Jewish Film Festival’s “Hava Nagila” opens Summer Institute

Jewish Film Festival’s “Hava Nagila” opens Summer Institute

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The buoyant song “Hava Nagila” provides the title for the first film in the Hebrew Center’s Summer Film Series, screening July 8, at a new location, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. Although thought of as the quintessentially Jewish wedding song, accompanied by dancing and a bride and groom carried on chairs, this documentary demonstrates how its popularity extends far beyond its ethno-religious origin.

Director Roberta Grossman references singers from TV and film to illustrate her point about what the movie calls the “kudzu” of Jewish music. They include Julie Andrews, Glen Campbell, Sidney Poitier, Connie Francis, Elvis Presley, and the Klezmatics. The director traces the origin of the music to the Ukraine.

“Hava Nagila” may have reached a peak of popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s with a version by pop singer Connie Francis. By the 1970s and 1980s, it had become a cliché, with Alan Sherman parodying it, and Bob Dylan producing a version that butchers it. Woody Allen, “The Simpsons,” and “The Muppets” each took turns at rendering versions of the song. According to a Boulder, Colorado, rabbi, the sense of yearning inherent in “Hava Nagila” gives it the spiritual resonance of a prayer.

“It’s a great romp, a great way to open a season,” says Hebrew Center Programming Consultant Kate Feiffer. “We’re trying to make each film into an event.” Live Klezmer music will precede and follow the 8 pm screening, with opportunities to dance and a wedding cake for refreshments. Five of the six films in the series will be screened at the Film Center, all with guest speakers. The final one, “Defiant Requiem,” will be held at the Hebrew Center, and music conductor Murry Sidlin will answer questions.

The move to the Film Center means the Summer Film Series now has access to state-of-the-art equipment and comfortable stadium seating. The switch enabled Ms. Feiffer and the Summer Institute committee, headed by Gerri Alpert, to cast a wider net and acquire films not previously available because of format limitations. For the full schedule of films, see mvsummerinstitute.com.

“Touchy Feely” at M.V. Film Festival

Playing at Chilmark’s Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival is “Touchy Feely,” on Wednesday, July 10, along with the Cinema Circus offering for children, “Places, Everyone!” A second screening of each film will be held at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown.

“Touchy Feely” was not available for review, but this fiction film tells the story of a massage therapist who suddenly can’t stand to touch people.

“Places, Everyone” teaches and entertains children about the importance of movie settings.

“Before Midnight” & “Jaws” at M.V. Film Center

“Before Midnight,” the third entry in director Richard Linklater’s popular film series about intercontinental romance, opens at the M.V. Film Center on Thursday, July 11. Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Celine, this version finds the two a couple but unmarried and vacationing on Greece with their twin daughters. The two were still in their 20s, when they met on a train to Vienna in “Before Sunrise” (1995). In “Before Sunset” (2004), Jesse, now married, returns to Paris and finds Celine again. Not available in advance for review, “Before Midnight,” picks up on the changes that occur when romance becomes long-term and includes children.

Playing Friday, July 5, and Saturday, July 6, at the Film Center in its new Midnight @ Ten series of classic and cult films is the signature Vineyard mega-movie, “Jaws.” In a special live performance slated for Tuesday, July 9, “Betrayed! On Martha’s Vineyard” presents comedienne Louise DuArt and SQuire Rushnell.

“Hava Nagila,” Sunday, July 7, 8 pm, M.V. Hebrew Center Summer Film Series at the M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven. $12 suggested donation. For more information, visit mvsummerinstitute.com or mvfilmsociety.com.