web analytics
December 29, 2014 / 7 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘movie’

Colorado Gunman Indentified

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Colorado gunman – now identified as James Holmes, 24 – killed at least 12 people and injured 50 in a shooting spree in a Colorado movie theater near Denver overnight.

A Window Into The Past; A Lesson For The Future

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Earlier this month, members of the Toronto Jewish community were given a rare opportunity to be visually transported back in time. The film, filmed in 1922, is called Hungry Hearts, and is based on the short stories of writer Anzia Yezierska, a Jewish woman born in Poland in the 1880s whose family immigrated to New York. Many of her writings are centered on her experiences and those of other immigrants living in the Lower East Side. Like all movies made at that time, it is silent, with dialogue conveyed by cue cards.

The film was shot on location in the Lower East Side, and offered a unique, albeit brief glimpse, into the life of East European Jewish immigrants who had left “die alte heim” – and everything that was familiar to them – to journey to Amerikeh, spurred by the dream of improving their lives and those of their families in the fabled “goldene medina.”

The film, presented by the Toronto Jewish Film Society was screened at the Miles Nadal JCC, located in a part of Toronto that many decades ago, like the Lower East Side, teemed with the colors, smells and hustle and bustle of Jewish immigrants, many of them, like my parent, survivors of the Holocaust.

I had never seen a silent movie in an actual theater (and it had been years since I glimpsed one on TV), and I was intrigued by the idea of experiencing a movie the way people did 100 years ago – with written dialogue and musical accompaniment being utilized to heighten the audience’s awareness of the drama or comedy of the scene. (In this 80-minute film it was provided with great skill and endurance by Jordan Klapman, an accomplished jazz pianist, music director and arranger.)

What made the movie even more appealing to me was that it was atypical, in terms of it being about a Jewish family – with a bearded father and wig-wearing mother (as opposed to the ones I remember where a common theme involves a villain abducting and then tying a hapless female to the railroad tracks, while her hero/love interest desperately tries to reach her before the approaching locomotive does). The household is headed by a rav, who was threatened by the local police for running a cheder (teaching religion was forbidden in Communist Russia). Believing the boastful letter sent by a landsman (local boy) who had significantly embellished the success he has attained in the land of opportunity, the scholarly father uproots his family at the urging of his stoic, practical-minded wife and their shidduch-aged daughter who is imbued with youthful optimism.

Of course, life in America is not the piece of cake they thought it would be – the father preferred sitting with his face in a sefer rather than walking around with a pushcart, but after many trials and tribulations, the family does indeed achieve the American dream – especially when the daughter, Sara, catches the eye of a newly minted lawyer who saves the day when he defends his future mother-in-law in court against the evil landlord, who happens to be his greedy, bully of an uncle. Anticipating an engagement, she takes on back-breaking menial work to afford white paint that will brighten the dreary walls of their tenement, only to have the landlord, who is appalled that his nephew would deign to marry a poor “greena,” double the rent – already barely affordable as it is. In a fit of despair-fuelled rage, she trashes the place.

While the story itself was entertaining, especially when the actors’ facial expressions were somewhat exaggerated, as were their gestures and body language (obviously to compensate for the lack of dialogue) what captivated my attention was the history I was glimpsing; and the sobering awareness that while for me the events had taken place almost a century ago, for the individuals in that film, they were in their “now.”

It was as if a curtain separating today and a far away yesterday, had been momentarily pulled away, inviting us to view a slice of life that once had been someone’s today.

As the story unfolds you see hordes of people going about their daily business on the streets of lower Manhattan in 1922. You are drawn into their reality as you see pushcart peddlers hawking their wares, women picking up various fruits and vegetables with one hand, evaluating their freshness with a practiced eye as their other hand balances a baby on their hip.

The Very Best of Israel on the Silver Screen

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Now that Israel’s early elections have been called off, there may be a sigh of relief among supporters of the Jewish state who feel that a new order will form in the country.  The fact that a new so-called unity government has now been formed, with the needs of the religious and the secular communities being addressed equally, could offer  the country the stability it needs to handle its external enemies without having to worry as much about the internal strife tearing it apart.  That remains to be seen, but the hope is being restored.

When events such as the reformation of the government occur, it behooves the country to do as good a job as it can to spread the word far and wide proclaiming the positive.  Too often media and other forces opposed to Israel gather morsels of negativity and portray those as truly representative of the people and government of Israel.  Israel is often its own worst enemy when it comes to public relations; its Hasbara, as it is referred to, is often too defensive and focused in shades of black and white, and therefore can seem harsh and selfish.

If it could only show a different face of the country, to accent attributes other than its military, its land disputes, or the internal, sometimes bitter, divides between the religious and secular communities, Israel can show its appeal as world class leader in arts, technologies, medicine and other areas of worldly advancements.

