New York Lower East Side Films

Cinebeasts is a not-for-profit film society that screens unusual films in unusual venues throughout the five Boroughs. Long time fans of Anthology Film Archives, wesought to put together a program that would be “site specific.” Given Anthology’s historic location – 2nd and 2nd – Cinebeasts felt that the films should highlight the Lower East Side’s cinematic heritage.


Before World War II, lower Second Avenue was known as the “Jewish Rialto” – a hotbed of Yiddish-language theaters, cinemas, and amusement halls. In this program, we will revisit the Old Lower East Side during its heyday as the mecca of Jewish culture, highlighting five extraordinary short films, all drawn from the collection of the National Center for Jewish Film, and all restored throughtheir efforts.


The day’s events will include a panel with participants including Eddy Portnoy, journalist for the Yiddish Daily Forward, David Freeland, author of TAXI DANCERS, AUTOMATS, AND VAUDEVILLES, and Lisa Rivo from the National Center for Jewish Film.



Joseph Seiden I WANT TO BE A BOARDER / ICH VIL ZEYN A BOARDER (1937, 15 min, 35mm, b&w. In Yiddish with English subtitles.)

Edited from outtakes of Joseph Seiden’s feature, I WANT TO BE A MOTHER, this short features AMERICAN MATCHMAKER star Leo Fuchs (“The Yiddish Fred Astaire”) and Yetta Zwerling as a married couple looking to spice up their sex life, tenement-style.


Sidney M. Goldin A CANTOR ON TRIAL / KHAZAN AFN PROBE (1931, 10 min, 35mm, b&w. In Yiddish with English subtitles.)

Real-life cantor-turned-film star Louis ‘Leibele’ Waldman plays three characters: an Eastern European, a German, and an American “jazz fiend” auditioning for the role of a Downtown synagogue’s newest chazan.


YOSL CUTLER AND HIS PUPPETS / KOTLERS MARIONETN (1935, 18 min, 16mm, b&w. In Yiddish with English subtitles.)

Cartoonist, set designer, artist, and poet, Yosl Cutler was a “Jack-of-all-trades.” This film shows him at the height of his success, as a puppeteer and craftsman whose marionettes provided an artful satire of Yiddish daily life.


Robert Ross COHEN ON THE TELEPHONE (1929, 9 min, 16mm, b&w. In English.)

At the time of release, stock character ‘Cohen’ had been a fixture in vaudeville and early film for nearly three decades. Here, in one of the earliest sound ‘Cohen’ comedies, our eponymous hero (played by George Sidney) applies his brand of Old World logic to the perplexing New World of telecommunications.


D.W. Griffith ROMANCE OF A JEWESS (1908, 10 minutes, 16mm, b&w, silent)

Griffith pioneered location shooting with this 1908 short subject. Surreptitiously shot on the streets of the Lower East Side, the film features a combination of Biograph players and honest-to-G-d denizens of the ‘ghetto’.


Total running time: ca. 70 min.