Headliners: Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival; Xfinity at A.P.E. Gallery

  • Dan DeNicola—

  • Dan DeNicola—

Thursday, March 31, 2016

You don’t have to be Jewish ...

... to appreciate the Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival. The specific subjects may concern Jewish life and identity, but the themes are universal, ranging from issues of music, art, historical legacy and intercultural matters to women’s lives, disabilities, teenage angst and life in Latin America.

Subtitled “Movies with Meaning,” this year’s 11th annual festival runs through April 14, with screenings of 24 films at venues around the Valley, from Greenfield and Shelburne Falls to Chicopee and Longmeadow.

Of particular note is “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” an adaptation of the best-selling memoir by Israeli writer Amos Oz that marks the writing-directing debut of actress Natalie Portman. Set in the years leading up to the establishment of the state of Israel, the story focuses on Oz’s mother, Fania (played by Portman), the highly sensitive and cultured daughter of a wealthy Ukraine mill owner who was raised in privilege and who struggled to accept a new life of hardship in a fledgling nation. Suffering from depression, she committed suicide when Oz was 12.

The film will be screened Saturday at 8:15 p.m. in Smith College’s Sweeney Concert Hall and will be preceded by a talk by Justin Cammy of the Smith College Department of Jewish Studies and Comparative Literature. The film is in Hebrew with English subtitles. $10 general admission; $8 students and seniors. See pvjff.org for a complete account of the festival.

’And now here’s a look at what’s happening in your neck of the woods ...’

The Northampton-based Xfinity Theater takes its name from the huge amphitheater in Hartford that Comcast paid millions of dollars to re-name after its wireless Internet service. While the Hartford venue stages “large-form spectacles targeted to middle and lower classes” in conjunction with offering a “romanticized dream of technological possibility for $64.95 a month,” says Xfinity co-founder Patrick Gaughan, his own troupe is devoted to “producing anti-spectacle, anti-scale events, delivering mainstream cultural products back to the masses.”

Case in point is “The Today Show,” a deadpan re-creation of the money-making NBC news program that collages verbatim television segments with news articles, interviews, criticism and dance sequences. Set for three performances this coming week at A.P.E. Gallery in Northampton, the show features a group of multidisciplinary artists who met while attending the UMass-Amherst MFA program for poets and writers, including Andy McAlpine (“Al Roker”), Jonathan Volk (“Matt Lauer”) and Laura Warman (“Natalie Morales”).

April 7-9 at 8 p.m. at A.P.E., 126 Main St., Northampton. $10. Reservations available at 586-5553 or lisathompson@apearts.org

— Dan DeNicola