 This task is really best not left to the government.  The people who research sciences, run businesses and advance medicine or enterprises should be promoting their skills to the communities they address.  They know it best and can do it better, and often have no other motive than promoting what makes them so proud.

When Daniel Senor and Saul Singer wrote Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, they set out to use their talents to promote the talents of Israel.  Senor is an entrepreneur, and Singer is a journalist, and the two presented the case for Israel’s spirit for research, technology and advancement, and were convincing.  Illustrations like Startup Nation do more to help Israel’s cause than a dozen government spokespeople using obscure metaphors to illustrate how the world has the picture wrong.

This weekend in Long Island and New York City, moviegoers will get to see a work that serves to promote Israel as a place of warmth, beauty, and love, but also one of passion and courage that runs deeper than most would imagine.  Best of all, it is a film created under the auspices of a nonprofit foundation created in 1996 to benefit the Jewish people and the State of Israel primarily through media,  and it pumps its net proceeds back into more hasbarah related projects that continue to further positive images of Israel.

Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story is a documentary about the life of a true Israeli hero.  Netanyahu was made famous after his death for the spectacular raid in Entebbe, Uganda, that freed 103 mostly Israeli and Jewish hostages from a group of Palestinian terrorists. The near impossible operation, often called Operation Thunderbolt, was meticulously planned and carried out with such surgical precision that it is considered one of the greatest military feats by many experts.

Yet, the story is not a mere recounting of that feat, as Hollywood already did what it could in two motion pictures, one featuring Charles Bronson as Brig. Gen Dan Shomron and Peter Finch as Yitzhak Rabin.  Those were adventure dramas that presented Israel as a superior force with luck and God looking out for it.  No, Follow Me is an honest retrospective of the life of the young, academic, passionate and poetic son, brother, friend, boyfriend, and husband Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu.

Directors Jonathan Gruber, Ari Daniel Pinchot, and producers Mark Manson and Avi Savitsky put together a collection of letter written by Netanyahu to his loved ones while in school and in the army, and uses  interviews with high-level Israeli leaders today, including his younger brother, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu.  The letters show a boy caught between wanting more out of his life with academics to family, and struggling with his love for his country and his real effectiveness as a strong military leader.

Why Are We Here: Israel At 64

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Jews all over the world celebrate Israel’s Independence Day – even those who have no intention of ever coming on aliyah, and many of whom have never even visited Israel. “It’s a kind of insurance policy” one overseas friend told me. “By supporting Israel financially and emotionally, I know that its sanctuary is available to me or my children or grandchildren should the need ever arise.”

I find this kind of thinking very sad, because Israel is so much more than a refuge for persecuted Jews. Not every immigrant who has built a life here was escaping from the horror of the Holocaust, the tyranny behind the Iron Curtain or the cruelty of life in an Arab country. Many of us (the ones Israelis refer to as “Anglo-Saxim) lowered our standard of living significantly when we settled in Israel, yet found something here that enhanced our quality of life even as we struggled with inflation, mortgages and trying to make miniscule salaries stretch to the end of the month.

We found here a family – our own people. Of course, just like any family, we fight … about religion, politics, the settlements – and the fights can be very bitter. Yet at bottom we care about each other and bond together when we face a common enemy. We celebrate together and sometimes we even have to grieve together. Basically, when the going gets rough, we are on the same side. We express our identity as Jews in different ways, but it is the same identity.

We found here a beautiful country, unique in the variety of its scenery and climate. Mediterranean beaches banded by azure and indigo water and pure white sand; coral reefs; dense forests; wooded mountains; deserts and rivers and waterfalls; the shimmering mirrored glass of the Dead Sea; fields carpeted with wildflowers – and Jerusalem, the priceless jewel.

Some of us found here a spirituality that we’d never been able to achieve abroad. Anyone who has been in Israel on Yom Kippur, when the whole country comes to a standstill for one day, cannot doubt the kedusha, the holiness of Eretz Yisrael. It is intangible, yet it is an undeniable presence.

We found here a pride in the remarkable achievements of this tiny country. We can match, and surpass, the high-tech of much bigger, richer and better-developed nations. We teach agriculture to the world. We are rich in poets, writers, musicians, actors and artists. We can boast of industrial entrepreneurs and brilliant scientists. When any new Israeli invention captures the world’s imagination, somehow we all bask in the reflected glory.

