How The Light Gets In: The Films of Jay Rosenblatt

  • A man with greying hair with a young girl in his arms both inspect a movie camera his is holding.
  • A black & white image of a man with long hair and a beard, wearing a crown of thorns, shouldering a large wooden cross.
  • A 4-color image of two young boys, possibly at a beach, one of whom looks at the camera with his mouth open
  • A blonde female with a bob haircut and finger wave stares off to the right
(Jay Rosenblatt in dialogue with Bill Nichols)

Twice nominated for Oscars, Jay Rosenblatt’s films stand as a great beacon in the field of avant-garde and documentary film. His works are both personal and provocative, his exploration of major concerns from depression, bullying, familial love and loss to the glories of Kodachrome film and the miracle of how his daughter grows from a young girl to a mature woman constitute a body of work without parallel. This program features a rich sampling of his work and will include a conversation between Jay and pioneering author, film scholar and critic, Bill Nichols.

The Program:

Brief Introduction by Bill Nichols
Trailers of Jay Rosenblatt 
Human Remains 1:00
When We Were Bullies 1:30
How Do You Measure a Year? 1:20

Preliminary Discussion with Jay Rosenblatt & Bill Nichols (*)

Phantom Limb
A film about grief and loss

Written and directed by Jay Rosenblatt
28 minutes • Pro Res HQ • color/B&W • 2005

Winner of 13 Awards

“A 28-minute tour de force… a beautiful and original exploration of grief and loss.”
–Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

The death of my seven-year-old brother when I was nine remains a painful and haunting memory. My parents did not know how to cope with the loss of their child and the entire family experienced indescribable pain. Phantom Limb uses this personal story as a point of departure. Whether it is a loss through death or divorce, the stages of grieving are the same. Individuals often go through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, ultimately, some kind of acceptance, in order to heal. The film is loosely structured according to these stages. Interspersed throughout this poetic documentary are interviews with a cemetery owner, a phantom limb patient and an author of a book about evidence for life after death. Phantom Limb reminds viewers that while grief is painful and isolating, it is a reminder to each of us that life is impermanent.

King of the Jews (Chapter 1 only)
A film about fear and transcendence

Written and directed by Jay Rosenblatt
4’22” • Pro Res HQ • color/B&W • 2000

Grand Prize, USA Film Festival

“A highly emotional personal essay on Christian anti-Semitism that weaves together history, autobiography and snippets of Hollywood films depicting the life of Jesus.”
–Stephen Holden, The New York Times

King of the Jews is a film about anti-Semitism and transcendence. Utilizing Hollywood movies, 1950’s educational films, personal home movies and religious films, the filmmaker depicts his childhood fear of Jesus Christ. These childhood recollections are a point of departure for larger issues such as the roots of Christian anti-Semitism.

King of the Jews explores the challenges and fears of being an outsider, of holding beliefs different from the mainstream. The myth that “the Jews” killed Jesus has been responsible for centuries of pain and destruction. After 2000 years, the wound is still open. The film uses the resurrection of Christ as a metaphor for personal renewal. Only by acknowledging past injustices can we get closer to our shared humanity.

The Kodachrome Elegies
[San Francisco premiere!]

Written and Directed by Jay Rosenblatt
11 minutes • Pro Res HQ • color/B&W 2017

World Premiere at Visions du Reel, Switzerland

Kodachrome was a filmstock noted for its rich tones and vibrant colors. “The Kodachrome Elegies” is a short experimental documentary that evokes the bygone era of Kodachrome’s pinnacle. While it is a paean to this lost filmstock, the film suggests the end of an era and the loss of innocence.

Beginning Filmmaking
[Bay Area premiere!]

Produced and Directed by Jay Rosenblatt
23 minutes • Pro Res HQ • color • 2008

The EMPA Work Life Award, Ann Arbor Film Festival

It has been two and a half years since Ella said she wanted to be a filmmaker. Now she is turning 4 and her filmmaker dad has given her a video camera for her birthday. Beginning Filmmaking takes us through one year of trying to teach a preschooler how to make a film. Ella rises to the challenge but on her own terms. We experience the joys and frustrations both of being a parent and of being a child, and find that you do have to be careful what you wish for.

Concluding Discussion with Jay Rosenblatt & Bill Nichols.
* Film critic and theoretician Bill Nichols has published a dozen books pioneering the contemporary study of documentary film and has lectured in numerous countries. His seminal book, Introduction to Documentary is highly regarded and has been translated into multiple languages. He has served on film grant panels and film festival juries.

2h 0m
Jay Rosenblatt
First Showing
March 16, 2024


Saturday, March 16, 2024 4:00 PM
Location Big Roxie

Note films start right at the listed showtime.
Free or discounted for members.

All ticket sales are final.