The Foundation’s New Jewish Culture Network (NJCN) is accepting applications for its music commission! A musician/composer will receive $10,000 to develop a new touring project. The NJCN is a pipeline for contemporary performing arts that explore the Jewish experience. NJCN is a collaborative commissioning and touring program represented by a select league of performing arts presenters. Past commissions recipients include Alicia Svigals for The Yellow Ticket (2012) and Galeet Dardasthi for Monajat (2011).
Applications for the NJCN 2013 Music Commission are due April 30th.
For the 300 people who crowded into Boston’s landmark Coolidge Corner theater last week, the modern world fell away as they experienced something unavailable to audiences for over 90 years: The Yellow Ticket, a live multimedia concert event featuring the 1918 silent film of the same name accompanied by a performance of an original score by Alicia Svigals. The performance revealed what early 20th century audiences took for granted–like a new print of the film so crisp they could see the makeup of silent-film star Pola Negri, and a new score that helps to translate the movie’s themes for a contemporary audience. And viewers could finally revel in a film meant to run 62 minutes but which, until recently, could only be viewed at a breakneck 47 minutes.
Svigals, one of the world’s foremost klezmer fiddlers, will perform The Yellow Ticket with piano virtuoso Marilyn Lerner in Philadelphia on May 9 and again at the June 10 Jewish Cultural Achievement Awards in New York.
The score is the newest commission from the Foundation’s New Jewish Culture Network (NJCN). It marks the first feature-length film composition by Svigals, who performs it live with pianist Marilyn Lerner at each screening. Previous stops have included New York, Miami, and Vancouver.
A peak inside the story of how this project came to be showcases both the intriguing detective work—and a strong appetite for collaboration—that marks the FJC and its grantees.
Back in 2012, when Alicia Svigals received initial support from the Washington DC JCC to score the film—which portrays a woman’s struggle to overcome adversity in Tsarist Russia in a story of secret identifies, heroic measures, and triumphant love—the only copy available to her was a DVD from a distributor in Texas lasting only a rushed 47 minutes.
“The original film copy that Alicia worked with had all those weird, funny moves you associate with silent films,” says Andrew Ingall, director of the FJC’s New Jewish Culture Network. That’s because many old films are transferred or projected in the wrong speed. “You shouldn’t be seeing all the jerky movements when you watch a silent film,” says Ingall.
Because silent films have deteriorated so greatly over the decades, and the existing DVD of The Yellow Ticket left a lot to be desired, Ingall helped Svigals to track down a 35mm print in Berlin. Svigals was able to leverage her funding from the FJC to raise additional funds from another foundation in order to remaster the film. That’s the crisp version that the audience in Boston—and forthcoming ones in Philadelphia and Houston—get to see.
When Ingall tracked down the film’s original censor report at the Detusches Historisches Museum, he and Svigals discovered that the film’s English-language title cards were significantly different from the original German ones. The government-commissioned report included the original titles along with a rather dated caution that the film’s themes may not be suitable for adolescents. Svigals set about to retranslate the titles herself, further helping today’s audience a clearer glimpse into the world of the movie.
“The social mores depicted in this wonderful and strange tale are a bit mysterious to us now,” says Svigals. Set in Poland and Tsarist Russia, The Yellow Ticket portrays a woman’s struggle to overcome adversity in a story of secret identities and heroic measures. Svigals says that the aims and goals of the characters might not as self-evident to audiences today as they were when the film was made. “I felt my task would be to help the viewer overcome these obstacles. I wanted to use the soundtrack to clarify the story’s structure, and through the music arouse in the viewer the profound emotions depicted in the film,” says Svigals.
For a city still reeling in the wake of terrorist attacks only a few weeks ago, the live performance of The Yellow Ticket served as a reminder of the transcendent possibilities of art, and of collaboration. The Boston screening was particularly memorable because it marked the first time that three major Boston Jewish organizations—the New Center for Arts & Culture, the Boston Jewish Music Festival, and the Boston Jewish Film Festival—had worked together.
“The FJC has long had a vision for what Jewish culture on the North American stage could look like,” says President and CEO Elise Bernhardt. “The New Jewish Culture Network was created in part to fulfill that vision. Rather than simply commissioning musicians, the idea was to foster a pipeline to serve grantees and the public who seek artistic excellence.”
The New Jewish Culture Network fosters ties between three different but equally important groups: musicians who want to push themselves into different territory, arts presenters interested in a collective commissioning process and building demand for new Jewish music, and audiences of all backgrounds.
More Press About The Yellow Ticket
“Silent movie opens window on lost world of Eastern European Jews” from The Miami Herald (March 2, 2013)
The Yellow Ticket performance was commissioned by the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s New Jewish Culture Network, a league of North American performing arts presenters committed to the creation and touring of innovative projects. The Yellow Ticket debuted at the Washington Jewish Music Festival, presented by the Washington DC Jewish Community Center, through a commission made possible by the Arthur Tracy “The Street Singer” Endowment Fund. The New Jewish Culture Network has received major support from the Howard and Geraldine Polinger Family Foundation. Additional support is provided by Sylvia M. Neil, the Milken Family Foundation, and other donors.
As the first visitors stream into the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which officially opened its doors in downtown Warsaw last week, they are encountering a bigger story than just the Holocaust.
“They’re responding exactly as we hoped for—seeing the Holocaust within the 1,000 year history of Polish Jews,” says Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. A 2008 winner of the FJC’s Jewish Cultural Achievement Award, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett is one of the major forces behind the nearly decade-long development of the museum. She directs the museum’s core exhibits, which are expected to open in early 2014.
