Arts Briefs: Jewish Film Festival goes virtual starting Feb. 6

  • Ben Barnhart—© Ben Barnhart

Published: 1/19/2021 3:54:08 PM

SPRINGFIELD — The Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival, presented by the Springfield Jewish Community Center, marks its 16th year with a virtual mini-festival that kicks off Feb. 6 and runs through March 22.

The 2020 festival was postponed due to COVID-19, just days before launching last year. PVJFF will present seven online film screenings, as the festival continues its tradition of showcasing some of the best independent Jewish cinema from around the world.

Thought-provoking Zoom discussions are planned for nearly all of the films, featuring directors, screenwriters, and experts on an array of topics of cultural and historical significance. This year’s festival includes an eclectic mix of dramas and documentaries, plus a short film.

Two powerful dramas anchor the film festival:

■Dror Zahavi’s “Crescendo” (Feb. 27-March 1; virtual discussion, March 7, 7 p.m.) is about a world-famous conductor (played by Toni Erdmann’s Peter Simonischek) who accepts the job to create an Israeli-Palestinian youth orchestra and steps into a firestorm of conflict as he tries to bring the two factions of young musicians together in harmony. Crescendo screenwriter Stephen Glantz will lead a Q&A about the film.

■The biopic “The Keeper” (March 13-15) tells the true story of Bert Trautmann, a German POW who, amid much protest and prejudice, secures the position of goalkeeper at Manchester City and becomes a soccer icon. His signing causes outrage among thousands of fans, many of them Jewish, until Manchester’s communal rabbi intervenes on his behalf.

This year’s festival showcases an array of enlightening documentaries, including:

■ “It Must Schwing!: The Blue Note Story” (Feb. 20-22; virtual discussion Feb. 22, 7 p.m.) follows two young émigrés from Berlin who founded the legendary jazz label Blue Note Records, which produced jazz stars Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, and more.

■ “Picture of His Life” (Feb. 13-15; virtual discussion, Feb. 15, 7 p.m.) is a riveting documentary about acclaimed Israeli underwater wildlife photographer Amos Nachoum, who has always dreamed of swimming underwater with a polar bear and capturing it face-to-face on film.

■ The short documentary “Commandment 613” (March 5-8, virtual discussion March 8, 7 p.m.) profiles Northampton’s Rabbi Kevin Hale, who has dedicated his life to the 613th biblical commandment – to write a Torah scroll. As a sofer (Jewish scribe), Rabbi Hale brings new life to Torah scrolls saved from Czechoslovakia during the Holocaust.

Producer/director Miriam Lewin, cinematographer/editor Randi Cecchine, and Rabbi Hale, and will lead a virtual discussion.

The 2021 Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival is free of charge, but organizers are encouraging donations to support the ongoing work of the PVJFF. Registration is required for all of the online screenings and virtual discussions. For a complete list of films and instructions on how to watch them, and to register for the festival programs, visit pvjff.org.

UMass Music & Dance topresent concert by viola pro

AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts Amherst Department of Music and Dance will present a free, virtual solo performance by viola professor Kathryn Lockwood on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The concert, which will be livestreamed from Bezanson Recital Hall to the department’s YouTube Channel, will feature performances of J.S. Bach’s Suite No. 5 in C minor, Max Reger’s Viola Suite No. 2 in D Major and György Kurtág’s Signs, Games and Messages for Viola. 

Lockwood has been actively performing during the pandemic as a member of world-music ensemble duoJalal with percussionist Yousif Sheronick. The ensemble has staged livestreamed performances from the historic Hempstead House at the Sands Point Preserve.

Hope & Feathers hosts‘Freedom’ drawings

AMHERST — Hope & Feathers Framing and Gallery hosts “Freedom,” new drawings by Andrae Green, through Feb. 27.

This expressive series of drawings in oils was done in response to the George Floyd murder and features solo dancers as avatars of freedom. Green’s intent is that the drawings inspire in these turbulent times. Floyd’s last words were not only “I can’t breathe,” he also called for his mother. Green says, “That led me to think about woman as an avatar for freedom. Freedom of movement and self-expression are keys to what it means to be human.”

Ten percent of sales from this exhibit will be donated to the George Floyd Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization established by Floyd’s sister and family members. The foundation’s mission is to eradicate systemic racism, eliminate police brutality, promote social justice, and protect the civil rights of all people of color.

Green previously showed large-scale paintings, “Backscatter,” in the Hope & Feathers gallery in 2019.

Walk-ins are welcome for the gallery. Masks required. Currently we are allowing four customers in the shop at one time.




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