In commemoration of the lives of the victims of the atrocity at the Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh and in solidarity with the Jewish people, the Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman Museum will present L’Chaim: Celebrating Jewish Life—a series of seven films that celebrate Jewish life, traditions, and families. Organized by the George Eastman Museum in partnership with the Louis S. Wolk Jewish Community Center of Greater Rochester and the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester, the film series is sponsored by Daphne, Howard, Chase and Cooper Cohen. Admission to all screenings is free.
The L’Chaim: Celebrating Jewish Life film series will begin on Sunday, November 25, with a screening of Fiddler on the Roof (1971). All films in the series will be shown in the Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman Museum (900 East Avenue) on select Sundays at 7 p.m.
Sunday, November 25, 7 p.m.
Fiddler on the Roof
(Norman Jewison, US 1971, 181 min., 35mm)
The iconic Broadway musical is translated beautifully to film, breathing fresh life into the songs, dances, and story of tradition, love, and perseverance. Jewish peasant Tevye (Topol) is torn between tradition and love when his three oldest daughters defy the matchmaker and choose their own husbands—all while the family contends with growing anti-Semitism in the community surrounding their Ukrainian shtetl. We will screen director Norman Jewison’s own print, on deposit at the Eastman Museum.
Sunday, December 16, 7 p.m.
(Barbra Streisand, US 1983, 133 min., 35mm)
Barbra Streisand purchased the story rights ten years before she was able to convince Hollywood to make this film, eventually becoming the director, co-writer, co-producer, and star. In 1904 Poland, Yentl wishes to become a religious scholar, though that’s exclusively the realm of men. She disguises herself as a boy and takes her late brother’s name to study Talmudic Law. As Anshel, she befriends Avigdor (Mandy Patinkin), who is engaged to Hadass (Amy Irving). When Hadass’s family rejects the engagement, Avigdor convinces Anshel/Yentl as his best friend to marry her instead. Yentl won an Oscar for Best Original Score, and Streisand was the first woman to win Best Director at the Golden Globes.
Sunday, January 6, 7 p.m.
(Joan Micklin Silver, US 1988, 97 min., 35mm)
Sophisticated, single New Yorker Izzy Grossman (Amy Irving) has left behind the “old ways” of her Jewish heritage. Working at a Manhattan bookshop organizing prestigious author readings, she revels in the society of the literati. Her Upper West Side life clashes with her Lower East Side upbringing, however, when her grandmother (Reizl Bozyk) enlists a matchmaker to set her up with the man who runs the pickle shop, Sam Posner (Peter Riegert). Crossing Delancey not only portrays the tension between modernity and tradition, but also paints a rich picture of New York’s diverse splendor in the late 1980s.
Sunday, January 13, 7 p.m.
The Jazz Singer
(Alan Crosland, US 1927, 88 min., 35mm)
Best known as the first hit feature-length “talkie” with a synchronized music score, singing, and speech, this film is also a rarity in early Hollywood—it features a Jewish protagonist. Al Jolson stars as Jakie Rabinowitz, a young man who runs away from his devout family because they reject his desire to perform popular music. He becomes a successful jazz singer under the name Jack Robin, but he longs for reconciliation. It has been argued that Jolson’s controversial performance in blackface—a common practice at the time—symbolizes and complicates the central theme of a Jewish man presenting himself as a white gentile, pointing to the “duplicity and ethnic hybridity within American identity.” The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing at the first Academy Awards in 1929.
Sunday, January 20, 7 p.m.
Broadway Danny Rose
(Woody Allen, US 1984, 84 min., 35mm)
In a film that exults in the tradition of Jewish storytelling, Woody Allen added an extra air of authenticity by casting several revered comics, his own manager, and the owner of the Carnegie Deli as themselves. Danny Rose (Allen) is a dedicated and hapless talent agent who represents a washed-up lounge singer, Lou Canova (Nick Apollo Forte), who is finally making a comeback. Lou convinces Danny to accompany his mistress, Tina Vitale (Mia Farrow), as her beard at an important gig so she can attend without raising the suspicions of his wife. After Tina’s jealous ex-boyfriend mistakes Danny for her real boyfriend, trouble ensues. Roger Ebert praised the performances of the three main actors as “wonderfully off-the-wall characterizations” in one of Woody Allen’s best comedies of errors.
Sunday, February 3, 7 p.m.
(Barry Levinson, US 1990, 128 min., 35mm)
A tight-knit Jewish immigrant family living in the Avalon neighborhood of Baltimore is slowly unraveling, as each new generation embraces an American way of life (like moving to the suburbs). By the 1940s and 1950s, television plays a central symbolic role in the family’s assimilation and reveals the fracturing in small yet poignant moments: television replaces mealtime conversation, and two cousins of the younger generation create commercials for their burgeoning business using Americanized names. Avalon is the third in the semi-autobiographical tetralogy of “Baltimore films” by director Barry Levinson, who won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay for Avalon.
Sunday, February 17, 7 p.m.
(Joseph Green, Konrad Tom, Poland 1938, 97 min., DCP, Yiddish w/subtitles)
Molly Picon, “Queen of the Yiddish Musical,” shines as Mamele (the little mother), the dutiful daughter keeping her family intact after the death of their mother. She’s so busy cooking, cleaning, and matchmaking for her brothers and sisters that she has little time for herself—until she discovers the violinist across the courtyard. Following the success of Yiddle With His Fiddle (Yidl mitn fidl, 1936), Picon and director Joseph Green teamed again for Mamele, which, like Yiddle, was filmed in Poland. Set in Łódź, this musical comedy drama embraces the diversity of interwar Jewish life in Poland, including no-goodniks and the unemployed, nightclubs and gangsters, and religious Jews celebrating Sukkot.
For more information, visit eastman.org/lchaim.
About the Louis S. Wolk Jewish Community Center of Greater Rochester
The Louis S. Wolk Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Greater Rochester has been proudly serving the Rochester community for more than 100 years. Deeply rooted in and committed to celebrating Jewish traditions and values, the JCC welcomes the community at large to join together for exceptional events and activities that establish lifelong connections and enhance our individual and collective well-being. jccrochester.org
About the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester
The Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester represents the over 19,000 Jewish people who live in the Greater Rochester area. They are a diverse and vibrant community that works to build a strong Jewish community in Rochester, Israel and worldwide through philanthropy, engagement, education and advocacy. www.jewishrochester.org
About the George Eastman Museum
Founded in 1947, the George Eastman Museum is the world’s oldest photography museum and one of the largest film archives in the United States, located on the historic Rochester estate of entrepreneur and philanthropist George Eastman, a pioneer of popular photography and motion picture film. Its holdings comprise more than 400,000 photographs, 28,000 motion picture films, the world’s preeminent collection of photographic and cinematographic technology, one of the leading libraries of books related to photography and cinema, and extensive holdings of documents and other objects related to George Eastman. The museum’s conservation department is supported by an endowment established primarily with funds from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. As a research and teaching institution, the Eastman Museum has an active publishing program and, through its two joint master’s degree programs with the University of Rochester, makes critical contributions to the fields of film preservation and of photographic preservation and collection management. For more information, visit eastman.org.