Kirshenblatt-Gimblett was chosen to head up the museum’s exhibition team in 2006, just as she was finishing up an illustrated memoir called They Call Me Mayer July. A look at prewar life in the Polish town of Apt, where her father had grown up, that book underscored what was already an entrenched, lifelong fascination with a lost Polish-Jewish world. She is Canadian by birth, has spent much of her professional life in the United States, but she’s lived nearly full-time in Poland for the past half-decade. In 2012, she applied and received Polish citizenship. In many ways, Kirshblatt-Gimblett, or BKG as she’s affectionately known to colleagues, hopes that the museum will prompt visitors—especially American Jews—to think beyond the Holocaust, or to put that event in a larger context. She also hopes the museum will help Jews from all over reflect on a small minority who, despite everything, decided to stay in that country.
“I think the most surprising reaction was how ‘at home’ people felt because this building is really monumental and dramatic,” she says. The nearly $100 million project was designed by Finnish architect Rainer Mahlamäki.
“Most of all [there’s] the pride of those who attended – these are the people, these are the Jews, who are here, who stayed in Poland, who cast their lot with Poland, who have stayed the course. This museum can be a great source of pride for them, for everyone in Poland, for Jews around the world –for the world. This is a museum that matters,” she says.
Kirshenblatt-Gimblett is only one of several recent FJC grantees who work challenges popular misconceptions about Polish Jewry. Filmmaker Adam Zucker, whose documentary The Return was awarded a 2011 Kroll film fund, is another.
In this documentary, Zucker follows the journeys of four young Polish women, all of whom discovered in their teens about their Jewish ancestry. In many ways, their evolution of identity mirrors that of many young Poles, particularly those in cosmopolitan settings like Warsaw and Krakow, who are reaching beyond anti-Semitism and communism, who look to the legacy of Polish-Jewish culture for artistic and spiritual inspiration.
Zucker has traveled to Poland over half a dozen times during the shooting of The Return. He thinks there’s still a gap between American Jewish perceptions of Poland and the facts on the ground—a gap his film, like the new museum, hopes to challenge. “I find most American Jews are quite unaware that there are Jews in Poland today. I’m sure it’s changed a bit over the past 15 years, but don’t think it’s a whole lot. Part of the problem is that while American Jews continue to travel to Poland, either as part of youth groups or on their own, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in expanding itineraries beyond a historical tour, which is usually Holocaust-centric.”
Zucker, who also directed the 2007 documentary Greensboro: Closer to the Truth, is hard at work to complete his film as soon as possible. He recently screened a 28-minute shortened version of The Return at the 92nd Street Y for potential funders. And he’s raised about two-thirds of his $45,000 goal via Kickstarter.
For those interested in Polish-Jewish history, the work of two other grantees is particularly pertinent.
In 2007, the Gantz Zahler Grant was awarded to Antony Polonsky, a preeminent scholar of Eastern European Jewry at Brandeis University. Polonsky received the prize for a three-volume history, The Jews in Poland-Lithuania and Russia 1250–1914, published by the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. Polonsky was most recently on the FJC’s academic selection committee for the 2013-14 Doctoral Dissertation fellowship in Jewish studies.
Also, don’t miss Hiding and Seeking: Faith and Tolerance after the Holocaust, by filmmakers Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky, winner of the 2004 Kroll Film Fund. The documentary traces the encounter between Daum and his two sons, both highly religious Jews living in Jerusalem, and the family that helped to shelter Daum’s parents during the Holocaust. The documentary, which was broadcast on PBS’s Point Of View series, is a fascinating look at questions of the ethical legacy of rescuers and the complexities of Polish and Jewish identities.
The Foundation is accepting applications for its 2013 Kroll Documentary Film Fund. A filmmaker will receive between $15,000 and $35,000 to finalize a project in post-production that explores Jewish history, culture, and identity.
Since its inception in 1996, the Kroll Film Fund has supported the completion and distribution of more than 85 award-winning documentaries exploring many aspects of Jewish culture and history.
Deadline for applications to the 2013 Kroll Film Fund is July 16, 2013.
Cecelia Peck”s heartfelt documentary Brave Miss World will be screening at the Sarasota Film Festival this weekend. In her film, Linor talks about being a survivor of rape, and the healing process from such a traumatic event; she also interviews other survivors of rape from diverse cultures and countries, and how they have dealt with what they have endured.
Peck’s film rolls out this April (Sarasota, Cleveland, and Dallas), in conjunction with the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)’s Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month. Through these screenings, Peck and Linor hope to raise awareness of rape, and to help those who have suffered it find the courage to confront their terrible experience.
Sarasota Film Festival Screenings:
Sun, 4/7 4:35 PM
Mon, 4/8 5:00 PM
Cleveland International Film Festival Screenings:
Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 7:15 PM
Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 12:20 PM
Dallas International Film Festival Screenings:
At the upcoming Westchester Jewish Film Festival, keep an eye out for the following five films from the Foundation for Jewish Culture!
- Joe Papp in Five Acts: April 4th at 7.30pm and April 6th at 9.30pm
- Sosua: Make a Better World: April 7th at 5.00pm
- The Law in These Parts: April 11th at 5.00pm
- Inventing Our Life: April 11th at 7.30pm and April 13th at 1.30pm
- Numbered: April 13th at 3.30pm and April 22nd at 2.30pm
The Westchester Jewish Film Festival will run from April 3rd to April 25th. This year, the 11th of the Festival, is the largest Jewish event in Westchester county. Don’t miss it!
You can order tickets through the Jacob Burns Center website, or call them (914.773.7663) for more information.
Jacob Burns Film Center
Media Arts Lab
Pleasantville, NY 10570