Gabe Friedman

(JTA) – The Academy Awards were notable this year for a ceremony that was split into different venues. Also notable: a very low number of Jewish winners. To be fair, there was not a large pool of nominees to begin with. And “Nomadland,” a portrait of homeless nomads who move around the American West, did feature one Jewish producer who got his hands on the top prize – Peter Spears, a former actor best known before Sunday night as a producer of “Call Me By Your Name,” the hit 2017 drama based on Jewish writer André Aciman’s novel of the same name.

Here’s a roundup of the other results and moments we had our eyes on:

Sacha Baron Cohen lost in the best adapted screenplay category – his “Borat” sequel was beat out by Florian Zeller’s “The Father,” an adaptation of his own play. Cohen was also nominated as best supporting actor for playing Jewish activist Abbie Hoffman but lost to Daniel Kaluuya, star of “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

“White Eye,” an Israeli short film that tackles white Israelis’ biases toward African migrants, lost in the live short category to “Two Distant Strangers.”

After winning best screenplay at the Golden Globes, Aaron Sorkin‘s “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” about the 1968 Chicago Seven protesters, was up for six Oscars. Sorkin was personally up for best original screenplay. But the film didn’t win any on Sunday night.

For Jewish songwriter Diane Warren, 12th time was not the charm. Her tune “Io sì (Seen),” from the film “The Life Ahead” – which stars Sophia Loren as a Holocaust survivor – was nominated for best original song, the 12th time she had been nominated in that category. It lost to “Fight For You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

“Mank,” director David Fincher’s film about the legendary Jewish screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, was up for a leading 10 awards, but only won two – best cinematography and best production design.

Several famous Hollywood Jews were included in the show’s annual “In Memoriam” segment. They included Carl Reiner, Jerry Stiller, Joel Schumacher, Joan Micklin Silver, George Segal, Sumner Redstone, Ronald Harwood and Walter Bernstein.

In accepting an award for his humanitarian work, filmmaker Tyler Perry talked about combating hate and about his inspirational mother. He recounted her at home one day when she was supposed to be at work. He said she worked at a Jewish community center, and there had been a bomb threat at the building. “She couldn’t believe that someone wanted to blow up this place,” he said.

1998 Spielberg-produced Holocaust documentary will stream on Netflix

By Shira Hanau

(JTA) – An Oscar-winning documentary about the experience of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust that was produced by Steven Spielberg will be made available for streaming on Netflix. “The Last Days” will be remastered from the original 35 mm film before its streaming release on May 19. 

The documentary, which won the Academy Award for best documentary feature in 1998, tells the stories of five Hungarian Jews who survived the Holocaust. One was Tom Lantos, who would go on to become a congressman from California from 1981 to 2008. The film follows the survivors after the war as they return to their hometowns, as well as visit the ghettos and concentration camps where they were imprisoned.

Spielberg was an executive producer together with the USC Shoah Foundation, which he founded after directing the 1993 Oscar-winning film “Schindler’s List,” about German industrialist Oskar Schindler and the Jews he saved during the Holocaust. The foundation houses more than 55,000 Holocaust testimonies.

Netflix acquires Israeli show about a school shooting

By Gabe Friedman

(JTA) – Netflix acquired “Blackspace,” an eight-part Israeli thriller series about a school shooting carried out by masked figures, it was announced Thursday.

The show follows police as they investigate the death of four students, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

A screenshot from the “Blackspace” trailer.  (YouTube)

“Key to the investigation is an app, Blackspace, that the school’s pupils use to communicate with one another, sharing their secrets out of view of their parents and the adult world,” The Hollywood Reporter explained.

The series – produced by Federation Entertainment, which is under the Israeli channel Reshet 13 – already has the green light for a second season from Netflix.

Reshet’s vice president of content, Ami Glam, said the Netflix deal is “a huge achievement for Reshet and for the Israeli television industry,” Ynet reported.

No release date has been announced. It will be available in several countries, including the U.S., which is in the midst of a spike in mass shootings.

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