A bag of marbles (un sac de billes)

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 horrible 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)

France 2017, 113 mins, French, German, Russian, Yiddish; Director Christian Duguay featuring Batyste Fleurial, Dorian Le Clech



Belonging and belongings: Jewish poetry in the UK today

What does it mean to be a Jewish poet?  Can a non-Jew, like Micheal O’Siadhail, write about the Holocaust? (See The Gossamer Wall, Bloodaxe 2002).  Maybe the Irish and the Jews have enough in common to be able to immerse themselves in each other’s histories.  Does  a writer and in particular a poet have to belong somewhere before they can write?  Who do their poems belong to?  What part do journals like Jewish Renaissance and the Jewish Quarterly play in keeping alive the identity of Jewish poets and poetry. How important are Jewish poets like Aviva Dautch, Poet in Residence at the Jewish Museum in London, who also works with refugees getting them to write poetry?

Liz Cashdan is a poet and teaches Creative Writing for the Open College of the Arts. She is former Chair of the National Association of Writers in Education. She also teaches Creative Writing for the Folk House in Bristol and in schools.  She is Poetry Editor of Jewish Renaissance and in 1996 won the Jewish Quarterly poetry prize with her historical sequence, The Tyre-Cairo Letters based on a fragment from the Cairo Geneza   She has an MA in History from Oxford and a PhD in Literature from Sheffield Hallam University.  Her latest collection is Things of Substance: New and Selected Poems (Five Leaves Publications 2013).


“Set within the New York Hasidic community in Borough Park, Brooklyn, Menashe follows a kind but hapless grocery store clerk trying to maintain custody of his son Rieven after his wife, Lea, passes away. Since they live in a tradition-bound culture that requires a mother present in every home, Rieven is supposed to be adopted by the boy’s strict, married uncle, but Menashe’s Rabbi decides to grant him one week to spend with Rieven prior to Lea’s memorial. Their time together creates an emotional moment of father/son bonding as well as offers Menashe a final chance to prove to his skeptical community that he can be a capable parent.

Shot in secret entirely within the Hasidic community depicted in the film, and one of the only movies to be performed in Yiddish in nearly 70 years, Menashe is a warm, life-affirming look at the universal bonds between father and son that also sheds unusual light on a notoriously private community. Based largely on the real life of its Hasidic star Menashe Lustig, the film is a strikingly authentic and deeply moving portrait of family, love, connection, and community.” (taken from https://a24films.com/films)

US 2017, 81 mins, Yiddish (subtitled)  Director Joshua Z Weinstein featuring Menashe Lustig, Ruben Nibroski

The Jews of India


Dating back to the time of King Solomon, some of the oldest Jewish communities in the world are to be found in India. In 2016, Sonia Jackson joined a tour of Indian Jewish sites and synagogues organised by Maidenhead Synagogue and led by Ralphy and Yael Jhirad. She will give an illustrated talk about the synagogues they visited and their social and historical context.

Sonia Jackson is an Emeritus Professor at UCL Institute of Education. She is a past Chair of Davar and continues to have a strong commitment to supporting Jewish cultural life in Bristol and the surrounding area

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr story

There can hardly be any more extraordinary story from the Hollywood golden age than that of Hedy Lamarr; an assimilated Austrian Jew, a very beautiful star with a moderate acting talent but an untutored brilliance in science and engineering.. Her tragedy was that she was in the wrong business, precisely that business that promotes beauty over brains – the movie business. Alexandra Dean’s excellent and important documentary about her is very instructive – a parable of modern sexual politics and assumptions about science. Lamarr was an enigma: a great brain trapped in a silly, spurious image of glamour, while her real talent was allowed to wither. A sad but fascinating story. (modified from Peter Bradshaw review)

The film has won several awards since being shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, including a New York Times Critic’s Pick and five audience awards. J. Hoberman named it “one of the ten best films of 2017


Painting Exile: R. B. Kitaj, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff

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“The novelty of our time [is] that so many individuals have experienced the uprooting and dislocations that have made them expatriate and exiles.” The words of Edward Said encapsulate the widely-held view that exile was emblematic of the modern world. This talk will focus  upon three artists featured in the exhibition ‘Out of Chaos’ at the Laing Art Gallery in 2016-17: Frank Auerbach, R.B. Kitaj and Leon Kossoff. They were loosely grouped under the label the ‘School of London.’ Focusing especially upon the works featured in the exhibition, this talk will explore the different ways that exile is represented, imagined or displaced through each artist’s particular vision; and how that vision might have been shaped by their individual historical circumstances.