Kibbutz Kiryat Chaim, 1942

Israelis have always been compared to the Sabra – the cactus with the thorny exterior but the soft heart. We celebrate Yom HaTzma’ut in many ways – campfires and singing, picnics, a Bible Quiz, concerts, music and dancing in the streets. We spend the day with family and friends and relish every moment of it. But it is more than just enjoyment. On every building, the Israeli flag flies. Almost every balcony, in every city flies the white flag with the blue Magen David, the Shield of David. And for days beforehand and a week afterwards, the Israeli flag flies from every car on the road. Every ceremony opens with the singing of “HaTikva” – the Hope – Israel’s national anthem. We sing it standing straight and proud, and usually with tears in our eyes as we remember the broken people who found a safe haven here, and those who never managed to reach its shores and died with the dream of Zion in their hearts. And we also remember the brave men and women who gave their lives in all of Israel’s wars, and in the pre-State days, the fighters and pioneers who fashioned this wonderful land that we have inherited.

Shin Shalom, one of Israel’s greatest poets, expressed it for all of us in his “Mother Jerusalem Singing,” which he wrote a day after the Yom Kippur War in 1973:

“Love forever, glow forever,
Cherish, yearn, preserve the kernel
Of an everlasting nation, of a heritage eternal.”

Dvora Waysman is the author of 11 books including The Pomegranate Pendant, now a movie titled “The Golden Pomegranate” and her latest novel In A Good Pasture (Chaim Mazo Publishers) “

This Just In: Warner’s ‘Maccabees’ Suspended, Mel Gibson Stil Hates Jews

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

The website WRAP has gotten hold of “an explosive nine-page letter” from Hollywood screenwriter Joe Eszterhas (“Basic Instinct,” “Jagged Edge”) to Mel Gibson, his collaborator on a movie about the Maccabee revolt, in which Joe is accusing Mel of “hating Jews” and of using him to deflect his anti-Semitic reputation.

Eszterhas wrote that Gibson, the director of a sadomasochistic flick about how the Jews killed you-know-who but not before flogging the skin off of him, never actually intended to make the movie about Jewish heroism, titled “The Maccabees.”

Eszterhas wrote that the real reason Gibson had announced the project was an “attempt to deflect continuing charges of anti-Semitism which have dogged you, charges which have crippled your career.”

Eszterhas added:  “I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason you won’t make ‘The Maccabees’ is the ugliest possible one. You hate Jews.”

Meanwhile, according to the WRAP, Warner Bros. has suspended Mel Gibson’s movie project about that 2nd Century BCE Maccabee revolt, after reading Joe Eszterhas’ script. Or, as Warner put it: “We are analyzing what to do with the project.”

A few years ago, Mel Gibson went on a rampage when he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in Los Angeles, nd according to the arresting officer’s report Gibson exploded in a barrage of anti-Semitic statements such as “F—-g Jews” and “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.”

Jewish groups were outraged initially, after news broke in September that Gibson signed the deal with Warner’s to direct a film about the life of Judah Maccabee, who drove the Syrian armies out of Judea, as we celebrate each year on Hanukkah.

“Braveheart” about Jews, if you will.

Abraham Foxman of ADL told The Hollywood Reporter, “It would be a travesty to have [Judah Maccabee's] story told by one who has no respect and sensitivity for other people’s religious views.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier said at the time, “Mel Gibson has shown nothing but antagonism and disrespect to Jews.”

According to WRAP, Eszterhas’ letter reveals “a disturbing picture of Gibson as a man yet again out of control, inflicting frequent rages on those around him, in the grip of an anti-Semitic obsession, and possibly dangerous to those around him.”

For instance, Eszterhas’ letter recounts Gibson’s threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend, Oksana Gregorieva: “You were raving at Oksana even after you’d reached a custody agreement over Luci, and then you were even more explicit about your threat: ‘I’m going to kill her!  I’m going to have her killed!’ You said you’d become friends with two FBI agents (or former FBI agents) and they were going to help you to kill her.”

But throughout the work on the Maccabee script, Mel’s pervasive hatred of Jews hung in the air like the alcoholic fumes that got him arrested those few years ago. Eszterhas writes:

“You continually called Jews ‘Hebes’ and ‘oven-dodgers’ and ‘Jewboys.’ It seemed that most times when we discussed someone, you asked ‘He’s a Hebe, isn’t he?’ You said most ‘gatekeepers’ of American companies were ‘Hebes’ who ‘controlled their bosses.’”

It just went on and on:

“You said the Holocaust was ‘mostly a lot of horses–t.’ You said the Torah made reference to the sacrifice of Christian babies and infants. When I told you that you were confusing the Torah with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, … you insisted ‘it’s in the Torah — it’s in there!’”

Finally, Eszterhas wrote that Gibson had told him that his intention in making “The Maccabees” was “to convert the Jews to Christianity.”

