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Music and Redemption at New York Jewish Film Festival 2020

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By Roger Costa

GOD OF THE PIANO

A strong personification of a woman’s empowerment, Anat is determined to achieve her goals at any cost. She had been on a long journey to find the right place for her genius pianist son, a master musician whom she had been teaching since he was born. In the opening scene, Anat is performing herself on stage, when her water breaks. Right after labor, she is devastated with the news her son is deaf. She then commits a crime, exchanging the babies, and making sure she will have a healthy one to bring home. A bold take on the power of a controlling woman and a mother’s ambition, first-time director Itay Tal conceives a thought-provoking and seductive film that stirs up controversy in many topics: the fact someone’s talent could be related to genetics or early manipulation of practices and ideas; a subtly justification of a woman’s desperate actions; the role of an absent male dominance; the pressures on a child whose childhood is evidently stolen due to adults’ self interests. Presenting this fierce and audacious female character, caught on a reckless action with permanent consequences, actress Naama Preis gives a superb performance, marked by intense complexity and mystery. She won the Best Actress Award at Jerusalem Film Festival for this incredibly unpredictable role. Observational and highly dramatic, Itay Tal is a filmmaker to watch. (Screens 1/22, 25.)

CRESCENDO

Accomplished filmmaker Dror Zahavi’s timely drama depicts the turmoils and conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians seen through Millennials’ perspectives and traumas. A respected and tough Maestro is hired to conceive a Chamber Orchestra for peace in the region; Gathering the best musicians from both sides of the war conflict, he is ready for what’s coming: as they rehearse their piece, they will also experience a transformational and moving collective process, providing them an examination of themselves and their political senses. In one of several heartbreaking scenes, the Maestro allows them to expose all of their anguish and hate on the face of the others, provoking collapsed reactions. Centered on the relationships developed along the production, the film constantly reminds us of the importance of tolerance, while trying to adjust their reasons: an impossible romance between an Israeli girl and an Arab, the ego and dispute between the two violin leaders, the figure of “salvation” represented by the Maestro, and the strength of each side’s values and parental guidance. Profound, raw, and sensitive, it’s a powerful humanitarian statement, claiming for better days in this broken world. (Screens 1/28.)

THE DAY AFTER I’M GONE

An impressive directorial debut, Nimrod Eldar’s Berlin sensation is a tender, sorrowful meditation on grief and loss, centered on the complicated relationship between father and daughter, after a series of unfortunate incidents. Still healing from the recent death of the matriarch, they come to terms with themselves, after the young one, who was also heartbroken for not getting accepted into a rock band, tries to kill herself. Recurring for help from specialists, family members, and memories, father and daughter will go through an individual process of self-examination to cure such wounds. Observational, inclusive and highly emotional, Eldar demonstrates perfect balance commanding the alarming material, extracting convincingly moving performances from the pair, especially during a devastatingly unforgettable family summon. Nominated for 3 Best Film Awards at Jerusalem Film Festival, it’s an accomplished first time feature work. (Screens 1/20, 26.)

(The New York Jewish Film Festival is a co-production by The Jewish Museum and Film at Lincoln Center, runs thru January 28. Go to https://www.filmlinc.org/festivals/new-york-jewish-film-festival/#about for tickets and schedule.)


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