Stephen Moonie is a Lecturer in Art History in the Department of Fine Art, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University. He is an expert on modernist painting and criticism, especially in the U.S. during the 1950s and 1960s. He teaches widely across many areas of art history, and has published on various aspects of modern art and art criticism in recent years. He is currently interested in the legacy of the critical debates of the 1960s and the current role of art criticism.



Norman: the moderate rise and fall of a New York fixer

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Norman (Richard Gere), a New York fixer, knows the right people and can get things done. When an Israeli dignitary named Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi) comes to the city, Norman decides to impress the man by buying him some very expensive shoes. It works and he establishes a strong connection to the man, but a few years later, when Eshel becomes the Israel prime minister, Norman can’t communicate with him anymore, and this threatens to destroy his reputation.

“Israeli director Cedar impressively creates a complex and intricately detailed portrait of the web of political, financial, social and religious affiliations that has everything to do with how the world works. Gere presides over it all with an impressively self-effacing portrait of a man who, while you wouldn’t want to experience him in real life, remains fascinating onscreen from beginning to end. Of the countless hustler characters who have driven dramatic films over the decades, Gere makes this one distinctive and different, even if there’s no revelation of the entire man.” (Modified from review by Todd McCarthy)


From Buenos Aires to Bristol – The history of Limmud, the global Jewish educational phenomenon


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With Bristol holding its first Limmud event in June 2018, it’s time to hear what makes Limmud so remarkable.  Founded in 1980, Limmud has spread all over the world, empowering Jews of every stripe and type to take control of their own learning. It has pioneered modes of participatory leadership and how different Jews can learn and work together while fully respecting their deepest held differences. Still controversial amongst some for its unparalleled approach to inclusion, there are now Limmud events in over 85 places in 44 countries across the world, creating new educators, offering a model for grown up Jewish life everywhere and introducing Jews to each other, who often lived next door but never spoke.

Clive Lawton is one of the co-Founders of Limmud and served as its first Executive Director for 7 years till 2006 and subsequently as a Senior Consultant. Recognised with an OBE, Clive is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading Jewish educators as well as an international advisor on the development of educational leadership and issues of diversity. In the early 1990s Clive was responsible for the grant that first established Davar and spoke at its inaugural event. He has been a Headteacher, Chair of an NHS Hospital Trust, a governor of the Metropolitan Police, an advisor to the Home Office on Race Equality issues and a regular on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. He is currently CEO of the Commonwealth Jewish Council, a magistrate, scholar in residence at London’s flagship JW3 Cultural Centre, and has authored about a dozen books.




The Governess

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Set in the 1830s, the story centres on Rosina da Silva, the sophisticated eldest daughter of a wealthy Jewish Italian family living in a small enclave of Sephardic London Jews. When her father is murdered on the street and leaves behind numerous debts, she refuses an arranged marriage to an older suitor, declaring that she will work to support her family, even if she has to take to the stage like her aunt, who is a renowned singer. She decides to use her classical education and advertise her services as a governess, transforming herself into Mary Blackchurch – a Protestant of partial Italian descent – in order to conceal her heritage. However life becomes complicated as she gets to know Charles Cavendish, the patriarch of the house, and his son Henry.  Minnie Driver (Rosina) gives one of her best performances with memorable beauty and the screen presence of a real star.

No poetry after Auschwitz

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Starting with Theodor Adorno’s much-quoted proposition that ‘After Auschwitz it is barbaric to write poetry’, this talk will explore the tension between confronting the reality of the Holocaust and responding artistically through the medium of poetry to human experience. By focusing on individual poems by survivors such as Paul Celan and Primo Levi and English-language poets such as Anthony Hecht, Michael Longley and Carol Ann Duffy, the talk will tentatively consider how necessary poetry remains in the modern world. Examples of poems will be provided and can be found in the anthology, “Holocaust Poetry”, edited by Hilda Schiff.

Philip Lyons is a teacher and poet who lives in Bristol. He has taught creative writing and literary studies in a variety of settings, including universities, prisons and psychiatric hospitals. Since completing a PhD on Literary and Theological Responses to the Holocaust at the University of Bristol in 1988, he has also worked in the fields of advice and guidance, mental health, and adult education. He is the author of one full-length collection, “Like It Is” (Poetry Space, 2011), and he has given readings throughout the South West, including the Wells Festival of Literature and the Thornbury Arts Festival.