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 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

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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?

 

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

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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.

Henri Tajfel: Explorer of identity and difference

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Henri Tajfel was one of the most influential European social psychologists of the 20th century. Rupert Brown will trace his life from his birth in Poland in 1919, his time as a prisoner-of-war of the Germans in World War II, his post-war work with Jewish orphans in France and Belgium, and thence to his short but brilliant career as a social psychologist. Tajfel was interested in how and why groups see and treat each other in negative ways. He conducted a famous set of studies – known as the minimal group experiments – and developed Social Identity Theory, the heart of which is that people’s identities are often intimately tied up with the groups they belong to and they will work hard to make those groups appear superior to other groups. This theory paved the way for subsequent work which shows how mass-scale human violence, such as the Holocaust, might be possible.

Rupert Brown is Emeritus Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Sussex. He obtained his PhD under Tajfel at the University of Bristol and has been an active researcher in the field of intergroup relations and prejudice. He was the recipient of the 2014 Henri Tajfel medal, awarded by the European Association of Social Psychology and is the author of two widely used student texts, Group Processes (2019) and Prejudice (2010). His biography of Tajfel is published by Routledge (2019).

Remember

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Canada/Germany 2015, 94 mins, English

Director Atom Egoyan featuring Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau

‘Christopher Plummer puts on a master class in acting, and his director, Atom Egoyan, delivers one in audience manipulation in Remember a psychological thriller featuring that most blood-boiling of plot devices: a Nazi who escaped justice.’

Mr. Plummer is Zev and Martin Landau plays Max, fellow residents in an assisted-living complex. Max realizes they were both at Auschwitz. He is the brains and Zev is the brawn, so to speak, of a plan Max has hatched to seek vengeance on a concentration camp official who escaped to the United States under a false identity. Max is in a wheelchair, but he arms Zev and sends him on a cross-country journey to interview four people who could be the missing Nazi, the hope being that he’ll kill the man once he finds him. But Zev is floating in and out of dementia, complicating the task and giving Mr. Plummer a chance to turn in a very fine performance.’ (Neil Glezinger, NY Times review)

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.

Back to Berlin

Following eleven modern-day Jewish bikers on an epic journey from Tel-Aviv to Berlin, crossing nine European countries and 4,500 km in twenty-four days. Their mission, to deliver the Maccabi torch to Hitler’s infamous 1936 Olympic stadium, for the opening ceremony of the 2015 European Maccabiah Games. These riders follow in the tracks of the early 1930s’ bikers who set out from Tel Aviv to all corners of Europe.  En route, each country holds a chilling resonance for our motor-cycling Holocaust survivors, descendants of survivors and the grandson of a 1930s Maccabiah Rider. Stories of defiance and survival are revealed, as well as those of horrifying tragedy.  As resurgent populism and anti-Semitism once again rear their ugly heads, this film brings an important message through the voice of those who have been personally affected by one of the darkest pages in human history. This isn’t simply a “Jewish” story. It is the story of people overcoming the worst from fellow man to restate our common humanity.

Here I am; Capturing the Stories of the South Wales Jewish Community

There have been two projects in Cardiff over the last 10 years that have used oral history to capture the stories of the Cardiff Jewish community, as well as preserving written records. The talk will look at how we went about it and some of the advantages of oral history, and will give some fascinating snippets from the stories people had to tell. It will also look at what we learnt about identity and belonging and the diversity of experience of the community, from the last Barmitzvah in a synagogue in Cologne ten days before Kristallnacht to the first Jewish wedding in Kidwelly, a village in West Wales.

Colin Heyman was involved in the Hineni Oral History project which started the work in 2009 and John Minkes of the Jewish History Association of South Wales has continued the work over the last three years. In our other lives, Colin is a trainer and facilitator, John a retired criminologist. Our other joint activity is going to see Cardiff City play

A bag of marbles (un sac de billes)

Last year this film was sold out, so we are reshowing it. Canadian director Christian Duguay explores the horrors of World War Two from the perspective of two young Jewish boys living in Nazi-occupied France in Un Sac de Billes (A Bag of Marbles). Based on the acclaimed memoirs of the same name by Joseph Joffo, A Bag of Marbles is a lavishly shot production that is brilliantly acted and is a gut-wrenching reminder of one of history’s darkest chapters. Following the fall of Paris to Nazi Germany during World War II, brothers Maurice (Batyste Fleurial) and Joseph (Dorian Le Clech) are forced to leave their close-knit Jewish family behind for the free-zone along the French Riviera.

 Despite the grim war scenes and the dark subject matter, Duguay has created a lavishly shot film that boasts stunning cinematography, lush locations and beautiful period costumes. The film beautifully balances the high stake tension with some sweet and endearing moments between the two brothers and celebrates their innocence. While the film is a dark reminder of a terrible page in our history, its heart-warming story reminds us that there are still good people in our darkest moments (modified from Daniele Foti-Cuzzola)