brings two new documentary films from Israel to Chicago. One I loved. The
other? No so much. So let’s start with the spinach.
Mr. Gaga, which opens tonight at the Music Box
Theatre on Southport, is Tomer Heymann’s new film about Ohad Naharin, the artistic
director of the Batsheva Dance Company. Chicago has long been a congenial host
for Batsheva Dance Company performances, and their regular visits here have
often been an opportunity for lively Hadassah member meet-ups. So if you love Batsheva
Dance Company, you should certainly see Mr.
I have long
been a champion of films by Heymann and his brother Barak, who alternate
directing duties for documentaries they co-produce together under the rubric of
Heymann Brothers Films. They are prolific filmmakers and many of their prior
films (such as Dancing Alfonso and Paper Dolls) have been favorites of mine
at our annual Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema.
was surprised by my reaction Mr. Gaga,
which unfolds as a fairly routine bio-doc, told in chronological order from Naharin’s
early days on Kibbutz Mizra (due north of Afula) to his current role as an
international cultural superstar. Of course there are many clips of Batsheva
Dance Company’s uniquely athletic style, so if you are already a fan of Batsheva
Dance Company, then this film is definitely for you.
you are new to Batsheva Dance Company, then beware. Clips of dancers in motion
do not really do justice to the power of a full piece in performance, and you
may come out of Mr. Gaga wondering
what all the fuss is about.
off the run, the Music Box has scheduled a live dance demonstration plus Q and A after the 7:15 p.m. screening
tonight, March 31, hosted by Anna Long (Chicago’s own GAGA-trained dance
teacher). For tickets, visit the
Music Box website.
Personally, I much preferred Roger
new film, In
Search of Israeli Cuisine, which tells the story of a Jewish boy coming of
age in America who learns to appreciate his heritage anew through food.
Philadelphia chef Michael Solomonov travels
up and down Israel from top to bottom and coast to desert, sampling a wholly
unexpected diversity of tastes and textures. As he chops and stirs side by side
with some of Israel’s best known restaurateurs, Solomonov learns first-hand
about Israeli’s creative fusion which combines the sorrows of past with exuberant
hopes for the future.
This is a theme I have long stressed
in prior posts and columns, most especially in my reviews of films brought to
us by the terrific programming team behind our annual Chicago Festival of
Israeli Cinema. We have become accustomed to
describing one of Israel’s functions as “the ingathering of the exiles,” but
that requires us to pay attention to all the places from which they come.
Too many Americans (including too
many Jewish Americans) still think of Israel as a country founded by European
Jews, especially Jews who survived the Holocaust. But this was never true and
it is even less true now after several generations of intermixing.
One of my friends has a father from
Yemen and a mother from Poland. Is she Ashkenazi or Mizrachi? Another friend
has a father from Morocco and a mother from Rumania. Is she Ashkenazi or
Sephardic? The truth is that these old divisions have ceased to be definitive,
especially after Ethiopians from Africa, Bene Israel from India, and Jews from
the former Soviet Union (not just from Moscow but from Georgia and Bukhara) began entering the mix.
As one wise
fellow says in In Search of Israeli Cuisine, a tomato has no politics. So I
strongly recommend In Search of Israeli Cuisine for both enlightenment and sheer
delight, but with one caution: Make sure to eat before you go.
Search of Israeli Cuisine opens next Friday,
April 7, at the Music Box Theatre
and also at the Landmark
Renaissance Place in Highland Park.
more photos from both films, visit
Photo: After he arrives
in Israel “in search of Israeli cuisine,” Michael Solomonov of Zahav restaurant
in Philadelphia learns a million different ways to make eggplant (courtesy
Florentine Films 2013 / Menemsha Films 2016).
Bottom Photo: A moment from Ohad Naharin’s
ecstatic “Ehad Me Yodaya,” which continues to be a highlight of all Batsheva
Dance Company performances (courtesy Heymann