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“Vishniac” at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

Jul 22, 2023 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Vishniac film still

The 43rd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival presents Vishniac, a film by Laura Bialis

Saturday, July 22, 2023 at 3:00 pm

Castro Theatre • 429 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

This breathtaking and exceptionally well-crafted documentary about Russian-Jewish photographer Roman Vishniac (1897–1990) captures his transformation from a free-spirited scientist in Berlin to one of the world’s greatest photographers. We see his early style of Russian pictorialism morph into more modern photography in Berlin. When Vishniac loses work because of being Jewish and is hired by the Joint Distribution Committee to document the shtetls of Eastern Europe, his images mature into a visceral chronicle of Eastern European Jews. Vishniac, a self-identified Western Jew, discovers a deep spirituality and essential Jewishness in his Eastern coreligionists. His shots of daily life in Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Lithuania brim with vitality. His book, A Vanished World is often compared to the work of documentary photographers Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange. The film is superbly narrated by his daughter, Mara Kohn Vishniac, born in Berlin in 1926. Her clear-eyed view of her father adds to the complexity of a man who was a microbiologist, top-notch photographer and sometimes unreliable narrator of his own life story. She was his helper in the darkroom and his “alibi” for photographing Nazi propaganda with her posed innocently in front of it. Ultimately, she took responsibility for his legacy by preserving his oeuvre, a haunting eulogy to a world on the brink of destruction.

Director: Laura Bialis
Featuring The Magnes Collection’s Roman Vishniac Archive.
Presented by the Jewish Film Institute
Co-presented by The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
Co-sponsored by Taube Philanthropies and Diana Grand and Jon Holman

Tickets: $15 – $18

Buy Tickets

Use discount code Magnes43

The Jewish Film Institute (JFI) is the premier curatorial voice for Jewish film and media around the world. Founded in 1980 as the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF), the world’s first and most revered event for independent, Jewish-themed storytelling, JFI’s programs illuminate the full diversity of Jewish experiences.


Jul 22, 2023
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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Jewish Film Institute
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Castro Theater 429 Castro St., San Francisco, CA 94114
429 Castro Street
San Francisco, 94114 United States
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(415) 864-0815
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