WRAP also cites Mel Gibson’s response letter to Eszterhas:

“Both Warner Brothers and I were extraordinarily disappointed with the draft. In 25 years of script development I have never seen a more substandard first draft or a more significant waste of time. The decision not to proceed with you was based on the quality of your script, not on any other factor.”

Gibson actually apologized for using “colorful” language, but said that much of Eszterhas’s observations were “utter fabrications.”

“Braveheart” about Jews, indeed.

Prominent Egyptian Comedian Convicted of ‘Defaming Islam’

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

A judge in Egypt sentenced Adel Imam, a famous Egyptian comedian, to three months in jail for “defaming Islam.”

Imam was convicted in absentia, as his whereabouts are unknown. The state-run internet news organ Ahram reported that his conviction was based on his roles in a 1998 play and 2007 movie.

 

The Sirota Family and the 20th Century at the Japan Society

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

I am blessed to live in a tradition filled with many incredible people, but it is rare I actually have the chance to meet a hero.  I give sincere thanks to the Japan Society for honoring a great Jewish woman, Beate Sirota Gordon.  A distinguished lady who wrote the equality clause of the new Japanese constitution, Ms. Gordon is also the scion of an illustrious musical family whose tree is traced in the movie, The Sirota Family and the 20th Century.  As Ms. Gordon herself said, although her father has been a half-century in the grave, the director of the film fell in love with him. While Leo Sirota, her father, could obviously not be interviewed; his music is played throughout, giving him a voice in the film that shows the depths of his passion of music. It is fair to say the audience fell in love with Sirota as well.

Having a distinct love for the Japanese culture, due to their excellent literature, and being fiercely proud of my Judaism, I could not imagine a more perfect evening.  The Japan Society is a beautiful building, tucked away by Dag Hammarskjold Square, a place I had visited so many times to protest the UN.  I was very pleased to be there for a less stressful reason. From the indoor water garden to the elegant pictures on the wall, the place seems to be a quiet oasis in a very busy city. Given the emotions I knew I would feel watching a Holocaust film, I found myself feeling strangely at peace and calm. It was a perfect place to watch the movie and I hope there will be more joint Jewish-Japanese events in the future.

Both the family and the film begin in Kamianets-Podilskyi during the time period in which Ms. Gordon’s grandparents lived. Each member of the Sirota family has been blessed with an incredible gift for music. Although they endure persecution and pogroms, they continue to attend some of the most prestigious schools of music from Kiev to St. Petersberg to Paris, performing and teaching wherever they went. Leo Sirota tours the world with his music and finds himself being offered a job in the most unlikely (and non-Jewish) place – Japan. Unfortunately, their lives and the lives of the people around them are shattered when the Nazis come to power.

Ms. Gordon talks painfully of her memories of being taught to Seig Heil at the beginning of every class, of being twelve-years-old and ostracized by those around her.  An uncle perished in Auschwitz and a cousin was killed fighting in World War II. Ms. Gordon herself was in America studying at Mills College and spent years having limited conversation with and information about her parents.

     After the war ended, the twenty-two-year old Ms. Sirota joined the Occupation force in Japan as a translator, as she was one of the sixty-five Caucasians who were fluent in Japanese. Her previous experience at Time Magazine had taught her how to gather information and therefore, she was able to do the research required to assist in writing the Japanese constitution. Although the project was top secret, Ms. Gordon sneaked in to gather as much information as possible while sneaking in a few novels in order to make sure no librarians caught on to her ruse. She was instrumental in making the constitution of Japan strive for a more equal and better place for everyone, including women.

Throughout the movie, I was amazed at the strength of the Jewish people, who have given so much to such a terrible world. This is the heritage of a people who have survived and thrived and embraced the title of “chosen” by contributing wonderfully to every society where they have found themselves as refugees.  What an honor to have the Japanese cultural society honoring the contributions of our people.  When talking about fixing the world, this is where it starts.

Ms. Gordon may be elderly, but she is still taking on the world. She talks about the pride she feels in the Japanese making war illegal in the constitution, “forever renounce(ing) war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” She speaks as a grandmother who hopes to see that amendment ratified in every single country, as another world war would end the world, as we know it.  In the stress I have been feeling with the developments in the Middle East, I very much doubt that such an amendment would work, but it is a dream well worth having.

At the reception after the movie, I felt a bit overwhelmed to be the youngest person in the room and mingled accordingly, trying to sound sophisticated and praying no one would send me back to the children’s table. I was honored to actually speak with Ms. Gordon and tell her how much I shared her dream of seeing war banned. “I am not an expert on the subject,” Ms. Gordon said modestly. “But it’s the only hope we have.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/teens-twenties/the-sirota-family-and-the-20th-century-at-the-japan-society/2011/11/30/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: