DAVAR News

Finding 100 Faces: capturing Jewish diversity

In early 2018, composer and film maker Benjamin Till, who had only recently discovered he was Jewish, decided to make the film 100 Faces to find out more about the community he’d been a member of for 43 years without realising.  His mission was to find one UK-based Jewish person born every year from 1918 to 2017 and it became an odyssey of discovery which took him all over the world. His final 100 people include Jewish people from all walks of life. Rabbis and chazans rub shoulders with Dames, Lords, holocaust survivors, kinder-transportees, well-known actors, musicians, writers and presenters and two men who fought at Cable Street. The whole film is set to music. Benjamin wrote an original score which was performed by the Israel Camera Orchestra.  Sit back and enjoy the film (approx 6 mins) and then hear about the bumpy and inspirational ride which led there!

Benjamin Till is a multi-award-winning filmmaker and composer and pioneer in the field of the documentary musical. He grew up in Northamptonshire and describes himself as a fanatical Midlander of Welsh and Jewish extraction! He has many works to his credit including Our Gay Wedding: The Musical (Channel 4, BAFTA-nominated, winner, Rose D’Or, Grierson and Prix Italia.) This film is considered one of Channel 4’s most successful ever broadcasts. His most recent film, 100 Faces, which features the UK Jewish Community, won the gold award at the Robinson’s International Short Film Competition. Benjamin sings with, and is Resident Composer for, the Jewish Male voice choir, Mosaic Voices at New West End Synagogue, London. Their most recent recording of Benjamin’s arrangement of Kol Nidrei was played on Radio 3.

Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles

Dir. Max Lewkowicz; 2019; 97 min; English

Director Max Lewkowicz’s richly detailed documentary celebrates the illustrious Broadway show Fiddler on the Roof, the evergreen shtetl-set musical first staged in 1964 with choreography and direction by Jerome Robbins and starring Zero Mostel as Teyve, the milkman. Contributions from a range of interviewees – including people attached to the original production, such as producer Hal Prince and lyricist Sheldon Harnick, and famous fans of the show, including Fran Lebowitz and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda – help to structure the history lesson about how Fiddler became a massive international hit. That account is filled out with footage of recent productions from around the world, including one in Japanese and one by some African American high-school kids in Brooklyn

What really makes this documentary are the digressions into, among many other things, the history of the Pale of Settlement, who exactly was Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem (who wrote the stories the show is based on), Marc Chagall, and the show’s ghostly connection to the Holocaust, even though it’s not mentioned in the show itself.  Despite its age, this musical engages audiences, both Jewish and non-Jewish, all over the world and has a remarkable ability to seem relevant to every era, including the present day with the rise of the ultra right and anti-semitism.

Creativity against the odds: Art and Internment during World War Two

To mark the 80th anniversary of the British government’s controversial decision to ‘collar the lot’, this illustrated lecture will examine the art produced in the British internment camps, mostly but not only on the Isle of Man. It will do so in the broader context of art produced in other internment situations, from the Japanese-American camps in the USA to the Nazi POW and concentration camps. Just what is it that makes human beings feel the urge to create in such adverse and inauspicious circumstances?

Monica Bohm-Duchen is a London-based art historian. Her book Art and the Second World War was published in 2013. She is the initiator and creative director of the nationwide, year-long Insiders/Outsiders Festival (https://insidersoutsidersfestival.org/), which celebrates the huge contribution made to British culture by refugees from Nazi-dominated Europe – many of whom were interned as ‘enemy aliens’ by the British government in 1940.

The Band’s Visit

Dir. Eran Korilin; 90 minutes; English, Hebrew, Arabic

This award winning charming Israeli comedy is the tale of an Egyptian police band stranded overnight in a quiet Israeli settlement after taking the wrong bus. It features lovely performances from Sasson Gabai as the band’s impeccably behaved conductor and actress Ronit Elkabetz as an Israeli bar owner who puts him up for the night. A beautifully controlled piece, it marks the impressive debut of director and screenwriter Eran Kolirin, who handles the delicate shades of politics with subtle tones. The Egyptians encounter a few Israeli townspeople, who respond with curiosity about the band, are variously friendly and wary, and provide them with shelter, food, music and companionship during their visit.

“In the morning, the band reassembles and leaves: An interlude involving two “enemies,” Arabs and Israelis, that shows them both as only ordinary people with ordinary hopes, lives and disappointments. It has also shown us two souls with rare beauty.” (Roger Egbert)

 

 

Medicine in Ancient Judaism: Why does G-d attempt to kill Moses in Exodus 4?

Directly after the burning bush scene, G-d inexplicably tries to kill Moses (Exodus 4:24-26). Fortunately, Moses’ life is saved by Zipporah’s enigmatic “Bridegroom of Blood” ritual. Commentators both ancient and modern have proposed many solutions by filling in the gaps, proposing reasons such as Moses’ failing courage or procrastination. But what did this episode mean in its original setting? This talk will look at how G-d’s attempt on Moses’ life is better understood in the broader historical context of ancient medicine. In this talk, Dr Askin will draw upon recent research from her current project, Medicine in Ancient Israel and Early Judaism, to explore how and why the Bible’s portrayals of medicine and healing seems so mysterious and distant to us.

Dr Lindsey A. Askin is Lecturer in Jewish Studies, University of Bristol. She is the author of Scribal Culture in Ben Sira (Brill, 2018), which is based on her doctoral thesis (University of Cambridge, 2012-16). Her research interests include mental illness and medicine in the Bible and ancient Judaism, scribal culture and literacy, Ben Sira, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Book of Jubilees.

JoJo Rabbit

Dir. Taika Waititi,
Starring Taika Waititi, Roman Griffin Davis, Scarlett Johansson, Rebel Wilson ; 2019, 123 mins, English

Since the days of Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, film-makers have adopted naive or comedic perspectives to pierce and deflate the hideous bubble of Nazi ideology. Now, in this Golden Globe-nominated adaptation of Christine Leunens’s book Caging Skies, New Zealand writer-director-performer Taika Waititi plays a camp, slapstick version of Hitler, who exists in the mind of a German boy, Jojo. Roman Griffin Davis plays the 10-year-old growing up under the Third Reich, whose jolly dreams of becoming an Aryan war hero are thwarted by his innate sensitivity and squeamishness. Beneath the fanaticism, Jojo is a frightened boy whose sister has died and whose father has disappeared in battle. But his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), has a secret: she’s a covert anti-fascist who is hiding a Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), in the attic. When Jojo stumbles upon Elsa, he is initially horrified, believing her to be a monster. But gradually the pair strike up a love-hate relationship that infuriates imaginary Adolf and causes Jojo to start to rethink his allegiances. Through Elsa, Waititi articulates some fundamental and insidious tenets of antisemitism that are being touted even now. She is the real conduit for empathy in the audience, regardless of whether you’re Jewish or not

Finding 100 Faces: capturing Jewish diversity

THIS MEETING HAS BEEN CANCELLED BECAUSE OF COVID-19

 

In early 2018, composer and film maker Benjamin Till, who had only recently discovered he was Jewish, decided to make the film 100 Faces to find out more about the community he’d been a member of for 43 years without realising.  His mission was to find one UK-based Jewish person born every year from 1918 to 2017 and it became a journey which took him all over the world. His final 100 people include Jewish people from all walks of life. Rabbis and chazans rub shoulders with Holocaust survivors, kinder-transportees, well-known actors, musicians and writers, and two men who fought at Cable Street. The film is set to an original score performed by the Israel Camera Orchestra.  Sit back and enjoy the film (around 6 mins), and then hear about the bumpy and inspirational ride which led there.

 

Benjamin Till is an award-winning filmmaker and composer. He grew up in Northamptonshire and describes himself as a fanatical Midlander of Welsh and Jewish extraction. He has many works to his credit including Our Gay Wedding: The Musical, a Bafta-nominated film is considered one of Channel 4’s most successful broadcasts. His most recent film, 100 Faces, won the gold award at the Robinson’s International Short Film Competition. Benjamin sings with, and is Resident Composer for, the Jewish male voice choir Mosaic Voices at New West End Synagogue, London.

 

 

Wondrous Oblivion

Image result for wondrous oblivion

 

THIS FILM HAS BEEN CANCELLED BECAUSE OF COVID-19

 

 

UK 2003, 106 mins, English

Director Paul Morrison

In this comedy drama, David Wiseman is mad about cricket but faces two problems: he’s Jewish and he’s absolutely hopeless at playing the game. When a Jamaican family move next door, the father Dennis schools him in the delicate arts of bat and ball. David’s parents come out of their shells thanks to Dennis, while David learns about growing up and becoming assertive both on and off the pitch.

‘The movie presents a pretty convincing account of its time and is well acted. Like Paul Morrison’s earlier movie, Solomon and Gaenor, Wondrous Oblivion is somewhat contrived and occasionally sentimental. But it’s warm, kindly, and has a heart the size of the Oval.’ (Philip French, Observer review)

Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual?

PLEASE NOTE THIS TALK HAS NOW BEEN CANCELLED  TO AVOID RISK OF COVID-19 (CORONA VIRUS) INFECTION 

Stanley Kubrick is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s great directors. Yet few critics or scholars have considered how he emerged from a unique and vibrant cultural milieu: the New York Jewish intelligentsia. Nathan Abrams reexamines the director’s work in context of his ethnic and cultural origins and focuses on several of Kubrick’s key themes-masculinity, ethical responsibility, and the nature of evil.-At the same time, he will explore Kubrick’s fraught relationship with his Jewish identity and his reluctance to be pegged as an ethnic director.

Nathan Abrams is Professor in Film at Bangor University. He co-convenes the British Jewish Contemporary Cultures network. He lectures, writes and broadcasts widely on UK and American popular culture, history film and intellectual culture. He co-founded Jewish Film and New Media and recent books are Eyes Wide Shut: Stanley Kubrick and the Making of His Final Film (with Robert Kolker, Oxford University Press, 2019), Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual (Rutgers University Press, 2018), Hidden in Plain Sight: Jews and Jewishness in British Film, Television, and Popular Culture (Northwestern University Press, 2016).

My Polish Honeymoon

Image result for my polish honeymoon

France 2018, 88 mins, French with English subtitles

Director Elise Otzenberger

Packed with charm and laughter, this delightful comedy follows recently-married Parisian couple, Anna and Adam, as they head off on a belated honeymoon to Poland, leaving their baby in the hands of Anna’s parents. Whilst Anna hopes to find out something of her family’s history, Adam is more interested in having a few days alone with his wife. Immersed in a new but strangely familiar culture, they discover a Poland awash with absurd and wonderful characters, picture perfect beauty and unbearable sadness. Élise Otzenberger’s debut feature is an entertaining and life affirming tale about rediscovering roots and being Jewish today.