A film by Manfred Kirchheimer
2017, 97 minutes
No. 153

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A new film from veteran filmmaker Manfred Kirchheimer is always a cause for celebration; with My Coffee with Jewish Friends, Kirchheimer uses a simple, humorous title as a screen for a serious and deeply thoughtful exploration of contemporary Jewish identity.

In a series of conversations, some one on one, others with long-married couples, all from various walks of life (college students, a female rabbi, a dentist, etc), Kirchheimer gently probes his subjects with tough questions on gender inequality, faith, secularism, the Holocaust, the rise in anti-Semitism, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and others. Their answers – honest, humorous, contradictory – gain a startling universality as the film moves along.

My Coffee is another wonderful, densely layered investigation from the director of such award-winning films as Stations of the Elevated (1981), We Were So Beloved (1985), Tall: The American Skyscraper and Louis Sullivan (2004) and Canners (2014); a portrait of what’s its like to be Jewish in these times.

“A little gem of a documentary… Mr. Kirchheimer is himself something of a gem. After escaping Nazi Germany with his family, he came to the United States in 1936. Since the 1950s he has worked as a cameraman and editor, and has directed his own independent films… His skills are keen here, particularly in editing and intercutting conversations that range from wistful to indignant to delighted… No matter the topic, Mr. Kirchheimer keeps My Coffee accessible, and cerebral without a shred of pretension. For sure, this documentarian remains in fine form. It’s hard to have a different opinion on that.” – The New York Times

“Thought provoking… intellectually expansive… a series of dinner-table conversations about the many varieties of Jewish life in America.” – Hollywood Reporter 

“A revealingly honest look at diversity in Jewish life and beliefs. The unguarded responses shed light on deep divisions within the Jewish community (some smoldering even within families) but also spotlight the fierce, joyful pride of identifying as Jewish.” – Booklist

“Political head-butting and crabby bon mots energize a series of wide-ranging conversations about the nature of secular Judaism in this consistently entertaining documentary.” – Village Voice